No break for D-backs after thrilling 2023: 'We know we have a lot of work to do'

November 2nd, 2023

PHOENIX -- Less than 24 hours after the D-backs' season came to an end with a loss to the Rangers in Game 5 of the World Series, the pain was still evident in general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo as the pair met with the media for the final time.

Hazen said he wasn’t ready yet to take a step back and put the amazing accomplishment of reaching the World Series for just the second time in franchise history into perspective, while Lovullo still wrestled with emotions, his eyes filling with tears when he talked about not doing a good enough job for the fan base.

While Hazen said he would love to give his staff a well-earned vacation, the fact is the long postseason run put the organization behind in its offseason planning -- and with the GM Meetings set for next week in Arizona, there isn’t time to take a break.

Hazen is a realist, and while his team was outstanding during the month of October, he also knows it was an 84-win team in the regular season.

“We know we have a lot of work to do,” Hazen said. “We know there are areas of our team that we want to try to improve. You know, I think this run of 30 days or so highlighted some of our best baseball. I think the 84 wins during the regular season highlighted some of the areas where I feel like I need to make improvements, that we need to make improvements, to be even better next year.”

At the top of Hazen’s to-do list this offseason will be adding an established starter to the pitching staff.

The D-backs have a pair of aces in and at the top of the rotation, and rookie  showed in the playoffs why he was the team’s top-ranked pitching prospect.

Beyond that, the D-backs have a lot of quality young pitchers like Ryne Nelson, Tommy Henry and Slade Cecconi. Drey Jameson, another rookie, will miss all of 2024 following Tommy John surgery.

But as the D-backs found out this year, you can never have too much pitching depth. Madison Bumgarner struggled and was released early in the season. Henry and Jameson went down with injuries. Veteran Zach Davies struggled and was designated for assignment in the final week of the season.

Injuries and some expected inconsistency from the younger pitchers left the D-backs having to go with bullpen games in Game 4 of both the National League Championship Series and the World Series. It also left Hazen wishing he had somehow found a way to acquire a starting pitcher at the Trade Deadline.

As for other needs, the D-backs have just three free agents in Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Tommy Pham and Evan Longoria. All three played important roles at different points in the season, and each is a right-handed hitter.

Whether the D-backs can re-sign any of them remains to be seen, but if they don’t, Hazen will need to find one or two right-handed hitters this offseason to replace them.

One other decision the D-backs will need to make is whether to exercise their part of a $5 million option on reliever Mark Melancon, who missed the entire season due to injury. More than likely, the D-backs will utilize the $2 million buyout.

Lovullo said that not long ago he invited his entire coaching staff to return for 2024, and was pretty sure everyone was planning on taking him up on the offer.

Speaking of contracts, Hazen reiterated that he will sit down with Lovullo at some point this offseason to work out an extension for the skipper, whose deal runs through next season.

Lovullo’s extension will be one of the topics of the conversation that Hazen has with managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall. It is customary for them to sit down at the end of a season, review things and discuss the payroll budget for the coming season.

Usually, that meeting would have already taken place, but all parties were preoccupied with the club's magical postseason run.

“We have not [scheduled it yet],” Hazen said. “Yes, I need to get on that. I'm sure we will. We've had off-handed conversations about where things may head or what we should be looking at, and I need to get to work on that stuff immediately.”

The postseason may be over, but the offseason is just beginning.