15 MLB Executives Who Are Ready To Lead Their Own Front Office

When we analyze baseball teams, we often look first at the players, which makes sense. After all, they provide our source of entertainment, and by wearing their respective organization’s uniform, are representing a the brand of baseball that the team is looking to promote. However, what about the executives who actually put the roster together? When looking at the top teams in baseball, having stability in the front office is something that they all appear to have in common, which raises the question- are the executives the most valuable part of an organization. That’s a question that we won’t try to answer in this article, but common sense would lead me to believe that having a strong executive running the front office is the first step towards building a successful organization. For teams like the Angels, Rockies, Phillies, among other organizations, they’ll be back on step one, if rumors about them hold up to be accurate. Obviously, if they’re stuck on this first step, they didn’t ultimately hire the successful leader of their front office that they wanted to, and they’ll be looking to fare better in their next go around. Luckily for them, there are 15 executives that I believe are extremely qualified to run their own baseball operations department, and would be excellent hires for any team looking to reboot the current structure of their front office.

TIER 4- The following executives would be quality hires, but aren’t “no-brainers” in the way that executives in the top-three tiers would appear to be

#15: Mike Girsch, St.Louis Cardinals

girsch
Photo Cred: 590 The Fan

Age: 39

Current Title: Vice President & General Manager

Main Strength: Has Played a Key Role Working For a Stable Organization

Since he’s already the general manager of the Cardinals, I’m not sure that Mike Girsch will actually be available come hiring season. However, if he is, any time someone is the general manager for a respected organization, and is only 39-years-old, you take notice. Now, I’m not in love with some of St.Louis’ procedures regarding how they value defense,  as well as their general approach for player acquisition. Still, this organization has been a powerhouse when it comes to player development, and Girsch has certainly played a significant role in that. At the end of the day, being able to consistently develop cost-controlled, young players, is the key to success, so even if some of the moves that he and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak have made recently have been confusing, Girsch would be a significant upgrade compared to some lead executives.

#14: Steve Sanders, Pittsburgh Pirates

stevesanders
Photo Cred: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Age: 31

Current Title: Assistant General Manager

Main Strength: Impact on Player Development

Becoming a lead executive would be quite the jump for Steve Sanders, who was just hired to be an assistant general manager for the Pirates under Ben Cherington. Yet, it’s clear that the 31-year-old is set to be a quick mover. After working in the Red Sox’ scouting department, Sanders joined the Blue Jays in 2016, and with them, was their amateur scouting director. In that role, he played an instrumental role in building one of the top farm systems in baseball, which included drafting top pitching prospect Nate Pearson, as well as well-regarded prospects Jordan Groshans and Alek Manoah. In terms of player development, Toronto has been a more flexible and modern organization, and Sanders deserves a lot of credit for that. As mentioned with Girsch, being strong in player development is arguably the most important skill a lead executive can have, so the appeal with Sanders is very high; he’ll likely have to wait a few years, but he may very well be a star in the making.

#13: Kevan Graves, Pittsburgh Pirates

kevangraves
Photo Cred: MLB.Com

Age: 39

Current Title: Assistant General Manager

Main Strength: Well-Rounded Resume

Kevan Graves may only be 39-years-old, yet he’s already been in the Pirates’ front office for 11 years, including four as the team’s assistant general manager. In fact, the Dartmouth graduate was interviewed for the general manager spots in San Francisco and Pittsburgh this past offseason, and after the Pirates opted to fire lead executive Neil Huntington, it was Graves who took over the day-to-day operations. On the surface, he may not have one key skill that sets him apart from the others. However, he is someone who is well-rounded and has worked in an organization that once was ahead of the curve analytically, so he’d certainly be a reliable lead executive.

