"It's not going to be easy to replace him, and I don't know who it is going to be yet," Diamondbacks General Manager Josh Byrnes said yesterday of the departing Mike Rizzo, who leaves the Diamondbacks to take on an Assistant GM slot with the Washington Nationals.
Rizzo, who was the Director of Scouting for the Diamondbacks and has been the primary architect of the D'Backs draft for the last five years, leaves behind an incredible legacy in Arizona, highlighted by today's Scout.com Top 300 2006 Minor League Player Rankings. The D'Backs placed 17 different players on the list, and would have had one more had pitcher Enrique Gonzalez not passed 50 innings pitched with the big league club, thus ending his eligibility. Every single one of these players was acquired under Rizzo's watch, and even players like Alberto Callaspo, whom the D'Backs got from the Angels, came as a result of a Rizzo move, in that case taking reliever Jason Bulger, who was sent to Anaheim in return for Callaspo.
For Rizzo, clearly there is excitement in the new job.
"It's a step up, a move forward, and something I've wanted to do," Rizzo said of the ascension to AGM.
It will years before Rizzo's complete impact on the organization can be felt, but a quick look at the box score for the big league club's game on Wednesday certainly shows part of it. Conor Jackson, Chad Tracy, Brandon Webb, Carlos Quentin, Stephen Drew, and Greg Aquino all saw time on Wednesday, and all came to the D'Backs as part of Mike Rizzo run drafts.
And the pipeline doesn't stop at Triple-A. Rizzo is also responsible for drafting, among others, Justin Upton (Lo-A South Bend), Chris Rahl and Carlos Gonzalez (Hi-A Lancaster) and Greg Smith, Mark Reynolds, Ross Ohlendorf, and Garrett Mock (Double-A Tennessee).
For now the Diamondbacks front office will attempt to cover for Rizzo until the organization can find a replacement.
"It will be an 'all hands on deck' situation," Byrnes said of covering Rizzo's duties, which included, but are not limited to, acting as principal negotiator with the club's 2006 draft picks, including unsigned first round pick Max Scherzer, who coincidentally is celebrating his 22nd birthday today, and top D'Backs high school selection, lefty Brett Anderson, "I will pitch in, so will (Assistant Director of Scouting) Chad MacDonald, and pretty much everybody in the front office. If something needs to get done, we'll get someone to do it."
Byrnes did not want to speculate on who might replace Rizzo, but the D'Backs would likely look to promote from within, hoping that Rizzo's philosophies and ideals have been passed down to his staff. For his part, Rizzo attributed much of his success to those assistants.
"I had a lot of help in Arizona, it was a real team effort. I might have the final say, but I had a lot of great people, hard working people, who helped me make those decisions."