An in-depth talk with Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes

Former Rays pitcher has been on a fast track in Los Angeles' front office

May 2nd, 2022

When  hung up his spikes in 2016, he knew he wanted to remain in the game moving forward. Coaching wasn’t his passion; constructing rosters and being a part of the front-office process was.

Gomes landed a job as a pitching coordinator with the Dodgers, and while other clubs expressed interest in speaking with him about pitching coach positions, he knew that wasn’t a path he wanted to pursue.

Instead, he remained with the Dodgers, moving into the farm director role. Less than three years after he threw his final pitch, he found himself in the assistant general manager role. This past offseason, he was promoted to GM.’s Mark Feinsand recently sat down with Gomes to discuss his ascent through Los Angeles’ front office, his transition from player to executive and much more in the latest edition of Executive Access. You grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts. I will assume you were a Red Sox fan growing up?

Gomes: Yeah; very much in the DNA of the city and the state, so, yeah, I grew up a Red Sox fan. At the same time, I watched a lot of Braves games because they were on TBS, so I had this simultaneous fandom. I watched a lot of baseball and knew a ton of the Braves players growing up while also having the Red Sox embedded in me from an early age as well. You pitched and played shortstop in high school. At what age did you first think to yourself that you could actually play professionally?

Gomes: Probably my sophomore year. I took a big jump in velocity -- like 10 mph -- from the winter to the season. I started to feel like, ‘OK, I'm pretty good.’ At that point, I started to go to more camps and just be around better players; I had a sense that I could compete at a high level. As the college process came about and there would be pro scouts around, I had the sense that I could potentially play professionally. My goal at that time was to go to a D-I [school] and get my education. You did that at Tulane, playing there with a double major in finance and business law. When you're pitching in college, is the goal the Majors and the education is the fallback plan in case that doesn't work out?

Gomes: I think that was the dream, for sure. I struggled pretty badly my first couple years. I remember going down as a freshman in fall ball and took some serious lumps. The nature of Massachusetts baseball, going to this big-time program with guys that ended up being first-, second- and third-rounders [in the Draft], it was definitely eye-opening. Then I had [Tommy John] surgery the following year, so there was a lot of adversity early on, which I think is incredibly helpful for how things played out.

After my surgery, I started to actually play and pitch a little bit better. I definitely had the goal of getting into pro ball and wanting to get drafted, but having the double major, especially once I graduated, was comforting. I got drafted in the 17th round, so I figured I would play this out even though my assumption was that I'll get released after a year or two and then I would go to law school. It was a nice fallback plan. You mentioned law school; was your plan if you had gotten released to pursue a career in sports, or sort of see where the law degree took you?

Gomes: After I got drafted and played [Class A] Short Season, that offseason I took my LSAT and I had letters of recommendation set up to go apply for law school. That following year, I ended up changing some things and pitching well, but the goal was just to go get my law degree knowing that there were a ton of different paths. My hope was to get into baseball in some capacity, but it wasn't the sole focus. It was more just getting a lot of green, knowing that that can take you a bunch of different places. You were traded from the Padres to the Rays in December 2010. What is it like to be traded?

Gomes: It was odd, but also exciting because at the time I didn't know if I was going to get protected. I had a really good year in 2009 in Double-A, but I spent two full seasons at Double-A pitching pretty well. There was some concern like, ‘Maybe I'm just missing something and I'm not good enough.’ I was contemplating retiring if I didn't get put on a roster, because I didn’t know how much longer I should do this if I'm sitting on a Tulane degree. I got put on the roster, so that was exciting, then getting traded was more exciting than anything else. If a team trades for you, clearly you’re some type of priority and they're interested in you. While you were rehabbing an injury one year, you spent a lot of time around the Rays' scouting department. Was scouting ever something you considered as a post-playing career?

