How might Hazen approach the Winter Meetings?

November 30th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Steve Gilbert’s D-backs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PHOENIX -- There have already been some offseason transactions made across Major League Baseball, including the D-backs acquiring third baseman from the Mariners last week, but the Hot Stove season really kicks into gear next week when teams get together for the annual Winter Meetings.

The Meetings are being held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., beginning Sunday, and despite the Suárez trade, Arizona still has plenty left on its offseason to-do list as the club looks to improve on the 84 wins it notched during the regular season last year.

“I think we have a lot of areas to build on, actually,” said D-backs general manager Mike Hazen. “You know, the 30-day [playoff] run was incredible for us, [but we're] not blind to where we ended the regular season, with a negative run differential, 84 wins, etc. I think there's room for us to grow for sure. There are some holes that have been created by some of the guys on the roster leaving, and so we're going to have to figure out a way to replace some of that.”

Whether a deal gets done at the Meetings or not, the D-backs will, at worst, lay groundwork with teams for trades that could take place in the weeks following the Meetings. The same goes with possible free-agent targets.

Here’s your guide to the Winter Meetings:

Key events
• Sunday: The Hall of Fame Contemporary Era releases the results of this year’s ballot. The eight candidates for election are Cito Gaston, Davey Johnson, Jim Leyland, Ed Montague, Hank Peters, Lou Piniella, Joe West and Bill White.

• Tuesday: MLB Draft Lottery

• Wednesday: Rule 5 Draft

Club needs
Starting pitching tops the D-backs’ list, and unfortunately for them, there are a lot of other teams that have that same need.

One advantage the D-backs have over some other teams is they don’t necessarily need a top-of-the-rotation-type starter since they already have an outstanding one-two punch in and . Arizona will look for someone to slot in after those two, someone it can count on as young hurlers , Ryne Nelson and Tommy Henry continue to develop.

Hazen is always looking to add to the bullpen, so the D-backs will be on the lookout for more relievers. Even with the acquisition of Suárez, Arizona would like to add another right-handed bat for the outfield to replace the loss of free agents Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Tommy Pham.

Potential trade candidates
Last year, it was pretty clear where the D-backs' surplus was as they were overloaded with left-handed-hitting outfielders. That led to the trade of Daulton Varsho to the Blue Jays for Gurriel and catcher .

This year, it’s a little less clear what Major League pieces the D-backs could deal. It may end up being that they use some of their Minor League capital in trades. Teams will no doubt ask about outfielder Alek Thomas, but that seems to be a nonstarter for the D-backs.

The D-backs do have some intriguing infield prospects in (Arizona's No. 5 prospect) and (No. 8 prospect) and some pitching depth in the Minors should they choose to deal prospects.

Prospects to know
Arizona fans got a sneak peek at shortstop (the club's No. 1 prospect) in September and during the postseason. Lawlar didn’t get much playing time, but that figures to change in 2024. Whether it begins on Opening Day or at some point during the season, Lawlar should be a contributor.

Right-hander (D-backs' No. 14 prospect) made his big league debut last year along with Pfaadt and (No. 29 prospect). In 2024, left-hander (No. 27 prospect) could do likewise.

Rule 5 Draft
With the D-backs planning on contending once again in 2024, it seems highly unlikely that they would choose anyone in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

Burning question
How much are the D-backs willing to spend both monetarily and in prospects to improve the team in 2024?

In some ways, the D-backs arrived a year early in 2023 with their unexpected run to the World Series, especially considering they were outscored during the regular season. While they want to improve the team and continue to take steps forward, emptying a farm system that took years to build up or overspending on free agents that could handcuff the franchise going forward would not seem prudent. Nor would it fit the M.O. of Hazen’s baseball operations team.

Given the fact that Arizona’s young core should improve in 2024, it seems far more likely that the D-backs will do their best to find a mid-rotation starter like free agent Michael Wacha and find a way to add a right-handed bat without jeopardizing the future or getting stuck with an onerous contract.