After nearly reaching MLB penthouse, D-backs eschew rentals

Winter Meetings targets: controllable players, free agent arms

December 5th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- On the first full day of the MLB Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, the D-backs went through a number of meetings with teams and agents.

“I think things are just starting to warm up,” GM Mike Hazen said on Monday. “A lot of the stuff we’ve already had conversations on, we’re having second conversations on in some cases. So that moves it a little bit further along. We’re not really close to anything at this point.”

The D-backs find themselves in an interesting spot this offseason. On the one hand, they are coming off a World Series appearance, just the second in franchise history, and most of that team is returning.

It’s also worth noting, as Hazen has done several times, that it was a team that won just 84 regular-season games. One fewer, and the D-backs might have been on the outside looking in on the postseason. They also were outscored on the season.

Is this the time for them to go all in and trade some of their top prospects for pieces that can help them in 2024?

The last time the Winter Meetings were held in Nashville was December 2015. After a decent season, the D-backs shocked the baseball world by signing free agent pitcher Zack Greinke to a $206.5 million contract. And they swung a deal for what they thought would be the final piece to a championship-type team when they traded for right-hander Shelby Miller.

It was a move the organization would come to regret as Miller was awful for the D-backs while shortstop Dansby Swanson became a star in Atlanta and outfielder Ender Inciarte played very well for the Braves.

That was a year before Hazen took over baseball operations, and he now is in charge of walking what is a fine line for a mid- to small-market team that needs to have a constant pipeline of young talent coming through its system to be competitive.

Be aggressive, but not reckless.

“I think we're still going to push ourselves to be smart in the deals that we make,” Hazen said. “I don't think we're ever going to be in a position where we can be reckless. I think if we're reckless, we're going to get ourselves into a lot of trouble very quickly. We're just not deep enough to be able to withstand reckless-type decisions in terms of like trading our top prospects for rentals.”

Shortstop Jordan Lawlar and outfielder Druw Jones are two of the D-backs’ best prospects. There’s also right-handed pitcher Landon Sims, third baseman Gino Groover, shortstop Tommy Troy, third baseman Deyvison De Los Santos and corner infielder Ivan Melendez, to name a few.

Hazen sounded open to dealing from that group. But it also sounded like if he did, it would have to be for a player who has more than just one year of club contractual control left.

Last year, Hazen was willing to trade one of the better players off his roster, outfielder Daulton Varsho, for a year of outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and six years of catcher Gabriel Moreno.

The D-backs are looking for at least one additional starting pitcher to slot in behind Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly and take the pressure off some of their younger pitchers. As of right now, it seems a better bet that would come through free agency rather than a trade.

“I would say that's probably the more likely scenario for us, but we'll see,” Hazen said. “We're very much engaged in the trade market too, but I would think free agency seems more likely at this point.”