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Who is Mike Hazen?

The new Diamondbacks’ General Manager wasn’t a name which had even been mentioned in connection with the post. So, who is he?

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The process of the Diamondbacks hiring a new GM has certainly been in striking contrast to last time, both in terms of speed and secrecy. There had not even been any acknowledgement the interview process had begun (though Ken Rosenthal said the team "also interviewed J.J. Piccolo, Kim Ng, Peter Woodfork and internal candidates Mike Bell and Bryan Minniti"). Yet here we are, less than two weeks after Dave Stewart was fired, and his replacement is already named. It took a full week longer for Stewart’s announcement, and there seemed to be much more discussion in the media about potential candidates. This is, as far as I am aware, the first time that Hazen’s name had even been mentioned in connection with the Arizona position.

It is not, however, the first external GM position for which Hazen had interviewed. He interviewed for the Angels’ position last September, before being named to the vacant Boston position later the same month. However, the structure with the Red Sox had the GM reporting to the president of baseball operations there, Dave Dombrowski. That won’t be the case in Arizona: Hazen will be directly under only team president Derrick Hall, with current Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa apparently being off to one side as an "advisor," rather than occupying a specific position in the chain of command.

Our siblings at Over the Monster said, "It’s a loss of one of the last key members of the old guard. Hazen was a disciple of [Theo] Epstein before he was Ben Cherington’s right-hand man, and then stayed on when Cherington departed." That strongly suggests there will be a sharp turn towards analytics in Arizona, because Epstein was in the vanguard of that movement, both when he was GM in Boston and after his move to the Chicago Cubs. Speaking earlier this year, Epstein said "If the other 29 teams have it, it’s worthless to us. It doesn’t give us any kind of competitive advantage. So we have to drive on the R&D side really deep just to find something they don’t do." In January 2015, ESPN rated the Red Sox as "all in" with regard to analytics, and there’s little to suggest they’ve pulled back in that direction since.

Hazen should bring a similar mindset to the D-backs, with Peter Gammons quoting one of the highest-ranking Red Sox officials as saying "Mike Hazen is Theo." If so, then we can expect changes from the old-school approach of Stewart, who stated not long after his appointment, "I think the fact that Tony (La Russa) is here and that we have more baseball people — (Shields) probably sees us as a true baseball team vs. some of the other teams out here that are geared more toward analytics and those types of things." That said, the Diamondbacks did put some effort into expanding their efforts, creating a department of both full-time employees and interns under director of baseball research and analytics Ed Lewis. But it was still only a handful of people, and I suspect it’s an area we will see expand significantly further under Hazen. I think Lewis, a friend of La Russa’s, may well be on the way out too.

Given Epstein comparisons, in terms of a potential blueprint for the Diamondbacks, the Epstein-led Cubs may well be a good signpost for the way forward. If so, the next couple of years may be rough. For after Epstein took over a team that has just completed a 71-win campaign in 2011, the Cubs then managed only 61 and 66 wins the next two seasons. But after that, the trend has been strongly upwards, winning 97 and 103 games in 2015 and 2016. The major difference is perhaps that the roster Epstein inherited was among the oldest in baseball; the Diamondbacks had the youngest roster both at the beginning and end of this season.

But the Cubs have also been very smart in both trading for and developing talent. As the example of each, they paid a pittance for Jake Arrieta, while their farm system has given them Kris Bryant. But they also picked up Hector Rondon as a Rule 5 pick, who has been among the best relievers in the game over the last three seasons, with an ERA+ of 159. Of course, it certainly doesn’t help that the owners of the Cubs opened their wallets, allowing the team to sign the like of Jon Lester and Jason Heyward, and the flexibility that the latter’s disappointing 2016 season didn’t hurt them too much. Hazen will probably need to be rather more economical in Arizona, which will increase the need to be smart with regard to player development and in trades with other clubs.

The appointment of Hazen means the team can now move on to filling other vacancies, most obviously the manager’s spot. One name that has now been pushed forward prominently there, is that of Torey Lovullo, currently the Red Sox bench coach. Boston reporter Nick Cafardo Tweeted that Hazen is "very close" to Lovullo, and the two had worked together back in their Cleveland days together. Lovullo also took over as a temporary manager in Boston, while John Farrell was undergoing cancer treatment. We’ll keep an eye on that possibility.