As the Red Sox begin the search for Chaim Bloom’s replacement, the picture of their ideal candidate is emerging.
And it looks exactly like Mike Hazen.
In a perfect world, they’d find someone with extensive experience sitting in the No. 1 chair, and Hazen checks that box, thanks to seven years running the Diamondbacks.
The candidate should have a record of acquiring and developing young talent, and in the span of just a few weeks in 2019, Hazen drafted this year’s runaway Rookie of the Year favorite, Corbin Carroll, before acquiring All-Star right-hander Zac Gallen in a shrewd trade with the Marlins.
They’re obviously looking for someone who has won, and after a five-year rebuild, Hazen’s D-backs would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
Finally, experience in Boston is a plus, and the Abington, Mass., native owns a decade of that, too, thanks to his years as an assistant to Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington, followed by a year as general manager under Dave Dombrowski.
Heck, let’s throw in one more: Hazen overlapped with Alex Cora when the latter played for the Red Sox from 2005-08, and later interviewed Cora to be Arizona’s manager before hiring Torey Lovullo instead. If ownership wants to keep Cora in the dugout, Hazen would be a good man to hire.
If there’s one mistake the Red Sox desperately want to avoid repeating, it’s hiring someone unproven. Their last GM search ended with only one interview, and in retrospect, Bloom wasn’t ready for the win-now pressures of Boston.
The job is a tough sell right now, however. Rivals view John Henry’s ownership with some skepticism, thanks to the revolving-door nature of the job. The Red Sox are about to hire their fourth lead executive since Epstein left in 2011. While they’ve boasted exceptional stability in the assistant roles – Brian O’Halloran, Raquel Ferreira, and Eddie Romero own more than 60 years of experience combined – the top job has proven far less secure.
As a result, the Red Sox start their search from the unenviable position of, “If not Hazen, then who?” That gives their former executive leverage, which he could use to secure an extension in Arizona, as noted by ESPN’s Buster Olney. Those who know Hazen well say he’s entirely focused on bringing the Diamondbacks to the playoffs, which makes sense, since the Boston job just opened and Arizona is only a half-game ahead of the Cubs and Marlins.
It’s worth noting that the last time the Red Sox tried to fill this opening, the Diamondbacks responded by extending Hazen, thus taking him off the board. Perhaps they’ll do so again and send the Red Sox to plans B, C, and D.
The problem is, those fallbacks could leave them with a pool of rookie candidates again. After all, another experienced executive with New England ties, Connecticut native Chris Antonetti, declined to interview in 2019, instead remaining with Cleveland. The same went for Minnesota’s Derek Falvey, a Lynn, Mass., native who could not be enticed to leave the small-market Twins.
The Red Sox are in better shape now from a payroll and farm system perspective, but not from a talent one. Bloom took over a club that featured MVP Mookie Betts, All-Stars Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Chris Sale, and Nathan Eovaldi, and young potential stars in Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi. Now, only Devers remains.
Bloom couldn’t bring himself to part with prospects, and we’ll never know if that streak would’ve ended this winter. What we do know is that Hazen isn’t afraid to swing big. He acquired Gallen by trading one of the best prospects in the game, shortstop Jazz Chisholm. Now Miami’s starting center fielder, Chisholm made an All-Star team last year, but Hazen clearly has no regrets, because Gallen is headed towards a second-straight top-five finish in the NL Cy Young race.
That’s the kind of move the Red Sox can point to and say, “We want that.” They’ll need permission from the Diamondbacks even to interview Hazen, and it’s unclear if they’ll grant it.
What we do know is the Red Sox can’t afford to whiff on this hire. Bloom’s tenure may have restocked the farm, but it came at the expense of the big-league product. That needs to change, and Hazen checks all the boxes except the most important one – we don’t know if he wants it.