Blue Jays VP of baseball operations and former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is a candidate to be the Pirates’ next head of baseball operations, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Cherington has worked for Toronto for the last three-plus seasons, after taking a little over a year away from baseball after being fired by the Sox in August 2015.
Cherington joins Pirates assistant GM and current acting general manager Kevan Graves as the only known candidates to take over the Pittsburgh front office. Other notable names have already been mentioned as potential candidates, including another name from the Jays in senior VP of player personnel Tony LaCava, and another former Red Sox GM (and Orioles GM) in Dan Duquette. Interviews with potential candidates were expected to begin this week, though there isn’t yet any indication that Cherington has officially sat down with Pirates top brass.
The Pirates cleaned house after 69-93 season that was disastrous on and off the field, as the club parted ways with manager Clint Hurdle, team president Frank Coonelly, and GM Neal Huntington, though all in somewhat staggered fashion over the course of a month. Travis Williams has already stepped in as the new team president, though the managerial search that was already weeks old was put on pause while Huntington’s replacement was found.
After Theo Epstein departed the Red Sox following the 2011, Cherington (following 13 years in various role in Boston’s front office) took over as general manager. His tenure with the club saw the Sox finish in last place in the AL East in 2012, 2014, and 2015, yet win the World Series in 2013, giving him one of the most unusual resumes of any top executive in recent memory. While several mid-tier acquisitions were key to the 2013 championship, Cherington was hampered by bigger-ticket signings that didn’t pan out, most notably Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Cherington was credited, however, with the development of such young starts as Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, and Eduardo Rodriguez, all of whom were either drafted or largely developed during Cherington’s time as general manager.
Multiple teams have had interest in hiring Cherington for GM openings in recent years, though he declined interviews last year, with Rosenthal reporting at the time that Cherington was mostly interested in a situation that would allow him to completely rebuild a team. The Pirates could represent such a situation, as while the team has talent on hand, an argument could be made that a revamp could be necessary before the Bucs are able to again be truly competitive in the tough NL Central.