Arizona Diamondbacks – Hazen ready to establish priorities

Mike Hazen (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Mike Hazen (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /

Mike Hazen, new general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, identified pitching as a main priority

When Mike Hazen was named general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Oct. 17, he remained tight-lipped on possible personnel changes.

Saying all the right things and pushing all the right buttons, the 41-year old Princeton graduate, at the same time, could be in the process of remaking the team in his own image.

While current discussion centers on building a scouting staff, additional front office personnel and a field staff of a manager and coaches, Hazen is faced with a larger issue. Sure, these administrative details must be addressed, but also the sense of losing.

Since the Diamondbacks last recorded an above .500 season (94-68 in 2011 under Kirk Gibson), the team reached the .500 mark (81-81) twice since (2012 and 2103), and the past three seasons has been abysmal.

During his introductory news conference, Hazen only mentioned the pitching staff in need a transfusion. It would appear nearly every aspect of the team needs a healthy shot of adrenaline.

Coming over from the Boston Red Sox, Hazen paid tribute to mentors Dave Dombrowski and Theo Epstein, and cited these two who took the Red Sox in the right direction.

“I share their similar passion for winning,” Hazen said. “Let’s face it, the number one goal is winning.”

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In trying to build this franchise into a contender, Hazen only addressed, at this point, the pitching staff. With the highest ERA of all 30 major league teams, starters endured too many high pitch counts, quarrels with then-manager Chip Hale, ineffectiveness, demotions and a plethora of losses. Robbie Ray, Patrick Corbin and Shelby Miller all recorded double-digits losses and Archie Bradley lost nine games.

The bullpen was no different. After trading Brad Ziegler and Tyler Clippard, two-thirds of the back-end of the bullpen by mid-season, Hale was left with Jake Barrett as the principal closer. When his efforts were marginal, Enrique Burgos was considered and then, at the end, Daniel Hudson. During the current off-season, all three are considered on the bubble. Hudson is an unrestricted free agent, and likely headed out of the desert.

One consideration for Hazen could be the coaching staff. Though he has yet to name a manager and the staff under the new skipper, pitching coach Mike Butcher is under contract for the 2017 season. If there is concern about the pitching staff, Butcher remains at creation of this inferno. Plus, it appeared one reliever, Silvino Bracho, was kept only because he was a client of former general Dave Stewart’s sports management firm. Bracho finished the season with an 0-2 record and a 7.30 ERA in 26 appearances.

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Pundits like to believe offense gathers headlines, but it’s pitching and defense which wins championships. If Hazen is to remake the Diamondbacks into a competitive team, it’s probably best to start with an inherited stressed and besieged pitching staff.