We’re just two days shy of David Bell’s 1-year anniversary with the Giants as their Vice President of Player Development and it looks like that might be just about it for him with the organization. Per the Cincinnati Enquirer, he’s a finalist for the open managerial positions of both the Reds and the Blue Jays.
Now, there are no guarantees, of course. We’ve all been finalists for something and then... just never heard back. Have to imagine the baseball industry, with its close knit community feel, issues rejections a bit more formally (maybe just an email with a .gif of Tom Hallion’s called third strike) and, generally, far less frequently for people of Bell’s pedigree.
I’m talking about nepotism, of course. His father, Buddy Bell, is the senior adviser to Reds’ GM Nick Krall and the Bell family has been in baseball for over 60 years. The preferred term, of course, is “Baseball Lifer.”
Back in August, Dusty Baker told Ken Rosenthal that the biggest problem with the way managers are hired these days has to do with the lack of prior coaching experience. Bell blasts through that Baker limit. Not only does his farm director work make him appealing to a rebuilding team, his experience as a hitting coach and bench coach in St. Louis before joining the Giants really gives him an advantage over many other candidates.
As cutting edge as the Brewers and Cubs have been the Cardinals have slow and steadied their way to being a dominant talent and developmental force in the division. The Reds might prefer someone who can handle young talent for their rebuilding roster.
His departure would obviously present a setback for the not rebuilding but definitely rebuilding Giants:
Bell will oversee the entire operations of all of the organization’s minor league clubs and have major influence on the process in which the Giants go about developing their players.
“He’ll oversee everything from hitting to pitching and strength and conditioning,” Evans said. “He’ll report to me, so he’ll have input on how close guys are to being ready to come up to majors. He’ll be overseeing all staff assignments and roles guys will play in working with our players. We think he can strengthen philosophies on hitting and pitching and make sure those are consistent throughout the minors.”
Melissa Lockard interviewed Bell last month for The Athletic (subscription) and we learned a lot about how he revamped the system and how it approaches managing talent. Of course the new Baseball Ops person will want to put their own stamp on the organization by hiring their own people, but there was always the possibility that they’d want to take a year “to evaluate the organization”.
It’s hard to know all the dynamics in play with the situation — obviously, the Giants were happy to get Bell and maybe Bobby Evans offered him the job in hopes of keeping him around to manage the team in 2020. The same could be said with Hensley Meulens’ promotion to bench coach amidst the coaching staff shakeup from last offseason.
Evans’ design is clearly out the window now, of course, and regardless of what happens as a result of that, the Giants are clearly going through a rough patch. Consecutive years of front office and coaching turnover are just the beginning. There will be at least a couple more years of big changes ahead for the team.
Then again, maybe the whole mechanism needs a good, swift kick in its 20-80s. As Grant pointed out in this article he wrote before he left us forever:
The reason the Giants spent the offseason making expensive trades for Longoria and McCutchen is because they didn’t have the prospects to deal for Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuna.
Obviously, Dereck Rodriguez (not drafted by the team and barely “developed”) and Andrew Suarez were huge success stories that Grant couldn’t have predicted, but the gist of the argument is still well-considered: with few exceptions, the farm system hasn’t churned out useful depth in nearly a decade.
Good luck to Meulens and Bell. They’ve certainly earned a shot to manage, and while the Twins and Reds aren’t “sexy” destinations, they both present opportunities to make a name.