PHOENIX -- When the D-backs announced they had acquired center fielder Starling Marte from the Pirates in exchange for a pair of prospects, it was the culmination of an offseason in which Arizona added left-hander Madison Bumgarner, right-handed relievers Héctor Rondón and Junior Guerra, right fielder Kole Calhoun and catcher Stephen Vogt through free agency.
Of course, the big question asked of D-backs general manager Mike Hazen was whether his team was now good enough to pass the Dodgers, who have won the past seven National League West titles.
“I think you know my position on this,” Hazen said. “That is a team that has earned its historical place in the past [seven] years atop the division. I said this, again, when we were signing Madison, which is I don’t think any one player was going to tip the scale by themselves given the gap that existed at the end of the season in 2019 between the two clubs. That team is still incredibly strong. I would imagine on paper regardless of what we did, they are still going to look incredibly strong.”
The D-backs surprised many last season by winning 85 games and making an NL Wild Card push early in September, but they still finished 21 games behind the Dodgers and four games out of the Wild Card.
“That team is still incredibly strong,” Hazen said -- before Los Angeles made a league-altering trade this week. “I would imagine on paper regardless of what we did, they are still going to look incredibly strong. We feel like we are stronger. I don’t want to get into measuring ourselves to the Dodgers.”
That would prove to be a wise statement, because with the Dodgers acquiring outfielder Mookie Betts and lefty David Price from the Red Sox, they just got a whole lot better as well.
By no means are the D-backs ready to concede the division to the Dodgers this year, nor should it take away from the improvements they’ve made this offseason. They just don’t want to make bad decisions in a desperate attempt to try and pass them.
“I think that’s a way for us to possibly get too aggressive at times with things we could or want to do,” Hazen said.
Since taking over a sub 70-win team after the 2016 season, Hazen has resisted the temptation to thrust the organization into a full-scale rebuild. Instead, he made improvements at the edges in '17, which led to a Wild Card berth.
The 2018 team led the division at the beginning of nearly every month before fading badly in September. The team lost left-hander Patrick Corbin and outfielder A.J. Pollock to free agency and traded star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who was just one year away from free agency.
Again, rather than enter a full-scale rebuild, Hazen tinkered at the margins. Last year, they stayed in the postseason discussion until late September.
With the farm system getting ready to pay dividends, Hazen was not content to simply wait, so he instead aggressively pursued Bumgarner, Calhoun and Marte.
Will it be enough to make it back to the postseason?
“We believe in the players we have,” Hazen said. “We think we have a very deep roster at this point. I think our pitching staff is deeper with a little bit more experience top to bottom. I think our bullpen is going to be stronger and deeper. I think our lineup is better. I think it’s going to have more depth one to nine. I am hopeful from a strategic standpoint that over 162 games that’s going to prove to be very beneficial to us. But that will still be an enormous task that we have ahead of us. We are up to the challenge and we look forward to it.”