The Red Sox bypassed Major League Baseball minority hiring rules when they interviewed only Dave Dombrowski for the job of president of baseball operations, but they have been instructed to interview minority candidates for the general manager position.
Team chairman Tom Werner clearly stated at Dombrowski’s introductory news conference that the Red Sox would interview minority candidates after receiving some relief from the rules, citing the fear of losing Dombrowski because the Blue Jays and other teams were close to signing him.
Does this put more pressure on the Red Sox to hire a minority executive? Nobody is saying, but if they are inclined that way, White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams would be at the top of the list if he chose to leave Chicago.
But as the overseer of baseball operations with the White Sox, it’s unlikely Williams would want to work under another executive, even though he respects Dombrowski.
Williams’s role with the White Sox involves the bigger picture, on both the business and baseball sides. He is above general manager Rick Hahn, but it’s no secret that Williams would like to be more involved in the daily decisions.
Williams, who was instrumental in the signing of Cuban slugger Jose Abreu, was rumored last year as a candidate to become president of the Blue Jays, but that talk has died down.
With so few African-Americans in charge of baseball organizations, it would appear Williams, who won a championship in 2005 with the White Sox, would be a desirable choice for teams looking for a Dombrowski-type.
If Dombrowski hadn’t taken the job with the Red Sox, league sources indicate Williams would have jumped at it. Williams could be an option for the Angels or Mariners, who fired GM Jack Zduriencik on Friday.
Williams also could consider Philadelphia, where incoming president Andy MacPhail may be more of an overseer, like Williams is now, than a hands-on GM.
The Brewers appear to be looking for a younger, analytics-oriented GM, which would leave Williams with the Angels or Mariners if he chose to leave.
The issue in Los Angeles would be how a president/GM would get along as the middle man in a Mike Scioscia/Arte Moreno dynamic. Well, think about Williams’s past. He said recently he dealt with the high-strung Ozzie Guillen for years, and while they had their battles they managed to get things done, winning a championship and coming back the next year to win 90 games though not make the playoffs. Williams has often said, “If you can deal with Ozzie, you can deal with anyone.”
There aren’t many minorities running teams. Dave Stewart in Arizona, Mike Hill in Miami, and Al Avila, Dombrowski’s successor in Detroit, are the only ones who hold the title of GM or president of baseball operations.
In the Red Sox’ case, Dombrowski already is said to be considering longtime confidants Frank Wren and Jim Hendry for GM. A minority candidate the Red Sox could interview is De Jon Watson, senior vice present of baseball operations for the Diamondbacks who spent many years with the Dodgers. There’s also Billy Owens, the Athletics’ director of player personnel who has been a loyal lieutenant to Billy Beane for years.
The Pirates have two highly regarded candidates in major league scouts Steve Williams and Tyrone Brooks.
Another possible minority GM candidate is Swampscott’s Peter Woodfork, who is senior vice president of on-field operations for MLB. Woodfork was an executive for the Red Sox and Diamondbacks. There’s also a female candidate, Kim Ng of MLB.
Another name is Omar Minaya, the former Expos and Mets GM who is considered one of the best talent evaluators in baseball and currently works for the Players Association as executive director Tony Clark’s right-hand man. Minaya knows players, which is why he was hired for his current job, but he produced much of the young pitching talent in the Mets’ rotation, as well as much of their lineup, including David Wright.
Minaya certainly enjoys his new role, but a baseball guy is a baseball guy, and he would return for the right job.
MLB would like nothing more than for teams to hire minorities in high-level positions. There also are fewer minority managers. Seattle’s Lloyd McClendon and Atlanta’s Fredi Gonzalez are the only ones, and McClendon could be on shaky ground after Zduriencik’s firing.
This has to be an issue for MLB, which is trying to diversify its front offices and on-field staffs.
Moves not easy near deadline
Leading up to the Aug. 31 roster deadline a couple of things happen: teams try to get last-minute moves done and solve needs that have arisen since the non-waiver trade deadline, and they also consider September call-ups, a controversial topic that has most baseball executives calling for change.
