The Diamondbacks have announced the hiring of Mike Hazen as the team’s new general manager and executive vice president. Hazen’s contract with the club is for at least four years, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). He will be officially introduced at a press conference tomorrow at Chase Field.
“Mike’s background is the perfect balance of scouting, player development and analytics, which will all play an important role going forward,” D’Backs president and CEO Derrick Hall said in a statement released by the club. “He’s a natural leader, who we feel fortunate to have been able to hire, and we welcome him and his family to Arizona.”
Hazen has spent just over one full year as the Red Sox general manager, serving as the point man under Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Hazen’s new job will put him in charge of Arizona’s baseball ops, as according to MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert (Twitter link), Hazen will report directly to Hall. Tony La Russa, formerly the Diamondbacks’ chief baseball officer, is still with the organization and will remain as an advisor, Gilbert reports.
Prior to becoming Boston’s GM, Hazen had worked with the Red Sox since 2006, first as the team’s director of player development and then as the assistant GM under Ben Cherington. Prior to joining the Sox, Hazen worked for five seasons in the Indians’ scouting and player development departments.
As noted by Hall, Hazen brings a wide range of executive, scouting, development and even on-the-field (he played two seasons in the Padres’ system in 1998-99) experience. At just 40 years of age, Hazen brings a decidedly new perspective to the D’Backs in the wake of the decidedly old-school methods of La Russa and former general manager Dave Stewart.
Counting the interim tenures of Bob Gebhard and Jerry Dipoto, Hazen will be the Diamondbacks’ seventh general manager since 2005. This revolving door and rumors of ownership interference with front office moves led some executives to wonder if Arizona would have trouble landing top-caliber talent to fill the position. Alex Anthopoulos and Chaim Bloom, VPs of baseball operations with the Dodgers and Rays respectively, both declined interviews. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that Anthopoulos and Jason McLeod, Cubs VP of player development and amateur scouting both had informal talks with the D’Backs, though not actual interviews.
That being said, the D’Backs ended up landing a highly-regarded baseball mind in Hazen, and also interviewed several other notable candidates during their hiring process. Other contenders for the job included incumbent D’Backs assistant GM Bryan Minniti, D’Backs farm director Mike Bell, former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, Royals’ assistant GM J.J. Piccolo, MLB executives Kim Ng and Peter Woodfork and Brewers VP of scouting Ray Montgomery.
Hazen takes over an organization that finished a very disappointing 69-93 in 2016, its eighth non-winning season in the last nine years. A.J. Pollock’s near season-long stint on the DL, Zack Greinke’s down year and Shelby Miller’s disastrous season were the big headline issues, not to mention an overall lack of production from the rotation and bullpen. While the Major League roster certainly still has some impressive players on hand, Hazen’s big-picture challenge will be rebuilding a farm system thinned out by ill-advised trades (i.e. the Miller deal) and a lack of international talent. Arizona was limited to signings of $300K or less for the last two international signing periods following their pool-breaking signing of Yoan Lopez in January 2015, though they’ll be able to spend freely on international players come this July 2, barring any changes to the international spending system in the new CBA.
The first order of business for Hazen will be to hire a new manager to replace Chip Hale, and a familiar Boston name could be a top contender. Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is a “strong candidate” to take the Arizona job, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter links), though the D’Backs also have an impressive internal candidate in Triple-A manager Phil Nevin.