Sometimes, you learn just as much or more from what a baseball team isn’t telling you about its plans.
Accordingly, you have to read between the lines in reaching a conclusion about the future of Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. If Melvin were going to remain the team’s GM in 2016, the club would have announced it by now. Otherwise, why wait?
In this case, silence speaks volumes. It tells you the Brewers are beginning their transition plan to put a new general manager in place before next season. Melvin, if he so chooses, probably would move into some sort of advisory role to help with that transition.
From messages I receive from disgruntled Brewers fans, it makes some crazy that Melvin will oversee the first stage of a much-needed rebuilding plan for a team that careened out of control and into non-contender status. If a new GM is going to come in, they ask, why is Melvin the one making deals in advance of the July 31 nonwaiver deadline and likely beyond?
The obvious answer is that Melvin is still the GM, so why wouldn’t he be making the trades? What the Melvin haters don’t seem to understand is that principal owner Mark Attanasio still likes and trusts Melvin, the only GM with whom he has worked. This is anything but an acrimonious situation.
That doesn’t mean Melvin is staying beyond this season. It merely means the Brewers aren’t ready to announce their transition plan. It takes time to conduct a proper external search for a new GM, and you have to get that hire right or risk the team falling further into disrepair.
Announcing an upcoming GM change at this time would only serve as a distraction as Melvin seeks to make deals that could determine the length of the Brewers’ rebuilding process. Attaching lame-duck status now would serve no purpose because Melvin is, after all, still running the team’s baseball operations and has made many astute trades for the Brewers.
Sometime before the end of the season, I suspect the Brewers will announce this is Melvin’s swan song as GM. That timetable would allow them to begin the search process for a successor and have someone in place for important off-season decisions, mainly forming the 2016 roster.
Melvin is unlikely to be involved in the selection of a new GM because that would give the appearance that he handpicked his successor. That means Attanasio must lead the search, and with time of the essence, you have to believe a list of potential replacements already is being compiled.
The Brewers have a worthy candidate from within in Ray Montgomery, in his first year as vice president of scouting and special assistant to the GM. But Attanasio and Melvin are counting on Montgomery to upgrade the team’s scouting and drafting, and aren’t expected to move him out of that position less than a year into the job.
The trend in recent years has been to move away from “old-school” GMs to Ivy League types who emphasize new-age baseball analytics. Attanasio’s son Mike, an MIT graduate, has been involved in the Brewers’ evolving analytics department, providing a hint the club will follow that trend.
With that in mind, here is a list of 10 baseball people considered among the top candidates to be a first-time, major-league general manager, in alphabetical order:
Chaim Bloom, Tampa Bay: After Andrew Friedman left to run the Los Angeles Dodgers, new president of baseball operations Matt Silverman promoted Bloom and Erik Neander to vice presidents of baseball operations. Bloom has been with the Rays since 2005, focusing on player development, international scouting, contract negotiations and roster management. A Yale graduate, he joined the organization as an intern and quickly rose to his present position.
Mike Chernoff, Indians:Cleveland’s assistant GM turned down an opportunity to interview last year for the GM job in San Diego, which indicated he is quite comfortable in his sixth year in his current role. Chernoff, 34, played baseball at Princeton and began working with the Indians as an intern. He oversees the team’s pro scouting, baseball analytics and video scouting department.
John Coppolella, Braves: Coppolella assumed many of the duties of GM last year after Frank Wren was fired and before John Hart moved from adviser to president of baseball operations. Before joining the Braves, he worked for the Yankees, so Coppolella has been involved with winning organizations. The Notre Dame graduate started in New York as an intern and later worked in scouting. His advanced analytical strengths blossomed with Atlanta as he helped with arbitration cases, draft analysis and player projections.
Billy Eppler, Yankees: Eppler was a finalist for the position as GM of the Los Angeles Angels that went to Jerry DiPoto, who recently resigned in a dispute with manager Mike Scioscia. He also interviewed for the San Diego GM job that went to A.J. Preller, who recently fired manager Bud Black, a Scioscia disciple. Eppler, 39, was formerly director of pro scouting for the Yankees before being promoted to Brian Cashman’s assistant after the 2011 season.
David Forst, Athletics: Forst turned down offers to interview in Seattle and San Diego and is generally considered the heir apparent whenever Billy Beane steps down as GM. A Harvard graduate, Forst has expertise in successfully operating a small-market franchise with a modest player budget. It would be considered quite a coup to pry him away from the Athletics, but Forst is ready to be a GM after assisting Beane in player acquisitions, contract negotiations and player evaluations.
Mike Hazen, Red Sox: A Princeton graduate, Boston’s senior vice president/assistant general manager also interviewed for the San Diego job and has a background in player development. Hazen, 39, was formerly Cleveland’s assistant director of player development and was originally hired by the Red Sox to be their director of amateur scouting and player development. He assists GM Ben Cherington in areas of player acquisition and evaluation, contract negotiations and pro scouting.
Dan Kantrovitz, Athletics: Kantrovitz became Oakland’s assistant GM when Farhan Zaidi took the job last year as the Dodgers’ GM. Before joining the Athletics, he was director of amateur scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals, overseeing drafts that netted pitchers Michael Wacha and Marco Gonzales. Kantrovitz, 36, went to both Brown and Harvard, so he has the Ivy League thing down pat.
Matt Klentak, Angels: The Dartmouth graduate got his start in pro baseball in 2003 in Colorado’s front office, then moved on to the labor relations department in the commissioner’s office. Klentak worked on the 2006 collective bargaining agreement before being hired as the Orioles’ director of baseball operations. He moved on to Los Angeles after the 2011 season to become the Angels’ assistant GM. Klentak might get his first GM job right with the Angels but he was a DiPoto hire, which means he’ll likely move on.
Thad Levine, Rangers: Levine has been the Texas assistant GM since 2005 and previously worked for the Dodgers and Rockies. During his six-year stint in Colorado, he was director of baseball administration. In his role with the Rangers, Levine deals in player acquisitions, contract negotiations and statistical and financial analysis. Levine, 33, played baseball at Haverford (Pa.) College and graduated from UCLA in 1999.
Chris Marinak, MLB: This is out-of-the-box thinking because Marinak has an important position with MLB as senior vice president for economics and strategy. As right-hand man to new Commissioner Rob Manfred, Marinak is involved in industry matters such as replay, scheduling, youth participation, labor relations and club economics. But if he ever desired to work for one team, Marinak is considered GM material. He regularly interacts with on-field personnel and club owners, so they know who he is.
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