Throughout August, players are passed through waivers. Some are claimed and pulled back. Some are claimed with teams awarded the player. And some are claimed and the teams then work out a deal.
The moves are more difficult because there are waivers involved. Some teams tend to get blocked from access to players they want by teams in front of them in the standings. Claims are awarded based on record (worst to best), and teams have first dibs on waived players in their own league.
What we’ve been able to piece together through baseball sources is that the Yankees, for one, have been blocked in every attempt to add to their bullpen, and to their pitching in general. And GM Brian Cashman doesn’t seem optimistic the Yankees can pull anything off.
The Royals are looking to add a backup catcher for the playoffs just in case something happens to Salvador Perez. They are hoping for a lefthanded-hitting backstop to offset Perez (they said no on A.J. Pierzynski) but aren’t willing to take on too much money.
While some scouts in their organization feel the Red Sox’ Ryan Hanigan, though he hits righthanded, would be the perfect choice, his $3.7 million salary next year and an option for 2017 make that prohibitive.
The Mets are also looking to add a reliever, but they too have been blocked by teams making claims on players. The Rangers are looking for offense, the Twins for relief help. The Jays are also looking to add to their bullpen but that seems unlikely, as well.
Most GMs and owners want the 40-man roster expansion on Sept. 1 to be modified.
This space suggested revamping rosters for the entire season, expanding to 28 players but using 25. Orioles manager Buck Showalter has suggested a 40-man roster where only 25 can be active on any given day.
It’s the only major sport in which roster sizes change for one month. The feeling is if you’re going to change the roster in September, then just set it at around 30 for the season.
Dave Dombrowski said the arguments have gone on for years and there’s been no resolution. But the feeling is that when the new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated, a decision on a uniform roster size will be reached.
Apropos of nothing
1. The average nine-inning game this season is running some 7½ minutes shorter than last year. Through Wednesday’s games, this year’s average was 2:55, compared with 3:02 in 2014, on pace for the largest drop in one year since 1963. “I think the players have become comfortable with the pace-of-game guidelines, on the one hand,” said commissioner Rob Manfred. “On the other hand, I think we’re in that time of the year when, if you look at the time-of-game statistics, we slide a little bit. So we’re making a really conscious effort to try to keep it at the forefront of the players’ minds as we move into a difficult time of year. And you know, September, with the expansion of the rosters, is the most challenging, obviously.”
2. Ask scouts about Travis Shaw and you get a collective shrug. Fluke or not? One thing is for sure, I’d rather see Shaw at first base for the Red Sox than Hanley Ramirez. Shaw definitely has increased his value and is now more than an add-on in a trade.
3. The Nationals, Padres, Red Sox, Mariners, Reds, Orioles, Indians, and Tigers are expected to be quite active in the trade and free agent markets this winter. The Nationals could do some overhauling of an underachieving roster, and the Padres will have to retool their retooling of last offseason.
4. Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he would gladly be part of the process to hire his replacement if owner Mark Attanasio asks him. “The job has changed so much,” said the 63-year-old Melvin, who will remain with the organization as an adviser, and as a Canadian has been mentioned as a candidate for the job as Blue Jays president. “You’re now overseeing international scouting, scouting, farm system, analytics, the major league team. It’s all-consuming. It’s a huge job for one person.” Melvin is fond of a lot of potential candidates, including former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.
5. Dave Dombrowski hired Brad Ausmus to be Jim Leyland’s successor in Detroit. The other candidates interviewed at the time were Lloyd McClendon, Rick Renteria, and Tim Wallach. It’ll be interesting to see if Leyland might have a role in Dombrowski’s cabinet with the Red Sox, and if Dombrowski makes a change at manager whether this group might surface once again.
6. Dombrowski seems impressed with the Red Sox’ farm system and international operation. Everything else might be up for review and change.