#12: Billy Owens, Oakland A’s

billyowens
Photo Cred: The Athletic

Age: 49

Current Title: Assistant General Manager/Director of Player Personnel

Main Strength: Expertise in Amateur Scouting

Despite having one of the smallest payrolls in baseball, the A’s have consistently been one of the most successful organizations. Obviously, the man running the show, Billy Beane, deserves a bulk of the credit, though it’d be very hard for him to do what he does without the support of other talented executives. We’ll get to Beane’s right-hand man in a moment, but it’s shocking that Billy Owens hasn’t yet been poached from that organization. Heading into his 19th season with Oakland, Owens has mainly worked as the team’s rector of player personnel, which is where his talents in amateur scouting stick out. All of his co-workers have labelled him as a genius when it comes to identifying talent, and the results have shown with the A’s. Plus, Beane’s small-market principles, meanwhile, would likely be adopted by Owens, and as we’ve mentioned before, even teams with a hefty budget need to act with the same responsibility as small-market teams. Owens may not be a flashy hire, yet he’s an experienced executive with a diverse background working for one of the top organizations in baseball- if he wants to run his own front office, I’m still confident his time will come.

#11: Jed Hoyer, Chicago Cubs

jedhoyer
Photo Cred: The Athletic

Age: 46

Current Title: Executive Vice President, General Manager

Main Strength: Experience/Reliability

If you’re looking for a safer hire, Jed Hoyer is your man. Not only has he worked in three different front offices, but he even was the lead-man for the Padres for two seasons, and has been Theo Epstein’s right-hand man in Chicago. The work those two did rebuilding the Cubs has been well-documented, and they generally have been a modern-thinking organization; in San Diego, Hoyer committed towards improving the team’s farm system, which, at the time, wasn’t the obvious goal that it is now for front offices. So, why doesn’t he rank higher on this list. First off, I’m not even sure if he’s available, as with Epsteins contract set the expire following the 2021 season, it would appear likely that Chicago would just promote Hoyer. Meanwhile, I’m also become more confused with a lot of the Cubs’ player transaction decisions, and although he built San Diego’s farm system, he and Esptein were quick to decimate it when the team became a World Series contender. If a team hires Hoyer, they’ll almost certainly received a quality executive who would be well-fit for a rebuilding organization. Nevertheless, if I’m the Phillies or Angels, who may need to take a shot for more upside to get them out of their difficult predicament, he wouldn’t be as much of a no-brainer hire.

#10: Sig Mejdal, Baltimore Orioles

sigmejdal
Photo Cred: Baltimore Sun

Age: 54

Current Title: Vice President & Assistant General Manager

Main Strength: Cited as Being a Baseball Genius

The Astros’ previous front office has been under major scrutiny for the poor culture they created, but there’s no hiding the fact that they were a pioneers when it came towards their use of analytics in their decision making. Thus, if you’re willing to “blame” the culture issues on previous president of baseball operations Jeff Lunhow, Sig Mejdal could be a fantastic hire. The 54-year-old Mejdal’s rise to front-office stardom is incredible. Despite working as a NASA engineer, he was inspired to try to get a job within baseball, and after latching onto the Cardinals, he made a name for himself leading Houston’s analytics movement. Now, he’s in Baltimore and has been promoted to assistant general manager, and he’ll serve as Mike Elias’ top lieutenant. Considering how much the Astros  made it known that they wouldn’t be able to replace him, it’s clear that he has the talent and experience necessary to run a baseball team, even if his background isn’t conventional. The problems about the Astros’ culture during his time there give me some pause, yet if that checks out, I’d have a tough time passing on the chance to hire a man that has consistent been described as an absolute genius.

Tier 3- These executives are young up-and-comers that could very well end up being the next Andrew Friedman. They may be young, but they’re ready to lead their own baseball department.

#9: Pete Putilla, Houston Astros

peteputila
Photo Cred: Herald-Standard

Age: 30

Current Title: Assistant General Manager, Player Development

Main Strength: Quick-Mover With Wide Range of Skills

The same caveats with Mejdal apply to Pete Putila, who has worked for the Astros since 2011. However, considering that he’s had to work his way up the ranks, I’m guessing that Putila didn’t play a role with Houston’s culture issues. Thus, owners should be willing to look at Putila’s resume with open arms, and it’s impressive. Despite his young age, he’s already in his 10th season in the Astros’ front office, and has been asked to handle a wide range of responsibilities with them. That flexibility ought to make a fantastic lead-executive candidate, but to top it all off, can you guess what his speciality is? That’s right- player development. Considering that he’s already interviewed for multiple general manager openings already, I’m guessing Putila won’t be in Houston for much longer.

