Front offices are front and center in modern MLB, with analytics, as Ivy League grads have been revolutionizing player value and tactics over the last 20-plus years. From top to bottom, here's a look at the best — and worst — front offices in MLB entering 2020.
Andrew Friedman was arguably the best baseball decision maker in baseball when he was in Tampa Bay, and then he was seduced to L.A. with the team's new ownership group. The president of baseball ops for the Dodgers since late 2014, Friedman's teams have won the NL West every season and advanced to the World Series in 2017 and 2018. Not only has Friedman's front office drafted and developed talent well, but it's also been able to find diamonds in the rough like Chris Taylor, Justin Turner and Max Muncy, for next to nothing. No team in baseball is better set up for the long term, with an incredible young core led by Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias, and the expectations have never been higher after the team acquired Mookie Betts this winter.
No team has done more with less lately than the Rays. Tampa Bay promoted Erik Neander to GM following the 2016 season. During that time, Tampa Bay won 80 games in 2017, 90 games in 2018 and 96 games last season. Not only are the Rays well positioned to make the playoffs for a second straight year, but they also have arguably the top farm system and top prospect in the game in shortstop Wander Franco. The Rays continue to think outside the box, with hitter platoons, the opener, four-man rotations and a versatile bullpen. Heading into 2020, the Rays also have the fourth-lowest payroll in MLB.
Sure, the Yankees have as much money and resources as any organization in the game, but it's what they do with them that counts. Led by GM Brian Cashman since 1998, the Yankees have won four World Series and could be well on their way to another dynasty after Cashman's most recent rebuild. New York has a young core led by Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge, but the front office has also been extremely successful in converting big-ticket moves, most recently the acquisitions of Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole.
Now the executive VP of baseball operations, Billy Beane became a true legend with the book "Moneyball" and resulting movie featuring his character. He's done as much to push the analytics revolution in sports as any modern figure. He's called the shots for the A's since 1998 and despite never making a World Series, the team has made 10 playoff appearances under his watch with a payroll that regularly ranks close to the bottom of MLB. Oakland is hoping to make its third consecutive playoff appearance, in 2020.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein deserves mention on the Mount Rushmore of baseball ops decision makers for ending two incredible World Series droughts, in Boston and Chicago. However, not all of his moves have turned out well, and history is beginning to repeat itself with big contracts coming back to bite him in Chicago much the same way they did late in his tenure in Boston. Among recent blunders were the signings of Jason Heyward, Tyler Chatwood and Craig Kimbrel, resulting in a third-place finish in 2019. Still, after winning the World Series in 2016, Cubs fans can't complain too much.
Chris Antonetti has been a prominent member of Cleveland's front office since 2010 and was promoted to president of baseball operations after the 2015 season. Working with limited resources, the Indians have routinely won trades and developed an excellent farm system under his watch. They made three consecutive playoff appearances from 2016-2018, winning the AL Central in each season, and have successfully developed the likes of Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber, among many others. The team has the core to remain competitive for many years to come.
GM Alex Anthopoulos was long acclaimed for the job he did in Toronto before taking over an enviable roster and farm system in Atlanta. He's been at the helm for just over two years, and the Braves have won consecutive NL East titles. Anthopoulos' impact has been felt with Josh Donaldson and a rebuilt bullpen late last year, and he's continued that momentum by signing late-inning reliever Will Smith, Cole Hamels and Travis d'Arnaud this offseason. Even after the organization suffered major penalties from the former front office's international signing violations, Atlanta's farm system remains one of the best in the game.
David Stearns came on board as GM late in 2015. He finally has the franchise in the place he envisioned with back-to-back playoff appearances spurred by the incredible acquisition and development of Christian Yelich. Milwaukee has also been able to develop its own talent, notably Brandon Woodruff and Keston Hiura, and has consistently done well with its free agent additions, such as Lorenzo Cain. The challenge got bigger this offseason when the front office had to build a depth-filled roster after losing offensive stars Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas.
Derek Falvey has hired as Minnesota's chief baseball officer following the 2016 season. He's been King Midas during that time, going to the playoffs twice in three years after losing 103 games in 2016. It should be noted that most of the Twins roster was developed by the prior front office regime, but Falvey and his staff did make some astute moves like the additions Jake Odorizzi and Nelson Cruz. He's put his own stamp on the 2020 roster to an even greater degree with Josh Donaldson and pitching additions like Kenta Maeda and Homer Bailey. The Twins farm system is also in good position, ranked eighth in MLB by Baseball America.
