Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The next generation of GMs
By Jim Bowden
John Schuerholz spent 26 years as a general manager with the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves, the last 17 of those with his Atlanta until he was named club president in the fall of 2007.
His success with the Braves is well documented, but less known is the line of succession he had in place. During Schuerholz's last few years in Atlanta, his scouting director was Dayton Moore, who Schuerholz hoped would eventually take his place as GM. The two were so tight that Moore was nicknamed John Schuerholz Jr. by many of the Braves' employees. However, instead of waiting for Schuerholz to get promoted, Moore took the first GM opportunity he received, accepting an offer from the Royals to be their GM in 2006.
Enter Frank Wren. Wren served as GM of the Baltimore Orioles in 1999 after serving as assistant GM for the Marlins from 1991-1998. After a rocky relationship with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, they parted ways, but not until Bud Selig had to get involved to make sure Wren got paid for his services. Wren quickly landed on his feet, as he was hired by Schuerholz as assistant GM, a position he would hold for eight seasons.
When Moore left, it obviously changed the Braves' succession plan. It's an organization that prides itself on continuity, and it was only natural that Wren -- who stood out in his AGM role -- would get the nod as Schuerholz's successor. Those were not easy shoes to fill, as the Braves went to the playoffs every year from 1991 through 2005 and won a World Series in 1995. However, Atlanta has continued that success under Wren.
After making the playoffs last season, Wren had the best offseason of his career, signing B.J. Upton and trading for B.J.'s brother, Justin, without giving up any elite prospects. The Braves sit in first place and appear headed to October again.
Unfortunately, the majority of MLB clubs are so focused on today that they either don’t have GM candidates or don’t waste their time focusing on the next generation. With that in mind, here's a look at three execs who are currently being groomed by their current organizations to be the next GM, as well as three GMs in waiting who will get a job one day, though it likely won't come with their current clubs.
Geivett has already taken over many of the day-to-day responsibilities of GM. President and GM Dan O’Dowd has focused more of his time on scouting and player development, and it’s only a matter of time before Geivett is given the GM title from O’Dowd.
Current GM Dave Dombrowski has always been loyal to Avila and is preparing him to be the next GM when Dombrowski is ready to take on a different challenge. Dombrowski would clearly like to win a World Series or two for owner Mike Illitch during the Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder-Justin Verlander era. If he accomplishes that feat, don’t be surprised if he then turns the reins over to Avila.
There have also been rumblings that Dombrowski has interest in becoming MLB commissioner, although he’ll never confirm, deny or even comment on it when I ask him because he’s so focused on bringing a title to Detroit. Avila is one of the game's best evaluators and has tremendous character. He’s been instrumental in the successful moves that the Tigers have made during the Dombrowski era, and I bet he ends up taking over one day.
Forst, like Geivett, is already deeply involved in running the A's day-to-day operations, although Billy Beane still makes the final call on all personnel decisions. Forst is well regarded in the industry and is more than ready to be a GM. The only question remaining is if Beane will ever move upstairs and let him do it -- or if Forst will be forced to take his next opportunity away from the A’s.
Future GMs ... somewhere
I asked the present GMs who they think are the best future GM candidates in the game outside of their own organizations. Here were the top three candidates, in order.
Levine has been the Assistant GM of the Rangers for the past eight seasons and has assisted Jon Daniels in player acquisitions, roster composition, contract negotiations and statistical and financial analysis. He has high character and has the endorsement of most GMs in baseball as next in line in the industry. Daniels is still in his 30s, so it's likely that he will have to go elsewhere to get a GM job.
Jason McLeod | VP of scouting and player development, Chicago Cubs
Although most GMs can’t spell his last name correctly, he is considered the best evaluator in the business at all levels -- high school, college, the minors leagues and major leagues. He has tremendous organizational skills, understands and implements chain of command and is a tireless worker. He is "blocked" in the Cubs' organization by Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, but he will get a shot at a GM job soon enough.
Owner Jeffrey Loria and team president Larry Beinfest make most of the decisions in Miami, and Mike Hill is currently in the GM's seat. However, Jennings is still part of the inner circle and his input is very respected. Most in the baseball industry are perplexed by why another team hasn’t scooped him up to be their GM. He has interviewed for openings in the past, including with the Mets, but his strong background in scouting -- with not as much background in administration -- has held him back. However, if you were to pair him with a strong administrator as his assistant GM, Jennings would become a star GM.