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An Incomplete List of Potential GM Candidates

Now that the Twins have a GM opening, who could possibly fill that role?

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox
Ben Cherington, my preferred choice to become the new Twins GM.
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Now that Terry Ryan has been fired as general manager, it’s time to start looking at who could supplant him. Rob Antony has been named interim GM and there is a chance that he will have the “interim” part of his title removed after the season. However, there’s also a good chance that a person will be selected from the field, of which I have a rather incomplete list provided below.

I’m going to say this as many times as I need to. I am absolutely terrified that the Twins will screw this up. I do not want someone that has ties to the organization because the Twins are so far behind everyone else when it comes to analytics. From many accounts, it feels as if this organization is convinced that its blueprint from its success in the 2000s is still relevant and repeatable. I’m not denouncing scouting - my job title at Inside Edge literally has “scout” in its name - but it cannot be the only ingredient in this recipe. Personally, I want someone that is not only sabermetrically-inclined but is relatively young and they must be the best candidate for the job. That should go without saying but I look at the Twins and think they’ll find the best candidate that also has ties to the organization, rather than the best person overall. You can tell me I’m wrong, but remind me of the last time the Twins went outside the organization to hire a manager or general manager. Besides, Jim Pohlad’s comment that the new GM must be “lovable” doesn’t exactly give me confidence. Nor the fact that Paul Molitor must stay with the team for the 2017 season, which could possibly limit the number of interested parties in taking on the GM role.

Anyway, like I said, this is a list of people that I compiled after doing a reasonable amount of research, such as looking at Baseball Prospectus and other sources. My preferred choice is in this list (which I will mention when I get to the candidate) and I tossed in a few others that could be considered. One last time, this list is far from exhaustive, as there are plenty of former GMs out there that the Twins might interview but I’m deliberately avoiding because either they’re a) redundant or b) not actually a viable candidate (I’m looking at you, Jim Bowden).

Rob Antony

Current Position: Interim General Manager, Minnesota Twins

Pros: Knows the organization

Cons: Status quo

I won’t recap this too much, but I see Antony as just being more of the same of what we had with Bill Smith and Terry Ryan. Hiring him would be a massive sign of complacency. Probably good at scouting. Probably still has no idea what FIP or wRC+ represent. Probably is content with that fact.

Kim Ng

Current Position: Senior Vice-President of Baseball Operations, MLB

Pros: Has been an assistant general manager for the Yankees and Dodgers, is the highest-ranked female Asian-American baseball executive, and has been long regarded as a future GM (has the blessing of Joe Torre)

Cons: Supposed lack of scouting knowledge (but that comes from noted blowhard Jim Bowden) and is female

Okay, I probably angered a bunch of people with that last comment so I’m going to put this in bold to really emphasize my true feelings. I would love for Kim Ng (pronounced “ang”) to become the new general manager. She’s argued arbitration cases, she was first hired as an assistant GM by Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who I feel is one of the best in the business and would be better if he wasn’t working in New York for the Steinbrenners, and sounds as if she is beyond qualified to run a baseball team. However, no female has ever been a GM in any of the four major sports so this would be an enormous step out of the comfort zone for the Twins. Plus, I already get irritated listening to Twins fans whine about Joe Mauer’s contract. I would have to delete my own Twitter account if I had to read those same fans complain that a woman was making decisions in a men’s sport. Donald Trump is an actual viable presidential candidate right now. We know those people are out there, which is a shame because Ng should be a GM someday. Even if she lacks scouting knowledge (the shot at Bowden is because he routinely proposes ridiculous trades and also cited OPSBIs - OPS plus RBI, which was created as a joke - as a viable offensive statistic), the Twins have a strength there. Assuming the organization doesn’t clean house, there would be plenty of help in that regard.

Ben Cherington

Current Position: Sports Management Professor, Columbia University

Pros: Former Red Sox GM (2012-2015), has won a World Series, has scouting experience and use for analytics

Cons: Not currently working in baseball, more bad years than good with Red Sox

Behold, my top choice to replace Terry Ryan. Don’t let his current title as a Columbia professor lead you to think this is like the Wolves bringing on David Kahn, as Cherington actually has experience as a GM in the past. His tenure with the Sox was a bit rocky as they alternated good and bad years, but he quickly fixed a disastrous 2012 season by dumping $262.5 million of contract obligations on the Dodgers and firing troublesome manager Bobby Valentine after the season. With plenty of payroll flexibility and new manager John Farrell, the Sox won the 2013 World Series before crashing and burning in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Last year, the Sox brought on former Tigers president and GM Dave Dombroski towards the end of the season as president of baseball operations and though Cherington was allowed to stay on board as GM, he chose instead to resign. Cherington will think outside the box and perhaps a more constrained payroll will stop him from repeating his ill-fated signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

