If that’s true, it’s time to start thinking about the future of the Cubs’ front office – not just whom the next GM might be, but also what structure the front office might take (i.e., will there be a Director of Baseball Operations above the GM?). Ken Rosenthal offers some thoughts:
Speculation persists that owner Tom Ricketts might hire Hall of Fame inductee Pat Gillick as club president. In theory, Gillick could retain Hendry, and the two could work together to fix the club. But the entire idea seems far-fetched; Cubs fans want change, and both Hendry and manager Mike Quade seem likely to be replaced.
The real intrigue would begin once Ricketts began his search for a new GM.
White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn is generally regarded as the game’s leading GM candidate, but many in the industry believe that the Cubs’ job also might draw interest from some of the game’s top current GMs.
Phil Rogers suggested some weeks ago that Hahn was a likely GM candidate for the Cubs after the season, so you can expect to continue hearing his name. I hope you can get past the White Sox thing.
Speaking of Hahn as an up-and-comer, Will Carroll put together a list of some of the top up-and-comer types, many of whom the Cubs are likely to consider for a GM opening. The list includes Hahn (at the top), as well as Rangers’ Assistant GM Thad Levine, Giants’ VP of Baseball Ops Bobby Evans, Yankees’ VP of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer, Dodgers’ Assistant GM DeJon Watson, Braves’ Director of Baseball Administration John Coppolella, Pirates’ Director of Baseball Ops Tyrone Brooks, Indians’ Assistant GM Mike Chernoff, and MLB Senior VP of Baseball Ops Kim Ng.
Rounding out Carroll’s top 10 is an in-house option for the Cubs, Ari Kaplan, the team’s Manager of Statistical Analysis:
“Ari Kaplan has a passion for baseball and he combines this with a thoughtful and intelligent approach to the game. In my view, he is at the very top of the line when it comes to the development and understanding of the analytical programs available to a Major League team. Ari also has the ability to communicate with all levels in the game; from the minor league pitching coach to the top team executives.”
— Fred Claire, former Dodgers GM
Kaplan is a name many won’t know, even inside of baseball. That could change rapidly if Kaplan is given a larger role in running the Cubs baseball operations, something many inside the game feel is coming soon. One baseball exec compared Kaplan’s role with the Cubs as what Stu Sternberg did with several current Rays execs in the year before he assumed control. If Kaplan was shadowing the organization, helping Tom Ricketts make decisions about building his own front office, it would surprise no one. It would be a bit more of a shock if Kaplan were given the Andrew Friedman role, however. “There’s no question that [Kaplan] is one of the smartest guys around, but he’s just a stats guy,” one current NL staffer told me. “The scouts won’t work for him because he pitched his consulting gig as almost replacing them for years.”
Another MLB staffer questioned his personality: “I like Ari, but any comparison to Andrew Friedman means they haven’t met both guys. Friedman played up to a level and is great with the media. Ari doesn’t have that comfort level yet, and I’m honestly not sure he ever would. Putting him in the line of fire of a Chicago media would be like the cow kicking the lantern.”
Even those who think Kaplan is ready believe he would need to be paired with a baseball type, in the way that Friedman has Gerry Hunsicker available. One person familiar with the Ricketts believes that the new Cubs ownership knows that their decision on Jim Hendry and his eventual replacement could define them to the fans. “Risking their reputation on a nobody is tough. It worked out in Boston, but remember that the first choice was Billy Beane there.”
Kaplan came to the Cubs only recently, as the club works to “modernize” their scouting approach and philosophy.
Other names you’ll continue to hear as the front office rumors heat up later this year include Padres’ Director of Baseball Ops Josh Byrnes (which we discussed here a few weeks ago), Red Sox Vice President of Player Personnel Ben Cherington, as well as a number of current GMs, including the Yankees’ Brian Cashman and the Tigers’ Dave Dombrowski, each of whom are “free agents” at the end of the year.