GM Initiation Rumors

GM Initiation: Andrew Friedman

Andrew Friedman was promoted to Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations of the Rays on November 3rd, 2005.  Fun fact: I wrote MLBTR's first post the next day.  Friedman struck his first deal about a month later, acquiring third baseman Sean Burroughs from the Padres for pitcher Dewon Brazelton.  Both were former first-round draft picks.  As part of the deal, the Rays used their Rule 5 pick on pitcher Steve Andrade and sent him to the Padres as well.  Another fun fact: Dan Uggla was chosen by the Marlins in that same Rule 5 draft.

Friedman kindly answered a few questions for MLBTR about his first trade.

MLB Trade Rumors: Burroughs had a decent chance of being non-tendered had he remained with the Padres.  Did you consider retaining Brazelton and waiting to see whether Burroughs hit the free agent market?  Would the Rays have tendered Brazelton a contract?

Andrew Friedman: When you plan to acquire an arbitration-eligible player, you always have to look at the possibility that he might be non-tendered, and work through the implications if he is.  It made sense, where we were as an organization at that time, to look for upside, and Burroughs was a player with significant upside – a young third baseman with defensive ability and a great pedigree who had shown a lot of promise with the bat in his minor league career.  We had a player whom the Padres liked and who didn't fit into our plans, so it made sense to pursue a swap before the tender date.

MLBTR: You described this as a "classic change-of-scenery trade."  Why do you think that change failed to produce results for either principal player? 

Friedman: Like most "change-of-scenery" trades, this one involved players who had struggled to live up to their tools.  That happens an awful lot – it's a hard game, and if success were as simple as switching uniforms, you'd see it a lot more often.  We've had a few instances here where a change of scenery yielded tremendous results, but most of the time, it doesn't work despite everybody's best efforts.  It's very difficult, no matter your physical ability, to have a long, successful major league career. 

MLBTR: This was the one deal struck by the Rays at your first Winter Meetings in Dallas.  How would you describe your Meetings experience as a rookie?

Friedman: The first time is always a learning experience.  You're still meshing as a front office, and still getting to know many of the other GM's.  In my case, I'd been with the organization for a couple of years before taking this job, and that made the transition more seamless.  I had a good grasp of our own personnel, both in the front office and on the field.  That was a big help but it was still an adjustment.  We felt good about what we did there and the lessons we took from it, and we continue to adjust and refine our processes every year.

MLBTR: Shortly after the Brazelton trade, another former first-round pick, Josh Hamilton, cleared waivers.  Were you surprised no one made a claim?

Friedman: It was not a surprise.  We all know Josh's talent but it was more of a procedural move as he was still on the restricted list. 

MLBTR: When you make a trade, do you want to see your former player have success with his new team?  If your end of the deal doesn't pay off, do you prefer the other team's doesn't either?

Friedman: Once we make a trade, we're most invested in the success of the players we've acquired.  But we don't root against those we’ve traded away as we've had so many great relationships with our players over the years.

Thanks to Andrew Friedman for contributing.  Ned Colletti, Neal Huntington, Jon Daniels, and Josh Byrnes have also participated in the GM Initiation series.

GM Initiation: Ned Colletti

Ned Colletti was hired as general manager of the Dodgers on November 16th, 2005.  His first deal, struck about a month later with the Athletics' Billy Beane, was a huge success.  Colletti shipped Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez to Oakland for young outfielder Andre Ethier, who had just been named MVP of the Double A Texas League. 

Colletti kindly answered a few questions for MLBTR about his first trade.

MLB Trade Rumors: It was rumored that the Cubs, Yankees, and Blue Jays were also in on Bradley, with the Cubs even sending Dusty Baker to the player's home.  Were any of the other possible trades close, or was Oakland always the frontrunner?

Ned Colletti: There were a couple of teams who showed a passing interest. But the calls lacked substance. Oakland had a sincere interest. The calls were of a far more serious nature.

MLBTR: At the time of the deal you called the situation with Bradley and the Dodgers "irreconcilable."  Why did you feel that way?

Colletti: I had watched from a distance what had occurred so I had some read on the situation. When I went to the Dodgers I asked a few people who were in the midst of the situation. I asked them for facts and not opinions. I also talked to players, some who were friends with Milton. Finally, at the winter meetings in Dallas I met with one of his agents. He confirmed that giving Milton a fresh start would be best for everyone.

