Barely over a year ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks roster composition could have been considered a jumbled mess. The architects of the disaster are long gone. In their aftermath, the D-backs were left with a roster perceived dysfunctional by some. Fortunately, a dream team regime was able to step in and quickly establish order out of chaos.
Tony La Russa, De Jon Watson, and Dave Stewart are all gone from the Arizona Diamondbacks now. Before they left, though, they kicked the lantern and burnt the whole dang barn down. From the charred remains of a team that was left in their wake, a next generation front office led by General Manager Mike Hazen and his Assistant GMs Jared Porter and Amiel Sawdaye has risen like a Phoenix to shine light on the Valley of the Sun once again.
Mike Hazen earned his stripes as a member of the Cleveland Indians in their scouting and, later, player development departments in the early 2000s. This led to him joining the Boston Red Sox organization as director of those same departments in the mid-aughts. In 2012, after steadily rising through the ranks, the Red Sox promoted Hazen to the role of Assistant General Manager.
Eventually, he rose to become Boston’s GM, but worked under the ever-present shadow of president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski. Hazen held the post for only one season in 2016 before accepting his current role with Arizona. As GM of the D-backs, Hazen finally has what he lacked in the Boston situation, ultimate oversight of day-to-day baseball operations.
Arizona seems to have found an identity under their new leader. In a short time, Mike Hazen has already put his stamp on this team. He hired Assistant GMs Jared Porter and Amiel Sawdaye based on the relationships he’d built with them along their shared career paths. After surrounding himself with, and relying upon, first lieutenants who bring championship experience combined with a fresh analytical perspective, Hazen has reaped the rewards of a renewed and rejuvenated Diamondbacks team.
While a lot of the team’s on the field success can be attributed to reigning NL Manager of the Year Torey Lovullo, he in turn owes a debt of gratitude to Hazen. Formerly the Red Sox’s bench coach, Hazen poached Lovullo from Boston and gave him the opportunity to come to Arizona and manage the D-backs. Under their joint guidance, a team that had gone 69-93 in 2016 experienced a complete reversal of fortune, going 93-69 and reaching the NL Division Series just one year later.
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The D-backs will return in 2018 with most of the same young group that won the National League Wild Card last season – J.D. Martinez’s absence being one glaring exception. The rising salary costs to keep these talented players in Arizona as they go through arbitration or become free agents must also be considered.
It’s understandable that Arizona’s current brain trust is nurturing a concept of financial restraint. They want to afford to keep this core of players together for as long as fiscally possible.
Arizona’s modern executives were able to quickly transform the baseball operations culture last year, resulting in a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The D-backs are seemingly in more capable hands now. Their new leadership group have returned the organization to the sunny side of the street – with every intention to stay.
The Diamondbacks current forward-thinking front office has made slight nips and tucks to the team without forcing another complete rebuild. They hope to instill a philosophy of financial sustainability while building from within, a common theme in baseball these days.