Since being hired as Executive Vice President & General Manager of the Diamondbacks in 2016, Mike Hazen has engineered trades involving Zack Greinke, Paul Goldschmidt, J.D. Martinez, Ketel Marte, Starling Marte, and more. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd assesses Hazen’s wheeling and dealing in today’s video.
It’s not always fair to judge baseball operations leaders for free agent signings. In many cases, the biggest contracts are negotiated to varying extents by ownership. The same can hold true of major extensions. It’s just tough to know from the outside.
There’s obviously involvement from above in trade scenarios as well. But when it comes to exchanging rights to some players for others, it stands to reason, the role of the general manager is all the more clear.
In any event, for what it’s worth, it seemed an opportune moment to take a look back at the trade track records of some of the general managers around the game. First up: Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen. (In chronological order and excluding minor deals. Full details at transaction link.)
- Acquired OF Starling Marte from Pirates for INF Liover Peguero and RHP Brennan Malone
- Acquired RHP Mike Leake and cash from Mariners for INF Jose Caballero
- Acquired RHP Corbin Martin, RHP J.B. Bukauskas, 1B Seth Beer, INF Joshua Rojas from Astros in exchange for RHP Zack Greinke and cash
- Acquired RHP Zac Gallen from Marlins for INF Jazz Chisholm
- Acquired RHP Luke Weaver, C Carson Kelly, minor league IF Andy Young, and a Competitive Balance Round B pick in the 2019 draft from the Cardinals for 1B Paul Goldschmidt
- Acquired INF Eduardo Escobar from Twins for RHP Jhoan Duran, OF Ernie De La Trinidad and OF Gabriel Maciel
- Acquired LHP Jake Diekman from Rangers for RHP Wei-Chieh Huang
- Acquired RHP Brad Ziegler from Marlins for RHP Tommy Eveld
- Acquired RHP Matt Andriese from Rays for C Michael Perez and RHP Brian Shaffer
- Acquired OF Jon Jay from Royals for LHP Gabe Speier and RHP Elvis Luciano
- Acquired OF Steven Souza and RHP Taylor Widener in 3-team trade that sent LHP Anthony Banda, RHP Sam McWilliams and LHP Colin Poche to Rays and INF/OF Brandon Drury to Yankees (Rays also received INF Nick Solak from Yankees)
- Acquired RHP Brad Boxberger from Rays for RHP Curtis Taylor
- Acquired RHP David Hernandez from Angels for RHP Luis Madero
- Acquired INF Adam Rosales from Athletics for RHP Jeferson Mejia
- Acquired OF J.D. Martinez from Tigers for INF Dawel Lugo, INF Sergio Alcantara, and INF Jose King
- Acquired INF/OF Ketel Marte and RHP Taijuan Walker from Mariners for INF Jean Segura, OF Mitch Haniger and LHP Zac Curtis
So … how would you grade Hazen’s overall work as a dealmaker? (Poll link for app users.)
The Arizona Diamondbacks have put together one of the more intriguing rosters as we approach spring camp, and they’ve done so while maintaining flexibility. The Starling Marte acquisition, for instance, secures center field as GM Mike Hazen had hoped – secondarily allowing star Ketel Marte to stay at second base – but that doesn’t mean Ketel’s days in center are done. The Martes could very well play side-by-side in the outfield against tough lefties while David Peralta or Kole Calhoun gets a breather, writes MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. Most of Arizona’s bench hits from the left side, though Ildemaro Vargas, Domingo Leyba, and Andy Young can all hit righty, making them candidates to spell Marte at second when he vacates. Let’s jump the the Junior Circuit to check in on the Mariners…
- Opportunity abounds in the Mariners outfield now that Mitch Haniger is set to miss opening day. With plenty of internal candidates to choose from, there’s no need for a reactionary signing in Seattle, though Executive VP and GM Jerry Dipoto never rules anything out. For now, Kyle Lewis has the inside track on left field, writes MLB.com’s Greg Johns. Lewis put together a mighty 75 plate appearances at the end of 2019 to stake his claim to the grass in 2020. The Haniger injury may mean more consistent at-bats for Mallex Smith in the early going, but the real growth opportunity exists for youngsters like Braden Bishop and Jake Fraley. It’s unclear how much time they’ll have to put their stamp on 2020, but the Mariners are likely to temper their expectations for Haniger’s return and enjoy the opportunity to preview Bishop and/or Fraley in the outfield. The Mariners also recently brought Eric Filia into their spring mix, who could earn a spot, while infielders Shed Long, Dee Gordon, Tim Lopes and Aaron Nola can capably shag fly balls as well.
