PHOENIX -- Few general managers had a better offseason last year than the D-backs' Mike Hazen.Having been hired to take over a 69-93 club, Hazen would have been forgiven for dismantling the team and starting a complete rebuild. Instead, he decided to give the core group of players another chance
PHOENIX -- Few general managers had a better offseason last year than the D-backs' Mike Hazen.
Having been hired to take over a 69-93 club, Hazen would have been forgiven for dismantling the team and starting a complete rebuild. Instead, he decided to give the core group of players another chance and simply added a few important parts to the mix.
The result was a 93-69 campaign and the organization's first postseason berth since 2011.
The free-agent and trade markets have been slow to develop this offseason, but that could change Sunday when the Winter Meetings open in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
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Hazen has already added to the team's bullpen depth by trading for right-hander Brad Boxberger, but the D-backs certainly have more on their to-do list.
Bullpen: The Boxberger pickup was the first move to shore up the bullpen, and it likely will not be the last. The D-backs are not planning on spending big money on the bullpen, but like last offseason, they will be on the lookout for any bargains (like Fernando Rodney) that might present themselves. This past year, the D-backs had success with non-roster invites like J.J. Hoover and T.J. McFarland -- who was re-signed for 2018 -- and the club will look to repeat that this year.
Outfield: With the all-but-certain departure of free agent J.D. Martinez, the D-backs will be looking to add some depth in the outfield. Even if Yasmany Tomas returns healthy and joins center fielder A.J. Pollock and right fielder David Peralta in the starting lineup, the D-backs would like to add competition for Rey Fuentes and Socrates Brito this spring.
Catcher: The D-backs used a three-man rotation of backstops in 2017 -- Jeff Mathis, Chris Iannetta and Chris Herrmann. Mathis returns for the second year of his two-year deal, and Herrmann is eligible for salary arbitration and was tendered a contract, but Iannetta is a free agent. The D-backs have strong interest in having Iannetta return, but it's going to cost them more than the $1.5 million bargain they got him for last offseason.
Who they can trade if necessary
Brandon Drury: The D-backs have a surplus of middle infielders, especially if Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed both recover as expected from season-ending injuries. Ketel Marte opened eyes with the way he played while filling in at shortstop over the final two months of the season, and if the club wants him to remain in the lineup, they might look at moving Drury. As a player not yet eligible for arbitration and someone who has shown he can hit at the big league level, Drury would figure to be a very attractive trade chip if the D-backs decide to deal him.
Another of the infielders: If they decide to hang on to Drury, that could make one of the other infielders expendable. Drury is a natural third baseman, so he could replace Jake Lamb if the D-backs looked to deal him, but that would seem unlikely given the tremendous left-handed production Lamb has provided early in his career.
Per MLBPipeline.com, the D-backs' top 10 prospects are first baseman Pavin Smith, right-hander Jon Duplantier, right-hander Taylor Clarke, left-hander Anthony Banda, infielder Drew Ellis, infielder Domingo Leyba, shortstop Jasrado Chisholm, outfielder Marcus Wilson, right-hander Matt Tabor and Brito.
Banda, Clarke and Duplantier all could see time in the big leagues in 2018, while some of the others are further away. In his year-plus at the helm, Hazen has done a nice job balancing the present with the future. He has traded away prospects when needed, but he is also trying to make sure the farm system will serve as a consistent pipeline.
Rule 5 Draft
The D-backs took a chance on right-hander Tyler Jones in last year's Rule 5 Draft but ended up returning him to the Yankees when he did not make the bullpen out of Spring Training. The D-backs have room on their roster should they opt to make a selection this year, but with plans on contending in 2018, that's no guarantee.
Big contracts they might unload
The D-backs only have two big contracts on the books right now -- right-hander Zack Greinke and Tomas -- and it seems very unlikely that either will get dealt this winter.
Although clearing the remaining four years of Greinke's six-year, $206.5 million deal seems enticing, there are a couple of major hurdles. First, it won't be easy to do without eating a lot of it, and second, if the team plans on being competitive in 2018, trading away its ace who pitched very well this past year is probably not in its best interest.
A whopping 13 players are set to earn raises via arbitration, and they could cost the D-backs more than $50 million according to projections by MLBTradeRumors.com. Add that to the $60 million that's already committed to players under contract -- not to mention the pre-arbitration players -- and the D-backs could have a franchise-record payroll.
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.