The D-backs are a fascinating team to watch this winter, and not just because they have a little money to spend.
General manager Mike Hazen and his staff rarely have what they’re working on leak out in advance and they tend to find creative solutions to fill holes, making it hard to predict what they might do.
Take last year’s Trade Deadline, when everyone wondered whether the D-backs would be buyers or sellers. It turned out they were both as Hazen found a way to improve his team in 2019 with Zac Gallen and Mike Leake while also freeing up payroll in trading Zack Greinke and strengthening the farm system in that same trade with Houston.
It was no small feat that the D-backs wound up with a better record post-Deadline, had more depth in the rotation for 2020 and beyond and added four highly regarded prospects.
“We’re actively engaged in all areas of the market, both free agents as well as trades,” Hazen said.
In other words, keep an eye on the D-backs this week at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
Club needs: The D-backs need a right fielder to replace Steven Souza Jr., who was non-tendered. They will also either add a center fielder or second baseman. If they are able to get a center fielder, then Ketel Marte will primarily play second. If they are able to get a second baseman, then Marte likely would play more center. Hazen is always looking to add to the bullpen, and this offseason he’s hoping to help fortify the back end of a relief corps with Archie Bradley as the presumptive closer. Further down on the list would be possible starting pitching depth and bench help.
Whom might they trade? Left-hander Robbie Ray’s name is likely to find its way into rumors during the Meetings. Ray is entering his final year of club control before free agency and the team could look to move him for younger, controllable players much like they did with Paul Goldschmidt last offseason. The D-backs have the payroll flexibility, so any trade involving Ray would be one they feel like they can’t turn down, as opposed to feeling like they have to move him.
Prospects to know: Over the past few years, the D-backs have restocked their farm system through the MLB Draft, and international signings, as well as through trades. For the first time in recent memory, they have depth at all the various levels. It’s unlikely, though, that you will see them part with top prospects like catcher Daulton Varsho, who could be a contributor as early as 2020, or outfielder Alek Thomas. They traded top prospect Jazz Chisholm at the Deadline last summer for Gallen, so it’s not inconceivable they could deal a young player or two, but it would most likely be in a situation where they got a player that is controllable for more than one season.
Payroll summary: Trading Greinke last July freed up some payroll space, as did the non-tendering of Souza and right-hander Taijuan Walker. D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall said the club will probably be in the same range as last year when it comes to Opening Day payroll. That figure was around $123 million, which could give the D-backs as much as $30 million to spend this offseason.
Biggest question: Will the D-backs be in the hunt for one of the top free agents on the market?
While the D-backs do have money to spend, they have more than just one area that they need to shore up. With that being the case, it’s more likely that they would spread that $30 million around between multiple players rather than use all or most of it on just one player. One of the lessons gleaned from the six-year, $206.5 million deal they gave Greinke was that having that much money tied up in one player really restricted their flexibility to improve other areas.