- Yusei Kikuchi put together a less-than-stellar inaugural season in Seattle, but he’s not a lost cause, writes Johns. The 28-year-old southpaw went 6-11 with a 5.46 ERA/5.71 FIP across 32 starts (161 2/3 innings) in 2020. Despite Kikuchi’s struggles and a lack of established rotation arms, the Mariners have less interest in extending their use of the Opener in 2020. A focus on relievers who can throw multiple innings will allow the Mariners to protect Kikuchi somewhat. Mostly, the Mariners envision progress through regression. Writes Johns, “…there is a feeling that he tinkered far too much with his arm angles and throwing motion — both over the course of the year and even during games — and needs to get back to just being himself and letting it rip as he did when he first arrived.”
Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow is healthy, which has rarely been the case throughout his Cubs tenure. Morrow should be on schedule for the spring, though the Cubs are keeping open the possibility of bringing him along more slowly than the other pitchers in camp. A different schedule would be purely precautionary, however, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (via Twitter). Morrow arrived in Chicago as the heir apparent to Wade Davis, who had been the heir apparent to Aroldis Chapman before him. When healthy, Morrow has been nothing short of elite, but after just 35 appearances in 2018 followed by an entire season in absentia, Morrow enters 2020 in no better position than the many other arms the Cubs have collected on minor league deals.
- The Nationals are entering another year of uncertainty in their lineup. Manager Dave Martinez is weighing a move for powerful leadoff man Trea Turner into the middle of the order, tweets Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. Turner certainly has enough oomph to man the middle of the order. A full season of the .298/.353/.497 line he put up last year would ably fill the 3-hole recently vacated by his bromance partner Anthony Rendon. Adam Eaton remains a viable top-of-the-order presence after putting up a .365 OBP mostly out of the 2-hole, who could presumably move up a slot into the leadoff vacancy. Putting Turner’s speed directly in front of the ever-patient and fear-inducing cleanup presence of Juan Soto might not be the most natural pairing, however. Martinez will have some big decisions to make, largely dependent upon who wins the third base job and what kind of jump Victor Robles can make at the plate.
- In an interview with The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan, Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen says he doesn’t envision the team making a blockbuster deal like trading for Kris Bryant this far into the offseason. Major roster decisions have largely been made, and it’s more the time for fine-tuning. Hazen left open the possibility of adding a bullpen arm or another body for the bench, but a blockbuster is less likely. That said, the Diamondbacks never found the centerfielder they were seeking, which would push Ketel Marte back into the outfield and open starter’s minutes somewhere in the infield. The Diamondbacks have already taken more big swings this offseason than Hazen anticipated, so one more – even at this stage – can’t be entirely ruled out.
Ketel Marte is likely ticketed for heavy usage in centerfield this season, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks stated preference for Marte is twofold: they’d like to return him to the infield, and they’d like not to bounce him between positions (in 2019, Marte appeared in 96 games in center, 83 at second, and 11 at shortstop). But unless they make a move on the trade market, GM Mike Hazen is unlikely to satisfy both criteria. They could have their cake and eat it too by trading for the Pirates’ star centerfielder of the same surname. Speculatively speaking, Starling Marte and Jackie Bradley Jr. are both available, and there aren’t many options beyond those two to upgrade in center. A year after picking 8 times in the first 100 selections of the 2019 draft, the Diamondbacks have the prospect capital to make such a move if they want to cash in. If not…
- …the organization is much better off in the second baseman department, with Eduardo Escobar, Andy Young, Ildemaro Vargas, Domingo Leyba and Josh Rojas all capable of winning the spot with a strong spring. Eduardo Escobar’s handling of the keystone only becomes likely if Jake Lamb stakes his claim to the hot corner with some authority. That’s not out of the question for the 29-year-old, though given last year’s .193/.323/.353 performance, Lamb would need a very strong spring to gird himself against any kind of early season slump. Otherwise, the Diamondbacks appear comfortable letting a host of options work their way through second base. Escobar is likelier to play third most of the time, as he did last year, with one of their younger options such as Rojas or Young chunking their time up the middle. With Kole Calhoun in right and Stephen Vogt brought in to back up at catcher, the centerfield/second base slot remains the last significant variable for the Diamondbacks to solve on offense before Opening Day.
- Regarding arbitration, the Diamondbacks reached one-year accords with four arb-eligible players yesterday: Robbie Ray, Andrew Chafin, Matt Andriese and Jake Lamb. The D-backs also locked up their left fielder David Peralta with a three-year, $22MM deal. Incumbent closer Archie Bradley and consecutive gold glove winner Nick Ahmed are the only two players headed for the arbitration panel as of right now. Figures for both players have been filed.
