The new general manager role under Dave Dombrowski is going to be tricky sledding, much as it is with other “president of baseball operations” roles around baseball.
In some cases, the GM is essentially the assistant GM, but with a bigger paycheck. The guy in Boston who makes the deals and signs the free agents will be Dombrowski. He’s not going to relinquish those duties; that’s why he took the job and didn’t take on any business duties, as was the case in Detroit.
The Red Sox’ new model will be very similar to the Chicago Cubs’ model. Theo Epstein is in charge of baseball operations, personnel, you name it, and GM Jed Hoyer is basically Epstein’s assistant and handles lesser duties such as implementing rules, putting players on waivers, recalling a player from the minors, and some of the minutia involved in the everyday running of a big league team.
Boston’s new GM will certainly have input in deals, signings, and team composition. He’ll be the equivalent of a bench coach to the manager. He’ll offer suggestions, come up with ideas for Dombrowski to mull. He may coordinate the pro scouting of trade targets, etc. But as it is with Epstein, Dombrowski will have the juice.
It’s slightly different in Arizona, where Tony La Russa likely gives GM Dave Stewart more power in player personnel, with La Russa having the final say. Philadelphia will be an interesting study as Andy MacPhail also seems inclined to allow his GM to make the daily moves.
Who will Dombrowski put into place as Red Sox GM? The overwhelming consensus is that Frank Wren ends up with the job. Dombrowski and Wren have a working relationship that goes back to Montreal, when Wren was the scouting director for Dombrowski. They were also together in Miami when the Marlins won the 1997 World Series. Last year in Detroit, Dombrowski brought Wren in to speak to his minor league staff.
Wren, the former Orioles and Braves GM, was dismissed by Atlanta a year ago after a couple of bad deals. He signed Melvin Upton to a five-year, $75 million contract and Upton went belly-up, hitting .198 with the Braves before being dealt prior to this season. Wren also signed 35-year-old Derek Lowe to a four-year, $60 million deal. Lowe gave them one good year before his skills declined and the Braves eventually ate the remainder of the deal.
Two other busts for Wren were the signings of Japanese righty Kenshin Kawakami, who went 8-22, and Dan Uggla, whose bat became such a liability Wren had to ask ownership to eat the final $18 million on his contract.
Wren also traded Mark Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Steven Marek.
Wren did a lot of good things for the Braves as well. He helped Atlanta make the playoffs in 2010, 2012, and 2013. The Braves won 94 games in 2012 and 96 games and the National League East title in 2013.
He obtained Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan for four prospects. He obtained Jordan Walden for Tommy Hanson. He got Michael Bourn for four fringe major leaguers. He obtained Justin Upton and Chris Johnson from the Diamondbacks for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, and Nick Ahmed.
Wren also has strong administrative skills, a scouting background, and great knowledge of the rules of the game.
The consensus among those who know him is that he’ll be better with someone above him.
Other potential candidates for the Red Sox GM job:
■ Dan O’Dowd, former Rockies GM — O’Dowd said he loves working as an analyst at MLB Network and has no idea whether Dombrowski would consider him for a job. O’Dowd said he does miss team building and appears to have a good relationship with Dombrowski away from baseball.
■ J.P. Ricciardi, assistant GM, Mets — The former Blue Jays GM has enjoyed success building the Mets with Sandy Alderson. He lives in the Worcester area, loves the Red Sox, and has the urge to be a GM again. Between the Mets and Blue Jays, Ricciardi has a lot of players around baseball. One of his finest — Jose Bautista.
■ Kevin Towers, special assistant, Reds — Towers currently assists GM Walt Jocketty and is seen as his successor when Jocketty retires. Towers is also intriguing because he has San Diego ties with Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and certainly Larry Lucchino. Towers prefers to live on the West Coast and that could be a deterrent.
■ Mike Hazen, Red Sox assistant GM — There’s always the possibility that Dombrowski gets to know Hazen and hires him in a sign of continuity for the organization. Hazen will likely go where Ben Cherington ends up, but an opportunity could exist here.
■ Dave Littlefield, vice president of player development, Tigers — Littlefield was promoted by Al Avila in Detroit, but Littlefield has been a GM (Pirates, 2001-07) and would be someone Dombrowski might consider if he moves off of Wren.
