The Diamondbacks have had a mercurial season, which puts them in a thorny spot. They started out hot and jumped to the top of the National League West, holding a four-game lead as recently as the middle of June. But they have been sliding since that time and now find themselves four games back of the Dodgers. They still hold a Wild Card spot, but barely, as the Phillies and Marlins are each just half a game back.
Just over a week ago, general manager Mike Hazen talked about how the club was hoping to be “aggressive, even ultra-aggressive” but might stop short of being “reckless.” Nonetheless, he added that he expected the club “to play Diamondback baseball for the next two weeks so we’ll be standing in the same spot or better” and remain in the aggressive column.
It’s possible that their recent string of mediocre play will cause the front office to lay off the gas pedal a bit at the deadline, with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reporting that they might step back from the aggressive side of things. Another factor might be the market, as many teams are reportedly undecided about whether to buy or sell, putting a damper on trade talks. Hazen discussed that element with Bob Nightengale of USA Today but added that “I think giving this team an opportunity to play in a pennant chase if extremely important… I want to improve this team. I think this team has earned that over the last few months.”
The Diamondbacks are in need of pitching, something that Hazen admitted last month. That’s a sensible place to add given their top-heavy rotation. Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly give them an excellent front two but the group behind them is shakier. Brandon Pfaadt was one of the top pitching prospects in the league coming into the year but has an 8.81 ERA through his first seven starts. Tommy Henry has a 4.01 ERA but with uninspiring peripherals and a 5.14 FIP. Ryne Nelson’s ERA is is 4.97. Their relievers, meanwhile, have a collective ERA of 4.45 that places them in the bottom eight in the league.
Rosenthal reiterates that target in his report, though how the club proceeds could still be determined in the days to come. The D’Backs aren’t the only club still trying to decide how to approach the deadline, with the Cubs and Yankees both among the clubs still trying to pick a lane with less than a week to go until the deadline.
Hazen will have the next few days to navigate that situation and weigh it against his desire to help the club compete. Arizona hasn’t finished above .500 since 2019 and hasn’t made the postseason since 2017. There’s surely plenty of appetite to put those droughts in the rear-view mirror, but he also doesn’t want to be “reckless” and do anything that significantly harms the club in future seasons. As he looks for pitching deals, he’ll have to balance his desire for upgrades against his concern about going too far. The deadline is on August 1.