[This post was submitted by Warren Leeman, otherwise known as Shchi Kossack. He offers suggestions “from the old recliner” for the next Reds general manager and manager.]
Walt Jocketty and Bryan Price are locked in for the 2016 season. Both have one year left on their contracts and Bob Castellini will simply not terminate either contract. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a given. Hopefully his commitment to the Old BoysÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Club for 2016 is merely a reflection of his loyalty to his long-time associates and will ultimately be a prelude to the house cleaning after the 2016 season with a new Baseball Operations management and philosophy for 2017.
I have no real confidence that BC is capable of and willing to make the decision to clean-sweep the Reds to establish a completely new, modern baseball philosophy, but as fans, we have to hope. With that hope in mind, is it too early to begin looking at options for a new GM and Manager for 2017? ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the offseason for the Reds as we await the World Series with activity and news related to the Reds limited to the shuffling of the major league coaching staff, so why not throw the discussion out there now? From the Old CossackÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s perspective, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll start by throwing my ideas and wish list out there for consideration.
When the decision on a new RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ GM is finally made, he may not even still be available after the 2016 season. He has already been prominently linked to several of the post-2015 GM openings, but Dan Kantrovitz would make an Ã¢â‚¬ËœeliteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ head of the Reds’ Baseball Operations Organization to finally lead the organization into the modern age of MLB. Kantrovitz may actually be over-qualified for the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ mid-market franchise, but the opportunity for full autonomy and control to implement his vision of the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Baseball Operations Organization might be very enticing to such a young, experienced, savvy, insightful GM candidate. Should anyone want a Kantrovitz primer, I highly recommend David LaurilaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s discussion from 2014 over at Fangraphs.
If the new GM needs a pedigree, stints with St. Louis and Oakland provide a nice one. After receiving an undergraduate degree from Brown, Kantrovitz spent 4 years cutting his teeth in the CardinalsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ organization then completed his master degree in statistics at Harvard. He spent two years as Director of International Scouting for Oakland, two years as Director of Amateur Scouting for St. Louis and last year served as AGM for Oakland.
While Kantrovitz comes well versed in numbers and metrics, his philosophical approach, while based on data analysis, also incorporates an old school approach as referenced in his quote regarding scouting evaluation, Ã¢â‚¬Å“We try to keep it as scientific and data-driven as possible, but our metrics arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t our end-all-be-all. Our scouts know that. Any time youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re dealing with amateur baseball players, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s highly variable. If we didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t allow some wiggle room Ã¢â‚¬â€ quite a bit of wiggle room in some cases Ã¢â‚¬â€œ from the influence of our scoutsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ voices, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be off.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Kantrovitz should also appeal to the innate need to hire ex-Cardinals from pre-2008 if that matters, except this would be a young, sharp, energetic and capable acquisition. Most of Kantrovitz experience has been through developing and managing highly effective scouting departments. His approach to assembling an effective organization was addressed in his quote, Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d guess having a background in analytics influences the way I look at assembling a staff, but at the end of the day, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d prefer not to have a department where we all think the same way or have the same set of experiences to draw upon. Scouting is so difficult, that I think to minimize our mistakes, having scouts who have different approaches is important.Ã¢â‚¬Â
This is exactly what the Reds have lacked (and need), an open mind to differing opinions and differing approaches.
After the GM is in place, the next field manager must be a top priority. This gets tricky for me. I’m not sure how Bob Castellini would feel about hiring another manager with no experience, but I also donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want another retread. I was very pro-Price when he was hired, mostly from outside observation of his professional management and communication skills that he had exhibited as a pitching coach and the support he received from the players he coached. That hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worked out so well.
I like the idea of ex-players with sub-superstar skills who made it through sheer fortitude and determination. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m particularly biased toward catchers since they must have superior baseball knowledge and instincts to succeed. They also have to be pretty hard-nosed and tough in order to succeed.
If he is available after the 2016 season, I think Ryan Hanigan could be the man to right the ship as the Reds on-field manager. Boston has a $3.75MM team option for Hanigan in 2017 with an $800K buyout. With the plethora of recent injuries for the 35-year-old catcher, I think Hanigan’s playing career may come to an end after 2016 and he looks to be a solid managerial candidate, at least at some point. His knowledge of pitching and hitting can match anyone. He always commanded respect as a player and no one was tougher than Hanigan. I think he has separated himself enough professionally from the current roster to avoid personal relationship complications, but has recent-enough ties to the organization to allow a smooth transition. I see better all-around preparation to become a successful manager through his playing experience and approach to the game.
If Hanigan is available and wants the opportunity and Kantrovitz and Hanigan can work together effectively, I would take a flyer on Hanigan as the next Reds manager.