PITTSBURGH -- When the Pirates introduced Ben Cherington as their new general manager on Nov. 18, one of the attributes team president Travis Williams highlighted was Cherington’s reputation as a “talent magnet.” During his time with the Red Sox, Cherington helped identify and mentor bright, young front-office personnel on their way to becoming GMs and high-ranking executives around the league.
Cherington started adding talent to Pittsburgh’s front office this week, as the Bucs on Tuesday announced the hiring of assistant general manager Steve Sanders.
Sanders, a highly regarded young executive who most recently worked alongside Cherington as the Blue Jays’ amateur scouting director, will join Cherington and assistant GM Kevan Graves as Pittsburgh’s top-ranking baseball operations executives. Sanders is effectively replacing Kyle Stark, the longtime assistant GM under Neal Huntington, who was dismissed on Nov. 15.
“Steve has significant experience in amateur and international scouting from his time with the Red Sox and Blue Jays,” Cherington said in a statement. “He has a deep commitment to continuous improvement in process and decision-making and, as importantly, to his own professional growth and that of the people he works with.
“Kevan Graves, Steve and I have various experiences and perspectives on the game and decision-making, and we share a commitment to getting better every day, to helping people, and to the Pirates. Kevan, Steve and I will collaborate across all aspects of baseball operations."
Sanders, 31, just completed his 11th season in professional baseball and his third as the Blue Jays’ director of amateur scouting. In that role, he oversaw the MLB Draft for Toronto while the organization significantly improved its farm system through the Draft. Four of the Blue Jays’ top 10 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, were drafted under Sanders’ watch.
Cherington had a role in that development, too, as Toronto’s vice president of baseball operations.
Entering this past season, the Blue Jays had the game’s fifth-ranked farm system, according to MLB Pipeline. Even after former top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. graduated to the Majors, Toronto had MLB Pipeline’s 10th-ranked farm system in August.
Sanders, a Los Angeles native who was a pitcher at Northwestern University, got his start as an intern in the Dodgers' organization from 2009-10 before joining the Red Sox in the same role in ’11. He was then hired as a full-time amateur and international scouting assistant in '12, was promoted to amateur and international scouting coordinator in ’14 and accepted the title of assistant director of amateur scouting before the ’15 season. Sanders joined the Blue Jays in September 2016.
Sanders ran three Drafts during his time in Toronto. His first, the 2017 Draft, began with the selection of right-hander Nate Pearson, who is now the Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s 10th-ranked prospect overall. In 2018, Sanders selected infielder Jordan Groshans in the first round -- Toronto’s No. 2 prospect and No. 67 overall. And last June, Sanders selected right-hander Alek Manoah, the Blue Jays’ No. 3 prospect, out of West Virginia University in the first round.