I can’t claim to know more about former Director of Baseball Operations and Assistant GM Scott Harris’ contributions to the Cubs than I do (we’ll never get that level of granularity from the outside), but I do know that his inclusion on the front office panel at CubsCon a few years ago was very notable. Historically, just three guys up went up for that panel (Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod), so Harris was ostensibly the first new face to enter the inner circle of the Cubs front office. When Epstein went on to explain why Harris was included on the panel, including the many high hopes for his future, I knew all I needed to know.
Needless to say, I was unsurprised, albeit disappointed, when Harris left to become the General Manager of the San Francisco Giants (no small gig).
But the good news is the Cubs may have another Harris – in terms of the inner-circle stuff – in Dan Kantrovitz, the former Cardinals and A’s wiz the Cubs added to run their amateur scouting department a year ago. Kantrovitz’s speciality may lie in the draft, but he was an Assistant GM with the A’s and has at least twice been asked to interview for a GM job (Orioles in 2018, Angels in 2020).
And given the expected vacancy at the top of the Cubs baseball operations department sometime in the near future (a vacancy I’m increasingly expecting Jed Hoyer to occupy), I’d say Kantrovitz’s upward mobility in Chicago is very possible.
Just don’t expect him to tip his hand (via The Athletic):
“I don’t think it’s real appropriate to comment much on this kind of process publicly other than to say that I’m flattered the Angels reached out ….
“But to answer your question directly, yes, I decided not to pursue the [Angels GM] position at this time. And I wouldn’t read into this — it’s possible I’d consider this sort of position at a different time. But right now, I just feel like there is some unfinished business working with Theo, Jed and our scouts towards a productive 2021 draft for the Cubs.”
But before we – or the Cubs – go down that road, there’s a LOT to accomplish. The organization just revamped their entire amateur scouting department, in a process that’s ongoing to this day, and there have been additional, COVID-unique challenges that makes the status of his current position potentially even more impactful long-term.
“We’ve had to reimagine what a modern scouting department looks like — really the complete player acquisition apparatus,” Kantrovitz said. “While the importance of scouting is unchanged, I think you have to acknowledge that the nature of scouting has changed or at least evolved pretty substantially in the last calendar year. You absolutely still need your veteran scouts, your area scouts, your grinders but you also need a technology infrastructure tailored to how much or how little baseball is being played.”
Kantrovitz goes onto explain that that, qualitatively, the Cubs scouting reports have changed and become more thorough, in case COVID-19 reduces or eliminates any further opportunities to scout certain players ahead of the draft. And adds that, quantitatively, they’ll have a tougher time forecasting future performance with far less data than they’re used to: “Needless to say, in the last year, the scouting industry has and is undergoing a period of rapid change and we are working hard to stay out front and evolve along with it.”
Yeah. I’m happy this guy is leading this charge.
But this is hardly the half of it. Sharma goes onto explain the Cubs plan to prioritize certain areas of the country while pouncing on the opportunity to add experienced scouts who may be squeezed out because of pandemic-crunched budgets. The Cubs, themselves, were not immune to those sort of losses, but perhaps the goal is to add quality over quantity. Or, at least you’d hope.
In general, Kantrovitz makes it clear: The Cubs are (and were, pre-pandemic) looking to expand and modernize their scouting department. In fact, if anything, COVID has accelerated this effort, even in an era where many teams are going in the opposite direction. And all I’ll add is Theo Epstein has been beating this drum for YEARS, so I’m happy to see he found a personnel match that shares his vision and is already executing on it at such a high level. And if that guy eventually makes his way up the ranks, well, he’ll have even more valuable institutional knowledge about an organization in which his role will grow.