While fans might not have much excitement for the future of Arizona Diamondbacks baseball, hope should be had. With two new guys running the operation, the D-Backs may be in better shape than you think.
Your team won just 69 games, your team traded away the next big thing for an emotional wreck and your team may not provide real competition for years to come. But there is a glimmer of hope… because if you’re an Arizona Diamondbacks fan, things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem.
Hope starts at the very top in the form of the general manager. His name, Mike Hazen. His mission, rebuild a mangled franchise and win a World Series. After watching the 2016 team disappoint in so many ways, fans may feel that World Series contention and relevancy is a real reach.
It’s going to be a daunting task, but Mike Hazen is the perfect man for the job. One of the most underrated executives in the league, Hazen had been a cornerstone in Boston’s front office for 10 seasons. In Boston, Hazen was involved directly with scouting and player development before climbing the ranks.
He was director of player development before becoming VP of player development and amateur scouting. He continued to climb, becoming a senior VP and assistant general manager and eventually would become Dave Dombrowski’s GM. Before Dombrowski, he was Ben Cherington’s right-hand man and a product of Theo Epstein. According to Peter Gammons, one Red Sox exec had even higher praise.
“Mike Hazen is Theo.” Let that sink in. Hazen is compared to a man who broke an 86-year curse in Boston and a 108-year curse in Chicago. He’s considered the brightest mind in baseball and is responsible for two of the best rosters in MLB, the one in Chicago and his remains in Boston.
Hazen is a big fan of scouting and is an executive who will plan on building a top farm system. If he was there a year ago, odds are Dansby Swanson is starting and Shelby Miller isn’t on the roster. The positions he held with the Red Sox are directly tied into the draft and the minor leagues. Think of the guys Hazen helped bring to Boston.
Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Blake Swihart, Michael Kopech and Jason Groome are a few players Hazen helped pick. One of his biggest plans is to do the same thing in Arizona and something that has evidently worked in Chicago: build a farm system and make it the future.
Currently, the D-Backs’ top prospect Socrates Brito isn’t on the MLB.com top 100 prospects list. After that are few players who will make a true difference in the next two seasons. Expect the majority of Hazen’s future moves to be widely centered around top prospects. He certainly has the major league talent in Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke to pull off blockbuster trades.
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The resume he brings to the table was key in his hiring. He knows what a winning culture is, seeing the Red Sox win two World Series in his time there and helping them make it back to October baseball as the GM. While the final decisions go to Dombrowski nowadays, Hazen did a lot of legwork on trades and acquisitions last season.
In his first two moves in Arizona, Hazen hired Torey Lovullo and then sent Jean Segura to Seattle for young pitcher Taijuan Walker and infielder Ketel Marte. Thus, he acquired a former number one prospect pitcher in Walker who could use some guidance at the major league level. Marte was ranked as high as number three in the Mariners system.
The bigger move was Lovullo, a manager whose name has been hotter in interview rumors than any other in the last two years. Lovullo was considered an excellent bench coach for the Red Sox, even leading them to a 28-21 record and improving their offense while he filled in as interim manager in 2015. The growing sentiment in Boston was that John Farrell would be fired midway through 2016, and Lovullo would take over.
The new manager was the perfect fit for Hazen. The two have been quite familiar with each other for more than 10 years, dating back to their days in Cleveland. He understands baseball well and has an appreciation for numbers. The most telling sign that he will be a good manager was the way he handled Farrell’s temporary departure in 2015. He took a tough situation, handled it with care, and even helped the team improve when the players’ heads were in a million different places.
With Hazen and Lovullo paired together, it could be a really special bond. It’s bound to take time for the D-Backs to be good again, and fans shouldn’t expect to be competing for a division title for at least a couple of years, but hope should be kept.
Ken Kendricks holds his front office and coaches on a short leash, but he should give a very long one to his new duo. If Hazen truly pans out as he’s expected to, Arizona could be destined for greatness. So overlook the losing records, the past mistakes and the pain of potentially seeing your current stars in new uniforms. If you trust the heads that now run your team, you might just be okay, Arizona.