The Diamondbacks made the decision to hire Mike Hazen from the Boston Red Sox to be their general manager three weeks ago. With the team hiring someone with no previous ties to the organization, sweeping changes at the top of the organizational structure were inevitable. Hazen was going to put the guys he felt comfortable working with in critical positions that affect his regime. The first person to leave with him from Boston was Amiel Sawdaye, who will be Hazen’s Assistant GM although his background in amateur and international scouting is a plus for an organization that has struggled in both areas under the previous regime. The next person joining Hazen from Boston is Torey Lovullo, who is now the Diamondbacks field manager.
Lovullo was a hot name on the manager market, having an extensive minor league track record and has experience as an interim manager in 2015 with a 28-21 record. Lovullo has spent the previous four seasons as the Red Sox bench coach and is well-respected in the Red Sox clubhouse. When the Diamondbacks hired Hazen, speculation that he would hire Lovullo as the manager considering their work relationship precedes their time in Boston in the Cleveland Indians organization. Hazen only has one real opportunity to hire the right manager, so he went with the guy he’s known for years who is also arguably the most qualified managerial candidate out there.
The other finalist for the job, Phil Nevin, was the organization’s recommended choice. Nevin wasn’t a horrible choice to consider for manager considering the experience he has managing a good portion of the current roster in AAA Reno. However, I believe that Lovullo was more qualified with more experience on an MLB staff and actual managing experience, even for only 30% of one season. The Diamondbacks managers have had some previous ties to the organization before getting the job. Bob Brenly was a TV analyst, Bob Melvin was Brenly’s bench coach, Kirk Gibson was Melvin’s bench coach, and Chip Hale was on Bob Melvin’s staff after years of managing in the minors. Lovullo will be the Diamondbacks first manager with no previous ties to the organization. At the end of the search, Hazen’s hand-picked candidate won out. When you’re captain of the ship, you want to have the right support staff in place so the ship doesn’t wreck. Hazen trusts Sawdaye and Lovullo will be able to put the team on a path to success.
I wasn’t too sure if Ken Kendrick and Derrick Hall would give Hazen any leeway to run the team the way he sees fit, but the early indications are they will let him. Tony La Russa has been stripped of any decision-making capacities and is held onto as an advisor, or as xmet (aka Re Tired) calls “The Vice President of Nothing”. Hazen has brought in two of his most trusted co-workers to help build the foundation to his regime. KK and Hall are very much about perception, although their ways to try to remedy a perception problem create an even larger problem from both a perception and reality standpoint. Hazen is going to have to deal with a tighter budget (~$100M) than what he had in Boston (~$180M), so that means making the right moves and having the right manager are even more important.
Hazen and Lovullo will be picking up the pieces of a franchise fractured by incompetent managing over the last two years, but the MLB roster isn’t completely devoid of talent either. The team has two All-Stars in Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock, combining with a rising star in Jake Lamb, and other quality players on the roster. The team won 69 games last year, although their true talent level is 80 wins. Positive regression is bound to happen with better injury luck on the roster and younger players being more experienced and mature. There are moves that need to be made in order to put the team in better shape to compete in 2017 and beyond. Hazen’s first big test will be in the Winter Meetings, which starts on December 4th.