7. Former major leaguer Warren Cromartie, who runs the Montreal Baseball Project, will be in Boston this week to meet with new Red Sox president Sam Kennedy and team ownership. Cromartie is trying to sell Montreal as an expansion or relocation city, while also getting the Red Sox to commit to some exhibition games in Montreal at the end of spring training.
Updates on nine
1. Austin Jackson, OF, Mariners — The Rangers were very interested in acquiring Jackson a few days ago but nothing developed. The Rangers already had acquired Drew Stubbs, signing him to a minor league deal, but Jackson seemed to fit the need in center field.
2. Ben Cherington, former GM, Red Sox — Cherington, according to a major league source, remains in play in at least Philadelphia and Milwaukee, possibly in Los Angeles (Angels), and now in Seattle. “Despite his last-place finishes he’s seen as a team builder, especially when it comes to farm systems,” said the source. Jerry Dipoto could also be a prime candidate in Seattle.
3. David Price, LHP, Blue Jays — The Rogers Corporation finally woke up and spent big to overhaul the roster at the deadline. The feeling is if the Jays can find a way to sign Price long term, and also tie up Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion beyond next year, they should be a powerhouse in the American League East for some time.
4. Mark Buehrle, LHP, Blue Jays — Suddenly Buehrle has made himself a valuable commodity in the free agent market. Before the season, the Jays shuddered at having to pay him $20 million in the final year of his contract. Now they are hoping they can keep him. Buehrle is 36, but with 165 innings he’s likely to throw his 15th straight season of 200. He’s also 13-6 with a 3.60 ERA and 1.182 WHIP. He also leads the majors with four complete games. The 212-game winner was a 38th-round pick in the 1998 draft. Said one major league GM, “We talk about innings eaters, but he’s more than that. He wins.”
5. Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Brewers — Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin indicated there was some mild interest in K-Rod at the trade deadline, but it seemed teams were more focused on starters and hitters. Could he be moved before the roster deadline?
6. Rich Hill, LHP, Pawtucket — Hill, now 35, has reinvented himself as a starting pitcher. He’s more over-the-top in his delivery, throwing 92-94 miles per hour, and still possesses an outstanding 12-6 curveball. Hill has won his first three starts with the PawSox. He joined the Long Island Ducks after the Nationals released him in June after posting a 2.91 ERA with 32 strikeouts (21 walks) over 21⅔ innings at Triple A. Hill is being scouted by Japanese teams and could make that transition, but for now Hill looks pretty impressive at 2-1 with a 0.93 ERA.
7. Mark Shapiro, president, Indians — The chatter was even stronger this past week than last that Shapiro is heading to Toronto as team president. It would be a major coup for the Blue Jays, as Shapiro has built a solid baseball operation in Cleveland. He would be leaving a team that many in baseball believe could be a powerhouse as early as next season because of their pitching. “If they get some offense, look out,” said one American League GM. Indians manager Terry Francona does have an opt-out in his contract if Shapiro takes another job, but Chris Antonetti, another Francona favorite, would likely move into Shapiro’s role.
8. Jerry Dipoto, former GM, Angels — Dipoto is executing his three-month contract with the Red Sox, evaluating Boston’s farm system and major league team. Dipoto had been hired by Cherington, and Dombrowski did not nix it once he took over, probably welcoming an outside look at the personnel.
9. Jack Zduriencik, former GM, Mariners — It didn’t click for Zduriencik in seven seasons in Seattle. The Mariners just missed the playoffs last season. If they had made it and performed well this season, Zduriencik would still have his job. The Robinson Cano contract hasn’t paid dividends, as the second baseman killed the offense with a poor start this season. Zduriencik is still a good scouting guy and he’s likely to be hired in that capacity now that he’s available.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Josh Donaldson has driven home 41 since the break; his Red Sox counterpart at third base, Pablo Sandoval, has driven home 41 all season.” Also, “No division in the wild-card era has had three teams 20 games under .500; keep your eyes on the Braves, Marlins, and Phillies in the NL East.” . . . Happy birthday, Steven Wright (31), Marlon Byrd (38), Andy Merchant (65), and Carmen Fanzone (74).
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.