Candidates for the Chicago General Manager Job

Jim Hendry has been relieved of his duties as general manager of the Chicago Cubs. We’ll have plenty of time to look back on his place in GM history, but for now, let’s look forward. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts gave us the checklist today, when he said that he was looking for a candidate who had analytical experience in a winning front office and who would focus on player development. Time to rank the potential replacements using those requirements.

1. Rick Hahn, vice-president/assistant general manager of the Chicago White Sox
Sports Illustrated already ranked Hahn as baseball’s No. 1 GM candidate earlier this year, so there’s no groundbreaking stuff here. There are plenty of reasons to like Hahn’s resume, especially the education part. Hahn went from the University of Michigan to Harvard Law and then Kellogg Graduate School at Northwestern University. The last stop was a redirect — he was interested in getting into baseball, so he went to business school with that intention. Lest you think Hahn is being set up as a spreadsheet man, he’s a guy with an obvious passion for the game. As a 12-year-old Cubs fan, he was writing then-GM Dallas Green with trade ideas. Integral to the acquisitions of Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez, he’s not easy to pigeonhole, either. Hahn has had his name connected with the New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals jobs in the past few years, but this is a natural connection. A life-long Cubs fan with a different approach than Hendry’s, a track record of success, the ability to negotiate contracts, an eye for scouting and an analytical experience in the same town? Come on. Hahn’s the obvious front-runner for this job, if he wants it. And we’re not just saying that because he was an excellent panelist at the FanGraphs event in Arizona this year (although that does speak well of his media savvy).

2. Thad Levine, assistant general manager for the Texas Rangers
A former captain on the Haverford College basbeall team, Levine also has an MBA and experience negotiating contracts and providing statistical analysis for the Dodgers, Rockies and now Rangers. While his application might suffer a bit in local connections (compared to Hahn’s), Levine’s record has the benefit of recency. His work as Dan O’Dowd‘s right-hand man in Colorado was a huge part of that teams’ turnaround; and those familiar with Levine cite his charisma as something that might separate him from other numbers-based candidates. Texas is atop its division and he’s done his part to get the team there. He did just agree to a four-year extension with the Rangers; he doesn’t quite have Hahn’s public profile; and he hasn’t been as involved in scouting and player development as some other candidates. But the Rangers’ and Rockies’ successes speak well for him.

3. John Coppolella, director of baseball administration for the Atlanta Braves
This might be a surprising ranking for Coppolella, whose name hasn’t made the top of many high-profile GM-prospect rankings. But hidden within Ricketts’ checklist is a challenge to the field: By listing both player development and analytics, the team has signaled that he wants a GM who has a foot in both worlds. Count Coppolella among those matches. He developed the statistical systems for the Braves, known as an organization that trusts its scouts. He was the assistant director of pro scouting for the Yankees before he joined the Braves. Throughout his career, he’s demonstrated the ability to match scouting knowledge with the best available numbers and come to strong conclusions. The Braves have a record of success that helps him make his case, too, and Atlanta’s ability to plug homegrown players into important roles speaks loudest for Coppolella’s candidacy. The Notre Dame grad is good with the media and is in his early 30s — making him among the younger candidates on the list — which are both good qualities for a rebuilding team.

4. Kim Ng, senior vice-president for baseball operations with Major League Baseball
A University of Chicago grad, Ng has some local connections that might appeal to Ricketts. That isn’t to say the rest of her resume doesn’t stack up. She ran analytics for the White Sox as far back as 1996, when she was the youngest person to ever present an arbitration case. (In fact, she’s supposedly beaten Scott Boras in an arbitration hearing, which is a nice bullet point.) Then she was made the youngest assistant GM in baseball when the Yankees hired her in 1997. She went from large market to large market when she moved to the Dodgers in 2001. She’s interviewed for the Dodgers’, Padres’ and Mariners’ GM jobs to no avail, so it’s natural to wonder if baseball is ready for a female GM. Her player development experience also is unclear. One thing should be certain, though. Her move from the Dodgers to the league office is not a step back in her mind. She made clear that she still wants to be a GM and cited Sandy Alderson’s move from the same office to a front office job when taking her position with the league.

