D-backs GM Mike Hazen cites unfinished business among reasons to sign extension
Oct 7, 2023, 11:51 AM
(Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)
LOS ANGELES — Extending general manager Mike Hazen’s contract was a no brainer, Arizona Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall explained in Los Angeles on Friday.
The club stuck with Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo through its worst season in 17 years with 110 losses in 2021 and made the 2023 postseason two years later.
The Diamondbacks play Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday with a team almost entirely drafted, traded for or signed by Hazen and his front office seven seasons into the job.
“Months back, I made a few references to Mike that it was probably time to start talking about his future and extending,” Hall said. “We had really good conversations, and we were able to wrap it up before the end of the season. …We’ve loved the direction that Mike has taken us.
“When we first hired Mike in 2017, one of the top priorities then was ‘Let’s fix the the farm system.’ We went from bottom five to top five in quick fashion. And at the same time, he was also building what we were hoping would be a very sustainable model.”
Hazen had a year left on his contract and signed through 2028 with a club option for 2029, according to azcentral’s Nick Piecoro.
His job title will remain general manager, and his assistants, Amiel Sawdaye and Mike Fitzgerald, were also extended, which Hazen said was very important to him.
The Massachusetts native was thrust into rumors when the the Boston Red Sox fired president of baseball operations, Chaim Bloom, toward the end of the regular season.
Hall said the news gave Arizona a reason to “accelerate” extending Hazen, although the GM made it clear early in the process he did not intend to go anywhere else.
“Derrick, from the very first thing, I told him I’m not going anywhere,” Hazen said. “I want to be here. We need to get something done. We want to get something done.”
“He’s our shrewd chief negotiator and he took away all of his leverage, which was really fun to see,” Hall joked.
Hazen explained he still has a lot of friends and relatives back in Boston. He won two World Series in the Red Sox’s front office (2007 and 2013). But potentially leaving an “undone” situation along with the people he hired in Arizona weighed on him.
He expressed several times the desire to keep building the Diamondbacks into a championship-winning team.
“That’s not done. We’re not even close to that yet,” Hazen said.
Family also played a hugely important role in the decision. Hazen has four sons, whom he sat down with had a vote on what to do.
“The vote wasn’t unanimous, but I didn’t really weigh all the votes the same. The senior in high school had a little more pull than the eighth grader had, you know what I mean?” Hazen said. “They all love Arizona. We love the community we have here, the family we have here.”
The Diamondbacks were an above .500 club in each of his first three years in charge with a postseason berth, but there were not many future MLB difference makers in the pipeline when he arrived. The collapse came in an “everything that can go wrong, will go wrong” 2021 season.
Hall said there were discussions of making changes within the organization but they felt they had the right people in charge.
“I think in the past we may have made changes and we did for years, and we’ve learned that that’s not always the right move,” Hall said. “We do need that stability, and I’m just thrilled that it proved to be the right decision. And here we are a couple years later in obviously a much better place.”
Hall explained the desire from owner Ken Kendrick and himself to have stability within the club, which Hazen and Lovullo have fit into.
Hazen is Arizona’s longest-tenured general manager since Joe Garagiola Jr. (1995-2005), while Lovullo has managed more games than any other manager in franchise history by far.
Mookie Betts, Torey Lovullo share a moment
Speaking of Boston ties, Lovullo received a visit from one of his former players during a press conference in L.A. on Friday.
Lovullo was the Red Sox’s bench coach during the ascension of MVP-winning outfielder Mookie Betts — now with the Dodgers — who dropped in to hug the D-backs’ manager before their playoff series begins.
“He raised me,” Betts said.
“Good luck, but not really,” Lovullo joked.
Lovullo added, “That’s what makes you feel good when you’re a teacher and a mentor and you have a young athlete, you know what he’s like in the minor leagues, he gets to the big league level and you just have hours and hours of conversations about what it will be like when you get to that level of greatness.
“I watch him perform, and there’s nothing better. I wish he wasn’t in the NL West, but that’s a beautiful human being there.”
Mookie Betts slid into Torey Lovullo’s press conference to give him a hug. They have a relationship from their time in Boston together
“Sorry guys, I gotta give him a hug, he raised me.” pic.twitter.com/2EjOwaNqPm
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 7, 2023