MLBTR: Before the '06 season Baseball America suggested Ethier might not have enough power to be a corner outfield regular.  What did you see that made you feel differently?

Colletti: From the outset his swing path was excellent. A young player can develop power later. Once he started to pull the ball more and learned his body and his swing, we felt the home runs would follow. I watched much the same occur earlier in my career, most notably with Ryne Sandberg and the Cubs when then-manager Jim Frey encouraged Sandberg to use his power to pull. Ryno went from hitting 9-12 home runs to hitting 25-40 home runs shortly thereafter.

MLBTR: When your front office puts together a trade, about how many people are involved?

Colletti: It depends on the trade. Anyone who has knowledge of the players involved – both coming and going – are asked to voice their option. It can be amateur scouts, the scouting director, major league staff and an occasional major league player, player development staff and leaders and of course our professional scouts. No one makes these decisions solo or in a vacuum. The more information you can gather from the truest evaluators the better chance you have of making the right decision.

Thanks to Ned Colletti for contributing.  Neal Huntington, Jon Daniels, and Josh Byrnes have also participated in the GM Initiation series.

GM Initiation: Neal Huntington

Neal Huntington took over as GM of the Pirates on September 25th, 2007.  He was active on the waiver wire out of the gate, but his first trade didn't come until December 7th.  Huntington struck a deal with the Brewers, sending reliever Salomon Torres to Milwaukee for pitching prospects Marino Salas and Kevin Roberts.

Huntington kindly answered a few questions for MLBTR about his first trade.

MLB Trade Rumors: Torres dropped his grievance before you took over as Pirates GM.  Did his request to be traded still stand?  If so, did it limit your leverage?

Neal Huntington: The reality was that we had very little to no leverage because we had a disgruntled 36-year-old relief pitcher coming off an injury-plagued and disappointing performance season that was due to make over $3MM. Despite acknowledging the lack of leverage and lack of quality market, we made the decision it was time to move beyond the player, work to re-allocate the dollars and get the best return we could for him. Obviously we dealt from weakness and it did not turn out the way we would have preferred.

MLBTR: What kind of relationship did you have with Brewers GM Doug Melvin prior to the deal?

Huntington: I knew Doug through baseball circles but did not have much of a relationship with him beyond a cursory level.

MLBTR: Torres considered retirement after learning he was traded to the Brewers.  Had he retired, would you have considered reversing the trade or compensating the Brewers somehow?

Huntington: Fortunately we did not have to work through an alternative scenario, but ethically we would have been compelled to consider alternatives.

MLBTR: What did you see in Salas and Roberts, the two relief prospects acquired for Torres?  In hindsight, were better players available?

Huntington: The scouting reports indicated both pitchers had good arms with potential major league caliber breaking balls but both were on the small side of ideal and had some command issues. A quick review of the list of players available at the time confirms that despite our efforts to ask for more, it was a limited selection pool due to the issues surrounding the player and our lack of leverage.

MLBTR: In your two full seasons as Pirates' GM, the team's relief ERAs have been at or near the bottom of the NL.  Revamping the pen by bringing in veteran free agents Octavio Dotel, Brendan Donnelly, D.J. Carrasco, Javier Lopez, and others this winter – did that represent a change in bullpen-building philosophy for you?

Huntington: The philosophy remained the basically the same but we had fewer internal options with which to build the 2010 bullpen. We believe building a bullpen is the most unpredictable and the most difficult part of a ball club to put in place. The inconsistency in the year to year performance of the large percentage of major league relievers makes it difficult to for a club with our resources to invest significant dollars or years into relievers. As a result, we look for subjective and objective indicators of potential bounce-back candidates and/or look to provide ourselves with different complimentary attributes (power arm (K’s) / ground ball guys / arm slots / etc.) to provide numerous options for our manager to utilize in the various leverage situations.

In 2008 we had a solid back end with Capps, Grabow, Marte and Yates but our middle relievers really struggled. In 2009 we had a few solid pieces but we had our struggles throughout all portions of the game. As we prepared for 2010 we wanted to add depth and complimentary options. We felt that Dotel could give us similar performance level for similar dollars and contractual control as Capps (despite the age difference). We liked what each of the free agents brought to the table as we constructed our bullpen and we felt that the addition of some veterans in the bullpen would help our young relievers mature into reliable high leverage relievers as well as provide us with much needed depth.

