Assessing 2023 MLB front offices: Mike Hazen's Arizona Diamondbacks grew up quickly

Young players ruled in the desert, but Mike Hazen had a virtually neutral impact on the Arizona Diamondbacks' 2023 success.
Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks / John E. Moore III/GettyImages

Mike Hazen, front office WAA impact for Arizona Diamondbacks: +3.2 WAA. MLB rank: 9. Division rank: 2

It’s a lot easier to build a championship contender over time than it is to lift it in a single season.

For proof of that statement, one need look no further than Mike Hazen’s 2023 Arizona Diamondbacks.

The D-Backs qualified for postseason play this year as the No. 2 Wild Card, winning 84 games and finishing second in the NL West. It was Arizona’s best season since they won 85 games in 2019.

As general manager and therefore chief of player procurement, Hazen deserves credit for building the team into a contender. He did just enough in 2023, improving Arizona's personnel by 3.2 games. Since the Diamondbacks qualified for postseason play by the slimmest margin (one game), that means in essence Hazen was responsible for lifting the team into the postseason.

That is the highest compliment one can say of a major league general manager, and Hazen was one of only four GMs in 2023 to make that kind of positive difference.

Most of the credit for Arizona's 2023 success, though, recognizes the impact of personnel moves made by Hazen prior to the end of the 2022 season.

The measurements of Hazen's contribution is determined by adding the Wins Above Average values of all the players Hazen brought into the organization, or severed from it, both prior to and since the end of the 2022 season.

WAA is used in this series of front office evaluations because it is a zero-based version of WAR, therefore enabling valid approximations of impact against wins and losses.

Beyond his +3.2 short-term rating, the value of moves made prior to the end of 2022 on the 2023 Diamondbacks added to another +4.5 games.

Over the course of the entire 2023 preseason and season, Hazen made 49 personnel moves directly impacting the fortunes of the 2023 Diamondbacks. Several were big hits, such as the trade that brought Gabe Moreno (+3.1) in to catch, the Captain Obvious-level promotion of Corbin Carrol (+3.3), or the re-signings of pitcher Merrill Kelly (+2.3) and infielder Ketel Marte (+2.9).

Of those 49 moves, 22 produced a positive impact on the Diamondbacks, while 23 proved negative. The final four were neutral.

The whole thing worked out positively because the impact of the successes (think Carroll and Moreno) outweighed the failures, most of which did not exceed fractional levels of negativity. That's common in MLB, where playing poorly will get you released or sent down before you've head a chance to do an outsized bit of damage.

Here’s the short-term and long-term statistical profile on Hazen’s 2023 performance as Arizona general manager. All figures reflect group Wins Above Average.

Acquired by trade, waiver claim or purchase

Since October 2022: 15 players, +0.3 net impact

Prior to October 2023:  7 players, +1.7 net impact

Signed as a free agent or extended for multiple seasons

Since October 2022: 14 players, +2.8 net impact

Prior to October 2022: 3 players, -1.9 net impact

System products

Since October 2022: 15 players, +1.9 net impact

Prior to October 2022: 5 players, -2.2 net impact

Traded away, waived, sold, released or lost to free agency

Since October 2022: 9 players, -1.8 net impact

Prior to October 2022: 23 players, +6.9 net impact

Statistially, the promotion of Carroll (the likely NL Rookie of the Year) was obviously the big move. But give Hazen credit as well for swinging the preseason trade that landed catcher Moreno from Toronto.

In December, Hazen sent Daulton Varsho to the Blue Jays in exchange for Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel. It was a swap of quality for quality. Moreno became the everyday catcher and compiled a +3.1 WAA, putting him in a class only marginally below Carroll. Gurriel added another +1.0 WAA value.

The value of the trade to Arizona was only diminished due to the loss of Varsho, who produced a +2.0 season for Toronto. Still, his loss was a necessary price; the trade was a +2.1 winner for Hazen and the D-Backs.

Thanks to the re-signings of Ketel Marte and pitcher Merrill Kelly, 2023 was also a productive one for Hazen on the free agent side. He inked Marte for five more seasons at $76 million, and locked down Kelly through 2024 for $18 million.

In the kind of tight playoff race that developed in the National League, those were two more reasons why Hazen's Diamondbacks succeeded.