With the news breaking Friday morning that the Seattle Mariners parted ways with Jack Zduriencik we’ve already started to hear the names of possible replacements. It’s all speculation at this point, but retreads galore likely are littering your Twitter timeline, drawing eye rolls and even some ‘WTF’ replies. Understandably.

Team president and COO Kevin Mather stated publicly via press conference and radio interviews the club wants to find a new baseball guy before the offseason truly gets under way. Part of that is to make sure they don’t get beat to the punch on candidates, part of it is about hitting the offseason ready to go. It’s the only way to go about this these days.

Several other things Mather said Friday via the various outlets that struck me as interesting or somewhat important:

  • Despite giving Lloyd McClendon a sort of vote of confidence, the new GM will have the power to bring in his own field staff, including the manager. Mather will encourage but not force McClendon on the new GM
  • Mather believes the 25-man roster is fairly close to being good enough, though clearly there are holes to fill and admits his opinion may not be that of the baseball people he chooses in the end
  • Club prefers a GM that sees the roster is close enough not to suggest a tear-down, at least not heading into 2016.
  • Mather mentioned the GM’s front office staff more than once, strongly suggesting 1) that he, as the president and COO, understands the GM must have the right people in place around him and 2) perhaps Zduriencik did not. (He didn’t). Part of the draw of some candidates will be the people with which they are connected that can be brought in as part of the new regime. The GM can’t do everything.
  • The change is being made not based on 2015 and all its disappointment, but why the club is where it is, seven years after Zduriencik was hired. Mather stated directly the failures in player development. Yes, ultimately it’s about wins at the big-league level, but Mather clearly has people in baseball he;’s been talking to — I mentioned his familiarity with the FO in Minnesota and how he’s talked to them in the past, and he noted said relationship in his interview with Mike Salk and Brock Huard Friday morning.
  • Since Mather prefers not to rebuild, he expects a GM with experience, but if he’s open-minded enough about the process, he’ll interview several inexperienced candidates that won’t require allowance for a rebuild, nor see the immediate need for it, while demonstrating they are capable of adding to the current mix enough to project a winner.

Here are some names with which to start, but a few caveats:

  1. I don’t know most of these people personally. I derive their candidacy by leaning on those I do know in the game for their qualifications, plus what reports have been out there up to and through today’s news in terms of candidacy.
  2. You will hear good and bad about most or all of the following, almost all of which will be complete trash. Pick and choose who you trust on these kinds of matters.
  3. Included below are candidates I wouldn’t necessarily hire myself and that I don’t believe are good candidates, but they’ll be mentioned, so they go here, anyway.
  4. I do know some of these candidates, some better than others.
  5. These are listed in no particular order.
  6. I am not sure each of the names below are so eager to get a shot at GM that they’re willing to work under an ownership with a terrible track record of interfering and downright bufoonery, but there are only 30 GM gigs in the world, so …
  7. It’s also worth noting that Mather does appear to be leading the search there is always a chance the ownership is willing to budge on some things to get the right candidate to take the job.
  8. In no way is the following a suggestion that these are the names Seattle will interview or consider.
  9. There will be names below that never are mentioned, never interviewed or considered or even some that may not have interest or are hired elsewhere.

Jerry DiPoto: Former Angels GM
Having resigned from his GM post in Anaheim, DiPoto brings mixed reviews when I ask around — like most. He’s a former player that believes in scouting and analytics — and a blend of both that cannot be written in stone for even two seconds — and reportedly was the Mariners’ No. 2 choice in 2008 when the club hired Zduriencik.

He was an assistant in Arizona overseeing scouting and player development, scouted under Theo Epstein’s crew in Boston before that and now is serving as an extra set of eyes for the Red Sox, who just hired Dave Dombrowski to run the while kitchen. DiPoto could be a strong candidate for GM under Dombrowski.

Knowing what I know — which isn’t enough to make the kind of call the Mariners have to make — I’d find it difficult to hate the move if DiPoto was ultimately tabbed the new baseball executive in Seattle.

John Coppolella: Assistant GM, Atlanta Braves
Coppolella may be my personal favorite for the job, not because I have had many conversations with him but because he seems value exactly what the Mariners need; Detailed in terms of covering all the bases before making decisions, valuing greatly the assessments and work of those around him, no use of the ego in evaluating players or situations, high-impact passion for the game of baseball and winning, and he’s as short on confidence in his abilities as I am on Twitter snark. Which is to say not at all, sir.

Coppolella grew up in the New York Yankees organization, was a favorite of the late George Steinbrenner and in Atlanta has overseen the pro scouting department before essentially taking the helm of GM under president of baseball operations John Hart. He’s had the advantage of working with and under some of the most successful baseball executives in the game, including Brian Cashman, John Schuerholz and now Hart.