Gomes: No, not really. I was rehabbing my lat and staying back in St. Pete, so there was a ton of downtime. I would ask Andrew [Friedman] and different people around the office some perspective on the Draft and how it works, just out of curiosity. I always found it fascinating how front offices built teams and what their thought processes were. The Draft was always fascinating because it's so many moving parts. We all try to be precise, but we're just making educated bets at every turn. It was interesting to just hear processes and kind of how the Rays went about it. When you were released by the Cubs in June 2016, you went on to join the Dodgers as a pitching coordinator. How did that come about?

Gomes: I get released and my wife and I go back to Austin; she's four months pregnant at the time. I started reaching out to contacts and touched base with Andrew. I said, ‘I'm done playing and I would like to get into something on the other side. I'm not exactly sure what, but if you have a chance, I would love to pick your brain.’ He put me in contact with Gabe Kapler, so Kap and I started talking and building out what a role could look like. The Dodgers were rebuilding the pitching department, so there wasn't a definite structure on how it was going to look.

I just started to learn about and understand pitch characteristics in my last year with the Rays, so it was definitely something that I was passionate about. I didn’t really have a goal of coaching, but I figured I would provide value however you see fit if I can just get my foot in the door. I came out to Arizona for the month of instructional league and just dove in, tried to learn as much as possible and build relationships. The environment there was inspiring and exciting to be a part of early on. That offseason, Andrew got a call from at least one team wanting to talk to you about their pitching coach job. Was it something you ever considered or did you know right away that coaching was not something you wanted to do?

Gomes: It was not my passion. I liked the problem-solving aspect of coaching; when I was pitching coordinator, I loved building the relationships, but it was never something where I was striving to be on the field. I knew that moving forward on the front-office path was where I really wanted to be, so I was completely content with where I was at. Moving forward, I was fortunate enough to become farm director after that. How do you think having played in the big leagues and having spent as much time in the Minors as you did helped you in that farm director job?

Gomes: Having perspective in anything is incredibly helpful. Being fairly close to being done playing, I think there was a relatability to the players, even though they were 15 years younger than I was. I think there's some perspective in being able to talk with them and say, ‘Hey, I get it’ -- especially when you're having the difficult conversations. You played for a very analytically inclined organization with Tampa Bay. I've heard a lot of people say that the key to getting players to buy into a lot of analytic-related information is the way it’s presented to them. Was that the case for you as a player? Have you found that to be the case on this side, too?

Gomes: Especially early on, the presentation of information for the group of players that grew up and learned the game without having that be part of every single practice session was challenging but also exciting. It’s like, ‘How do we bring all of this information down to one nugget or two that is applicable and can be digested and executed by this player?’ You can have 10 things that Player X needs to improve upon, and while you can try to do all 10 at the same time, he’s probably not going to get very good at any of them. What is the most important piece? Let’s tackle that and present it in a way that makes sense to the player. You have to also understand that player; how they work, how their mind works. It’s going to be different for every guy. Prior to the 2019 season, you were promoted to vice president and assistant general manager less than three years after you finished playing. Did you envision yourself ascending through a front office as quickly as you did?

Gomes: No. I’m incredibly grateful and appreciative for the way things played out, but by no means when I joined the organization did I think that's where I was going to be in three years. It was an opportunity I was incredibly excited about, and as I tried to do it at every turn, I just poured myself into this and tried to learn from everybody around me. Being able to pick the brains of a lot of great minds certainly helps speed up the learning curve. What's the biggest learning curve in making that jump from farm director to assistant GM?

Gomes: Farm director certainly was a good jumping-off point. There's a lot of things that apply to the AGM role, just on a smaller scale. So now it's starting to understand the Major League contract piece, arbitration, things that I was never involved in prior to that.

As farm director, there's no stakes in the game, really; you want every team to win, but guys performing at a high level is the No. 1 goal and winning is a tick below that. At the Major League level, having that adrenaline and those stakes night in and night out was something that I forgot that I missed. It's one of the more satisfying things; the roller coaster of night to night, winning and losing, is what's great about the job. This offseason you were promoted to general manager. What do you think is your greatest attribute as an executive?