#8: Brandon Gomes, Los Angeles Dodgers

brandongomes
Photo Cred: Dodger Insider

Age: 36

Current Title: Vice President & Assistant General Manager

Main Strength: Pitching Guru

As recently as 2015, Brandon Gomes was pitching in the majors for the Rays. Yet, somehow, he’s already worked his way up the Dodgers’ front office, and, at the moment, he’s arguably their most significant executive outside of Andrew Friedman. As a former pitcher, it’s not surprising that Gomes was hired to have with the development of the organization’s pitchers, which continued to do when promoted to director of player development. If you’ve been living under a rock recently, I can tell you that the Dodgers are quite strong when it comes to player development, especially with their pitchers. In fact, their ability to optimize their pitchers’ mechanics are what’s allowed them to have so many development success stories (Dustin May stands out), and this all correlates with when Gomes took over. If you’re the Angels or Rockies, who haven’t been able to develop pitching for what feels like a lifetime, how could that not intrigue you? If you want to beat the Dodgers, you need to start thinking like they do (small-market principles), and Gomes is certainly fit to do that.

#7: Scott Harris, San Francisco Giants

scottharris
Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Age: 32

Current Title: General Manager

Main Strength: Extremely Well-Regarded, Super Bright

Even though Jed Hoyer had a more prominent role in Chicago, I believe his understudy, Scott Harris, is the top lead-executive candidate from the Cubs’ front office last year. Still only 32-years-old, Harris already has a general manager role in a prominent organization, as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi poached him to work for the Giants. Zaidi is a fantastic executive, and, as expected, it’s safe to say he hit the jackpot with that hire. Even at such a young age, Harris played an intergal role with Chicago, as he worked in several different departments, and those wide range of skills would make a transition to running his own front office extremely smooth. Plus, from the information I was able to gather, he’s an forward-thinker who understands the value of building a team with up-the-middle players and relying on stable metrics for player evaluation, which only makes me more optimistic about his abilities. It’s rare for someone at Harris’ age to be as polished/well-rounded of an executive as he is, and, as he gets to work under Zaidi, his resume will only get stronger.

#6: Peter Bendix, Tampa Bay Rays

bendix
Photo Cred: Tampa Bay Times

Age: 34

Current Title: Vice President, Baseball Development

Main Strength: Experience in a Brilliant Organization

It’s well-known that the Rays are a powerhouse when it comes to their front office, which is why several teams have started to target their executives. Chaim Bloom and James Click were hired this past offseason by the Red Sox and Astros, respectively, and it’s only a matter of time before Peter Bendix follows in their footsteps. Now that those two executives have departed the organization, Bendix is essentially general manager Erik Neander’s right-hand man, and despite being just 34-years-old, he’s already been in the organization for twelve years. As is the case with most top executives from this organization, he is a super bright mind and is very well-rounded, and, to be honest, how could you not want to hire someone from the Rays? They’ve been ahead of the curve, compared to other teams, for a long time, and based on the success stories from some of the lead executives that come from tree, they do a great job grooming their front-office members to lead their own baseball department. In other words, if you’re looking for the next up-and-coming superstar, Bendix is exactly that.

Tier 2- These two executives should already be running their own front offices already, and they’re likely to be interviewed for any lead-executive opening

#5: Amiel Sawdaye, Arizona Diamondbacks

amielsawdaye
Photo Cred: AZ Snake Pit

Age: 42

Current Title: Senior Vice President & Assistant General Manager

Main Strength: Player Development Success In Multiple Organizations

Considering that he’s been in the running for multiple lead-executive openings in the past, Amiel Sawdaye will likely be in charge of his own front office soon. Based on his resume, there’s no doubt that he’s deserving of that opportunity. Before joining the Diamondbacks in 2016, Sawdaye worked for 15 years in the Red Sox front office, and he played a huge hand in the team’s scouting and player development success. In fact, it shouldn’t be seen as a coincidence that Boston’s farm system has thinned out considerably since he’s left, while Arizona has become one of the better organizations when it comes to developing young players. Essentially, in Sawdaye, you’re getting someone who is proficient in the most important area (player development), as well as an executive who has played a major role with multiple successful front offices. Diamondbacks fans are certainly hoping that he continues to get passed on for these openings, but for any team run by an owner using common sense, he should be a top candidate; he’s the perfect blend of a safe hire with considerable upside.

