The last 48 hours in Arizona since the conclusion of the MLB trade deadline have noticeably changed the landscape of the Diamondbacks.
Two days since the team dealt its closer, its No. 2 starter and its three-hole hitter, the water is still a bit choppy, with players — most notably shortstop Nick Ahmed — and fans seeing the deals as a retreat instead of a push forward.
But that’s not how GM Mike Hazen views it.
Joining Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Wednesday, Hazen cleared the air on his thinking behind the moves and provided an explanation to the message sent to the team.
“No, not white flag,” Hazen said. “In terms of what the expectation’s going to be the rest of this year … the expectation is that we’re going to keep pushing. We’re going to play the same brand of baseball that we’ve played the last three-and-a-half, four years ever since we’ve gotten here, which is compete every single day.
“I also had to acknowledge, though, and I think in being fair to those in the clubhouse, especially the coaching staff, the manager and the players, is I can’t stand up there and say that I haven’t caused a dynamic to shift in the clubhouse. I think that’s being disingenuous in a lot of ways to have to sit there and continue to say that.”
Hazen may be trying to be realistic as he navigates the rest of the D-backs’ 2020 season and beyond, but that still doesn’t mean it’s going to sit well with everyone within the organization.
Responding to a question Tuesday about Hazen’s notion that the team is out of the playoff picture and looking at building for the long-term, Ahmed said it was “infuriating” to hear his general manager say that. Ahmed added the clubhouse had not heard from Hazen since the trade deadline and emphasized the players were not packing it in.
“He said how he felt and I appreciate his perspective on it,” Hazen said. “I think I made it pretty clear, honestly, when I spoke about it that one: what the expectation was going to be for the rest of the season. And I think No. 2: there was a phrase sort of excluded there where I acknowledged that we were disappointed because at the current moment we weren’t in the playoff picture.
“Obviously, by that I meant we were three games out chasing four to five teams and outside of the playoff hunt today. That doesn’t mean in any way, shape or form that we weren’t having the capability or the ability to go back out there and compete to win 14 out of 15 and get right back in this thing.”
While the D-backs had the tools on paper to make some noise entering 2020, the season has not gone the way many had thought. Following a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday, the D-backs sit at 14-22, 4.5 games out of the NL Wild Card. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals have a worse record than Arizona in the National League.
The team’s big offseason signing, Madison Bumgarner, has underperformed and has dealt with a back injury. Robbie Ray, the team’s No. 2 starting pitcher, couldn’t get out of innings and the team’s offense, upgraded on paper with the acquisition of outfielder Starling Marte, has gone quiet more than it has woken up. The downturn in play led to Hazen trading away Ray, Marte and Archie Bradley in separate deals on Monday.
“Unfortunately the way this season’s presented itself we had a choice to make with 30 days to go and 25 games to go in the season,” Hazen said. “Things haven’t gone well for us this year and I’m going to tell the truth and be objective and honest about what we are seeing. We’re eight games under .500. I understand the bunching up within sort of the competitive landscape of the Wild Card and the extra playoff spot but we’re eight games under .500.
“I think we had to take a look in the mirror with regard with where we were going but that has no bearing on what the expectation for play is this year. But I have to take a step back and take a little different view sometimes.”
Hazen said he has yet to meet with the team on the moves, citing the D-backs scheduled off day at the deadline before Arizona shipped off to Los Angeles. He’s not sure on the specifics on when or how he will talk with his team, but says those talks will be had.
“Typically I would like to be there [on the road trip] not necessarily to address the team but at least to be there to have those conversations and be accountable for what I put together this year and where we are standing and my role in that,” Hazen said.
“Typically that would be the process, but that was unable to happen this year. … I’m sure I’m going to circle up with a lot of those guys at least individually.”