Thanks to Neal Huntington for his time.  Be sure to check out the other entries on the GM Initiation series: Jon Daniels and Josh Byrnes.

GM Initiation: Jon Daniels

Jon Daniels was announced as the new general manager of the Rangers on October 4th, 2005.  At 28, he was the youngest GM in Major League history. 

In mid-November of '05, Daniels struck his first deal.  He and Cubs GM Jim Hendry agreed on a trade that would send righty Jon Leicester to Texas for a player to be named later.  Minor league pitcher Clint Brannon was sent to the Cubs as the PTBNL in March.  Daniels was kind enough to answer a few questions about his first trade.

MLB Trade Rumors: How long did you have your eye on Leicester before making the deal?  He was coming off a rough year in Iowa; what did you see in him?  As one of the Cubs' better prospects heading prior to the '05 season, were you surprised they'd part with him for a player to be named later or cash?

Jon Daniels: He was an out of options reliever – a guy we'd had good reports on in the past, had recently gotten over an injury I believe.  We looked at him as a nice buy low opportunity, with a chance to pay dividends if it clicked.  The Cubs didn’t have a spot for him – some clubs hold their out of options guys as long as possible – others recognize he's not part of their plans and move quicker, that's what happened here.

MLBTR: The Cubs ended up getting Brannon in March to complete the deal, but got only 7.3 A ball innings out of him.  Did any of the other choices on the Cubs' list of possibilities end up playing in the Majors?

Daniels: I don't think there were other names, actually.  Brannon was the only guy we discussed.  He'd had some low level success the year before – might have actually set the Northwest League ERA record if I recall – but didn't do well in Chicago.  That's OK – Leicester hurt himself in some odd off-field deal and didn't really pan out here – no one made out in this one.

MLBTR: Does the Leicester trade hold significance for you as your first deal, or was it overshadowed by the bigger trades that soon followed?

Daniels: Not a lot of significance other than the fact I get to say I traded for Jon "Lester" before people realize it’s the one spelled "Leicester."

MLBTR: What kind of relationship did you have with Jim Hendry prior to the Leicester trade?

Daniels: I knew Jim some from his dealings with John Hart when I worked for John.  We'd spent some time together at GM and Winter Meetings before, but we didn't have a lot of history together.  We've worked together a couple of times since.

MLBTR: At just 28 years old, what kind of reception did you get from other GMs after you got the job?

Daniels: Respectful and positive for the most part.  My age was a novelty for the first while, but more with media and fans than with counterparts around the league, at least outwardly. 

GM Initiation: Josh Byrnes

We're kicking off a new series here at MLBTR called GM Initiation.  Each post in the series will look at a general manager's first trade.

Josh Byrnes was hired as Diamondbacks GM on October 28th, 2005.  His first deal came on December 7th at the Winter Meetings.  Byrnes and Braves GM John Schuerholz agreed on a deal to send catcher Johnny Estrada to Arizona for relievers Oscar Villarreal and Lance Cormier.  Estrada went on to have a solid '06 campaign for the D'Backs and was used in a trade to acquire Doug Davis after the season.  Both relievers pitched two seasons for Atlanta, with Villarreal posting better numbers.

Byrnes was kind enough to answer a few questions about his first trade.

MLB Trade Rumors: 2005 marked your first Winter Meetings as a general manager.  How would you describe the experience?

Josh Byrnes: The 2005 Winter Meetings were busy. We were exploring many trades to reshape the roster. It was our first time together as a larger group in that type of setting.

MLBTR: Did you enter the '05 Meetings intent on acquiring a starting catcher?  About how many different catchers were you seriously considering?

Byrnes: We were trying to improve in the middle of the field. Later that month, we acquired Orlando Hudson, Eric Byrnes and Chris Young. Estrada was the catcher who made the most sense at the time.

MLBTR: What kind of relationship did you have with Braves GM John Schuerholz prior to the Estrada deal?  How long did it take to put the trade together?

Byrnes: I knew John a little bit. The trade came together fairly quickly. We had a few discussions at the meetings and agreed after a few conversations.

MLBTR: Does the Estrada trade hold significance for you, since it was your first acquisition?  Is the significance diminished because you were such an active trader that month?

Byrnes: I said at the time that the deal carried some significance to me because we did it with John. Certainly, he is one the best (if not the best) GM’s of all time. He is also very passionate about the game and the industry, so it is memorable to have made my first trade with John.