Washington finally got over the hump and had playoff success last year, winning the World Series after four consecutive NLDS losses since 2012. GM Mike Rizzo has plenty of resources to work with from ownership, but there's a lot to be said for the team's ability to finish no worse than second place in the NL East every year since 2012. Rizzo is responsible for much of the team's success, after taking over as GM in 2009. Even after the notable losses of Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in the last two years, Washington is in strong position to compete in the near future and continue to produce well-regarded young players like Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom.
Mike Hazen came over from Boston to lead Arizona's baseball operations following the 2016 season. Arizona was a surprise wild-card team in 2017, winning 93 games, but reloaded in 2019 following an 82-win season in 2018. Hazen has made some franchise-altering decisions during his short tenure, including the trades of franchise players Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke, but the early moves by the current Diamondbacks front office have been mostly impressive. Among them were signing Ketel Marte to a five-year, $24 extension prior to his breakout season, selecting Christian Walker off waivers and re-signing Eduardo Escobar prior to his 35 home run season last year. Arizona's farm system is also solid.
John Mozeliak succeeded Walt Jocketty as the Cardinals baseball operations head in 2007, and his performance has been excellent overall. St. Louis has made the playoffs seven times since 2009 and won the World Series in 2011. However, recent seasons have been more challenging for the organization, as the front office talent was pilfered (most notably former Astros head Jeff Luhnow) and got a black eye from a hacking scandal , and several on-field moves have backfired. The Cards are getting less than desired from free agent signings Dexter Fowler, Andrew Miller and Brett Cecil, but the team also traded the likes of Tommy Pham and Oscar Mercado for minimal return. The extensions for Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter also look shaky at this point. Still, the Cardinals are perennial contenders under Mozeliak and now GM Mike Girsch, which is all fans can ask.
Jon Daniels took over the Rangers baseball operations at age 28 in 2005. He built the organization into a powerhouse at the start of the last decade, losing consecutive World Series in 2010 and 2011. Texas made the playoffs five times from 2010-2016, but since then the Rangers have undergone a major rebuild. Under-the-radar moves like free agent signings Mike Minor and Lance Lynn have put the team in a position to get back on track, and Daniels was busy this offseason with big-ticket acquisitions like Corey Kluber and Kyle Gibson. Fans have a lot to look forward to as the team opens Globe Life Field in 2020.
Rick Hahn was promoted to GM of the White Sox in 2013, and the team immediately started its rebuild. The White Sox have yet to finish .500 under Hahn's watch, but that's likely to change soon with one of the most talented young rosters in the game. Chicago has consistently drafted well while also making the most of MLB assets, such as the acquisition of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez for Adam Eaton in 2016 as well as the additions of Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease for Jose Quintana from the crosstown rival Cubs in 2017. Clearly the organization believes it's close to competing after spending big money this offseason on Jose Abreu, Edwin Encarnacion, Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel.
The well-regarded Farhan Zaidi came over from the Dodgers last year to run San Francisco's baseball operations. He's earned an incomplete grade at this point, as the Giants work to restock their farm system and recover from less-than-stellar moves by the previous regime. At this point, it would seem the Giants are waiting for big contracts like Buster Posey, Jeff Samardzija, Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt to expire while they strengthen the farm system.
Matt Klentak joined the Phillies organization after the 2015 season, coming over from the Angels. Philadelphia finished .500 last season for the first time under Klentak after adding Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen and several relief pitchers the previous offseason. The Phils continue to spend big, adding Zack Wheeler, but the farm system isn't in great shape in terms of depth and it remains to be seen if they can challenge the Braves in the NL East.
Not many teams have been busier than Cincinnati this offseason, with huge additions like Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Wade Miley after acquiring Trevor Bauer and Freddy Galvis late last season. Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams has been with the Reds since 2006 and was promoted to GM following the 2015 season, and for his tenure the team peaked at 75 wins last year. While Cincinnati was last in the playoffs in 2013, things are starting to look up for the franchise with a new-school coaching staff, interesting prospects close to the majors and a roster that looks like it is finally capable of competing in the NL Central.
Moore has been K.C.'s GM since 2009, and his tenure has been complicated. Scorned and ridiculed regularly by the stat head community, Moore did orchestrate the 2014 and 2015 rosters that went to consecutive World Series, winning it all in the latter season. But the team has regressed considerably since then, losing more than 100 games in consecutive seasons and seemingly lacking big impact talent on the farm.
