New regime seeking better results in 2017

December 18th, 2016

PHOENIX -- New general manager Mike Hazen could have come in and torn apart the D-backs' core this winter and started fresh following a disappointing 69-93 season, but after looking at what he inherited, Hazen decided it was wiser to tinker around the edges.
That gives the core players a chance to show that 2016 was an aberration and not a true measure of their abilities.
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"We had plenty of opportunities to make changes," Hazen said as the Winter Meetings wrapped up. "But ultimately we didn't feel like any of those were the right thing to do for us. Some of those situations, maybe in the future, but right now nothing really made sense on the larger trade front. I think when you have this level of talent, you start to focus on what you can do to bring that talent out, and we'll see if we're successful."
To help bring that talent out, Hazen hired Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo to replace manager Chip Hale, and there were some changes made to the coaching staff, with longtime manager Ron Gardenhire brought in as bench coach.
Will the changes bring about different results in 2017? Here's a look at five questions that could determine the answer:
1. Can be the ace they thought they signed?
Greinke will chew up one-third of the D-backs' payroll in 2017 and the team desperately needs him to pitch like an ace. The team didn't expect him to match his 1.66 ERA from 2015, but it was hoping for an innings-eating, top-of-the rotation starter that would give them a chance to win every time he took the ball. If Greinke is able to be that guy, it would take a lot of pressure off the rest of the rotation.

2. Can we get some relief here?
The D-backs' bullpen was an Achilles' heel last year, and it didn't help when the club dealt veteran back-end pitchers and prior to the Trade Deadline. The loss of those two, plus to free agency, left the D-backs scrambling to fill the void. The signing of free agent gives the D-backs an experienced closer. They hope that they are getting the Rodney from the first half of last year and not the second. They'll also need some of their young pitchers, like and , to step up and pitch important innings. The D-backs are still scouring the relief pitcher market and may make additions before camp opens.
3. Will the outfield be able to run down balls?
's near season-ending injury just days before Opening Day, combined with missing a significant portion of the season, left gaping holes in the Arizona outfield. The team moved career infielders -- and even catcher -- to the outfield, but to cover their liabilities they had to play deeper than usual, letting a lot of balls fall in that would normally have been caught. A return to health by Pollock and Peralta should alleviate that, which would in turn help out the pitchers.

4. How will the rotation shake out?
Assuming Greinke returns to form there will be a scramble for the other four spots in the rotation with plenty of competition. , , , Miller, , , and are among those who will be trying to win a job. Getting consistent innings from the rotation was a problem for the D-backs the past two seasons and it's one they hope will be solved by some of the younger pitchers taking the next steps in their careers.
5. Who will play up the middle in the infield?
Once again the D-backs head to Spring Training with a surplus of middle infielders. With Lovullo saying he envisions as the everyday third baseman, the D-backs will have to find a way to get 's bat in the lineup regularly. That could mean he will play second after the trade of , but the D-backs also have middle infielders like , , and on the roster. Will the new management team favor offense over defense? Could Owings take on a super-utility role and play the outfield as well as infield or will they have him focus on just one position?