There are many more qualified candidates than we can profile here. Six-year assistant GM David Forst might be interviewed, as he graduated from scouting into the Oakland front office — a career path that suggest a comfort with both scouting and stats. Jerry DiPoto has been the head of scouting in Arizona, and he’s comfortable with statistical analysis. But is he strong with numbers? Michael Chernoff in the Indians front office is good with the media and the spreadsheet, but he doesn’t have the most experience on this list. Ben Cherington was a scout and works with Theo Epstein in Boston, and was even the interim GM there. A dark-horse candidate might be Seattle assistant GM Jeff Kingston. Pat Gillick has been mentioned, but is he up for a long-term rebuild? Ned Colletti has been bandied about, as well, but it’s unclear that he has the statistical chops to hang with this group.

One thing is for certain: If Ricketts is serious about more commitment to statistical analysis, then that alone is a good sign for the organization. Maybe someone on this list will help the team find what they lost so long ago.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

35 Responses to “Candidates for the Chicago General Manager Job”

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  1. R says:

    I think the Colletti name-throwing is mostly just us Dodgers fans playing out our wildest fantasies.

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  2. AbnerDoubleday says:

    Hey Dodger fans, if you’re ready to get rid of Ned Colletti, we’ll take him. He’s was raised on the Cubs, worked for them, then built winners in San Fran and LA. Anybody who can do what he did working with McCourt is a miracle worker and that’s what we need in Cubbieland.

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  3. Shawn says:

    No way in hell do i want Colletti. I want someone younger. Stats is number one to me right now. We got scouting directors who will help out all they need to. Stats is where we have been lacking. Id love someone from Bostons Front office to come here,

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  4. Robbie314 says:

    David Littlefield is rested,tanned, and ready -and he’s already a Cub! I think this is an obvious choice for such a proud organization.


    A Pirates Fan

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  5. Dan says:

    I want Andrew Friedman

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  6. Randy says:

    DePodesta and Byrnes would crush if given the Cub’s payroll.

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  7. Colin says:

    What no PhD from Oxford Rick Hahn? Jeez.

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  8. Tim says:

    Sources saying Ricketts’ has 4 candidates in mind including Rick Hahn and Brian Cashman.

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  9. Ken Bland says:

    I feel like the Cubs oughta go after Dutch Rennert.

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  10. CJ says:

    Ed Wade may be out of a job when the Astros new ownership takes over. He has lots of experience and knows the NL Central. There’s a candidate.

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  11. bellerophon says:

    Kim Ng? Are you joking? The woman couldn’t get the GM job with the Dodgers, Mariners, or Padres, but somehow she’s supposed to be a candidate for one of the highest profile GM jobs there is, if not the most challenging GM job in all of baseball? Give me a break. This job would eat her alive inside of a week. And so what if she went to the University of Chicago? If we’re using Chicago connections as the basis for being an ideal candidate, Rick Hahn has her beat by a mile. Hell, the guy grew up a Cubs fan. He’s a local guy. He’s everything Chicago-wise she will never be.

    Rick Hahn, Andrew Friedman, Brian Cashman, Ben Cherington. THESE are serious GM candidates for the Cubs, and are definitely going to be considered. Not Kim Ng. The Cubs are a not a test bed for affirmative action hires, just so that someone can become the first woman GM of a baseball team. God help us in Cubdom if even a second is devoted by the Ricketts family to considering her for the job.

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    • bellerophon says:

      I’d also add that Kim Ng is in no way, shape or form a talent evaluator. Everything about her screams that she’s good at the business side of operations, and we already have that in Crane Kenney. You see how that’s worked out so far for us, right?

