After recently polling MLBTR’s readership about which of the six open managerial positions had the most to offer, it only follows that we ask the same question about the three general manager vacancies.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s use “general manager” in this sense as the person in charge of a team’s baseball operations department, even if that official title could be something different (i.e. president of baseball ops) on a particular team. If you’re a hypothetical executive who has multiple GM offers presented to them, deciding which job to take demands a big-picture view. Which franchise has the most to offer a new GM in terms of resources, which range from everything from player payroll to front office staffing? Would a GM have full control of baseball ops, or is there another rung above them on the organizational ladder? Does a team already have some good players in place and is expecting to win, or is a rebuild under way, or will a rebuild be under way in the near future?
With all these factors (and more) in mind, let’s take a look at the three open GM jobs…
Mets: As disappointing as New York’s 2018 season was, this is still a team that boasts one of the game’s best pitching staffs, plus some intriguing young building blocks in Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, and a healthy Michael Conforto. If incumbent veterans like Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier can avoid the DL and regain some of their old productivity, the team’s lackluster lineup will already get a huge boost, not even factoring in what external additions can bring into the fold. There is certainly opportunity for quick improvement in 2019, and since the team doesn’t have any payroll money guaranteed beyond the 2020 season, there’s plenty of room for extending in-house stars and adding some other notable salaries in trades or free agents.
That’s the good news about the Mets job, though as any follower of New York’s sports media could tell you, there’s also quite a bit of bad news. It’s still unknown how much financial flexibility the Mets actually have, as while team payroll has cracked the $150MM mark in each of the last two seasons, that’s still a modest figure for a club that plays in the New York market. There’s also the open question about how much autonomy a general manager truly has within the organization, given how owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon are so often accused of taking a heavy hand with their input in the baseball operations department. For instance, it’s unusual that an incoming GM would be inheriting three influence senior members of a team’s current front office staff, and there is uncertainty if a new GM would really be allowed to fire John Ricco, J.P. Riccardi, and/or Omar Minaya unless ownership allows it. Manager Mickey Callaway is also staying on for 2019, so a new general manager wouldn’t even able to select their own preferred voice in the dugout. It also might not help that the Wilpons themselves are reportedly looking for different things in a general manager, as Jeff prefers to hire a younger GM with an analytics background, while Fred wants a more experienced name from a scouting and personnel background.
Giants: The main pro and the main con of the San Francisco job amount to the same thing — this is a team that expects to win. Even if 2019 may be a season more focused on something of a rebuild-on-the-fly, there is little doubt that the franchise wants a turn-around after two straight losing seasons. To this end, a new GM will have money to spend, as the Giants haven’t afraid of exceeding the luxury tax threshold in the past, and are now free for more big spending after (barely) getting payroll under the threshold this season to reset their escalating tax payment figure to zero. There’s also no small amount of appeal in taking over one of baseball’s top-tier, most historically-rich franchises, and a team that has three World Series championships within the last decade.
The downside, of course, is that taking over such a team means taking on a lot of pressure. There may be more of a case that the Giants need a rebuild rather than a reload, given how many expensive veteran contracts are on the books. (And how more veteran additions could be coming, if the Giants stick to their logic from last offseason.) Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ best asset, is also scheduled for free agency after the 2019 season, so the contention window may be particularly short unless Bumgarner can be extended, though the team is at least open to listening to a GM that would suggest Bumgarner be traded.
There is also some question of autonomy within the chain of command, as long-time executive Brian Sabean is staying on in an upper-management role, plus Bruce Bochy is being retained as manager. Team CEO Larry Baer has said, however, that the new baseball operations head will be reporting to him, and will have the freedom add new faces to the front office mix. This could be a situation where the “new GM” is really a president of baseball operations, with a general manager also hired in a secondary role to handle day-to-day duties.
Orioles: The cleanest slate of the three jobs, the Orioles are undergoing a change in direction at the very top of the organization, as John and Louis Angelos take over ownership duties from their father, Peter. It remains to be seen how the Angelos brothers’ style will differ from that of Peter Angelos’ style, though there has already been some indication that the Orioles are adopting a more standard approach to baseball operations (such as a new willingness to spend on international players). It also isn’t clear if a new GM will have the full autonomy that the team’s recent media release claims, or if incumbent VP of baseball operations Brady Anderson will still have a major voice in the decision-making process.
This all being said, while it might take some years for a general manager to remake the Mets or Giants in their own image, the new Orioles GM can put their big stamp on the organization as early as this offseason. Rather than navigate pre-existing payroll hurdles or expectations of contention, the new Orioles only has to focus on rebuilding for the next several years. As low as the Orioles sunk in 2018, the lure of a total rebuild could be enticing to many candidates — Blue Jays baseball ops VP Ben Cherington, for one, would seemingly only leave his position in Toronto “to build an organization from the ground up,” according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. A new general manager also has something of a head start on the rebuilding process due to the number of young talents acquired by former baseball operations executive VP Dan Duquette in the trade deadline deals of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, and Jonathan Schoop.
(poll link for app users)