GM Hazen: D-backs 'not rebuilding'; bullpen is main priority

March 12th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- D-backs general manager Mike Hazen spoke with the team's beat writers Saturday morning for the first time since the end of the lockout and covered a wide variety of topics in a 30-minute session.

Here are some of the main takeaways:

Bullpen is still the main priority
After watching his bullpen finish with a 5.08 ERA last season, better than only the Orioles, Hazen made strengthening that part of the team his main priority heading into the offseason. Even after signing closer Mark Melancon to a two-year, $14 million deal, adding to the 'pen is still mission No. 1.

"That’s probably the biggest thing that we’re continuing to spend the majority of our time on," Hazen said.

The D-backs are not focused on adding middle relievers, but rather another pitcher or two that they can trust in high-leverage situations. The reason for that is twofold.

One, the bullpen clearly needs help after last year, but more interestingly, Hazen mentioned that some of the team's younger pitching prospects could break into the big leagues as relievers with the thought that they could then eventually work their way into the rotation.

"I think we have a stable of young arms that you’re going to see some of whom end up continuing on their progression as Major League starters," Hazen said. "I think some of whom are going to end up matriculating as relievers. I think historically giving those guys a little bit of a runway instead of having your better [young] arms thrust into [high] leverage out of necessity is a better strategy for me from a development standpoint."

There are other needs
The D-backs are still in the market for a third baseman and would like to add a right-handed bat or two to a lefty-heavy roster.

Right now the internal third base options appear to be Josh Rojas, Josh VanMeter, Drew Ellis and possibly Matt Davidson or Geraldo Perdomo.

Rojas might have more value moving around to different positions as he did last year while Perdomo is an excellent defensive shortstop and they might not want to tinker too much with him at this stage.

"I believe we have some good internal candidates that we’re hoping to come in and really show us what we have," said Hazen of third base. "I think we’re probably going to try to land somebody externally to add into that group. I don’t have a complete picture for you just yet on what all that is going to look like."

The extra Wild Card doesn't impact the D-backs' plans
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement added an extra Wild Card spot to each league, but did not change the D-backs' thinking as to how they are approaching the 2022 season.

"We’re not rebuilding," Hazen remarked. "We’re going out there to put the best team on the field. The expectation is for 162 games we’re going to go out there and compete, play hard and see where it lands us. As we talked about before, there’s going to be probably some more younger players on our roster."

This is a new experience for everyone
Given the uniqueness of the situation with GMs not being able to talk trades with each other or have discussions with player agents since the lockout began on Dec. 2, Hazen is unsure exactly how the coming weeks are going to play out.

Hazen and his baseball operations staff have split up the teams to talk to and agents to engage as a way of streamlining the process.

No pending trades pre-lockout
While the D-backs did have trade discussions with other teams prior to the lockout, none of those were picked up in the original form when GMs were able to start talking again Thursday night.

"I don’t really feel like we had things that were all that remarkably close, to be quite candid with you," Hazen explained. "We had a lot of those conversations, they all ended up dying on the vine right there. We didn’t really have things that we thought, 'Hey, this is the first phone call we’re going to make when it opens back up.' It is what it is. That’s where we were in the offseason at that point in time."