D-backs eager to strike while iron is hot in 2018

February 4th, 2018

PHOENIX -- The D-backs enter Spring Training this year as an organization determined to take advantage of its window of opportunity to contend while also keeping an eye on the future.

Last year, the D-backs flipped their 69-93 record in 2016 on its head to nab the top National League Wild Card spot.

With outfielder A.J. Pollock and left-hander eligible for free agency after 2018 and All-Star first baseman under contract for just two more years, the D-backs want to make sure they maximize their chances in 2018.

"We're focused on being the best that we can be in 2018," D-backs GM Mike Hazen said during the Winter Meetings in December.

What the D-backs do not want to do, however, is repeat their path after surprise postseason appearances in 2007 and '11, when they dealt prospects in an effort to go all in. It didn't work either time and the moves made after the '11 NL West Division title in particular set back the farm system.

Since his hiring following the 2016 season, Hazen has stressed sustainability as the organization's goal, and the moves he's made, as well as the ones he hasn't, this offseason reflect that.

Outside of reliever Brad Boxberger, who will compete for the closer's spot this spring, the additions Hazen has made have been done with dollars and not young talent.

Japanese right-handed reliever was signed as was catcher Alex Avila, and while the D-backs were said to be among the most aggressive suitors for Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, they did not want to give up the Minor League depth they've been trying to build.

"We're trying to bring up the underside of that from a talent standpoint to sort of catch the roster on the other side," Hazen said, referring to the building of a Minor League pipeline that can fill in as current Major Leaguers depart via free agency or become too expensive via arbitration to fit in the budget. "And through that, we're going to -- whether we make deals or we make free agent signings ... hopefully Draft picks progress faster [and] we can build enough of a talent bridge the way we want to."

In the meantime, ownership has shown its commitment to winning and Hazen's plan by increasing the payroll.

The record Opening Day payroll for the franchise came in 2014 at around $112 million. This year, with the signing of 13 arbitration-eligible players, plus a few free agents, it projects to be somewhere near $125 million.

"I think [the payroll is] another reflection of the support we get from ownership and the desire to win and add players of a quality like Alex," Hazen said following Avila's signing last week. "It's something we're very appreciative of."