The Diamondbacks are having their best season in quite a while, setting them up to be deadline buyers for the first time in years. They haven’t finished above .500 since 2019 and haven’t cracked the postseason since 2017, but are currently 52-42 and in possession of a National League Wild Card spot. General manager Mike Hazen spoke with Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic about the upcoming August 1 trade deadline and how the club hopes to make bold moves to help out this year without significantly harming the future.
“There’s a difference between being aggressive and reckless,” Hazen said. “We’re not going to be reckless. We’ll be aggressive, even ultra-aggressive, but I feel like being reckless does not serve anyone’s interests, this year’s team or in the future.”
This year’s trade deadline is seemingly defined by general uncertainty, with various clubs hovering near the middle and having to make difficult decisions about buying or selling. With the expanded playoffs and weak Central divisions, very few clubs are clearly in contention or out of contention and many are in the middle. Not too long ago, the Diamondbacks were one of the few clear buyers, as they had been leading the National League West for much of the year. However, they’ve gone 2-8 over their last 10 games and are now behind both the Dodgers and Giants in the division, pushing them closer to that mushy middle area.
That doesn’t seem like it’s going to dissuade Hazen from making moves to bolster the club in the weeks to come. “I think based on the way this team is standing right now we should be looking at being aggressive at the deadline,” he said. “I’m expecting us to play Diamondback baseball for the next two weeks so we’ll be standing in the same spot or better, so, yeah, we’re going to behave that way.”
About six weeks ago, Hazen candidly admitted that pitching would likely be the club’s focus at the deadline. That’s not surprising given that the rotation has been fairly mediocre outside of Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, the latter of whom is on the injured list. The question for the D’Backs seems to be how much they are willing to give up in order to get that pitching. Given Hazen’s comments about being “aggressive” but not “reckless,” it seems fair to expect the club won’t be looking to deal its top prospects, such as Jordan Lawlar or Brandon Pfaadt.
That’s a defensible lane for the club to pick, given their current trajectory. They are built around a young core of players like Corbin Carroll, Geraldo Perdomo, Gabriel Moreno and others, perhaps setting them up to be in contention for many years to come. Hazen and the rest of his staff will surely want to increase the club’s chances here in 2023 but also don’t want to hamper the rest of their competitive window.
That being said, it seems that Hazen will have some willingness to trade players from their farm system, with their track record of player acquisition and development hopefully allowing them to replenish whatever is moved. “We have to be confident that we can do a lot of the things that we did to put this team together, which wasn’t just through signing big free agents and things like that,” he said. “We need to be confident that we’re going to be able to do that again. That allows you to take on the mindset of being a little more aggressive, that things aren’t irreplaceable. Part of not being one player away is also not (thinking) one minor league player is going to determine our fate as a team moving forward.”
Arizona has a challenging schedule between now and the deadline, playing strong clubs like Atlanta, Cincinnati, Seattle and San Francisco, with a three-game set against St. Louis their only matchup against a club that’s currently below .500. Another losing streak could perhaps downgrade the club from “ultra-aggressive” to merely “aggressive,” but it seems as though fans of the club should expect some kind of additions regardless.
Wherever their comfort level lands in terms of what they are willing to part with will then have an impact on what they can acquire. Lucas Giolito and Jordan Montgomery are some of the more obvious trade candidates, though both of those are rentals. Pitchers with extra control like Aaron Civale or Paul Blackburn could also be available, though the extra control will also lead their current clubs to seek larger returns in trade talks.