Gomes: Just trying to be a good listener at every turn and hearing the thoughts of everybody around you, whether that's other people in the front office, coaching staff, players, just sitting down and listening and hearing people's viewpoints, being able to digest that and then go out and take that into account when you're making decisions or building something out. It’s something that I take a great deal of pride in, and making sure that that doesn't ever go away is a very high priority of mine. Moving up the ladder within the same organization is one thing. The Mets wanted to talk to you about their GM job, and other clubs have reached out. Is it flattering to know that teams that don't see you and know up close and personal what you do have taken notice of your work and think that you could add value to the organization?

Gomes: For sure it's flattering. From Day 1 that I've been here, the passion, the environment and the culture that's around here, I love coming to work every day. It’s never really been enticing to want to go elsewhere. The relationships that we have with our close-knit group and the coaching staff, just knowing that we're competing for the World Series every single year, I’m not sure how much else you could ask for. You played for Andrew, now you work with Andrew. What have you learned most from him?

Gomes: He's an incredible leader. His ability to take in a ton of different opinions and bake them in, his ability to say ‘I don't know’ is something that I've learned a lot about. You don't need to have all of the answers, but you have a bunch of really talented people around you to take in different information and ultimately figure out where that path takes you. Those are a couple of things. His humility and his ability to go in and talk to anybody at any time, I think that’s special. There's still a lot of players in the game who you played with or against, which gives you a unique perspective when you're looking at trades or free agents. Most executives don't have that; do you find that helpful?

Gomes: It’s probably a helpful but different perspective, which as we're baking in different things from pro scouts or Andrew or [Alex Slater] or [Jeffrey Kingston] having their own thoughts, it's just another perspective to add into the big melting pot of what we're trying to ultimately accomplish. But that group is getting smaller and smaller, for sure. Players often talk about wanting to improve a specific aspect of their game. If there's one aspect of your job that you would like to improve upon, what would that be?

Gomes: One of the things that I've learned and tried to improve upon over the years is, when there is a decision to be made or question asked, my inclination is to want to give an answer right away -- no matter if we have days, weeks or whatever. Slowing things down and processing it prior to giving an answer is something that I have tried to work on and am continuing to work on. What's your favorite part of the job?

Gomes: I think it's like watching the game nightly. You do this work on the front end in the offseason, build relationships, watch the game, review, then have conversations about, 'What are the margins of how we can improve?' It’s that adrenaline piece and having those conversations and being fortunate enough to wake up and legitimately talk about baseball all day. Not losing that perspective is something that's very important to me, but watching the game nightly and then the review process afterwards, thinking about it and having conversations and just troubleshooting with the coaching staff nightly is definitely what I love day to day. You played for two teams that got to the postseason, but you never won a ring with Tampa Bay. What was the 2020 World Series run like for you?

Gomes: We basically moved to Texas for a month. It’s the greatest sports accomplishment of my life, being a part of that and watching it. It was at least equal to making my Major League debut and pitching in the playoffs. Just that celebration and how hard those guys worked, compounding that with the COVID year and everything that went into it, the fulfillment level was through the roof. I was so happy for players like [Clayton] Kershaw and those guys that have had Hall of Fame careers; watching them celebrate was incredibly satisfying. The emotions that go along with that, I probably don't have a big enough vocabulary to describe it properly. Did that experience make you hungrier to get back there and do it again -- hopefully at Dodger Stadium this time?

Gomes: No doubt. Every playoff game, there's that adrenaline and a bit of nervous energy. Playoffs are so high-energy intense, you're striving for that and you love that, even though you probably get grayer sooner because of it. It's everything that we've been focused on since we got knocked out by the Braves [in 2021]. We want to get back there, win it again, have a parade and get to really do it right -- and then do it all over again. Hopefully we do it again this year. I don't think that they'll ever be a complacency piece of it because it's just the best feeling in the world, so you're going to want to accomplish it again and have different stories of how this team overcame X, Y or Z. I think that makes you hungrier for sure, but there’s also an appreciation of how difficult it is to actually do.