The end of Major League Baseball's regular season means, among other things, the beginning of the hiring and firing season for the brain trust positions. Over the past handful of weeks, the Los Angeles Angels and Philadelphia Phillies have had their general manager roles become available, while the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox have joined the Detroit Tigers as the teams with managerial vacancies. Others, like the New York Mets, could soon follow suit.
One of the side effects of the "Moneyball" era has been the glamorization (and, at times, fetishization) of the general manager position. It used to be that the manager was viewed as the organization's "boss." Not anymore. The manager, after all, answers to the GM; the GM does not, usually, answer to the manager. Plus, the GM gets to pick the players; it's a sweet gig. It's also an important gig, one that helps to shape the rest of the organization's baseball operations.
As such, we've spent the past couple of weeks asking league insiders who they thought should (and would) garner consideration for GM openings both this winter and heading forward. Our one rule for inclusion was this: the individual in question could not have already been a GM in order to qualify for the list -- hence no Dave Dombrowski, no Jeff Luhnow and no Josh Byrnes.
Below, you'll find eight individuals, plus several honorable mentions, who could well become your favorite team's next GM. (Note that the individuals are listed in alphabetical order.)
1. Dana Brown, vice president of scouting, Atlanta Braves
Brown's baseball career started on the field. He played three minor-league seasons with the Phillies as an outfielder before transitioning to a scouting role. He's since compiled an impressive résumé that includes drafting more than 40 big-leaguers and seven All-Stars for the Nationals and the Blue Jays. He's regarded as a keen evaluator of front-office talent, too, as many of Atlanta's top executives received their starts through him. Brown has interviewed for several vacant jobs before; he's arguably the most qualified individual on this list.
2. Randy Flores, director of scouting and assistant general manager, St. Louis Cardinals
You might remember Flores from his time in the majors: he pitched in parts of eight big-league seasons, serving primarily as a left-handed specialist. He's here for more reasons than his playing background. Before taking control of the Cardinals' scouting department, he had stints as a coach and a broadcaster, and he even founded a video- and data-heavy scouting service that was a precursor to Synergy and some of the other modern equivalents. Flores is considered to be a well-rounded evaluator who could make the leap to GM sooner than later.
3. Dan Kantrovitz, director of scouting, Chicago Cubs
Kantrovitz just joined the Cubs last offseason. Prior to that, he had ping-ponged between the Cardinals and Athletics organizations for most of two decades, working in a variety of scouting and analytical roles. It's worth noting that while Kantrovitz attended an Ivy (Brown), his baseball career started as a player: he was St. Louis' 25th-round pick in 2001. A shoulder injury shortly thereafter ended his chances of making the Show, but things worked out for him.
4. Billy Owens, director of player personnel and assistant general manager, Oakland Athletics
If you read "Moneyball" then you might remember how Michael Lewis introduced Owens by writing that he was "what you'd get if you hammered Shaquille O'Neal with a pile driver until he stood six foot two." That's not a particularly kind way of describing someone, which is too bad because Owens is regarded throughout the league as a quality human being. He's a baseball lifer, too, having racked up the miles as a minor-league player, coach, scout and so on. Within the industry, he's considered one of the favorites for the Mets job if and when it becomes available.
5. Jared Porter, senior vice president and assistant general manager, Arizona Diamondbacks
Porter is one of two Diamondbacks executives named to this list. He's had the good fortune of working for both the Red Sox (where he first became familiar with Arizona GM Mike Hazen) and the Cubs, and he has four World Series rings as a result. Porter has held numerous roles in scouting and development departments. He's also a history major, and while that doesn't mean a whole lot, it's arguably more interesting than the traditional "business major" background.
6. Pete Putila, assistant general manager, Houston Astros
For reasons that are more obvious than not, the Astros seldom draw rave reviews from individuals with opposing teams. Putila is one of the few exceptions. He's worked his way up the ladder since joining Houston as an intern in 2011, spending a lot of his time on the player development and scouting side, where he helped integrate analytics and advanced technology. We would note that owners might have reservations about hiring anyone from the Astros given the sign-stealing scandal, but it doesn't seem to matter. Both Luhnow and A.J. Hinch's names are part of the rumor mill and Putila himself interviewed for multiple GM openings last winter.
7. Steve Sanders, assistant general manager, Pittsburgh Pirates
One of Ben Cherington's first hires in Pittsburgh was Sanders, who, despite being in his early 30s, had served as the point guard for multiple drafts with the Blue Jays. (Those classes netted the Blue Jays Nate Pearson and Jordan Groshans, among others.) The move made sense: Cherington and Sanders had shared front offices not only with Toronto, but with Boston. Should Sanders continue on his current trajectory, he'll be hiring his own version of himself in no time.
8. Amiel Sawdaye, senior vice president and assistant general manager, Arizona Diamondbacks
Sawdaye is another Arizona executive who receives buzz as a future general manager candidate. (Mike Fitzgerald, the club's vice president of research and development, gets his share as well.) As with Porter, Sawdaye originally worked with Hazen during their time in Boston. He's done a lot of heavy lifting on the scouting side of things and has three World Series rings to his name.
Others who received nominations: Matt Arnold, senior vice president and assistant general manager, Milwaukee Brewers; Bobby Heck, special assistant to the GM, Tampa Bay Rays; Kevin Ibach, senior director of pro personnel and pro scouting, Tampa Bay Rays; Jason McLeod, senior vice president of player personnel, Chicago Cubs; Kim Ng, senior vice president of baseball operations, Major League Baseball; Damon Oppenheimer, vice president and director of amateur scouting, New York Yankees; Peter Woodfork, senior vice president of on-field operations, Major League Baseball.