In an excellent piece for Sports on Earth, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince profiles the Indians’ “dream team” front office from the mid-1990s, which featured eight men that have now occupied (or currently occupy) the title of GM or president of baseball operations. John Hart was the Cleveland GM at the time, but the front office also included assistant GM Dan O’Dowd (who went on to become GM of the Rockies); director of player development Mark Shapiro (former GM and president of the Indians and now president of the Blue Jays); scouting director Josh Byrnes (former GM of the Padres and D-backs); advance scouts Ben Cherington and Paul DePodesta (former GMs of the Red Sox and Dodgers, respectively); assistant director of minor league operations Neal Huntington (current GM of the Pirates); and baseball operations assistant Chris Antonetti, who is of course the current president of baseball ops in Cleveland. Hart and O’Dowd spoke fondly of the group’s explorations of baseball philosophy, and Castrovince explains how O’Dowd and Shapiro wrote a 15-page whitepaper that was pitched to Hart detailing their models of extensions for arbitration-eligible players. While such extensions are commonplace now, the Indians pioneered such extensions in early to mid-90s, allowing them to retain their top talent and emerge as perennial contenders in the American League. Castrovince examines other statistical and technological trends of which the Indians were early adopters and looks at how each now-well-regarded executive got his foot in the door with the Indians.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- The addition of Mike Napoli to the Indians’ roster almost certainly means that Carlos Santana has gone from catcher to first baseman to DH (with a brief, ill-fated stop at third base along the way), writes Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel. While there’s the possibility that focusing solely on offense could help Santana build his offense back up to its 2011-14 levels, Meisel also notes that the $12MM club option the team holds over Santana for the 2017 season is a steep amount for a club with an eight-figure payroll to pay a designated hitter. Meisel’s implication, of course, is that Santana’s future with the club is somewhat murky. Considering the raises Cleveland will owe Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Jason Kipnis on their guaranteed contracts and also the raises that will be owed to Cody Allen, Lonnie Chisenhall, Bryan Shaw, Trevor Bauer and Zach McAllister in arbitration, a crunch does appear to be coming.
- Brewers left-hander Will Smith has some fans in the Twins’ front office, says 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson in the first edition of his new podcast (Soundcloud link; Twins talk beginning around 19:30). Nationals right-hander Drew Storen also has some fans among Twins brass, though his projected $8.8MM salary (via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) could serve to curb the team’s interest. Wolfson also notes that the Twins remain interested in free agent southpaw Antonio Bastardo but still aren’t keen on his three-year, $15-18MM asking price. A Twins official told Wolfson recently that even if the Twins don’t make further moves this winter, they’re happy with what they have, though Wolfson notes that he does expect at least one more move out of the Twins.
- Twins manager Paul Molitor tells MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger that he’s hopeful that Korean slugger Byung-ho Park will be ready to be his Opening Day designated hitter next season, though Molitor also recognizes that there will be some adjustment as Park transitions to a new league. Molitor notes that Park’s former KBO teammate, Jung Ho Kang, “looked beatable” when he saw him in Spring Training last season but had made enormous adjustments by the time the Twins played the Pirates in the summer. Molitor and the Twins feel that Park can make a similarly quick adjustment. “I think that our scouts understand bat speed, eye-to-hand coordination, pitch recognition abilities, even if velocities and breaking pitches are not Major League quality,” said Molitor in reference to Park’s impressive work in the KBO.
- Alex Gordon’s desire to come back to the Royals “was a 10,” he told reporters at a press conference yesterday (as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes). Gordon spoke about how appreciative he is of both ownership and the front office for bringing him back to the Royals, although GM Dayton Moore explained that Gordon was always the team’s top priority. “When we went around the table and talked to our scouts, they said, ’Get Alex Gordon,'” said Moore to the media. “”I talked to our analytical guys and they said, ’Get Alex Gordon.’ I talked to our coaching staff and it was, ’Get Alex Gordon.’ Talked to his teammates along the way and it was ’Get Gordo back.’ My momma didn’t raise no dummy. We had to get him back.” According to Moore, things began coming together on New Year’s Eve, and the final details were hammered out over the next few days prior to yesterday’s announcement.