Mike Hazen: Diamondbacks still looking to improve roster

Feb 16, 2024, 2:45 PM | Updated: Feb 17, 2024, 9:17 am

SCOTTSDALE — The Arizona Diamondbacks are not done looking toward external candidates to improve the roster, general manager Mike Hazen confirmed even as the club takes the field for spring training.

“There’s still players in the market and (managing partner Ken Kendrick) has still told me to continue to improve the team any way that we can within the bounds that we have,” Hazen said Friday. “So we’re still out there actively trying to do that.”

The Diamondbacks are building off an 84-win season in which it took 161 games to clinch a playoff spot, Hazen pointed out despite the club’s postseason successes.

That has been a consistent message since the start of the offseason, as he expressed that is not a sustainable spot to make the playoffs perennially, which is the goal.

His front office responded by going after established veterans such as third baseman Eugenio Suarez, pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and outfielder/designated hitter Joc Pederson while re-signing outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s Mark Feinsand last week reported the D-backs had interest in a right-handed outfielder with vets Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk and Adam Duvall still on the market.

The D-backs look like a full outfield with Gurriel, Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas and Pederson along with Jake McCarthy and Jorge Barrosa for depth. Pederson and Thomas have had trouble with hitting lefties, although the hope is for some improvement there. Still, getting in on the final weekend highlighted the importance of every game and every matchup.

“We got in with a day or two left in the season, that’s not a position I want to be in moving forward,” Hazen said. “We were the last team in, we only won 84 games. … Some of that was depth and roster and clearly my responsibility. I’m very much aware of the things that I need to do to improve in those areas and we’ll continue to focus on that.

“I think from Torey and I talking and the coaches that from an execution standpoint, everybody has the opportunity to improve and be better no matter how good of a season they had last year. I think that’s the message, Torey has talked about that standard. We’ve talked about holding that standard in a place that is worthy of being a perennial playoff contender.”

One area that has been largely left alone all offseason has been the bullpen, which Hazen said has been strategic.

The Diamondbacks have their entire 2023 postseason ‘pen returning along with Scott McGough and Corbin Martin back from injuries. A group of young pitchers will compete for the fifth starter job, and there could be opportunity for those on the outside looking in.

The D-backs did this last season with Drey Jameson to start the year, Bryce Jarvis down the stretch and eventually Ryne Nelson in the postseason.

“Certainly, we want to continue to build out that area because we know the bullpen that we have today probably don’t have three weeks from now once we get into the season. That’s just the nature of the bullpen sometimes and dealing with the volume and the injuries and things like that,” Hazen said.

“We still have guys in our eyes that could have a chance to come in and take some opportunities. And frankly, I’m looking for guys like Justin Martinez to come up and harness 100-plus with wipeout secondary stuff getting into that mix at some point. You gotta give some of those opportunities to see what they can actually do. If we closed the door on Kevin Ginkel, if we closed the door on Andrew Saalfrank, we’d never see what we saw in the playoffs last year.”

The Diamondbacks have not parted with much young talent to build out the roster this offseason, spending on a franchise-record payroll and finding a pair of trades that addressed needs without pulling from their upper-echelon prospects.

Last year’s roster had a combination of veteran and contributors under 24 years old, and the club now has much more experience from the postseason run and reinforcements.

“It’s a very good blend and I like that,” Lovullo said. “I love youthful players, I love player development. I love how the group has cycled through here and they have given us some young, exciting blood.

“But there’s a certain calmness I have when I look out there and I know that Joc Pederson is going to be taking a quality at-bat or Christian Walker, these players have been around. … The front office has been unbelievable at vetting the right players to bring in here, knowing how important our culture is.”

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