A.J. Preller came on board during the 2014 season, and his tenure has been interesting, to say the least. The Padres have regularly made big moves, headlined by the signings of James Shields and Manny Machado as well as trade acquisitions Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton, among others. Many of the moves have backfired on the organization, but Preller has also helped build one of the deepest farm systems in MLB. San Diego is finally starting to see the fruits of his labor with young stars Fernando Tatis Jr., Chris Paddack, and Francisco Mejia (each acquired via trades), but Preller's job status could be on shaky ground in the final season of his current contract.
Billy Eppler was hired away from the Yankees to run the Angels as GM following the 2015 season. He's made some progress building a farm system that was barren when he arrived, but the fact the team has finished under .500 over the last four seasons despite the presence of Mike Trout is disappointing at best. Pitching injuries have been a constant, so all the blame can't be put on Eppler, but significant acquisitions like Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons haven't made the expected impact. The Angels went to the well again this offseason, adding Anthony Rendon for $245 million as well as making a few more pitching moves to put the team in contention.
Ross Atkins followed former Indians GM Mark Shapiro to Toronto after the 2015 season. The team made its second consecutive playoff appearance in 2016 but has now finished in fourth place in three consecutive seasons with decreasing win totals. With a blend of young players from the former and current regimes, Toronto is in position to improve rapidly led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Mike Elias, the current GM of the Orioles, deserves an incomplete grade with just one year in the organization. Baltimore was long overdue for a teardown, and Elias didn't have much to work with considering a 47-win season in 2018. The team won only 54 games last year, and it's become apparent that Elias has followed the Astros model of losing on the field to win in the draft.
GM Jerry Dipoto is nicknamed "Trade Jerry" for good reason. He's seemingly made constant trades since taking over the M's in 2015, sometimes to his own detriment. Dipoto tried to build the team's talent around Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez when he arrived, but after peaking at 89 wins in 2018, he traded Cano, Edwin Diaz and anything else not glued down. The lack of a clear and cohesive plan has to be frustrating for Mariners fans.
The Marlins organization has been synonymous with success, followed by fire sales, since it came to be in 1993. That happened again when the team was purchased by Derek Jeter and Co. in 2017. Michael Hill has run baseball operations since 2007, an era that has seen no playoff appearances and only two finishes above .500. The Marlins have certainly hit their stride in developing star talent during that time, with a list that includes Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto and Jose Fernandez. The farm system is packed again after so many significant trades, but success doesn't seem anywhere close.
Al Avila succeeded legendary GM Dave Dombrowski at a difficult time for the Tigers in 2015. The team no longer has the payroll it did when ownership was so willing to spend freely and is compromised by some of the moves that Dombrowski made, like Miguel Cabrera's contract. Still, Avila hasn't done the team many favors with additions like Jordan Zimmermann. Last year's 114-loss squad was the second worst in the organization's 119 year history, but the good news is that the Tigers are loaded with pitching talent in the upper minors, led by Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal.
Brodie Van Wagenen took a unique path in baseball, going from player agent to GM following the 2018 season. The Mets have been aggressive under Van Wagenen, but the early returns on their moves haven't been good. New York gave up significant prospect capital to acquire Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz last season, saw only eight plate appearances from Jed Lowrie after signing him and also got a disappointing season from Wilson Ramos last year en route to an 86-76 finish.
Jeff Bridich has been with the Rockies since 2004, and he was promoted to GM following the 2014 season. Colorado was twice a wild-card team under his watch, but many of his free agent signings have come back to haunt the organization. The return on investment that the team has seen from Ian Desmond, Daniel Murphy, Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw has been extremely subpar, and franchise player Nolan Arenado has been at odds with Bridich this offseason. Colorado's farm system has also seen better days, ranked 29th by Baseball America.
Former Rays front office member Chaim Bloom was hired by the Red Sox following the 2019 season to run baseball operations. It's been a difficult offseason for Boston with an apparent desire to cut payroll, causing the trade of franchise player Mookie Betts as well as David Price. Bloom also has many bad contracts left over from the former front office, such as those of Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi.
New Pirates GM Ben Cherington has held the same position previously, leading the Red Sox from 2011-2015. Boston won the 2013 World Series during that period but otherwise failed to make the playoffs and had three last-place finishes. He hopes to write a story of more prolonged success for a rebuilding Pirates franchise.
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