■ Jerry Dipoto, former Angels GM — Dombrowski is familiar with Dipoto from dealing with him as a GM, but they have not had a working relationship. Dipoto was brought in by Cherington to do an independent evaluation of the Red Sox organization. Dipoto is more analytically oriented and might provide a good balance with Dombrowski.
■ Dan Evans, former Dodgers GM — Evans has worked for five organizations and is currently a scout for the Blue Jays. He has always been one of the brightest men in baseball. He also worked as an agent for a while. The Chicago native would be a solid choice for this job.
■ Jim Hendry, special assistant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman — Hendry was the Cubs GM before Theo Epstein arrived. He’s done a great job for Cashman, recommending talent for the big league team. He was a special assistant to Dombrowski in Florida.
■ Allard Baird, senior vice president/player personnel, Red Sox — Baird is a former GM who dealt with Dombrowski for many years. He’s part of the current evaluation fabric with the Red Sox, which may work against him. But he’s a veteran baseball guy, the type Dombrowski likes.
■ Wayne Krivsky, special assistant to Twins GM Terry Ryan — He has the right temperament to work with Dombrowski. Very similar in their beliefs. Krivsky, the former Reds GM, suffered one of the more unjust firings in recent memory with the Reds.
■ Omar Minaya, senior adviser for players’ association — The former Expos and Mets GM is one of the best talent evaluators in baseball, responsible for some of the Mets’ young talent.
Planning for Park
Next Korean star on his way?
The success of Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang is a good thing for his former teammate in South Korea, Nexen Heroes first baseman Byung-ho Park.
Park, 29, entered the weekend boasting a .350 average with 101 runs, 43 homers, 116 RBIs, and a 1.171 OPS. He hit .303 with 52 homers in 2014.
Agent Alan Nero, who also represented Kang, says that the righthanded-hitting Park will go through the same posting system as Kang, a leading contender for NL Rookie of the Year.
The Pirates paid Nexen a $5.002 million posting fee. Nero negotiated a four-year, $16 million deal with the Pirates. The numbers could be similar or a little higher for Park.
“We’re just preparing for the process right now,” Nero said. “We believe there’s going to be a lot of interest as there was with Kang. Major league teams certainly covet righthanded power.”
Listed at 6 feet 1 inch, 236 pounds, Park has raw power. He does strike out a lot — 142 times last season, 128 this year — but also draws his share of walks.
The Red Sox have been scouting him for most of the season. One scenario for the Red Sox, should they win the posting, would be to platoon him at first base with lefthanded-hitting Travis Shaw. It might be a cheaper alternative than pursuing Chris Davis or Justin Morneau in free agency. Shaw has hit very well since his recall, but he remains unproven.
Statistics in Korea are tremendously inflated. Kang, for instance, was a 40-home run shortstop for Nexen, but has 12 homers for the Pirates.
The A’s are another team that has shown interest in Park.
And the Pirates, given their possible need for a first baseman, could also be in on him.
Apropos of nothing
1. Jim Lonborg, Cy Young Award winner for the 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox, will be a starting pitcher Thursday night at the 22d annual Abbot Financial Management Oldtime Baseball Game at St. Peter’s Field in North Cambridge. The game serves as a fund-raiser for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Lonborg will be among three former big leaguers in the game, joining former Red Sox infielder Lou Merloni and Peabody native Matt Antonelli, who played for the San Diego Padres in 2008. Admission is free. This event has been a labor of love for Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley.
2. There was a theory out there that Red Sox ownership hired Dave Dombrowski quickly to perhaps allow him more time to dump Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Fat chance. Sandoval’s postseason magic could be of value, but the Red Sox would have to eat major money and that may not be in the cards.
3. One the trickiest discussions and/or decisions this offseason is how Dombrowski deals with John Farrell, who is undergoing cancer treatments. Like any incoming head of baseball, eventually he wants his own on-field staff.
4. It’s great when people who really earn it get their dream job. That’s what happened to Al Avila, who should be credited with the Marlins signing Miguel Cabrera as a 16-year-old.
Avila and Dombrowski were together a long time and made some pretty strong deals together.
5. Still mind-boggling that the Red Sox had a chance to sign Nelson Cruz and they opted for Ramirez.
6. My suggestion of trading Xander Bogaerts for Matt Harvey has drawn interesting responses. Mets people hate it because Harvey is a movie star in New York. Red Sox people hate it because they love Bogaerts. Baseball executives mostly think the Mets would need to get more for Harvey. Fascinating discussion.