“The Diamondbacks are said to have interest in both” Mitch Haniger and Nomar Mazara, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Either player would address Arizona’s need for a right fielder, and though the D’Backs would be taking something of a risk either both are coming off disappointing 2019 seasons. Haniger didn’t play after June 6 due to a ruptured testicle, and even in the 283 plate appearances prior to his injury was already delivering less production than during his impressive 2017-18 campaigns. Mazara has been a steadily subpar offensive performer (92 wRC+, 93 OPS+) over his four career seasons with the Rangers, hitting .261/.320/.435 with 79 homers over 2189 PA and generating only 1.7 total fWAR.
That said, both offer upside for interested trade partners. Mazara is a former top prospect and he has hit right-handed pitching decently well, which Piecoro notes is an area of need for the D’Backs. Haniger, of course, is a known quantity in Arizona — he broke into the big leagues with the Snakes and then was dealt to the Mariners as part of the November 2016 trade that brought Ketel Marte to the desert. Mazara has two remaining years of arbitration eligibility, while Haniger is arb-eligible for the first time this winter (and at a projected $3MM price tag, so his rough 2019 season also lowered his ceiling for future arbitration earnings). While Seattle is at least open to discussing Haniger in trades, GM Jerry Dipoto still highly values Haniger, so a deal wouldn’t come easily for the Diamondbacks. It would seem that Mazara would be the more available of the two options, as Texas has been rumored to be looking to deal from its surplus of left-handed hitting outfielders.
Here’s more from Arizona…
- In terms of what the D’Backs might give up for Haniger, Mazara, or any other veteran upgrades, GM Mike Hazen indicated that his team is “willing to” part with some “good minor league players.” Piecoro suggests that the team wouldn’t be likely to trade its very top prospects, but would be open to dealing youngsters “from the next tier down” in the rankings. It is perhaps noteworthy that the three names Piecoro cites as “the players [the Diamondbacks] view as their best prospects” are Daulton Varsho, Geraldo Perdomo, and Corbin Carroll, whereas two other prospects (Alek Thomas and Kristian Robinson) occupy the top two spots on MLB Pipeline’s ranking of Arizona’s top 30 minor leaguers, though Piecoro said “perhaps others” are also in the team’s internal top tier.
- Beyond right field, the Diamondbacks are also on the lookout for center field help. While Marte played both center field and second base last year, Hazen told The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan (Twitter link) and other reporters that he would prefer to land a center fielder to lighten the load on Marte. Shogo Akiyama has been mentioned as a potential target for the D’Backs, though Hazen said that he hasn’t yet met with the Japanese center fielder and doesn’t have meetings scheduled for the future.
- Hazen told Piecoro and other reporters that after signing Junior Guerra, the D’Backs are still looking for “one more” reliever. Archie Bradley pitched well enough in the closer role last year that a new reliever doesn’t necessarily require closing experience to be considered, though Hazen said that a reliever that could be used “toward the back end [of the bullpen] would be ideal.”
Zack Greinke is off the books. Ill-fated Cuban signee Yasmany Tomas will be off the books after next season. The Diamondbacks avoided doubling-down with pricey extensions for former core performers Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin, and A.J. Pollock. Arizona GM Mike Hazen sloughed the necessary financial weight to put the Dbacks in the unfamiliar position of having some money to spend, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Per Roster Resource, their 2020 payroll sits at about $109MM, only about $14MM shy of their 2019 opening day figure, but they have significant financial freedom beyond next season, when the only remaining salary obligations belong to underpaid cornerstones Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar. Keep an eye out for MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook Series for a further investigation into the Diamondbacks options moving forward. For now, let’s check in elsewhere around the league…
- The Cubs have a less flexible financial situation at present, and how they maneuver this offseason remains one of the most intriguing questions of the winter. They’re the best team in the NL Central as presently constituted, per Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards, though it surely doesn’t feel like it to Cubs fans after their September collapse. Rumors of significant change continue to swirl, but it’s hard to argue how moving one of their stars like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, or Javier Baez will improve the team in the short-term, and it’s hard to justify willfully closing the window on the team that won the 2016 championship. And yet, last season’s decline was so thorough the Cubs have to wonder if a managerial change alone is enough to shock The Cubs Way back to life. Moving Kyle Schwarber also isn’t the answer, per NBC Sports Chicago’s Tony Andracki, who makes the case that Schwarber, 27 in March, is entering his prime after finally showing signs of reaching his considerable offensive ceiling in the second half last year. Recent rumblings peg Willson Contreras as the potential moving piece, but trading a potent firecracker like Contreras is a risk. Theo Epstein’s accolades as a cursebreaker are unparalleled, but turning this club back into a true-blue contender might be his biggest career challenge to date.
