The Arizona Diamondbacks ultimately fell just short of a championship, but it was still an October to remember in the desert, from sneaking into the playoffs to dethroning the Brewers, Dodgers and Phillies en route to one of the most unlikely pennants in MLB history. But the baseball calendar never rests, and so now the question becomes: What might the Snakes do for an encore? As unlikely as their romp through the postseason was, don’t make the mistake of viewing this team as some mere flash in the pan. This is an organization with plenty of young talent to build around, and with a shrewd offseason, they might be even better in 2024. What might that offseason look like? Let’s break it down.
Diamondbacks offseason preview
Season in review
You’re probably familiar with the story by now: With breakout rookie Corbin Carroll rampaging atop the lineup, the D-backs were one of the surprise stories of the season’s first half, and despite a bit of a late-summer swoon they managed to right the ship in September and hold off the Cubs for a Wild Card berth. From there, they caught fire: Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt were lights out on the mound while Carroll, Ketel Marte, Gabriel Moreno and the rest of a young and dynamic lineup made life miserable for opposing pitchers, as Arizona swept the Brewers and Dodgers before rallying to defeat the Phillies in a thrilling seven-game NLCS. They fell short against the Rangers in the World Series, but their journey from a -25 run differential to NL champs will be remembered for a long, long time.
Pending free agents
Arizona will lose some talent from last year’s team, but not very much in the way of key contributors. The headliners are outfielders Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and veteran third baseman Evan Longoria, with starter Zach Davies and oft-injured reliever Mark Melancon also set to enter free agency.
The biggest question: How can GM Mike Hazen fill out this rotation? Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly remain a potent one-two, and Pfaadt’s postseason breakout gives a ton of hope for 2024, but even if October Pfaadt carries over to next season that’s still only three reliable options. The D-backs started 14 different pitchers in the regular season, toggling through the likes of Davies, Tommy Henry and Ryne Nelson in search of a solution. There’s some young talent here, including former first-round pick Bryce Jarvis, but Arizona needs to be active in pursuit of at least one more starter.
After that, the priority becomes long-term solutions at both third base and left field given the potential departures of Longoria, Gurriel Jr. and Pham. (Carroll will start every day in right, and former top prospect Alek Thomas figures to get the first crack in center after a bit of a breakout postseason.) The D-backs ought to have the means to fill those holes, given that their 2023 payroll ($116 million) was below the numbers they’ve hit in recent years and they’re currently projected for just $83 million in salary for 2024.
Best free-agent fits
We’ll start with the rotation. Arizona may not seem like a likely destination for top free-agent starters like Aaron Nola and Blake Snell, but the D-backs have played in the deep end of this pool in the past — remember Zack Greinke? — and they’ll have some money to spend and the shine of a World Series appearance to help their sales pitch. In addition to Nola and Snell, names like Eduardo Rodriguez, Sonny Gray and Marcus Stroman make a lot of sense, with Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Michael Wacha looming as lower-tier options.
The market is less friendly for position players, particularly at the hot corner, where Matt Chapman and Jeimer Candelario are the only appealing options (unless Hazen is really, really enamored with someone like Gio Urshela). Arizona should be interested in a reunion with either Gurriel Jr. or Pham, or they could make a run at someone like Teoscar Hernandez or Joc Pederson to toggle between left field and DH.
The D-backs do have some interesting names in the Minors that could be packaged in a trade for an infielder or (more likely) a starter, with Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes and Tampa’s Tyler Glasnow the two biggest names that figure to be available. Juan Soto would obviously be an ideal fit in left, and Arizona does have the prospect cache to get San Diego’s attention, but trading him within the division feels unlikely — not to mention that Soto is entering the final year of his deal and may not have any interest in signing in the desert long-term.