Breaking down outside candidates for next Twins general manager
MINNEAPOLIS -- Famously loyal as an organization, with just three managers and three general managers over the past three decades, the Minnesota Twins soon will embark on a comprehensive search for Terry Ryan's successor as head of baseball opera...
MINNEAPOLIS - Famously loyal as an organization, with just three managers and three general managers over the past three decades, the Minnesota Twins soon will embark on a comprehensive search for Terry Ryan’s successor as head of baseball operations.
In addition to interim GM Rob Antony and longtime Ryan lieutenants Mike Radcliff, Deron Johnson and Wayne Krivsky, that search figures to include the best and the brightest from outside the organization. A search firm is likely to be retained as the Twins move toward potentially hiring a GM from outside the organization for the first time since early in Ronald Reagan’s second term.
“It’s difficult because that (loyalty) is pervasive throughout our entire business organization,” Twins owner Jim Pohlad said upon announcing Ryan’s dismissal. “Sometimes you may have to do things that are hard. If we have to go outside, we have to go outside. There are some benefits in that; there’s new ways of thinking and they’re not tied into the old organizational way of doing things.”
In addition to a greater emphasis on advanced analytics, the Twins will consider following the “emerging trends,” as Pohlad put it, in terms of front-office structure.
Increasingly, clubs have installed a president of baseball operations and entrusted that person to hire the GM a notch below.
“As you get older, like I’m getting, change is harder,” Pohlad said. “But you’ve got to recognize what you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to change. Things don’t stay the same.”
While it’s still early in the process, here are 10 outside options (listed alphabetically) receiving mention throughout baseball as logical candidates for the Twins to pursue:
Alex Anthopoulos, Dodgers
No executive did more damage at last year’s trade deadline than Anthopoulos, who highlighted his sixth year in the role by swinging deals that brought David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins to the Toronto Blue Jays. Making their first postseason appearance in 22 years, the Blue Jays fell two wins shy of reaching the World Series. Anthopoulos, 39, was invited back but reportedly did not feel comfortable working under former Cleveland Indians team president Mark Shapiro, who was brought in as team president and CEO. Lauded for fortifying the Blue Jays’ scouting department with a series of key hires, the Montreal native holds an economics degree and currently serves as vice president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Chaim Bloom, Rays
Still in his early 30s, Bloom has risen steadily since joining the Tampa Bay front office in 2005. The Yale graduate and former Baseball Prospectus writer has become a key voice in the wake of Andrew Friedman’s 2014 departure for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Promoted to director of baseball operations in November 2011 and given a vice president’s title under new baseball operations president Matt Silverman in 2014, Bloom receives high marks for his intellect, grasp of analytics and advanced people skills. “Chaim is great,” says one longtime baseball man and former department head. “Unlike a lot of those analytics guys, he can actually carry on a conversation.”
Randy Bush, Cubs
Drafted in the second round in 1979, the outfielder/first baseman spent his entire 15-year playing career with the Twins organization, winning a pair of World Series rings in a reserve role. From 2000-05 he was head baseball coach at the University of New Orleans, his alma mater, before joining the Chicago Cubs as special assistant to general manager Jim Hendry. Bush, 57, has been a Cubs assistant GM for the past 10 seasons, with a brief stint as interim GM in the 2011 crossover between Hendry and Theo Epstein. With Bush in their front office, the Cubs have reached the postseason three times, and a fourth trip appears likely this October.
Currently an executive in residence at Columbia University’s sports management program, Cherington left the Boston Red Sox last summer after 16 years with the organization in a variety of roles. Veteran executive Dave Dombrowski reportedly wanted to retain Cherington after assuming control of baseball operations, but the architect of the 2013 World Series champions thought it best to move on. Cherington, 42, has a master’s degree in sports management and started out as an advance scout with the Cleveland Indians. Several expensive missteps on the free-agent market - most notably a five-year, $95 million deal for third baseman Pablo Sandoval - ultimately led to his diminished status.
Doug Harris, Nationals
A former fourth-round draft pick out of James Madison who reached Triple-A as a pitcher, Harris, 46, has augmented a strong scouting background by immersing himself in analytics. As a result, he is considered a true modern hybrid of those two competing evaluation techniques. “A baseball guy with executive polish,” says one of his former associates. Harris spent 12 years in the Texas Rangers’ scouting department, where he caught the eye of then GM John Hart and moved on to become Washington Nationals farm director in 2010 after a one-year stint as a pro scout with the Indians. Dubbed Mr. Clean for his bald head and no-nonsense demeanor, Harris is Nationals GM Mike Rizzo’s right-hand man with the title of assistant GM/player personnel.
Thad Levine, Rangers
Now in his 11th season as assistant general manager, he’s probably not available unless he decides it’s time for a fresh challenge. Levine, 44, has an MBA from UCLA and receives high marks for his administrative and leadership skills, but he has turned down multiple chances to interview for other GM jobs. The expectation is that if the Twins come calling, the Rangers will simply give Levine the GM title and make the highly valued Jon Daniels president of baseball operations.
Jeff McAvoy, Marlins
A former Ole Miss pitcher and Montreal Expos farmhand who made it to Triple-A as a pitcher, McAvoy, 39, has a keen eye for talent. The Massachusetts native worked as a pro scout for the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays, where his recommendations led to the acquisitions of Michael Bourn and Chris Archer when they were relatively unknown. After two years as director of pro scouting for the Miami Marlins, he was promoted to vice president of player personnel. He counts former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker and Marlins GM Mike Berger among his mentors.
J.J. Picollo, Royals
A former Atlanta Braves area scout who prepped under John Schuerholz and current Kansas City Royals boss Dayton Moore, Picollo was believed to be club president Andy MacPhail’s first choice when he interviewed for the Philadelphia Phillies GM job last winter. The job went to Matt Klentak instead, mainly because of his deeper analytics background. But Picollo, 45, has a breadth of experience and many backers in the game. “An incredible leader of men,” one Royals official said of the club’s assistant GM/player personnel. “He helped build this from the ground up.”
Jeremy Shelley, Giants
In his 23rd season with a successful franchise, winners of three World Series since 2010, Shelley serves as assistant GM under Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans. A Bay Area native, he is a former director of baseball operations and continues to oversee the club’s pro scouting department, with a special emphasis on international operations. He also assists in the areas of player acquisition and evaluation, statistical analysis, roster management, contract negotiation and salary arbitration. Shelley holds a finance degree from Santa Clara. His deep Bay Area roots and the remarkable stability of the Giants organization could make him a tough recruit.
Kyle Stark, Pirates
After spending four years as a baseball operations assistant for the Cleveland Indians, Stark followed Neal Huntington to Pittsburgh when the latter became GM after the 2007 season. Stark, 38, is a former college pitching coach who holds graduate degrees in law (Toledo) and business administration (St. Bonaventure). He served as director of player development for the Pirates before rising to assistant GM. Many talented people have helped the Pirates rise from the ashes to a period of annual postseason contention, but Stark is viewed as the one Huntington would likely recommend for the Twins job.