- The Mariners should act now to open their competitive window in 2021 by making a run at Gerrit Cole, per The Athletic’s Corey Brock. It makes sense on paper, as Cole makes any rotation look a whole heck of a lot better, though it’s certainly hard to imagine. If the Mariners really do want to contend with the Astros and A’s as early as 2021, a rotation led by Cole, Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi looks a lot better than a rotation fronted by Gonzalez and Kikuchi alone. The Mariners do have money to spend as well, with just $44MM on the books for 2021, and if Cole is the best free agent pitcher available over, say, the next three offseasons, then it would make sense to make a run at him now. That said, all signs point to a more modest approach from Seattle this winter.
The Diamondbacks surprisingly hung around the Wild Card race until mid-September this season, despite shedding the faces of their franchise over the course of the six months previous. The postseason has been a who’s who of important Dbacks of the last half decade, as Patrick Corbin has taken out the rest of the Dbacks former talent core, starting with A.J. Pollock and the Dodgers and Paul Goldschmidt and the Cardinals. He’ll take his best shot at Zack Greinke and the Astros in game 3 of the World Series, aka the former Dbacks ace bowl. Of course, Mike Rizzo, the Nationals GM, is also an ex-Diamondback. He served as Arizona’s Scouting Director from 2000 to 2006. Let’s take a look at some Diamondbacks news from Rizzo’s era up to the present day…
- It’s unsurprising to realize Rizzo repurposed the team-building blueprint from the 2001 Diamondbacks champs in putting together his team in Washington, per MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. Mainly, that means two aces up front and a host of veteran hitters capable of putting together veteran at-bats. All in all, it’s a pretty uncannily accurate casting job on the part of Rizzo. Max Scherzer is Randy Johnson, Stephen Strasburg is Curt Schilling, Patrick Corbin is an evolved Brian Anderson, Anibal Sanchez is Miguel Batista. Many of the vets also fit the mold: Howie Kendrick can play Mark Grace, Gerardo Parra as David Dellucci or Danny Bautista, Ryan Zimmerman as Matt Williams, Asdrubal Cabrera as Jay Bell, Adam Eaton as Reggie Sanders, Matt Adams as Greg Colbrunn and Kurt Suzuki is Damian Miller. In the bullpen, Fernando Rodney is definitely Mike Morgan, Sean Doolittle is Matt Mantei (I guess?), Daniel Hudson is (gulp) Byung-Hyun Kim. Okay, perhaps it’s not 1-1 all the way through, but those Diamondbacks did win the World Series after a 92-win season – after a 93-win season in Washington, Rizzo hopes to replicate his old team one last time.
- Despite two recent aces facing off for different teams in the World Series, the Diamondbacks offseason focus is the offense, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Dbacks put together a middle-of-the-pack offense in 2019, but the bats went away in an 11-game stretch in mid-September. They went 3-8 and pretty much fell out of race while scoring less than 2 1/2 runs per game. Those are the games that stick out for GM Mike Hazen, who will be on the lookout for ways to diversify their offense. Parsing the profile of the type of hitter Hazen may target is more difficult, as Arizona’s offense didn’t really stand out in any which way. They finished below-average in home runs, but not by a lot, above-average in men left on base and GIDP, but again, not by much. They were exactly league-average in batting average and on-base percentage, while their team slugging (.434 SLG) was below average by .001 SLG – as close to average as any team in the MLB.
- As far as Ketel Marte is concerned, the Dbacks aren’t making a decision about his 2020 defensive home until they build out the rest of the roster. Second base could be where they look to improve offensively, in which case Marte will head back out to center. Essentially, the plan remains the same, with Hazen and the Dbacks set to take full advantage of the versatility Marte affords.
The latest on four of the American League East’s five teams…
- As of three weeks ago, the Rays expected injured infielder Brandon Lowe to miss the rest of the regular season. That might not happen, though, as manager Kevin Cash suggested Friday that Lowe and right-hander Yonny Chirinos could return, Juan Toribio of MLB.com tweets. Lowe was amid one of the league’s best rookie seasons when he went down July 3 with a shin injury, while Chirinos was among the Rays’ top starters before landing on the shelf Aug. 5 with a finger injury. Despite their ongoing absences, Tampa Bay continues to hold an American League wild-card spot, albeit by the thinnest of margins. The Rays are a half-game up on the Indians for the league’s No. 5 seed.
