Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, has begun the process of reaching out to players
Now that his administrative staff seems in place, Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, has begun to the process of reaching out to players.
Responding with a resounding “yes,” Hazen said one of the first players he spoke was starter Zack Grienke. Coming off his third Gold Glove, a .212 batting average and a 13-7 record for 26 starts, Greinke remains, as Hazen emphatically explained, “not many teams have a number one pitcher, and we do.”
Though Greinke is among initial players contacted, Hazen indicated he has an advantage in making direct contact with players. That’s because many players reside in the Phoenix area, and conduct their off-season workouts from here. When possible, Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo will sit down with each player and begin the communication process.
In concert with getting to know his new personnel, and making the adjustment from assistant GM with the American League Red Sox to the National League game, Hazen, at the same time, is trying to construct a competitive roster. Citing the bullpen as a critical need, Hazen, and other decision-makers, appear ready to fit pieces of a complicated puzzle together.
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“We have to be open-minded,” said Hazen Wednesday during the GM meetings in Scottsdale. “Those of us who are new, getting to know the roster, getting the know how the roster fits together will be a critical piece to our ability to determine a successful strategy coming out of this.”
The bottom line, at this point, is simply to put a competitive team on the baseball diamond, and begin to rise through the National league West division. Aside from the Giants and Dodgers, who seem to retain a high, competitive edge each season, the Rockies, with new manager Bud Black and the Padres, with energetic Andy Green, represent significant roadblocks.
In the process of addressing essential needs, Hazen did identify basic issues under his microscope.
“The bullpen is definitely an area we have to address as we move forward,” he said. “I think the position player group is a strong group. We really believe in the starting pitching that we have. Hopefully, there are some things we can do to make adjustments and really see that improvement escalate considerably. The bullpen, just through attrition, is an area that we will look to address.”
While Hazen would not commit to any more coaching changes, pitching coach Mike Butcher is rumored to return. Ditto for outfield and first base coach Dave McKay. Regarding Butcher, he guided a staff which recorded a combined 5.08 ERA, highest in the National League. That included a bullpen caught in a revolving door, and starters who sustained injures, demotions to the minors and banishment to the bullpen.
While Hazen is about to dive into the free agent market and entertain trade possibilities, there are hints the Diamondbacks will not open their checkbook in the current off-season. With high-profile signings of Yasmany Tomas for $63 million before the 2015 season and Greinke’s $206 million contract signed last off-season, Hazen indicated the Arizona payroll, “about the same as last year,” he said.
For the 2016 season, the Diamondbacks payroll was a reported $83.7 million, and only one player, pitcher Daniel Hudson, is now an unrestricted free agent. For 2017, four players, Greinke ($34 million), Tomas ($9.5 million), Paul Goldschmidt ($8.8 million), and A. J. Pollock ($6.75) are the only players, at this point, signed for the next season.