‘This team will be ready’: Arizona Diamondbacks’ expectations high entering 2024

Corbin Carroll had a monster season on the base paths in 2023, stealing 54 bases. He will be a key offensive weapon for the Diamondbacks. (Photo by Joe Eigo/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – The vibes in the Arizona Diamondbacks clubhouse could not be any better.

Music blasts as players challenge each other to a game of cards, or a seemingly popular game of dominoes where players can’t help resist a friendly match between teammates. An exciting 162-game season looms, and the Diamondbacks are brimming with anticipation to step back out on the diamond.

“It’s always a different day for me. It’s the best day of the baseball season,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said, referring to Thursday night’s game at Chase Field against the Colorado Rockies that launches the 2024 season. “It’s Opening Day and there’s so much excitement. I love that. The people around the stadium are here and energized and it means the start of a new year.”

The Diamondbacks captured the hearts of the Valley with their ever-so miraculous postseason run in 2023, a run that saw them make their first World Series appearance since 2001. They fell to the Texas Rangers in five games, but their undisputed success raised the bar entering 2024.

Related story

Last season, they got hot at the right time. An 84-win team typically doesn’t garner much attention in the postseason. But the Diamondbacks swept the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League wild card round, swept the goliathan Los Angeles Dodgers in the divisional round, and stunned a raucous Citizens Bank Park when they came back from 3-2 game deficit to knock out the Philadelphia Phillies in the championship series.

It was truly an underdog story. Now the team is not only striving to reach that pinnacle of success once again, but surpass it en route to their second World Series ring, even if they have a small target on their back from being NL champions. Nonetheless, word around the clubhouse is that it isn’t a worry. The Diamondbacks are looking to prove they finished last season where they belonged.

“Maybe outside we have a target on our back,” Diamondbacks reliever Bryce Jarvis said. “But from the inside it’s just kind of doing all the same things that led us to where we were last year and kind of doubling down in this process.”

To the Valley’s delight, the Diamondbacks opened up their pockets. They’re projected to have a franchise-record payroll of around $175 million for the 2024 season, shattering a previous record of $131 million for the 2018 season.

As a result, new additions flood the clubhouse. Southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez signed a four-year, $80 million contract, bolstering the rotation while the Diamondbacks added outfielders Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk with hopes of platooning them in the designated-hitter role.

Eugenio Suarez, who was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in November, has brought nothing but energy and positivity in addition to his ability to hit for power at the hot corner.

“Eugenio’s unbelievable,” said Paul Sewald, Diamondbacks closer and longtime teammate of Suarez. “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”

However, both Rodriguez and Grichuk will open the season on the injured list. Along with those two, Lovullo announced that Sewald will open the season on the injured list with a strained oblique. The amount of depth the Diamondbacks possess won’t go unnoticed in these first few weeks.

Zac Gallen, who finished third in National League Cy Young voting in 2023 after striking out 220 batters, will pitch on Opening Day for the Diamondbacks. (Photo by Joe Eigo/Cronkite News)

Zac Gallen, who finished third in National League Cy Young voting in 2023 after striking out 220 batters, will pitch on Opening Day for the Diamondbacks. (Photo by Joe Eigo/Cronkite News)

On Tuesday, the Diamondbacks made a last-minute addition by signing southpaw Jordan Montgomery to a one-year, $25 million contract, filling the void left by Rodriguez’s injury. After missing all of spring training in search of a new home, Montgomery will need time to get up to speed before joining the rotation. Until Montgomery is ready and Rodriguez is healthy, the rotation will align as Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Tommy Henry, Brandon Pfaadt and Ryne Nelson.

Prior to the Montgomery signing, the rotation was aligned as just Gallen, Kelly, Rodriguez and Pfaadt, with Nelson and Henry competing all spring for the fifth rotation spot. Despite uncertainty with their roles when Rodriguez and Montgomery return from their respective situations, both Henry and Nelson have the opportunity to get a few starts under their belts.

“It’s good to have a good group of guys to work with and bounce ideas off of,” Nelson said. “(They’re) a couple of guys I’ve been playing with for a while. It’s been really fun.”

The Diamondbacks’ roster is a fresh mix of experience, talent and youth. The veterans – Gallen, Kelly, Ketel Marte and Christian Walker – balance out the amount of youth – Corbin Carroll, Gabriel Moreno, Alek Thomas and Geraldo Perdomo — looking to build off last season, or in some cases, breakout in hopes of solidifying their spot on the roster for years to come.

Blaze Alexander, who competed with infielders Pavin Smith and Emannuel Rivera for a bench role this spring, made the Opening Day roster after batting .400 in 25 spring training games. On Tuesday, Alexander crushed a ball 444 feet off Cleveland Guardians pitcher Triston McKenzie, putting the finishing touches on his eye-opening spring.

“I thought he did a good job,” Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said. “I thought he had one of the best spring trainings of anybody we had in camp.”

Alexander joins Perdomo and Suarez as some of the most energetic, spirited and positive players in the Diamondbacks clubhouse. Clubhouse culture is big for a team striving to reach the promised land, and the team is relaxed as ever as it enters the season.

Ketel Marte enters his eighth season as a Diamondback after posting a 128 OPS+ in 2023, the third highest mark in his career. (Photo by Joe Eigo/Cronkite News)

Ketel Marte enters his eighth season as a Diamondback after posting a 128 OPS+ in 2023, the third highest mark in his career. (Photo by Joe Eigo/Cronkite News)

“We’re just kind of a loose team,” Jarvis said. “Shoot the s—t like kind of how every guy our age does. There’s not a lot of anxiety or tension.”

Nonetheless, emotions will be riding high as the National League champions step on the diamond for the first time this season. Chase Field will be rowdy Thursday night, perhaps even as rowdy as Citizens Bank Park in Game 7 of the 2023 NLCS. Perhaps more.

Lovullo emphasized that he’ll be nervous when the team takes the field at its home park for the first time since the Diamondbacks walked off in sheer disappointment as the Rangers celebrated their World Series championship last November. It’s a matter of staying relaxed and consistent, and that’s what Lovullo tells his team day-in-and-day-out.

The Diamondbacks open the season at home with a four-game series against the Rockies, followed by a much-anticipated and fairly rare three-game set with the New York Yankees before heading to Atlanta to face the Braves.

But for the moment, all eyes are on Opening Day, a spot on the sporting calendar that bursts with hopefulness.

“I’m going to be very consistent with what I do,” Lovullo said. “I’m probably not going to sleep. I’ll be a little restless. I might get here a little bit earlier than normal, but once I fall into that routine it’s going to be the exact same thing.

“I want us to maintain a certain level of energy and focus throughout the course of the day. And it’s probably gonna be that way all weekend and I want us to enjoy it, but we’ve got to balance that out and play a good baseball game and be ready for two and a half, three hours. We need good, hard, fought down and back baseball, and that will be my expectation.”

Aaron Schmidt EH-run shmit
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Aaron Schmidt expects to graduate in spring 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in film and media production. In addition to the Phoenix Sports Bureau, Schmidt reports for The Arizona Republic and The State Press. He has also interned with Arizona’s Family and Arizona Sports 98.7.

Joe Eigo joe EYE-go (he/him)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Joe Eigo expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Eigo is in his third semester at Cronkite News. He has previously worked with Inferno Intel, WCSN, The State Press and The Racing Experts.