      She’s an administrator, and they only succeed as a GM when there’s a very strong scouting base in place. That is something the Cubs do not have and are trying to develop. The Cubs can’t afford to bring her in just to say they have the first female GM. Cubs fans want a winner. They will give her less slack than Mike Quade (a man who has zero slack to begin with) if the team is a loser. Kim Ng is a no-go here, and frankly she ought to be a no-go everywhere else. When the strongest reason for hiring you is that you’re a woman, there are no reasons to hire you at all.

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      • Transmission says:

        And not only that, bellerophone, she has BOOBS, too! I’ll bet she even has a vagina! Disgusting.

        Or, if you’re too dense to catch the sarcasm there: The only reason why Ng’s gender is a problem is because “fans” like you make it a problem. It’s a neat trick – you then get to dismiss her by claiming people like yourself would never accept her. You’re the problem, not Ng.

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      • basted says:

        From an article on the Dodgers website:

        In 2004, along with her other duties, Ng assumed the interim position of Director of Player Development and was responsible for overseeing the Dodgers’ Minor League department, including developing and evaluating all players in the farm system, appointing minor league managers and coaching staff and overseeing the club’s winter ball participation and relationships between the Dodgers and their minor league affiliates.

        So saying she “is in no way, shape or form a talent evaluator” is simply incorrect.

        Also, you are an idiot.

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      • John says:

        Ng has little experience with scouting compared to some of the other top candidates. It’s considered her biggest weakness. I don’t think she’s the best candidate either, but it has nothing to do with her gender. There are just more well-rounded candidates out there right now.

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      • Cidron says:

        every candidate has a weakness. that it is identified is a plus actually. that means she, as well as any staff, aides, assistants can work to address said weakness.

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  12. Kyle says:

    Hey chicago! you could have andy macphail back!

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  13. John says:

    I prefer Friedman and Cherington to anyone on this list. Friedman has the edge in experience and has great analytical skills. Cherington has the edge in scouting and I think he has a broader skillset than any of the trendy names on this list.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Cherington was the name I liked the most that I didn’t profile. I didn’t want to get too far into existing GMs, you just never know if they want to leave or not. I know I wrote about Colletti but that was just too precious a rumor not to address.

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      • John says:

        If the Cubs decide they are going to interview Ned Colletti. I’m going to steal the keys to his car.

        I know that Rick Hahn is the biggest name here in Chicago, but from your list the guy that really intrigued me was Coppolella. Really like his ability to blend scouting and statistics.

        To me Cherington is the perfect fit for the Cubs in terms of skill set. It almost matches up perfectly with all the things Ricketts has talked about this year in regard to what he wants for the Cubs…scouting, stat analysis, winning background, player development, etc. Cherington even has a lot of experience in Latin America, where Ricketts really wants the Cubs to become a bigger player. There are rumors going around, though, that Ricketts prefers an experienced GM, which would obviously hurt his chances.

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  14. Lima bean says:

    Not to jerry reinsdorf: Time to dump Kenny Williams and unleash Rick hahn. It would be beyond sad to lose the most talented guy in your FO while the sox continue to toil in mediocrity despite a healthy payroll.

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  15. Wooly says:

    I think this article is looking a little too much into statistical analysis. In my opinion, to be the best GM, you have to be able to develop the right philosophy and then put the right guys around you. A GM candidate should *believe* in statistical analysis and want to focus on player development, but those don’t need to be his two strongest qualities. A GM, IMO, needs to be a shrewd negotiator with lots of experience working against the strongest agents and GMs in baseball. A guy like Hahn has that experience. Kim Ng also has that experience. Those are the kind of people I want.

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  16. mgonzo777 says:

    Since we are talking Chicago connections why not Steve Stone? He has always wanted to get into the front office of a baseball team. His keen baseball IQ and ability to ignore anything positive, will enable him to quickly identify everything wrong withing the Cubs organization and alert the media about it.

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