- It’s in question how much more the injury-plagued Yankees will get from catcher Gary Sanchez and designated hitter/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion this season. Sanchez suffered a strained groin Thursday, per Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. The Yankees are “hopeful” he’ll come back this year, Ackert writes. Meanwhile, Encarnacion incurred a mild internal oblique strain Thursday, though it’s not yet clear how much time Encarnacion will miss. The 36-year-old already sat out almost all of August because of a fractured right wrist.
- Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen was a speculative target for the Red Sox after they fired president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski on Sunday. But Hazen, who worked under Dombrowski in Boston before going to Arizona in 2016, is officially out of the picture after signing an extension Friday. Even before Hazen agreed to that deal, the Red Sox didn’t reach out to the Diamondbacks to request an interview, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports. Extension or not, Hazen was already under contract with the D-backs, so they could have shot down the Red Sox had they approached the Snakes with interest in talking to him.
- Reliever Tim Mayza left the Blue Jays’ win over the Yankees on Friday with a left elbow injury, the team announced. It was an ugly scene: Mayza threw a pitch way behind New York shortstop Didi Gregorius, went to the ground clutching his forearm and looked to be in tears (video via Keegan Matheson of MLB.com). Mayza will undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the injury, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet relays, but it won’t be a surprise if his wayward pitch to Gregorius goes down as his last of 2019. At this point, Mayza and the Jays are surely hoping the issue doesn’t prove severe enough to shelve him for any portion of next season.
The Diamondbacks have extended GM Mike Hazen, the team announced and MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweeted. Terms of the multi-year pact remain unknown at this time.
It’s tempting to raise an eyebrow here at the timing. Hazen was originally hired away from the Red Sox and has deep roots there. The powerhouse Boston organization has just launched a hiring search for a new head of baseball ops. But that wasn’t a factor, the team has made clear, with new contract talks having started before the BoSox seat came open.
Regardless, it’s plenty understandable that the Arizona organization was interested in settling Hazen’s long-term status — and ensuring he’d be around for years to come. His original deal ran through the 2020 season, meaning he’d have entered the ensuing offseason as a lame duck of sorts.
While the Snakes haven’t enjoyed runaway success since Hazen took the reins, it’s hard to argue with the work he has done. The long-time Boston exec originally came aboard on the heels of a brutally disappointing 2016 season. At the time, the organization faced an array of challenges: an MLB roster that had talent but wasn’t quite good enough, a few challenging payroll commitments, and a questionable farm system.
It seems fair to say that there have been improvements on all fronts to this point, with Hazen navigating some especially tricky transactional matters. Since taking over, Hazen has traded away superstars Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke. He has allowed long-time stars A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin to depart as free agents. And yet the club is closing in on a third-straight winning campaign, even as it now oversees a manageable slate of future salary obligations and features a much-improved prospect pool.
Remarkably, Hazen has yet to ink a single free agent to a contract of $10MM or more. He has added quite a few low-cost veterans, not all of which have worked out, but has done most of his most notable work via trades and extensions.
Hazen’s first deal remains fascinating. He brought in the since-extended Ketel Marte, who has now morphed into a star, along with the talented but oft-injured Taijuan Walker in a swap that cost Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura. When the Snakes made a surprise charge in his first year at the helm, Hazen landed J.D. Martinez for a relative pittance. He couldn’t get a deal done with JDM, but did extend fellow deadline acquisition Eduardo Escobar at an appealing rate. The Goldy swap netted Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly (along with prospect Andy Young) for one last season of the former MVP.
Most recently, the Greinke deal shed most of the obligations to the veteran starter while adding four promising prospects. Hazen cashed in well-regarded prospect Jazz Chisholm for intriguing young rotation piece Zac Gallen and also brought in steady back-end starter Mike Leake for cheap. Despite the loss of Greinke, the Snakes have threatened a surprise Wild Card run — though that’s a long-shot at this point.
All things considered, it has been an impressive performance to this point for Hazen, who’ll have more interesting decisions to make this winter. While the D-Backs have a lot of ground to make up if they’re to challenge the Dodgers, they have a fair bit of payroll space and young talent to work with. Odds are we’ll continue to see a strategy that largely defies simple categorization, with Hazen focusing not on “contending” or “rebuilding” so much as cost-efficient decisionmaking that enhances the organization’s overall talent base.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.