With a bright future, a look back: Q&A with Cubs VP Jared Banner

May 3rd, 2023

When the Red Sox won the World Series during Jared Banner’s first year with the club, he assumed that’s the way every season would end.

Boston went on to win two more titles during Banner's time with the Sox, but in his stops with the Mets and Cubs over the past four-plus years, Banner -- who has been Chicago’s vice president of player development since late 2021 -- has also seen the ups and downs that come with running a Major League team.

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand sat down with Banner this spring to discuss his entry into the game with Theo Epstein’s Red Sox, the men and women who have influenced him, why he knows so much about , and much more in the latest edition of Executive Access.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MLB.com: You grew up in Brooklyn. Who was your favorite team?

Banner: I was a Mets fan growing up. Big  fan; I was a catcher when I was younger, so I always wanted to be like Todd Hundley, who hit 40 [home runs] one year.

MLB.com: You got your degree in psychology in 2007. Was a career in baseball always the goal?

Banner: It's actually a funny story. After my junior year in college, I went to work for a law firm on Wall Street, essentially working as a paralegal. I didn't enjoy it at all. I decided, ‘Hey, this is not a passion of mine. I need to be involved in something I'm passionate about.’ When I got back to school that fall, I decided I needed to be involved in baseball somehow, so that's when I started to make phone calls. I was fortunate that something worked out for me.

MLB.com: Your first job in baseball was with the Red Sox, who hired you in 2007 as an assistant in player development. How did that job come about?

Banner: Ben Cherington deserves the lion's share of the credit for me getting my initial opportunity in baseball. We played for the same baseball coach at Amherst -- the legendary Bill Thurston. He taught me a lot about baseball, and there are a lot of Amherst guys around the game, so we share that connection of all playing for the same coach. Ben really helped me a lot to get in the game.

MLB.com: What was that first job in Boston like for you?

Banner: I was a fellow first, so I wasn't full-time immediately. I did a lot of the grunt work, which was great. I got to become an integral part of the office for the little things: airport runs, picking up lunch, things like that. Just being there to do whatever needed to get done. During that time, I got to sit in rooms with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Mike Hazen, Amiel Sawdaye, Jason McLeod, the list goes on and on. These people had so much knowledge, and I was just a fly on the wall listening. That's how I learned the game; as much as you think you know coming in because you played a little bit, you really don't know anything. There's a lot to learn.

MLB.com: The Red Sox won the World Series in your first season on the job. What was that experience like?

Banner: That part, I thought would happen every year. It hasn't, but I've been fortunate to be a part of some great championship front offices. There have been some ups and downs along the way, too; it hasn't always been rainbows and butterflies. I've seen all sides, and I think that's helped me grow.

MLB.com: Nearly everyone I’ve talked to that worked for Theo has made reference to the culture he creates within the organization. What makes it so special?

Banner: For lack of a better term, it feels like a gender-neutral fraternity. Let's say you put a fraternity and a sorority together, whatever that word is, that's what it is. It felt like more than just an office; it was a family atmosphere. A lot of friendships; you spent a lot of time with each other outside the office. That's special. I don't think that happens everywhere.

MLB.com: You were promoted to amateur scouting coordinator in September 2009. Did scouting come naturally for you?

Banner: I had to really learn. Ben took me out to my first game and we were watching some high school left-handed pitcher; we’re sitting at the game and I screamed, ‘That's nasty!’ To this day, 15 or 16 years later, I still get made fun of for that. It wasn't a nasty breaking ball; it was some random high school kid -- he wasn't even the kid that we went to go see -- and Ben looked at me and said, ‘Don’t ever say that again.’

I learned a lot from Amiel and Allard Baird; those two guys really helped break me into scouting, read my reports and gave me feedback. Allard gave me my own personal scout school at the Arizona Fall League for about a week in 2009. I would sit there and hold the gun, hold my stopwatch, then after the game we would go back to the hotel, write our reports and he would walk me through every lineup. That’s how I learned.

MLB.com: You were promoted twice more in Boston, first to director of player personnel, then vice president in the same department. You mentioned going to see players in Japan, Korea and Mexico; how difficult is it to project how players in those leagues will translate to the Majors?

Banner: Extremely, extremely difficult -- and not just players in those areas. High school players, college players; scouting is just really difficult. Luckily nowadays there's a lot more information for us to use when we make decisions. Scouting is one of the toughest parts of the game; you’re essentially making decisions about human beings and projecting their futures. As we all know, that’s not always easy.

MLB.com: Dave Dombrowski kept you on when he took over for Ben in 2015. What did you learn most from Dave, who is considered more of an old-school executive?

Banner: A couple things stand out about Dave. I think first and foremost, he stays even-keel all the time despite the stresses of the job. He's very cheerful, he comes into the office every day with a smile on his face; that always stood out to me. He trusts the people that work for him; you get a lot of autonomy with Dave, then he wants to see the results of that autonomy. He’s not a micromanager -- at least that's not the experience that I had. I really enjoyed those two things about him.

MLB.com: Can you tell me the Kent Hrbek story?

Banner: Oh, wow. We were in the suite before the game in Boston and we were watching a Twins game. They kept showing Kent Hrbek on screen over and over and over again. I was 21 at the time, and my main mistake was that I didn’t just keep my mouth shut. I should have kept eating. Instead, I said, ‘Who is this guy? Why do they keep showing him?’ Theo heard that and said, ‘That’s Kent Hrbek. You don’t know who Kent Hrbek is?’ I said I had never heard of Kent Hrbek in my life. Theo said, ‘You don’t know nearly enough about baseball. I want you to go downstairs to your desk and write me a book report on Kent Hrbek, then come up here by the seventh inning to give a presentation.’

I went down to my desk and put together a book report on Kent Hrbek; I still remember things about him. I wrote the book report, came back up and presented it to the whole group. I actually texted Theo the other day when I saw something about Kent on Twitter. That's the environment we had; it was, ‘I'm trying to get you better. This is how we're going to get you better; you're only 21 and you only remember back to 1996. Let’s give you a little bit about the ‘80s.’ Then he told me I had to make a presentation about the ‘80s the next day. I found out ‘Thriller’ was the number one album in the ‘80s. I didn't know that previously.

MLB.com: Have you ever met Kent Hrbek?

Banner: No, but I probably should. That would bring it full circle.

MLB.com: After more than 11 years and three World Series rings with the Red Sox, you joined the Mets as executive director of player development under Brodie Van Wagenen. What prompted that move?

Banner: After the World Series in 2018, I felt like it was time for a new challenge. I had an interest in leading a larger group of people, so when that opportunity arose, it seemed like something very interesting to me. Allard was there, so it was just the way things worked out. I had been in Boston for a while, so it felt like a time to learn some different ways of running a front office.

MLB.com: Brodie became a GM after a successful career as an agent. What was your biggest takeaway from working for Brodie?

Banner: I think in many ways, he looked at the game through the player lens. That was refreshing to see in some ways just because it was new. I think the players appreciated how transparent and communicative he was with them; I'm sure the media liked it, as well. Brodie is a really smart, really intelligent guy. I wish we had a little bit more time there to have an impact.

MLB.com: You called 2021 one of your favorite years of your career. Why?

Banner: It was. I think I left the year much more evidence-based and information-driven, more so than maybe I had been in the past coming up as an evaluator, when I thought I could just see things and make the best decisions. I no longer feel that way.

MLB.com: You have talked about the importance of treating all players in the system equally whether they’re first-round picks or undrafted free agents. You pointed out that certain players have attention on them from the day they sign, while others can operate under the radar until they get noticed. Is there an advantage for the latter?

Banner: I'm not sure. I've never been as good as any of those guys, so I think it probably varies from player to player. Some guys thrive on some of that attention and they’re stars at a young age. Others, it probably weighs on them a little bit, so that's why we try to stay focused on the process with the guys, letting them know where they are, where we want them to go and how we're going to help them get there. That's really our focus more than rankings or lists or timelines; it’s about, ‘Let's get a little bit better today, then let's get a little bit better tomorrow.’

MLB.com: What is your favorite part of the job?

Banner: Winning.

MLB.com: Least favorite?

Banner: Losing.

MLB.com: Given the experience you’ve had over the past 15 years, how important is it for you to be a GM at some point?

Banner: I try to stay focused. I try to do what I ask our players to do, which is focus one day at a time and just get better each and every single day, then let the chips fall where they may. Like those guys want to be big leaguers, I would love to eventually oversee a baseball operations department. I think it would be a lot of fun, but mostly because I want to put forth everything that I've learned from some of these other people.