© 2023 BSN LIVE, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The Aug. 1 MLB trade deadline is now under a week away, and Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen made his current approach clear in a press conference with reporters on Wednesday. The Diamondbacks are buyers.
“We want to improve this team,” Hazen said. “I want to improve this team. I think this team has earned that over the last few months. If you step back year over year from where we’re standing today, we don’t want to be in a position to waste opportunities that may be in front of us.
“I think giving this team opportunity to play in a pennant chase is extremely important.”
One month ago, asking if the D-backs were planning to buy at the deadline would have been a mere formality.
On June 26, the D-backs were 47-32, good for the second-best record in the National League and first place in the NL West.
In July, the team has backtracked significantly. Entering Wednesday, the D-backs were 5-13 this month and 55-47 overall. That put them in a two-way tie with the San Francisco Giants for the second and third wild card spots. Five NL teams vying for the three wild card spots were within one game of each entering Wednesday: the D-backs, Giants, Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies.
Despite the team’s recent struggles and a crowded NL playoff picture, the team’s overarching approach at the trade deadline has not changed.
“Not in the macro sense,” Hazen said. “Yes, we have not played well over the past few weeks for sure. It’s been the roughest stretch of the season so far, but we were going to go through stretches like that.
“We’re still standing where we’re standing, and, year over year, where we were, we’re pretty happy where we’re standing.”
Hazen said that the areas the team is looking to improve have not changed, either. Pitching is still the primary focus, with neither starting pitching nor relief pitching taking precedent over the other. Hazen did say, however, that acquiring that bullpen help is “more realistic” given the volume that is generally available at the trade deadline.
Both the starting rotation and bullpen have struggled mightily for the D-backs this month. Entering play on Wednesday, D-backs starters had a 5.07 ERA with 22 homers allowed in 99.1 innings in July. The bullpen had been even worse this month with a 6.54 ERA and 1.53 WHIP.
Getting right-hander Merrill Kelly back from a calf injury on Tuesday was a big boost for the rotation, but the team seemingly has no internal solutions for a struggling bullpen.
In addition to the team’s struggles on the mound, the D-backs’ offense has slowed in July as well. Entering play on Wednesday, they had scored 78 runs this month, tied for 22nd in baseball.
Despite the team’s recent skid on offense, Hazen still views adding a bat as a secondary priority.
“We’re going to talk about it,” he said. “I’m trying not to overreact to what we’ve done in the last two weeks, considering we were a top-10 offense for three months. I believe in the players and the performances that we had up to that point.”
If the Diamondbacks do add a bat at the deadline, Hazen mentioned improving the bottom of the order with a platoon hitter as a possibility. Pitching, however, will be the main focus.
“Fixing every area of your team is not the easiest endeavor going into the trading deadline,” Hazen said. “We need to stay somewhat focused on what our goals are, what our priorities are.”
As for the state of the trade market, MLB analysts have long suspected that there would be a shortage of options for buyers at this year’s deadline. In the NL, only the Colorado Rockies, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals have identified themselves as sellers.
In the American League, the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics are clear sellers, with the Detroit Tigers seemingly headed that way as well. In aggregate, these teams have relatively few attractive trade assets compared to the collective demand of the rest of the league.
It is still unclear what direction a number of teams, including the New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres, will ultimately take.
“We’re continuing to make phone calls and try to get assessments,” Hazen said.
Other teams have done the same with the Diamondbacks. In light of the team’s recent skid, some have suspected that the team could look to offload pieces instead of add.
“You go 4-13, and you’re getting asked about selling,” Hazen said. “For the most part, we’ve kind of shooed them away a little bit. But if we can find a way to improve our team by … making our team better at the major league level with the major league level, we’re going to at least consider that.”
How ever it ultimately looks, the Diamondbacks are looking to add at the deadline. When the season started, Hazen identified being in position to buy this time of year as a sign of success. In that regard, so far, so good.
Top photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic