Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, says competition and depth can build success
If there are a few words to describe Mike Hazen, the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, these might be careful, cautious, thoughtful.
Knowing the Diamondbacks suffered through a difficult season a year ago and several paid with their jobs for the result, Hazen is taking measured steps in an attempt the right the ship. As the winter meetings conclude in suburban Washington, Hazen did not make a big splash, kept a low profile but entertained valuable discussions under the radar screen.
Because few significant trades and free agent signings are accomplished during the meetings, and an event which many considered as grossly overrated, Hazen has engaged more in conversation. Important to Hazen, this is a period in which he transitions from the Boston Red Sox to the Diamondbacks, and attempts to gain a strong measure of Arizona personnel.
“The meetings represent good building blocks for things that could come,” Hazen said after day three of the meetings. “We’re not in a rush to do anything, and not motivated to do anything. We’re pick our spots to do so.”
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While the Diamondbacks are rumored to land veteran reliever Fernando Rodney, Hazen, since named as GM in early October, engineered one significant trade. He acquired righty Taijuan Walker from Seattle for Jean Segura and signed free-agents outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker and catcher Jeff Mathis. In acquiring Walker, Hazen laid the groundwork for this deal during the GM meetings in Scottsdale last month. On the night before Thanksgiving, he pulled the trigger on a deal which had its origins weeks earlier.
That’s the same approach he took during the winter meetings.
At the same time, several players continue to draws interest. With six starting pitchers in the current rotation, Hazen admitted several have sparked attention.
“We need to do our job, and evaluate everything,” he said. “We’re very comfortable with the group we have right now. We really value the depth in that area. Having six starters is an advantage going into a season. That will be on us to try and make it work. When you have that perceived one-plus in your rotation, it’s natural to be asked quite a bit about players. At this one position, I don’t consider that as excess. We have only two off days in April.”
Former manager Chip Hale kicked the idea of six starters late last season. That was only because he desired to cut down on the number of innings pitched.
In Hazen’s case, the reality of six starters could be a situation of strength. Here, Hazen said he’s in the process of evaluating Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Robbie Ray, Patrick Corbin, Braden Shipley, and Walker
In a definite method to improve the team. Hazen said the nature of competition and depth of the roster are two key elements for success. Noting he traded outfielder Mitch Haniger in the Walker deal, Hazen said he will look at all options to back up center-fielder A. J. Pollock.
At the same time, he cautioned against creating a certain comfort zone.
“I like to lean on competition as a driving force,” he said. “I prefer competition coming into spring training than players with established roles. I’ve always been a fan of competition. I think it drives a lot, and especially in spring training. Competition drives the level of play and get a better read on ability. We won’t go into spring training making hard decisions. We can get trapped there, too. Plus, there’s a great deal of versatility here, and that’s unrated value of this team.”