2021 Record: 52-110
2021 Budget: $109,387,132 (21st in MLB)
2022 Record: 74-88 (4th in the NL West) +22 win improvement
2022 Budget: $102,753,500 (26th in MLB)
Major Offseason Departures:
Kole Calhoun (-0.1 bWAR in 2021)
Major Offseason Acquisitions:
Mark Melancon (2 years/$14 million) -0.8 bWAR
Ian Kennedy (1 year/$4,750,000 + $250 buyout) -1.1 bWAR
Zach Davies (1 year/$1,500,000 ) 0.7 bWAR
Jordan Luplow (acquired via trade from Tampa Bay Rays for Ronny Simon) 0.1 bWAR
The graph above pretty much says it all for Mike Hazen in 2022. The season was mostly a success, albeit one punctuated by some very dicey decisions which drug the team down a bit. We will never know how everything would have played out without some of those moves, but it is not entirely outside the realm of possibility that the 2022 Diamondbacks could still have been contenders for the final NL Wild Card had only one or two missteps gone right.
Signings: To say Hazen’s signings did not go as planned would be an epic understatement. The fact that both Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy ranked as two of the worst Diamondbacks in 2022 is all one really needs to know in order to grasp just how badly the two bullpen additions panned out. There are those that would argue that both Melancon and Kennedy had decent years leading up to their signings by the Diamondbacks, making them smart bets. However, at the time the contracts were issued, there was already a great deal of skepticism. Hazen was hyper-aggressive in his pursuit of Melancon, essentially offering a Godfather deal to the former Giants’ closer, despite there not being much of a market for him to begin with. Then, there was the Ian Kennedy fiasco. Kennedy’s first tenure with the Diamondbacks ended in flames. That should have been warning enough not to bring him back. After all, Kennedy is almost entirely a fastball pitcher with more or less average velocity, little movement, and no strike zone command of his nearly non-existent secondary pitches. Top top things off, Kennedy, even when going right in places such as Kansas City, Texas, and Philadelphia, has always been homer-prone. Curt Schilling notwithstanding. homer-prone pitchers simply do not fare well in Arizona, humidor be damned.
On the more positive side of free agent acquisitions was Zach Davies. Davies was landed on a pillow contract and, until injury and fatigue took over nearing the trade deadline, managed to be a truly serviceable #4/5 starter. Too bad for the Diamondbacks, Davies slated in more as the team’s #3 starter. This though, was not Hazen’s doing so much as it was the abject failures of other members of the organization’s pitching depth (which was, ultimately, assembled by Hazen).
The Trades: The Diamondbacks were not especially busy in the trade market in 2022. That is due as much to Arizona simply not having desirable talent as much as anything else. The “biggest” trade was the offseason acquisition of outfielder, Jordan Luplow. Luplow was brought in to be a right-handed bat that could play all three outfield positions and provide some pop against left-handed pitching. The move was a colossal bust, to be generous.
There were two other trades of note in the 2022 season. Despite a rough season on the field, Hazen was able to find a suitor to take David Peralta. Hazen sent Peralta to the Rays in exchange for 19-year-old Christian Cerda, an international catcher the Diamondbacks had prior interest in. The other trade goes firmly in the “win” column for Mike Hazen. That trade would be moving arbitration 2, Luke Weaver and his 53 ERA+ to the Kansas City Royals for replacement level third baseman Emmanuel Rivera, with five more years of control. Rivera won’t be a free agent until after the 2027 season and in only 39 games for Arizona in 2022, put up more value than Zach Davies and Jordan Luplow managed, combined. While the jury is still out on Rivera and he may be little more than replacement level roster filler, he plays a position of need for the Diamondbacks and is a positive acquisition that is piled on top of the team improving by subtraction by unloading the oft-injured Luke Weaver.
The Rest: Mike Hazen spent 2022 living at the wavier wire. The number of claims is somewhat ludicrous. The most notable waiver acquisition is likely the second 2022 acquisition of Sergio Alcantara. Late in the season, Hazen lucked into some decent (though still unimpressive) performance from waiver pickup Reyes Moronta from the Dodgers. Hazen’s reliance on the waiver wire to fill out the 40-man roster was both an indictment of the payroll he was given to work with and also a point of frustration for fans throughout the season.
Hazen’s frustrating dumpster-diving was most illustrated by his acquisition of Dallas Keuchel. After falling flat on his face in Chicago, the White Sox parted ways with the former Cy Young lefty. There was some hope that current Arizona pitching coach, Brent Strom might be able to use his familiarity from his days with Keuchel back in 2017 to help revive Keuchel in the desert, helping to fill out Arizona’s under-manned rotation. Despite showing no real improvement in Reno, Keuchel was still promoted to Arizona at the end of June. Four starts and 18 innings later, Keuchel was cast adrift. Ever last one his his innings and starts a waste of opportunity to develop other, younger talent that might just have a future in the Majors.
The Improvement: An easy argument could be made that the 22-game improvement made by Arizona in 2022 was as much about regression to the mean as anything else. However, once Mike Hazen finally stepped outside the familiar grind of running an endless string of castoffs out onto the field and began promoting from his excellent farm system, the team’s attitude changed for the better. It was night and day to watch the team after Hazen began to bring up the likes of Drey Jameson, Tommy Henry, Jake McCarthy, and Corbin Carroll. All season long, fans and pundits alike called for the Diamondbacks to embrace the youth movement and to stop giving playing time to aging veterans and castoffs. Perhaps it took longer than many would have liked, but once Hazen started to do just that, the team was rewarded with a new sense of excitement - and victories.
The Draft: Selecting second, the Diamondbacks landed arguably the best talent in the 2022 draft in Dru Jones. He followed the Jones selection up with one of the most dynamic arms in the draft, Landon Sims. Next, he picked up the reigning Golden Spikes Award winner, Ivan Melendez. Sims was already in injury recovery when drafted. Jones was hurt in his first appearance in Arizona, taking batting practice. Melendez (knock on wood) remains healthy. Those three players represent a team-rebuilding draft should they all click. It will be a while before a final grade can be given on how Hazen did in the draft, but the early returns are that he did quite well. One can easily mount a strong argument that Hazen knocked the draft out of the park, though that has as much to do with selecting second overall as anything else. Stay tuned on just how impactful the 2022 draft becomes.
TL/DR: It was another year of dumpster diving for Mike Hazen and the Diamondbacks with fairly predictable, crappy results. The organization took an excessive amount of time to stop giving playing time to veterans, has-beens, and other sorts of castoffs, rather than developing the future of the organization by giving them MLB at-bats and innings pitched. However, once the promotions started manifesting, the team began to paly with a new sense of purpose and was once again exciting to watch.
Arizona’s improvement, along with the mitigating factors of the last three calendar years was enough for Mike Hazen to be brought back for 2023. Hazen’s future beyond that is entirely up in the air and is likely going to be overly reliant on Arizona’s overall performance in 2023. Every GM must work within the parameters set by the owner, especially the payroll. That is likely to hinder Hazen’s attempts to make the bigger changes needed in Arizona. However, continued health by Corbin Carroll, and the emergence of the young, p-and-coming pitching core could be more than enough to earn Hazen another extension and to propel the Diamondbacks into lower-seed Wild Card contention in 2023, with an eye on true contention in 2024 or 2025, once the Bumgarner contract has come off the books.