Hazen outlines some plans for next season

September 22nd, 2021

PHOENIX -- As a difficult regular season winds to a close, there are plenty of questions the D-backs will need to answer.

What will they do about manager Torey Lovullo, whose contract, along with those of all of his coaches, expires? Will the team enter a full rebuild mode? Will they continue to ask Ketel Marte to play multiple positions or, if not, will they anchor him at second base or center field?

D-backs general manager Mike Hazen held a conference call with the team's beat writers prior to Tuesday night's game against the Braves and here are some takeaways:

Lovullo's status will be resolved sooner rather than later

Hazen said a decision on Lovullo would come quickly after the season "if not before," and that they are currently discussing things internally.

"No one's intending to drag out anything," Hazen said. "I think we're trying to work through this as much as possible and letting the season kind of get toward the finish."

There is a lot of support for Lovullo both inside the front office and the clubhouse so it should not be a surprise if he returns.

Lovullo said that, "Whenever [Hazen] starts to move or however he starts to move, I'll be ready."

Once Lovullo's situation is resolved, the organization will turn its attention to the coaching staff with Lovullo, assuming he is returning, having significant input.

Hazen will continue his physical leave of absence for now

Hazen took a "physical leave of absence" in June following the Draft to help tend to his wife, who is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer, as well as their four children. While Hazen has not been at at the ballpark, he has remained engaged and in charge of the baseball operations department while working from home.

That arrangement will continue into the offseason.

Marte will likely focus on one position in 2022

In recent years the club has taken advantage of Marte's versatility when putting together its team in the offseason. If they had a good option at second, they would shift him to center and if they were able to get a center fielder, like Starling Marte in the offseason before 2020, they would plan on playing Ketel Marte at second.

Marte has battled some injury issues this year and his defense in center has backslid. Lovullo said Marte has asked to play some more second base down the stretch.

With that in mind, as well as the fact that the team has some young outfielders who can play center coming up in the system, like Alek Thomas, it sounds like Marte may be finally be anchored in one spot next year.

"I would think at this stage, we're going to probably zone in a little bit more on one position," Hazen said. "That is my gut feeling right now, but I want to hear from the coaches as well, and Torey more specifically, in a non-game type environment where we can work through that conversation a little bit more thoroughly. But that is my initial thought."

They will pull back on some of the position changes, in general

Partially out of necessity, the D-backs have used a number of players at multiple positions. For example, Pavin Smith has played all three outfield positions as well as first base. Marte has moved around, as has Josh Rojas, Josh VanMeter and Daulton Varsho.

On the one hand, positional versatility is important, but the D-backs have seen their defensive metrics take a huge step backward, and next year they don't plan on asking as many players to be as versatile as they were this year.

"I do think we now have to start homing in on who is going to thrive in that [versatility], and who would be better off, you know, locking down one spot," Hazen said.

Stay tuned on the team's plan this offseason

Hazen was asked about whether the team will undergo a full or partial rebuild and he asked to wait to answer that question until the end of the season, after he's had a chance to have some more internal discussions.