Names to watch in GM search


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Travis WIlliams and Bob Nutting Monday -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

On Monday, the Pirates announced the hiring of new team president Travis Williams and the firing of general manager Neal Huntington. While Huntington's job had been in limbo for some time, Nutting told DKPittsburghSports.com in an interview Monday that he finally pulled the trigger because, "It was critically important to me to have Travis physically in place before we began a general manager search."

The Pirates are expected to be very tight-lipped during this search, and it could take weeks. There are no formal, confirmed candidates at this point. However, we can look at people who would fit the mold of what they are looking for. This article will list individuals with success with small markets, talent acquisition and player development, who have interviewed for GM positions across the league recently or have Pittsburgh connections.

Matt Arnold, Brewers senior vice president and assistant general manager

What better way to catch up with the Brewers front office than to steal their number two? Arnold may only be 40, but he has a very thorough resume. He has been with the Brewers for four years. Before that, he served as director of player personnel for the Rays, working for the organization from 2007-2015. He also made stops with the Dodgers, Rangers and Reds.

He has done a bit of everything with the Brewers, including roster construction, financial planning, personnel development, staffing, contract negotiations and other day to day operations.

Mike Berger, Brewers pro scouting crosschecker

A Central Catholic graduate and former Pirates draft pick, Berger has Pittsburgh roots, which is something Nutting very much valued when hiring Williams.

Berger started as a scout in 1996 and has some experience as a general manager. In 2015, Marlins general manager Dan Jennings took over as the team's field manager midseason, and Berger became the de facto GM. He stayed a vice president and assistant general manager after Jennings was fired following the 2015 season. Berger was one of many Marlins front office executives who were fired after the new ownership, helmed by Derek Jeter, took over the franchise in September 2017. He went to the Brewers shortly after his dismissal.

Marc DelPiano, Yankees pro scout

DelPiano worked under Huntington as a special assistant to the general manager from December 2008 through the 2015 season. He was instrumental in the Pirates acquiring Russell Martin, Jason Grilli and A.J. Burnett.

DelPiano left the Pirates to become the Marlins vice president of player development, where he was also a victim of the 2017 Jeter housecleaning. While two years is hardly enough time to see a turnaround in player development, the Marlins have gone from having one of the worst to best farm systems in four years time, and that is partially due to the framework he laid out.

Kevin Goldstein, Astros director of pro scouting

No team has accumulated amateur talent as effectively as the Astros this decade. Goldstein joined the Astros in 2012 and became their director of pro scouting in 2014. He is involved in trades, free agent signings and all aspects of the Astros' scouting, so he is a cog in Houston's player development machine, not just a face.

Goldstein, like Williams, also comes from an unique background, getting his start as a writer for Baseball Prospectus.

Brian Graham, former director of player development

A former senior director of player development with the Pirates, Graham was the caretaker GM between Dave Littlefield and Huntington in 2007. After Pittsburgh Graham went to Baltimore, where he eventually rose to director of player development from 2013-2018.

Graham also has experience as both a minor league manager and a big league coach.

Tony LaCava, Blue Jays senior vice president of player personnel and assistant general manager

An early adopter of sabermetrics, LaCava joined the Blue Jays front office in 2002. He has been their assistant general manager since 2007, with the exception of a one month stint as their interim GM during the 2015 offseason.

LaCava helped acquire the Blue Jays' current young core, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. He also advocated for the Blue Jays to acquire Jose Bautista in 2008.

Like Berger, LaCava graduated from Central Catholic, so he has ties to the city.

Kim Ng, senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball

In Monday's interview, Nutting talked about him needing to be "a more effective advocate for Pittsburgh and the Pirates as we head into labor negotiations." If he is serious about that, it means he will need to work closer with Major League Baseball in the coming years. Ng could help make sure Nutting's voice carries more weight.

Ng would be more than just a connection, though. She boasts one of the strongest resumes for any potential GM candidate, previously serving as an assistant general manager for the Yankees and Dodgers, and was a vice president for the latter club. She interviewed for the Giants and Mets GM jobs last winter.

Billy Owens, Athletics assistant general manager

It may be too late to get Owens. While he has not yet been officially pegged as the Giants next GM, he is widely considered a favorite. If that should fall through, Owens has 19 years experience in the Athletics front office and has his finger prints all over the current roster. No small market team has enjoyed as much success over the past two decades without at least one major tear down as the Athletics. That experience would be invaluable in Pittsburgh.

Zack Scott, Red Sox senior vice president and assistant general manager.

Now that the Red Sox have hired Chaim Bloom, they could lose Scott, assistant general manager Eddie Romero or senior vice president of major and minor league operations Raquel Ferreira. Consider Ferreira and Romero candidates as well, but Bloom is getting singled out here because he oversees the club's analytics department.

It's no question the Pirates were at their best when they were on the cutting edge of the analytical wave, but they had fallen behind in recent years. The Red Sox have one of the best analytics departments in the game, as evidenced by their 2018 World Series championship. Scott is not just a number cruncher though, assisting on player acquisition and contract analysis.

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