Former Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa has decided to remain with the franchise in an advisory role under new executive vice president and general manager Mike Hazen. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reported the news Sunday as the team announced the hiring of Hazen, the former Red Sox general manager.
The decision follows the D-backs’ firing of general manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale on Oct. 3. Hired by La Russa, the duo spent two seasons on the job and led Arizona to a 148-176 record.
Before the firings, La Russa met with Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick and discussed taking on a new, non-decision-making role. Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s John Gambadoro reported Oct. 3 that the team offered to retain La Russa in such an advisory role.
The former leader of the D-backs’ front office leader will report to Hazen and will “have a voice in the room, weigh in with ideas and opinions,” but not be the ultimate decision-maker, according to Gambadoro.
Hazen, meanwhile, will report to D-back CEO and president Derrick Hall.
La Russa was initially hired by Arizona in the summer of 2014. Though he had no front office experience, the 72-year-old was a four-time manager of the year with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, and had won three world series.
The Diamondbacks finished 69-93 in 2016, 10 games worse than the previous season despite the $206.5 million contract inked with ace Zack Greinke and the trade for No. 2 starting pitcher Shelby Miller that highlighted the failures of the La Russa-led front office.
Other criticized moves under La Russa’s leadership included the signing of Cuban pitching prospect Yoan Lopez for $8.25 million — and a 100 percent tax for going over the allotted international bonus pool — who twice in the past two years tried to leave the minor leagues altogether, and the addition of outfielder Yasmany Tomas to a $68.5 million deal.
Tomas hit 31 home runs with 83 RBI in 2016 but due to his defensive deficiencies closed with a value of -0.4 wins above replacement player.
Arizona was also criticized for gutting the farm system over the last two years, trading away first-round draft pick Dansby Swanson and top pitching prospect Aaron Blair in the trade for Miller, plus 2014 first-round pick Touki Toussaint in a contract dump of reliever Bronson Arroyo’s contract.
There were some successes under La Russa.
The D-backs’ deal last summer to acquire Jean Segura for veteran Aaron Hill, back-end starting pitcher Chase Anderson and prospect Isan Diaz was heavily-critiqued but went in Arizona’s favor as Segura became just the second Arizona player to eclipse 200 hits for a single season.