Don’t expect much from Arizona Diamondbacks’ GM Mike Hazen

PHOENIX – While speculation continues to swirl around the potential of a significant trade or trades by Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, tradition and history point in another direction.

With the winter meetings set to convene this Monday in San Diego, the buzz centers around Hazen trading one of several prized outfielders. Throughout the current off-season, the club made it known that Corbin Carroll appears untouchable, but others, such as Alek Thomas, Daulton Varsho, and Jake McCarthy could be bartered in the open market.

The question before Hazen is the value of these players, what can be obtained, and whether would he break with tradition. Since arriving in the desert before the 2017 season, Hazen has been quiet and cautious with public statements and offers no commitment. As well, he clearly recognizes essential needs but continues to keep his cards close to the vest.

The glaring weakness is the bullpen, but Hazen is quick to reference needs.

“It’s easy picking going after the bullpen,” he said during the off-season. “If you go after just the bullpen, you leave out where we were offensively in seven-through-nine innings and definitively in seven through nine innings. How many of those games were changed if we improved in those areas.”

In the search for advancement, Hazen pointed out ways that need to be found in order to flip innings in critical parts of the game. The bullpen is one factor, he pointed out, but fielding and timely hitting also entered into the equation.

A significant factor in prohibiting Hazen from reaching out to potential free agents is the economic realities. With offers for Aaron Judge, for example, swirling around the $300 million mark or more, the economic capacity of the Diamondbacks simply cannot compete with suitors for Judge or any other high-prize talent.

Consider the resources of Ken Kendrick, the Diamondbacks’ managing partner. His personal wealth is placed at $600 million, according to Audacy, an on-demand site for music, news, and sports. If the Diamondbacks sign Judge, for example, that is half of Kendrick’s personal wealth. In the pursuit of free agents commanding a large amount, such as Judge or Xander Bogaerts, that prospect remains clearly unrealistic.

At another level, the Diamondbacks’ 2022 active payroll was listed at $106.7 million by Spotrac. The projected active payroll for 2023, according to Spotrac, is $92.3 million. Compare this to the payroll of National League contenders, like the Los Angeles Dodgers at $109.7 million. This is before the free agent signing frenzy is about to begin. That includes $27 million to Freddie Freeman and $25.4 million to Mookie Betts for the 2023 season.

All of this factors into the necessity of fielding a competitive team and viable product. In 2022, the Diamondbacks drew just over 1.6 to Chase Field. That was 12th among the 15 National League teams. With an uncertain future and recent history of mediocrity, a projected attendance of 2 million could be unrealistic. That might equate to a decline in fan interest and attraction to potential free agents.

For those expecting movement from the Diamondbacks at the winter meetings, the prospect is strong that, in the words of the Four Tops, “it’s the same old song.” Hazen cannot bargain from a plethora of money and, more importantly, he favors contracting younger players which the organization can control.

That’s why several teams are after the core of the young outfielders and why pitchers like Drey Jameson, Tommy Henry, Ryne Nelson, and Brandon Pfaadt remain within the Arizona domain.

Elsewhere … the Diamondbacks added a needed right-handed hitter when they traded for Kyle Lewis, the American League rookie-of-the-year with Seattle in the pandemic-shorten season of 2020. Lewis, in a Zoom call with Arizona media Friday, indicated he is over the initial consequence of the trade for outfielder/catcher Cooper Hummel, spoke with manager Torey Lovullo and reached out to Seth Beer and Nick Ahmed, two players with whom he has a history.

(The trade) was a shock, but once things settled, I’m excited to turn the page,” he said. “I’ll do what they ask. I have some power, ability and feel good. In speaking with everyone here, I think making the playoffs is very realistic.”

Lewis arrives in the desert with a series of recent injuries. In 2021, he suffered a tear to the meniscus and that lingered into the 2022 season. Over the past two seasons, he appeared in only 54 games.

“I feel really good,” he added. “I’m moving well, and I’ll show up at camp (in February), ready to roll.”

Related Articles

Back to top button