7. Entering the weekend, 155 pitchers have made at least 10 starts this season. Only 13 of them have gone at least five innings in every start. And only two have pitched at least six innings in every start — the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel (25 starts) and the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke (24). By comparison, in 2014, 182 pitchers made at least 10 starts and 11 of them lasted at least five innings every time out. Only one of the 11 from last year also made the list this year: Keuchel, who completed five frames in each of his 29 starts in 2014.
Updates on nine
1. Alejandro De Aza, OF, Red Sox — De Aza cleared waivers and both the Dodgers and Giants had interest, but the feeling was the asking price was too high.
2. Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox — It appears Christian Vazquez may need some time in the minors after he returns from Tommy John surgery, so the Red Sox may go with a Swihart/Ryan Hanigan combo next season, at least at the start. One conversation the Red Sox will have in the offseason will be possibly introducing Swihart to another position so he can get at-bats when he’s not catching.
Is that first base? Third base? Outfield? This could be an intriguing discussion.
3. Mark Shapiro, president, Indians — You can see why the Blue Jays want to speak to Shapiro about being team president. Shapiro is one of the smartest guys in the game, and has helped rebuild Progressive Field. But the Indians simply can’t draw fans.
4. Scott Reid, Tigers adviser — He’s someone mentioned as a potential adviser to Dave Dombrowski in Boston. Reid has worked with Dombrowski for a long time and he also has similar allegiances to Al Avila. To this point, Dombrowski has not asked Avila for permission to speak to some of the Tigers executives, many of whom received promotions after Dombrowski left.
5. Clay Buchholz, RHP, Red Sox — Ben Cherington probably would have picked up the $13 million option on Buchholz. But will Dombrowski? Buchholz has been injury-prone throughout his career, and has never pitched 200 innings or made 30 starts in a season. “If he’s out there [in free agency], he gets signed right away as a second-tier bargain-type pitcher. He wouldn’t get the $20 mil [but] be around $15 million on a three-year deal,” said an AL general manager.
“If you need depth in your pitching, you can afford a half-year out of him. He pitches well when he’s healthy.”
6. John Lackey, RHP, Cardinals — According to sources close to Lackey, he wants to stay in the National League because he’s found that it’s much easier to pitch there. Having an excellent season, Lackey should recoup the money lost on his major league minimum deal this season. The Cardinals have interest in bringing him back, but he hits free agency at 37 years old and the Cardinals won’t extend too far in contract length.
7. Cherington, former GM, Red Sox — Cherington should have no shortage of job opportunities. With his farm-building skills, the consensus among baseball executives is that the two best places would be Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Also, don’t rule out San Diego, where Padres CEO Mike Dee knows Cherington from their time together with the Red Sox.
8. Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez — Both players passed through waivers and were not claimed. They are free to be dealt but their contracts are prohibitive. The Padres were interested in Sandoval last offseason, but after their poor free agent signings it’s unlikely they would pursue Sandoval again. Ramirez appears to be untradeable. But consider this: Dombrowski was able to deal Prince Fielder two years after giving him a nine-year, $214 million contract, so there’s hope.
9. Johnny Cueto, RHP, Royals — Luis Tiant and Pedro Martinez are big Cueto fans and will likely try to help the Red Sox recruit him in free agency. We’ll see how much rope Dombrowski has from the owners in pursuing an ace — perhaps Cueto or David Price.
From the Bill Chuck files — “The Red Sox were 656-574 (.533) while Dan Duquette was GM; the Sox were 839-619 (.575) while Theo Epstein was GM; and 290-314 (.480) under Ben Cherington.” . . . Happy birthday, Mark Bellhorn (41), Jeff Manto (51), and Mike Boddicker (58).
Unlikely power source
There’s no doubting Madison Bumgarner’s pitching skills after his postseason performance for the ages last season in leading the Giants to a World Series title. Less appreciated is his work in the batter’s box but with five homers this season — after hitting four last season — he’s joined the short list of pitchers with double-digit career homers since the designated hitter began in 1973. And they haven’t been hit against nobodies: he’s gone yard on Dodgers aces Zack Greinke (2014) and Clayton Kershaw (2015).