Have the Arizona Diamondbacks entered an Age of Desperation?

PHOENIX – After a series of moves Tuesday, the disposition and temperament of the Arizona Diamondbacks decidedly changed. Through general manager Mike Hazen, the philosophy appears moving forward to aggressively challenge failures of the past.

In that regard, a recent history of nickel-and-dime personnel, a patch-quilt of underachieving relievers and the basic unreliability of the bullpen have all changed. Speaking with reporters late Tuesday afternoon, Hazen appeared visibly frustrated by the Diamondbacks woefully inadequate bullpen and his failure, as the chief baseball personnel officer, to address this mandatory need.

As a result, Hazen took off the gloves and went directly after power in the bullpen The combination of losing prospects in the upcoming Rule 5 draft and the glaring need to address a pathetic bullpen now interact to give Hazen a firm reason to transform his responsibility from docility to attack.

“Look, the bullpen has been bad for two years,” he acknowledged. “I tried to push resources in there last year and didn’t do a very good job.”

As a result, Hazen seeks power arms and reached out to the Cleveland Guardians. In trading for right-hander Carlos Vargas, Hazen may be acquiring an unknown quantity. Vargas, at 23 years old out of Moca, in the Dominican Republic, is coming off Tommy John surgery. According to Hazen, Vargas’ charity with walks must be addressed and his recovery could be an issue. In 2022, he split time between AA Akron (29 games, 4.81 ERA, one save) and AAA Columbia (eight games, 0.98 ERA, no saves).  

The issue with Vargas could be his health.

Because of that Tommy John surgery, he missed the 2021 season and previously, missed the 2020 season because of the pandemic. Still, Hazen believes his potential 100-miles-per-hour fastball coming out of the bullpen will be a definite improvement.

“(Vargas) is one name we wanted to get,” Hazen added. “We lacked power in the bullpen and Vargas is a risk we are willing to take.”

That transitions the Diamondbacks’ approach this off-season to another level. No longer is Hazen willing to be passive and apply a band-aid approach. In the tradition of an old TV commercial, he’s going for the gusto and rolling the dice.

Now, the bullpen needs to be populated with power arms and deliver the ability to get swings and misses. A wretched bullpen was a principal reason for the implosion of recent seasons. Hazen can begin to think about a needed transformation but cautioned Vargas may, or may not be, the answer.

In order to get Vargas, a potential closer, the Diamondbacks parted with right-hander Ross Carver, who ended the season in AA Amarillo and, earlier in 2022, was promoted from Hillsboro.

Because the curve is considered his out-pitch, the Diamondbacks hoped to hide Carver from a Rule 5 raid or from other teams. Yet, Hazen could not hide Carver from Cleveland and when asked why he departed with the 24-year-old right-hander from Benton, Ark, Hazen simply said, “Cleveland wanted him.”

By Tuesday, Nov. 15, the Diamondbacks along with the 29 other major league teams, had to finalize their 40-man roster. Moves taken to reach that limit included the addition of infielder Blaze Alexander, outfielder Jorge Barrosa, outfielder Dominic Fletcher and pitcher Justin Martinez to the 40-man roster. This also included adding Vargas.

To make room, the Diamondbacks designated infielder Sergio Alcantara, outfielder Stone Garrett, outfielder Jordan Luplow and lefty Caleb Smith each for assignment.

Elsewhere … Hazen said the Diamondbacks remain in the market for a right-handed bat. With a plethora of left-hitting outfielders, he said the team continues to seek balance and keep options open … premier prospect and infielder Jordan Lawler, who suffered a fracture left scapula in an Arizona Fall League game, according to Hazen, is recovering without any issues and should be ready for spring training in about three months … Cooper Hummel is penciled in as Carson Kelly’s back-up catcher for 2023, according to Hazen. Hummel caught a number of games for the Salt River Rafters in the recently concluded Arizona Fall League. Instructions from Diamondbacks decision-makers, Hummel said during the Fall League, was to get as many reps behind the plate as possible. Hummel finished 8-for-17 in seven games for Salt River and hit .176 (31-176, three homers, 17 RBIs) for the Diamondbacks in 2022.

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