The search for a General Manager is underway at The Warehouse, but no make no mistake about this: the man who will actually run the baseball operations is already employed. His name is Buck Showalter.
Showalter will manage the team in 2012, but he’ll also be the guy who makes the calls on player acquisitions, trades and anything else having to do with the on-field product.
That the club will bring someone in to handle the desk duties of the GM position is nothing more than window dressing. Buck Showalter, like many assumed he’d eventually be when he was hired in August of 2010, is basically in charge.
A source tells me Scott Proefrock is interested in the position and the Orioles, too, are at least interested in discussing it with him, but the source maintains Proefrock might not want to assume the GM role if it’s nothing more than Paper Pusher-Lite while Showalter actually runs the day to day duties of the operation.
“Scott is a very astute baseball man,” the source says, “and he knows how the Orioles work, with Peter at the top and the GM falling in underneath. But it’s questionable whether Scott would want to work in a situation where he’s essentially 2B, doing whatever the manager asks of him.”
That said, as the source noted, money talks and that other thing walks. “There are only 30 GM positions in baseball. 30 GM salaries. 30 GM contracts. Anyone worth his salt would take one of those 30 jobs and the nice salary and benefits package that goes along with it.”
Another name that has interested the Orioles is 61-year old Gerry Hunsicker of the Tampa Bays Rays. “Peter is particularly interested in him because of the Rays rise through the American League over the last few years and how they’ve done it without having to spend on an even scale with Boston and New York,” the source says.
Showalter, meanwhile, will be the guy having a major say in assembling the 2012 roster. He’ll put his wish list together and play a more active role in which free agents the team pursues and which trades the club might participate in over the winter.
One player who WON’T be traded in the off-season is centerfielder Adam Jones.
Showalter thinks Jones is a player the club can be built around and it’s likely the team will make the club’s 2012 MVP a long-term contract offer sometime over the winter.
One interesting question given the situation surrounding Andy MacPhail’s departure and Showalter’s desire to have a more hands-on say in the player personnel department is this: Why not just make Buck the GM and let him manage the club?
“It’s just too much of a public risk to do it that way,” the source says. “Peter has tried some things before that haven’t worked, like having co-GM’s and the like. He tried to publicly sell that as a good thing and it clearly didn’t work. He knows what the reaction to that would be if he named Buck the GM and still allowed him to manage.”
But the resolution is clear. Buck WILL be doing a lot of the GM duties, effective immediately.
In reality, the off-season is when a GM does most of the hard work, anyway, so it might make sense for Showalter to put on a collar and tie and go after it as if he is, in fact, the team’s General Manager. Once the season starts next April, Buck can manage the team and someone else can handle the paperwork and the call-ups and the rest of the things that a GM basically focuses on from April through October.
One possible option remains as an “in-house” solution — promote Matt Klentak (Director of Baseball Operations) to a position that looks and feels like a “Deputy GM”, working hand in hand with Showalter on all player personnel issues.
“Matt is highly thought of in the organization,” the source says. “He’s ready for an expanded role, either in Baltimore or somewhere else. He might not be ready to actually be a day-in and day-out General Manager, but he knows what the position entails and he and Buck could make the partnership work well together.”
“One thing for sure,” the source concluded. “Buck learned his lesson last off-season when the club ducked out early on the Victor Martinez negotiations and then handed Kevin Gregg the closer job without making sure Gregg understood he’d be involved in a spring training competition for the role. Buck learned that you better be right in the middle of that stuff in Baltimore if you’re the man who will eventually be managing the product.”
As I reported back in July, Showalter was upset that the Orioles failed to aggressively bid for Martinez, losing out to the Tigers by $2 million when the catcher/first baseman was a free agent last winter. Showalter was also surprised to learn that Gregg arrived in Sarasota last February assuming he was the team’s closer in 2012, a fact Gregg says was discussed with his agent when MacPhail negotiated a 2-year deal with the right hander last January. Player positions can’t be guaranteed by contract in MLB, but it’s a common practice for players to make decisions based on what management tells their agent their client’s role will be with their new team.
Other player personnel issues that agitated Showalter in 2011, like Felix Pie remaining with the club for the better part of 100 games, Steve Johnson not being recalled in September and Jake Fox returning to the club in August, all played a role in the skipper wanting more personnel control in 2012.
Well, as the saying goes: Ask and ye shall receive.
Let’s see how Showalter does with the club now that he’s apparently going to be the head honcho.