Exploring Pirates' potential GM candidates

October 29th, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates president Travis Williams revealed little about the Pirates’ upcoming search for a general manager when he met with the media on Monday.

Williams said the club won’t comment on the search until it’s over. He said the process will be completed “as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” but the Pirates won’t prioritize speed over quality. And if it ends as well as the last GM search he took part in, the one that ended with the Pittsburgh Penguins hiring Jim Rutherford, well…

“If we could guarantee that we’re going to hire someone and, within the first three years, win two World Series trophies, absolutely,” Williams said, laughing. “Tell me who it is.”

We can’t do that. But through conversations with sources and a look at candidates for recent jobs, we can provide a list of names to watch as Williams sets out to replace Neal Huntington. In the meantime, assistant GM Kevan Graves -- who some in the industry view as a future GM, perhaps in Pittsburgh -- will serve as interim general manager.

Keep in mind: Chairman Bob Nutting said the Pirates need “another burst of innovation,” “a fresh approach” and “a fresh look at identifying what those inefficiencies in the market place are, how we take advantage of them.” And Williams mentioned that the Pirates will model themselves after consistently successful small-market clubs.

Matt Arnold, Brewers senior vice president and assistant general manager

Arnold seems like the model for the next generation of GMs. The 40-year-old joined the Brewers in 2015, working along with David Stearns in Milwaukee, after nine years with the Rays. Arnold has also worked for the Dodgers, Rangers and Reds. He has a hand in everything with the Brewers, assisting with day-to-day operations and oversight of all baseball operations departments. His background with two successful small-market clubs -- the kind the Pirates want to emulate -- make him a particularly intriguing candidate.

Scott Sharp, Royals vice president and assistant general manager

Sharp has been in the Royals' office for 13 years, spending the past two seasons as one of Dayton Moore’s assistant GMs. He has a background in scouting and player development, which might appeal to Nutting and Williams given the importance of producing talent within Pittsburgh’s system. Sharp’s name has come up in other recent GM searches, and the small-market executive is well-respected within the industry.

Amiel Sawdaye, D-backs senior vice president and assistant general manager

During his 15 years with the Red Sox, Sawdaye earned three championship rings and filled plenty of roles before joining the D-backs, most notably that of vice president of amateur and international scouting. Under his supervision, Boston’s Draft hauls included Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. Now, he assists D-backs GM Mike Hazen in every aspect of Arizona’s baseball operations.

Billy Owens, A’s assistant general manager and director of player personnel

Owens is reportedly under consideration to join Farhan Zaidi as the Giants’ general manager, a sign of the respect he’s gained within the industry as a top talent evaluator. Owens has spent 19 years with the A’s and two as assistant GM/director of player personnel. He is primarily involved in player acquisition and amateur scouting, and he’s done it all with a small-market budget.

Eddie Romero and Zack Scott, Red Sox assistant general managers

Boston passed over Romero and Scott to hire former Tampa Bay executive Chaim Bloom as its baseball operations leader, leaving Scott and Romero as assistant GMs. Scott, who has been with the Sox since 2004, runs the analytics department while Romero, in Boston since '06, focuses on international scouting and player development.

Kim Ng, MLB senior vice president for baseball operations

Ng is the highest-ranking female executive within Major League Baseball, where she currently works with chief baseball officer Joe Torre, and has long been considered most likely to become MLB’s first female leader of a baseball operations department. She has worked in the front offices of the White Sox, Yankees and Dodgers, rising to the rank of assistant general manager. Ng has reportedly interviewed for GM jobs in the past with the Padres and Mariners, and she interviewed last winter with the Giants and Mets.

Tyrone Brooks, senior director of MLB’s Front Office and Field Staff Diversity Pipeline Program

If this name sounds familiar, it should -- Brooks was part of the good ol’ days from 2013-15. He was the Pirates’ director of player personnel from December '09 until January '16, when he left the front office to take on an important leadership role with MLB’s Diversity Pipeline Program. The Brewers interviewed Brooks for the job that ultimately went to Stearns after the '15 season, and the Orioles interviewed him last year before hiring Mike Elias. Brooks spent 11 years with the Braves and three as an Indians scout before joining Pittsburgh.

Tony LaCava, Blue Jays senior vice president of player personnel

The 58-year-old is from Pittsburgh, attended Central Catholic High School and the University of Pittsburgh and even played briefly in the Pirates system. He has plenty of experience as a scout and executive with the Angels, Expos, Indians and Blue Jays, for whom he briefly served as interim GM. He reportedly turned down a chance to become the Orioles’ GM in 2011.

De Jon Watson, Nationals special assistant to the general manager

Watson took part in one interview for the Mets’ GM job last offseason, and his stature should only improve while working with the National League champion Nats. Mike Rizzo hired Watson as a special assistant in January 2017, adding him to their pro scouting department after his run in Arizona as a senior vice president of baseball operations. With the D-backs, Watson worked alongside Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart. He has more than 33 years of experience in professional baseball.

Zack Rosenthal, Rockies assistant general manager and assistant general counsel

Rosenthal has all the necessary experience, and he is rumored to be interested in taking on a new challenge. He has served as legal counsel, argued in arbitration hearings, worked on free agent contracts and organized Colorado’s analytics department on a relatively limited budget.