#4: Matt Arnold, Milwaukee Brewers

mattarnold
Photo Cred: MLB.Com

Age: 40

Current Title: Senior Vice President & Assistant General Manager

Main Strength: Analytically-Inclined With Lots of Experience in Smart Organizations

40-years-old, 19 years of experience, and exposure to some of the league’s smartest front offices; what does Matt Arnold not have on his resume? Currently, he’s David Steran’s top lieutenant in Milwaukee, who have been able to build a consistent winner based on unorthodox strategies, which is also true of the Rays- he worked with Tampa from 2006 to 2015. After starting out as a scout, he’s worked his way up the ladder, playing a key role in play development, biomechanics, scouting, and improving a front office’s use of analytics. At this point, there isn’t anything left for Arnold to prove. Outside of the top tier, which is reserved for blockbuster hires, he ranks as the best candidate to run his own front office.

Tier 1- It’s unclear if these three executives are available, but if they are, how could you not hire them?

#3: David Forst, Oakland A’s

forst
Photo Cred: The Mercury News

Age: 40

Current Title: General Manager

Main Strength: 18 Years Working With Billy Beane

We’re all aware of the movie (and book), Moneyball, which highlights the work of Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta, but one executive that has never gotten the credit he deserves in Oakland is David Forst. For the past 18 years, the Harvard graduate has worked in various departments for the A’s, but one thing is for certain- he has a significant influence on their personnel decisions. Whether it be with scouting or player acquisitions, Forst has all the skills you’re looking for, and comes from a small-market organization with tremendous principles. Now, he recently signed a contract extension and has turned down interviews in the past, but if he ever wants to leave Beane’s shadow, Owners should be calling him immediately.

#2: Mike Chernoff, Cleveland Indians

chernoff
Photo Cred: CBS Sports

Age: 39

Current Title: General Manager

Main Strength: Has a Prominent Role In a Tremendous Front Office

Speaking of general managers who will be hard to poach from a small-market organization, Mike Chernoff has declined multiple interview requests in the past, so his availability is in serious question. However, he may be open to leaving in the right situation, and if so, the Indians’ recent success should be all he needs on his resume. Cleveland is remarkable when it comes to drafting and player development, especially on the pitching side, and since 2010, he’s been a key part of that. Really, I don’t know what else there is to be said. Big-market organizations should envy the work of teams like the Indians, who maximize their available resources with small-market principles, primarily responsibility and leveraging every advantage they can. If Chernoff is available, he’s a no-brainer hire.

#1: Thad Levine, Minnesota Twins

thadlevine
Photo Cred: Twins Daily

Age: 48

Current Title: Senior Vice President, General Manager

Main Strength: Super Smart, Practically Already Running His Own Front Office

The easiest transitions when becoming the top executive executive come from those who served in a very collaborative role with their higher-up co-worker, as we’ve seen recently with Farhan Zaidi, Mike Elias, David Stearns, and several others. Right now, Thad Levine and president of baseball operations Derek Falvey appear to each have significant influence on the team’s decision making, but since Falvey holds a stronger title, we can’t rule out the chance the right team has the chance to steal Levine away from the Rays. The Twins are an organization that have really transformed their use of analytics, and it correlates tremendously to when Levine and Falvey took over in 2016. Together, they’ve built a deep roster that rightfully prioritizes offense over defense, which isn’t surprising. After all, Levine worked for 11 years as the Rangers’ assistant general manager during their years of prominence, and, in total, has over 20 years of experience. When the only issue about a candidate is if they’re attainable, it’s usually a good sign that they’re an easy target. He just signed a contract extension, but could he be interesting going back to the Rockies, where he started his front-office career? Only time will tell.

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