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Reloaded D-backs team set for new season

Club expects to compete in 2019 while building up farm system
February 7, 2019

PHOENIX -- After he traded first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals, D-backs general manager Mike Hazen's phone began to light up.Hazen's fellow GMs throughout the league assumed that the Goldschmidt trade, along with the free-agency departures of center fielder A.J. Pollock and left-hander Patrick Corbin, meant the D-backs were

PHOENIX -- After he traded first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals, D-backs general manager Mike Hazen's phone began to light up.
Hazen's fellow GMs throughout the league assumed that the Goldschmidt trade, along with the free-agency departures of center fielder A.J. Pollock and left-hander Patrick Corbin, meant the D-backs were heading into a full-scale rebuild.
Other GMs wanted to talk about possible deals for lefty Robbie Ray, left fielder David Peralta and shortstop Nick Ahmed.
Hazen, though, shut them down quickly.
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Instead, the D-backs will work to compete in 2019 while continuing to build up the farm system, which has some pitching at the top end with better position players at the lower levels.
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The D-backs believe that two of the three players they acquired for Goldschmidt -- right-hander Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly -- can contribute immediately.
One year after signing reliever Yoshihisa Hirano out of Japan and watching him have success, the D-backs took a low-risk, high-reward chance on right-hander Merrill Kelly, who spent the past four seasons in Korea.
Reliever Greg Holland was signed to a one-year deal to bolster the back end of the bullpen while Wilmer Flores inked a one-year deal with a club option.
In other words, the D-backs either acquired players that were young and could be part of their core going forward, or they signed veterans to short-term deals. That allows them to maintain some much-needed payroll flexibility with ace Zack Greinke still eating up more than $30 million per year for the next three years and Yasmany Tomás taking up $32.5 million over the next two.
Call it a retooling or a reloading, but just don't call it a full-scale rebuild, which teams like the Cubs and Astros have done in recent years.
Instead, Hazen looks to teams like the Rays or Brewers who have successfully retooled teams without tearing them down completely.
Hazen knows that the organization will have to "thread the needle" in order to make a retooling work, but to him it's better than the alternative.
"I think it's a hard thing psychologically for the organization," Hazen said of a complete teardown. "I think we talk a lot about teaching players how to win. It's harder to do that in that environment."
While they have traded away players over the past two seasons to help them make the playoffs in 2017 and finish with a winning record in 2018, Hazen was careful not to part with the few high-upside prospects.
As a result, right-handers Jon Duplantier, Taylor Widener and Taylor Clarke have a chance to be big league contributors in 2019.

Below them are exciting position players like shortstop Jazz Chisholm, outfielder Kristian Robinson, catcher Daulton Varsho and outfielder Alec Thomas.
And should the D-backs stumble badly out of the gate and find themselves out of it come the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Hazen and his staff will reassess and a full-scale rebuild might end up being the result. But for now, he's going to give this group a chance.
"We [may] need to make some hard decisions and we will if we have to," Hazen said.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.