In my dealings with Coppolella, he’s never taken credit for anything, it’s always “we” or he deflects credit entirely. He’s adept in the area of statistical analysis, but player development is extremely high on his list, especially having worked with execs with tremendous track records in growing from within.

He was hired by Schuerholz, was a huge draw for Hart when he was contemplating taking the job and I have a feeling he sees eye-to-eye with Mather’s preference of not rebuilding right away, which I believe is the right approach.

If Coppolella were to be hired, the Mariners would be getting a GM with a sound plan, capable of adjusting said plan to accommodate the myriad situations that indeed will come up 12 months out of the year. The group that ultimately would land in Seattle to accompany him would likely be quite impressive. Coppolella’s network is as large as anyone’s and he’s as respected on and off the field as much or more than anyone I’ve ever asked about.

Jason McLeod: Director of Scouting & Player Development, Chicago Cubs
Having worked so much under Theo Epstein, one would think plenty has rubbed off on McLeod, who worked under Epstein in Boston before moving on with Jed Hoyer to San Diego, and then Chicago. I hear only great things about McLeods abilities to evaluate not only players at all levels, but his track record with development strategies, the draft and trade and free agent markets. There are some who believe Epstein’s success is wildly over-the-top because of Epstein himself, but there’s a reason he keeps winning, first in Boston and already in Chicago. The presence of Hoyer and McLeod clearly are critical.

Flatly put, McLeod is a winner, has an enormous network from which to choose his lieutenants and has witnessed absolute greatness from a winning standpoint for more than a decade.

McLeod should be high on the club’s list of candidates.

Erik Neander: V.P. of Baseball Operations, Tampa Bay Rays
Neander is among the many that run the Rays baseball operations department and one of a few Rays execs that could be legitimate candidates in Seattle.

Scott Sharp: Assistant GM, Kansas City Royals
Sharp has been among Dayton Moore’s top assistants as the Royals have ascended to the top of the American League behind pitching, speed and defense.

I don’t know tons about Sharp but in looking at the kind of players the Royals have shown they value most, it’s largely what Seattle doesn’t have an needs. Defense, speed, athleticism, multi-dimensional. And they’ve done it on a somewhat limited payroll.

Mike Chernoff: Assistant GM, Cleveland Indians
Ask one baseball exec about Chernoff and I get positive descriptions. Ask another and I get “meh” type replies. Ask yet another and I get “I don’t know, I’m not sure how much that front office really gets to do on their own.”

But anytime I inquire about candidates, Chernoff’s name comes up in conversation.

Thad Levine: Assistant GM, Texas Rangers
Billy Eppler: Assistant GM, New York Yankees
Dan O’Dowd: Former GM, Colorado Rockies
Ben Cherington: Former GM, Boston Red Sox
Charlie Kerfeld: Special assistant to the GM, Philadelphia Phillies
Dan Jennings: Manager & former GM Miami Marlins
Tony LaCava: V.P. Baseball Operations, Assistant GM, Toronto Blue Jays
Matt Arnold: Assistant GM, Tampa Bay Rays
Larry Beinfest: Former President Baseball Operations, Miami Marlins
Matt Klentak: Assistant GM, Los Angeles Angels
Kevin Towers: Former GM San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks & special assistant to GM, Cincinnati Reds
Damon Oppenheimer: Director of Scouting, New York Yankees

LaCava interviewed in 2008 and was my preference based on what I was told from those that know him. He’s a market analysis genius and has served the Jays well during his time, playing a large role in their current success. He’s probably as qualified for the job as any of the assistant types that will be mentioned and might have the ability to put together the best staff.

Levine has worked under a highly successful executive base in Texas with Nolan Ryan and John Daniels. Is typically among the top 8-10 as I ask around baseball about candidates that have yet to serve as full-time GM.

Jennings has a history in Seattle, having served as an area scout in the late 80s and eventually a crosschecker in 1995. He served as the Rays scouting director before moving onto the Marlins as a player personnel V.P. and assistant GM. He was named the Marlins’ GM in 2013 and took the field as the skipper earlier this season.

Kerfeld would be an interesting choice in style as he’s old school in the way he scouts in his present role but understands the necessity for a blend, and not simply when it’s convenient to implement. He’s a former pitcher who’s worked for years under Pat Gillick.

Arnold is thought to be as instinctive as it comes in baseball operations and with Neander served under Andrew Friedman, now of the Los Angeles Dodgers, during their run the past several years as a have-not beating the haves with consistency.

