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An actual update on the GM search

There’s news about who’s being considered for the role of Farhan Zaidi’s lieutenant. Does the list help us figure out the team’s direction?

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For the first time since the process began, we have an idea of who the Giants are actually looking at to fill the open General Manager job. I’ve avoided speculating about that too much because 1) I have no idea what the qualifications are for a GM in the age of Baseball Operations Presidents and 2) analytics-driven baseball has taught me that I don’t actually know what constitutes “qualified” for players and execs and the answer might be different for every team.

So, we’ll do what we’ve done with the manager search and try to divine the team’s plan based on the rumored candidates. All three of these names have been reported by Ken Rosenthal, about as reliable a source on baseball industry talk as we will ever have.

Scott Harris, Cubs AGM

The 32-year old Redwood City native was promoted to the Cubs’ Assistant GM role in January 2018. Prior to that, he was their Director of Baseball Operations from 2012-2017, which means he has a ring. Before that, he worked for the league office as the Coordinator, Major League Operations.

Not on his LinkedIn profile but contained in this article:

Harris worked for the Washington Nationals (2008), Cincinnati Reds (2010) and also served as coordinator of minor league operations for Major League Baseball before joining the Cubs in 2012.

Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic wrote a glowing profile of Harris last March (subscription required), which provides this nugget:

“When I was in college, I wrote letters to every team,” Harris said. “Every president or GM. I didn’t know anyone in the game, so this was a pipe dream. I got a few letters back and had a few serendipitous encounters with people in the game. One was with Al Rosen.”

Rosen helped him land that internship with the Nationals in 2008, and after it ended, he went back to finish his undergrad, went to Columbia’s business school, got an offer to work for the Cubs, moved to Chicago, and completed his masters at Northwestern’s business school.

Per the Cubs’ media guide,

. . . in his current role, he assists President Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer with all potential player acquisitions, contract negotiations, and player evaluations . . . Scott also oversees the research and development department, the salary arbitration process, all baseball operations’ financial strategy and planning, and the high performance department.

Forgive me for zeroing in on the “financial strategy and planning” part of his background, but that’s an interesting line on a resume in the modern age of baseball. It’s probably the MLB equivalent of “cap manager”.

Anyway, a young, business-savvy, and fiscally prudent contract wizard as the next GM suggests that the Giants could be looking for someone who can spin concepts into reality.

Pete Putila, Farm Director, Astros

The Athletic profiled him as part of their 35 under 35 series (subscription required), so he’s young (30). I’ll just excerpt one part of it to help us out with his resume:

Putila’s job is akin to a farm director, but the Astros wrote his title as such because he has also been involved with player development at the major-league level. Ultimately, though, Putila’s main focus is the minor leagues. He spends much of the season at the team’s various affiliates — typically, it’s two trips to each — or at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic.

He was actually hired by former Astros GM Ed Wade to be a team intern, so, his ascent has occurred during the Luhnowball era, suggesting that, unlike the Astros’ former assistant GM, Putila has a modicum of humanity in his behavior towards other people (though, that’s just speculation).

Zaidi mentioned in the season-ending press conference that it would make sense for the next GM and manager to be on the same page, which suggests there’s a decent chance that Putila and Joe Espada could be the guys to land those respective jobs. At the very least, one could put in a good word with the other.

He does not have an Ivy League education, which . . . hey, that’s different. Also different: according to his LinkedIn, he was a member of his college’s soccer team.

Kevan Graves, Pirates AGM

The beauty of looking at a GM candidate who is the same age as me is that I can see where our paths diverged and why I’m here and why he’s a candidate to be the next GM of the San Francisco Giants. First, of course, is that Graves was a successful college athlete, a pitcher for Dartmouth College.

He’s been with the Pirates for the last 11 years, working his way up from Baseball Ops Assistant to Assistant Director of Baseball Ops to Director of Baseball Ops to Assistant GM (in 2016) and, finally, to interim GM.

The 38-year old Berkeley native has already made some moves as the interim GM, too:

  • traded pitcher Parker Markel to the Dodgers for cash considerations
  • claimed pitcher Sam Howard off waivers from the Rockies
  • exercised $11.5 million team option for Starling Marte
  • exercised $9 million team option for Chris Archer

Two of those weren’t tough calls to make, but the other two certainly involved the level of work required of a GM. Trades require conversations and a sense of what’s being given up and what’s being gained, and waiver claims require trusting staff resources and understanding the roster situation.

He has the experience, he has the Bay Area ties, he even started his career with a job in the Giants’ legal department right out of college. Don’t believe me? See his LinkedIn profile. I moved to LA after college and read screenplays for free. I think it’s clear from this comparison that as unpredictable as life can be sometimes, we set our own paths and create our own opportunities.

Graves has set himself up to have any number of baseball executive opportunities now and in the future. He’s being considered for the Pirates’ open GM position following the termination of Neal Huntington, too. He’s a graduate of Baseball’s Diversity and Inclusion Executive Development Program, too (as was Farhan Zaidi), which suggests he’d bring a different perspective to the entire process of running a baseball team. He’s put himself in a strong position to become the next GM somewhere.

Relatively young, but not as young as the rest of the field, but with plenty of experience already and a lot in common with Farhan Zaidi . . . he would seem to be a great fit for the job. Interesting to note that there is not a glowing profile of him at The Athletic and I couldn’t find a video interview of him on YouTube. I did, however, find this Crossfit Games profile which could belong to him . . .

So, we can see these common traits:

  • Younger than Farhan
  • Ties to the Bay Area
  • Worked for the Astros or Cubs
  • Must love contracts

We won’t know who the favorite is or even if this is the final candidate list (wither Billy Owens of the A’s?) until the actual hire is made, so in the meantime, let’s speculate away. Who’s your choice and why?