Alex Anthopoulos

Current Position: Vice-President of Baseball Operations, Los Angeles Dodgers

Pros: Former Blue Jays GM (2009-2015), unafraid of big trades

Cons: Has a bigger role with the Dodgers, big trades have sometimes backfired, will want full autonomy

How innovative was Anthopoulos? Well, let’s just say MLB made some rule changes as a result of his moves. You may recall that there used to be “Type A” and “Type B” free agent compensation that existed before the current qualifying offer was put in place. By use of an outdated complicated formula, the “top” free agents were designated as Type A and after being offered salary arbitration by their prior team, any team that signed them would forfeit their first round draft pick to the first team, plus that team also received an additional “sandwich” pick between the first and second rounds. If the player was in the “second tier” of quality, they were a Type B and the losing team would receive a sandwich pick as compensation. Well, Anthopoulos acquired Type B catcher Miguel Olivo after the 2010 season was over. He immediately declined Olivo’s team option but then offered salary arbitration, which Olivo refused. When Olivo signed with the Seattle Mariners a month later, the Jays acquired a sandwich pick thanks to the compensation rules. Now, free agents that were traded during the previous season no longer carry compensation picks if they sign elsewhere, so we can partially thank Anthopoulos for that.

I mentioned big trades above and I’m not kidding. Just a sampling from Anthopoulos’ tenure include:

  • Acquired Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion (as assistant GM of the Blue Jays)
  • Traded Roy Halladay for Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis d’Arnaud
  • Traded Vernon Wells (and his remaining 4-year, $86 million contract, at the time one of the worst in MLB) for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, then shortly traded Napoli and Rivera as well
  • Traded Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, Adeiny Hechavarria, Anthony DeSclafani, Jake Marisnick, and Justin Nicolino for Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio
  • Traded Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and a minor leaguer for R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas
  • Traded Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and a minor leaguer for Josh Donaldson
  • Traded Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro, and a minor leaguer for Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins
  • Traded Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and a minor leaguer for David Price

Sick of the Twins doing nothing with their roster? Then you should be cheering hard for Anthopoulos. Unfortunately, there is a catch. His decision to leave the Blue Jays in spite of having a five-year contract extension in hand stemmed from the Jays hiring former Indians president and GM Mark Shapiro as president of baseball operations. After the hiring, it sounded as if Shapiro would not allow Anthopoulos to continue his full control of the organization, thus his decision to walk away. If the Pohlads are serious about keeping Paul Molitor as manager, the inability to bring in his own guy would probably be a detriment for Anthopoulos. Plus, he already has a sweet gig with the Dodgers. I’m not sure taking over the Twins would be a step up for him.

Michael Girsch

Current Position: Assistant General Manager, St. Louis Cardinals

Pros: Currently works for successful organization, young (40-ish), knowledge of analytics

Cons: Withdrew candidacy from Padres GM search two years ago

Anyone from the Cardinals intrigues me because I see a similar organization to the Twins. They too rely significantly on scouting and have a similar payroll, but have been far more successful thanks to repeatedly hitting on draft picks and the addition of analytics. This was a team that let Albert Pujols walk away to the Angels and yet they maintained their success. Girsch doesn’t sound like someone that would be too radical for the Twins while still having the ability to infuse analytics into an organization that still thinks OPS is new-age. However, he had a chance to leave the Cardinals for the Padres in 2014 and openly declined to continue the process after an initial interview. I don’t know if he preferred staying with the Cardinals or felt the Padres weren’t a good situation, but who knows if the Twins are a more appealing franchise at the moment.

Chris Pittaro

Current Position: Special Assistant to the General Manager, Oakland Athletics

Pros: Former Twin, works for similar organization, has scouting experience

Cons: Who? Also, if Billy Beane’s $^#& actually still works

Considering that he works for the A’s, it does sound as if Pittaro has some knowledge of analytics on top of the scouting experience. However, with Billy Beane striking out (pun not intended) more often than not lately when it comes to the organization, I can see some people questioning if an Athletic executive is the best person to take over another struggling team. You can’t ignore that Pittaro was (briefly) part of the ‘87 Twins, though. I’m already imagining Dave St. Peter and Jim Pohlad’s ears perking up from that tidbit.

Gabe Kapler

Current Position: Director of Player Development, Los Angeles Dodgers

Pros: Relatively young (40), open-minded

Cons: Little experience, better situation with the Dodgers

This is one that would be way outside the box. Since retiring as a player and joining the Dodgers, Kapler’s biggest change might be that he ensured organic food is provided for all Dodger minor league affiliates. He runs a blog on wellness, he’s on top of what’s going on in baseball, he is the exact breath of fresh air I think the Twins could use. At the same time, he’s never done this before and the Twins would be a step backwards compared to the Dodgers. Just read this ESPN article which makes me feel that if the Twins are playing checkers, the Dodgers are the supercomputer that beats the chess grandmaster. Hell, the Twins might not even want him anyway, since their comfort zone seems to entail guys that either have experience or were once with the organization. Too bad they never acquired Kapler when he was a player.