Beinfest, like Jennings, has history in Seattle having served as an assistant in the scouting and player development departments in the late 80s and through the 1999 season. I don’t see how Beinfest fits at all, but we’ve already seen his name linked to the club, which means little to nothing in the end.

Cherington is a puzzler for me. I don’t know him personally, but I don’t understand the attraction. Yes, he has a World Series title, and he did make some moves prior to the 2013 championship run that played a key role, but that roster was largely built by Epstein and sandwiched around the ring for Cherington is a last-place finish in 2012, another in 2014 and the roster he built for 2015 is headed for one more. I’m not suggesting he’d be a bad hire, but his track record suggests so and that speaks volumes in my book.

Names that may be bandied about that probably make so little sense that the Mariners won’t truly consider in the end include Ned Colleti, Kenny Williams, Jerry Walker.

Jeff Kingston, the interim GM in Seattle, is sharp, analytically inclined and always has come across to me as a no-nonsense type that’s all about getting it right and winning. The M’s will get a look at Kingston over the final month.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

8 Comments

  1. I thought the most interesting part of the interviews with Mather has been his thoughts about the current state of the team and how that relates to the various ‘plans’ that will be laid out by candidates. He stated that he thought the M’s could contend soon, and would only consider rebuilding if he consistently heard that from interviewees. I think this is questionable on two reasons.

    First, he told the world what he wanted to hear, which is only good for people who are planning to tell him what he wants to hear. This isn’t a good way to start the interview process, or to set the environment for the job. Mather self-identifies as not being a ‘baseball guy’, and should be soliciting honest appraisals from candidates about the state of the team and what they would do to repair it. As it stands, he’s already marginalized anyone who might think that a rebuild is necessary. Regardless of whether you believe that is the case, it seems like he’s already undermined part of the process.

    Second, I think the team should consider stepping back a bit and building the organization from top to bottom. Despite the hype coming into this year, this team right now is very thin in the minor leagues and has a ton of holes. We’ve got most of the payroll invested in players who are in their prime and will most likely be entering decline soon – Cruz and Cano, as well as Felix and Seager. And guys like Smith, Iwakuma, Trumbo, ect likely won’t be here for the long term. The M’s are in the middle of what should be their window to contend, but they aren’t good. That’s a problem. They still have tons of holes, but the farm system is barren.

    I don’t think they need to go into a long-term rebuild like the ones the Astros and Royals just completed. But I think they would be wise to focus MUCH more on 2018-2020 than 2016. If the mandate is to win now, they’d just be exacerbating the problem by adding a bunch of contracts that are not good long-term assets.

    This team isn’t in good shape, and looking for a quick-fix plan from GM candidates isn’t wise in my opinion.

  2. And, can we kill the concept that “young” is somehow better than “smart”? One is not the same at the other. Boston didn’t go that way in hiring Dombrowski. Youth doesn’t make anyone better. As Boeing learned with the 787, in deciding to design the airplane entirely on a CAD system and ignoring the traditional methods for designing an aircraft, new isn’t always better. However, integrating the best of all worlds is, unless you like learning lessons all over again.

    Mather clearly stated that he wants someone who is diverse and open to all input. For those SABR inclined people, he stated that whoever the GM is, had better be willing to listen to the loud voices from the statistical staff. So, he gets it.

  3. Paul, did you expect that the Rangers, Twins and Astros to be contenders at the beginning of the season. Some of you completely over-react. Seattle has far more than either of those teams, entering into the 2016 season, so YES they have the ability to compete. Do they have to make upgrades? Of course. docsmith covered a lot of it. For as unlucky as the bullpen was this year, how much better do they look if they find a closer (Clippard?), Smith and Furbush setup, and any of the trials from Aug-Sept survive? Rodney falling off the bus was way bigger than most think. Everyone’s roles got changed.

    It’s a good bet that they bring back Iwakuma, so the rotation isn’t going to get worse.

    The middle of the batting order is intact. I would think that if they make Trumbo the semi full-time firstbaseman, that he’ll at least fill the hole until 2017. Trumbo, once he got settled in, did fine. Not great, but fine.

    There are a few holes to fill, but nothing that requires another All-Star caliber replacement, which is doable.

    So my answer is that yes, with some money, some good trades, and a better overall plan, Seattle can contend. This season proves that you don’t have to make major moves, just sound moves.

  4. Paul…I understand the perspective, but will take a different one.

    We have 3 all-star position players set to return and should expect Cano and Seager to have better years in 2016 (after a second half push, their 2015 numbers may end up as ok, but the first half hurt).

    We have Felix, Walker, Paxton, Montgomery, and Elias coming back for the starting rotation. We’ll need another SP (as always), or two, but I would expect Walker to be a bit better and Montgomery/Elias to be in the back end of the rotation. Paxton….needs to stay healthy.

