D-backs' top 5 offseason questions this year
PHOENIX -- The D-backs wasted little time getting their offseason planning going as general manager Mike Hazen convened meetings with his staff and manager Torey Lovullo the day after the 2021 season ended.
Here are five questions Arizona will need to have answers for in the coming months:
1. What position will Ketel Marte play in 2022?
This seems to be an annual question, but this time around it's a little different. In the past, the D-backs have worked under the assumption that if they added a second baseman, Marte would play center field and if they added a center fielder, he would play second.
Marte has always been open to playing both positions, but Lovullo said in September that Marte had been dropping hints about playing second base, so the final two weeks of the season that's strictly where he played.
Given Marte's struggles defensively in center this year, it would seem the D-backs will have him play second base next year. They'll likely let him know not too far into the offseason so that he can prepare accordingly this winter.
2. How can they fix the bullpen?
The bullpen was definitely a weak spot for the D-backs in 2021, and it was also not an area of strength in '20, so Hazen has some work to do when it comes to rebuilding.
While it's safe to bet that the D-backs will search the free agent market for some experienced bullpen depth, Hazen said during his postseason press availability that another way of making the 'pen better could come from giving some of the team's young starting pitching prospects a chance to break into the big league as relievers.
"Letting these guys get their feet wet in the bullpen is going to be something that we're going to talk about," Hazen said.
3. Who will be the third baseman?
After the D-backs dealt Eduardo Escobar to the Brewers just before the Trade Deadline, third base became a revolving door of players.
Prospect Drew Ellis got a look and Josh VanMeter played at the hot corner, as did Josh Rojas and Andrew Young.
Rojas had the best overall season of any of the temporary third basemen, and if the team wants to settle him in one position (assuming Marte is at second) then third base might be a fit.
It's also possible that the team moves Rojas around again -- he played in the outfield corners, third, shortstop and second base -- and trades for or signs someone else to be the regular third baseman.
4. Who is likely to move around? And who will anchor various positions?
The D-backs took a big step backward defensively in 2021, and Hazen pinned that in large part on having a lot of players bounce between multiple positions.
Daulton Varsho played all three outfield positions in addition to catching, while Rojas bounced around and Pavin Smith, who had not played the outfield before 2020, found himself starting some games in center field.
"We are going to take a hard look at who we’re asking to move around the diamond and whether we’re putting them and the team in an appropriate position to play good defense," Hazen said.
5. How can they minimize losing stretches?
The past two seasons there have been long losing stretches that have cost the D-backs any chance at the postseason.
In 2020 it was a 2-18 stretch, while in 2021 they followed a 14-12 April with a 5-24 May and a 3-24 June. It left Hazen trying to understand why his team couldn't diagnose the issue and at least minimize some damage.
"We need to do a better job of digging out those issues quicker," Hazen said. "And our players do, too. They are accountable in this, too. What we have seen is that that stretch in May and June, it just can't happen. That's an anomaly that we should have done -- and we should do -- a better job of righting that ship and leveling that ship somehow and maintaining some level of consistency."
Part of that, it appears, will be some kind of reconfiguring how information is passed from the front office through the coaching staff and to the players. All of the different processes the organization has for that will have to be evaluated. Work on that has already started.