There was a time at the beginning of this competitive window when I found myself proudly and loudly repeating that the Cubs somehow wound up with at least three GM-caliber executives in their front office (Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod) *and* three manager-caliber coaches in the dugout/on the field (Joe Maddon, Dave Martinez, and Brandon Hyde). It was neat. Those were good times.
The Cubs do still have that three-headed brain trust in their front office, but there has been some high-level organizational re-shuffling that probably makes you wonder if the whole setup is still as valuable as it once looked (not to mention the many other front office talents who’ve been poached along the way). And, of course, all three of those coaches above will manage in 2020, just not for the Cubs.
But Theo Epstein is nonetheless trying to keep the tradition of having multiple “top” execs and coaches alive: in the dugout, the Cubs have added former Padres Manager Andy Green as David Ross’ lieutenant (that’s TWO manager types, thankyouverymuch), and in the front office, they just added former A’s Assistant GM Dan Kantrovitz as the new Vice President of Scouting.
Now, an Assistant GM isn’t a GM, but that is typically the path to the big chair and Kantrovitz was pretty clearly on his way.
“To be able to hire somebody to run our drafts who’s already held that position and already run successful drafts in the past, it’s a unique opportunity,” Theo Epstein said of Kantrovitz, per NBCSC. “Guys don’t usually go back once they reach the assistant GM level. But in Dan’s case, he has just discovered that his passion is running the draft. It really fits the exact profile we’re looking for. He can scout – he goes out and sees 200 players a year when he’s running the draft – and he can really relate very well to scouts and he’s also got experience building advanced analytical models and combining both those worlds in a really effective manner. I think he fills a big void for us and look forward to working with him for years to come.”
But don’t take my word for it or even Epstein’s – hear it straight from Oakland writers, who recognize what they’re favorite team is losing …
The Oakland A’s front office is losing a major name, as Assistant GM Dan Kantrovitz will be announced as the Chicago Cubs’ new VP of Scouting ….
In Kantrovitz, the Cubs are getting a smart baseball mind that has long been viewed as a GM candidate. He is known for his ability to blend analytics and traditional scouting. While he was the Cardinals’ scouting director, the team drafted many future big league talents, including Stephen Piscotty, Michael Wacha, Marco Gonzales, and Jack Flaherty.
Heck, even the A’s themselves acknowledged how big of a role he played in their organization: “He [was] involved in all aspects of the A’s baseball operations department with a primary focus on overseeing statistical analysis for evaluating and targeting players in the amateur draft, free agent and trade markets.”
As for his time in St. Louis before Oakland, I don’t think there’s a better demonstration of his value than witnessing this move through the comments out of St. Louis.
For example …
This is baaaaad news for the Cardinals. Dan is brilliant. Underappreciated contributor to the Cardinals draft process when he was here. https://t.co/x7tDd9freG
— stlCupofJoe (@stlCupofJoe) November 13, 2019
I like it when things are baaaaad news for the Cardinals. And that’s not all. According to a profile written by Sahadev Sharma, the current Cardinals GM, Michael Girsch, said that Kantrovitz “is going to be an annoyingly good fit for the Cubs.” Again, that’s music to my ears.
So what makes him such a good fit? Well on the surface, there’s his experience with the Cardinals and A’s, his background as an all-Ivy League shortstop at Brown University, and his Master’s degree in Statistics from Harvard. And there’s also the fact that he turned down a chance to return to St. Louis this offseason, to work with the Cubs (a double-win). But it’s more than that.
Derrick Goold (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) puts it simply: “In the three drafts he ran for the Cardinals, Kantrovitz oversaw the selections of a parade of major-league starters: Michael Wacha, Marco Gonzales, Luke Weaver, Austin Gomber, Daniel Ponce de Leon, and, with the 34th pick in the 2014 draft, budding ace Jack Flaherty.”
Wacha: 10.8 WAR
Flaherty: 7.0 WAR
Gonzales: 7.0 WAR
Weaver: 4.9 WAR
Gomber: 0.8 WAR (29 games)
Ponce De Leon: 1.2 WAR (24 games)
In just three drafts, Kantrovitz was able to collect 31.7 WAR out of his pitchers – and it’s not like any of these guys are nearing the end of their career – Flaherty, 24, alone, just had a near-5.0 WAR season. And it’s not like I expect Kantrovitz to hit as well as he has in the past, but that success with identifying arms is real.
And that brings me to another point … Kantrovitz is ready to go: “A unique opportunity to be able to hire somebody who has done the job extremely well,” Epstein said. “How often do you get to do that in baseball? Normally you have to take someone on the way up and project them to fill a role — and get ready for a learning curve. With him, he’s discovered his passion is running drafts, and we get the benefit of his experience. And we get the comfort of knowing that he’s already done it well.”
You can read more about Kantrovitz – there’s seriously so much to like – from Sahadev Sharma at The Athletic. I particularly enjoyed the part about his ability to relate so well to and utilize scouts, while being among the leaders in the model-driven analytical approach to baseball. In really every way possible, the Cubs seemed to have hit it out of the park with this hiring. Nicely done.