    We should have Wilhelmson, Furbush, Smith, Olmos, and Nuno back for the bullpen/possible starters, with Olson, Farquhar, Luetge, Ramirez, Rassmussen, and Rollins that could be useful depending on how things go. But the biggest thing I’ve seen with the bullpen is that it needs to stabilize and be taxed a bit less by the SPs.

    So, holes yes, but to me, this roster doesn’t need “blown up.” There is a nucleus here.

    While I would love a “big splash” acquisition, what we really need are some more solid and consistent contributions from some position players. But, I see a few second tier type deals for position players, a rebound from Cano/Seager, a SP, and some addition by subtraction and we are back where we were in 2014. Of course, it would be great if Miller/Marte/Taylor could solidify SS, and one OF position between the three of them.

    But several mid level/second tier type of deals. Similar to what the Red Sox did in 2013 (NOT 2015).

  5. Jason, I am not sure I understand what you mean when you say they don’t need a “full rebuild” after 2015? Does that mean you believe they can contend in 2016? I look at the roster and see a huge black hole at 1B, Catcher, and the 3 outfield positions (Cruz really should be a DH). I also see unproven potential at SS. Then if you look at the rotation outside of Felix and Walker and the final 3 rotation spots are also big question marks. The bullpen needs a big makeover too. Can the new GM fix all these issues in one offseason and expect us to contend in 2016??? If we are not contenders then I think you have to consider a rebuild. Seattle has spent years neither contending nor rebuilding and it is this middle ground/no man’s land that has gotten them nowhere! Assuming Seattle hires the right GM, they have to have the freedom to rebuild if they determine they can’t fix all these holes and realistically see us contending next year. This year (and most years) we went into the season depending on a lot of things to go just right for us to be able to contend. Let’s be realistic about the team, where they are at, and where they need to be to be the consistent contenders we all want them to be.

  6. #1A Who roots for anyone to be fired. Its bad mojo, but it is time for someone new.

    #1 Rebuild the minor league system. Take $10 million from MLB budget or wherever it takes and get the best coaches, scouts, trainers, manager etc… Over pay to get these people if need be.

    #2 Get into the best minor league markets as they open. California League is not what I am thinking.

    #3 Obtain the best travel methods for minors: buy their own buses or charter the best buses, hire a chef to travel with the teams and have the bus or someone tow a rolling kitchen so the nutrition is second to none.

    #4 If much of the above can’t be done right away, analyze why they have missed on developing: Ackley, Zunino, Austin Wilson, Jackson, DJ Peterson, and others. Bring in outside consultants if need be.

    #5 Give baseball autonomy to whomever the GM or head guy is. Short of trading Felix(Lincoln needs to bless).

    #6 Look into trading Felix and Cano if the build is more than 3 years. Pillage whomever wants them. Make sure you are getting top guys. Second, float Seager and Miller if its 3+ too. The goal is to become the top 5 minors system in one year.

    #7 Part of rebuilding the minors is having organization philosophy on hitting, pitching, and maintaining conditioning throughout a season. I think that has lacked: see Zunino bunting and Ackley’s approach. Bullpen has lacked a message as well.

    #8 Draft guys who are gym rats, who love to play. The only one I see on roster is Seager. Getting drafted cannot be enough, making the bigs cannot be enough

    Just my take. Their MLB roster is pretty good aside from bullpen performance. They got more outta Cruz and Seth Smith than could be planned but all those blown saves kill.

  7. The Mariners don’t need a full rebuild after the 2015 season. They just don’t.

  8. I have been wanting Jack Z to get fired for the past 3 years, and it finally happened. However, I was surprised by my reaction to the firing yesterday. Rather than joy I took the news harder than I ever would have imagined. Maybe it was just the realization that the past 7 years were a big failure, maybe it was the frustration of not seeing the postseason since 2001, or maybe I was just sad to see a nice guy lose his job? I just wasn’t expecting to feel that way…

    As far as the next GM, my fear is that they will just hire a retread that will tell them what they want to hear. They seem to think the team is close to making the playoffs, and just needs a few additions to make that happen next year. Knowing this, the candidates you mention above may come in and just tell them what they want to hear, rather than the honest truth. I sure hope not.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing the next young up and coming GM get the job, rather than a retread. And if the youngster wants to blow the team up, strip it down to the studs, and rebuild, I am OK with that. Maybe you keep Felix (who has a no trade clause anyway) and at least CONSIDER trading every other player. Maybe the Cano and Cruz contractors are not movable but everything should be explored.

    Sure has been a sad 24 hours though for a lifelong Mariner fan…

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