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Which GMs are on the hot seat?
The pending turnover among general managers cannot possibly match the turnover among managers from 2010 to ’11.
Twelve teams started ’11 with different managers than they had on Opening Day 2010, marking the second-largest managerial upheaval in major league history.
A dozen GMs will not lose their jobs this offseason. But as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline looms, a dozen clubs face some form of uncertainty in the position.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Ed Wade, Astros: He probably would be in trouble even if no ownership change was imminent; the Astros’ .323 winning percentage is the worst in the majors, and their farm system is hardly teeming with solutions.
The intentions of incoming owner Jim Crane are not known; baseball has yet to approve him. Crane is almost certain to take a run at Rays GM Andrew Friedman, a Houston native who grew up an Astros fan. The rehiring of former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker, a special assistant to Friedman, would be a different kind of a public-relations coup.
Jim Hendry, Cubs: Speculation persists that owner Tom Ricketts might hire Hall of Fame inductee Pat Gillick as club president. In theory, Gillick could retain Hendry, and the two could work together to fix the club. But the entire idea seems far-fetched; Cubs fans want change, and both Hendry and manager Mike Quade seem likely to be replaced.
The real intrigue would begin once Ricketts began his search for a new GM.
White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn is generally regarded as the game’s leading GM candidate, but many in the industry believe that the Cubs’ job also might draw interest from some of the game’s top current GMs.
LESS THAN SECURE
Jack Zduriencik, Mariners: Some good things are happening with the M’s, most notably the developments of right-hander Michael Pineda, second baseman Dustin Ackley and first baseman Justin Smoak. But for the second straight year, the team’s offense is historically bad.
The Mariners averaged 3.17 runs per game last season, the fewest by an AL club since the introduction of the DH in 1972. This season, the M’s are all the way up to 3.19. Meanwhile, the team’s average home attendance has declined from 28,761 in 2008 to 23,342 in ’11 – a dropoff of more than 5,400 per game.
Not all of that is Zduriencik’s fault, but he probably is fortunate that the Mariners are historically inert. His predecessor, Bill Bavasi, did a worse job and lasted 4-1/2 years.
Tony Reagins, Angels: Difficult to judge; the consensus in baseball is that the actual power with the Angels rests with manager Mike Scioscia and owner Arte Moreno.
The team has made some horrible trades (Vernon Wells, Scott Kazmir) and botched some negotiations with major free agents (Mark Teixeira, Carl Crawford). But how much is Reagins actually to blame?
Bottom line: The Angels could miss the playoffs for the second straight year, something that has not happened to the franchise since 2000-01. The Rangers are now the pre-eminent team in the AL West.
Dave Dombrowski, Tigers: While Dombrowski does not appear to be in serious jeopardy, both he and manager Jim Leyland are in the final years of their contracts. As I wrote in a recent column about Leyland, if owner Mike Ilitch was certain that he wanted both to return, he already would have granted them extensions.
The Tigers, though, are only one game behind the Indians in the AL Central. Another second-half collapse might doom Leyland, at the very least. But in the big picture, the Tigers have had only one losing season since reaching the 2006 World Series.
With Dombrowski serving as both GM and club president, the franchise clearly is in better shape than when he took over in ’02.
Brian Cashman, Yankees: Even some of Cashman’s friends in the industry think he might be ready to bolt. He started with the Yankees in 1986 and became GM in 1998, but he has turned increasingly blunt and outspoken in recent months, as if job security is the least of his concerns.
Then again, Cashman actually seemed more disenchanted in 2008, the last time he was in the final year of his contract. He signed a new deal then after gaining more control, and perhaps he will centralize his authority again.
The Yankees’ farm system is brimming with pitching talent, and several of Cashman’s low-budget free agents have outperformed expectations. And lest anyone forget, it wasn’t his idea to sign Rafael Soriano.
Andy MacPhail, Orioles: It would be an upset if he returned as president of baseball operations.
Manager Buck Showalter has emerged as a leading confidante of owner Peter Angelos, a development that MacPhail says has occurred with his blessing. Showalter, according to Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun and some who know the manager well, might even want to become GM.
MacPhail, who is in the final year of his contract, has given no indication that he wants to remain in his current position. The Orioles, owners of the second-worst record in the AL, are headed for their 14th straight losing season. A shakeup of some kind seems inevitable.
Andrew Friedman, Rays: The challenges the Rays face are almost overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean Friedman is eager to leave for the Astros, Cubs or any other team that possesses greater resources.
Friedman’s relationship with owner Stuart Sternberg is one of the best between a GM and owner in the game. And few things are more gratifying for a GM than making the playoffs out of the highly competitive AL East, something the Rays have done two of the past three years.
Ned Colletti, Dodgers: His situation could get interesting. Colletti is under contract through 2012; after that, he has an out. Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ ownership remains in limbo. If another team wanted permission to interview Colletti, it would be difficult for anyone to justify saying no.
Ken Williams, White Sox: As manager Ozzie Guillen could attest, owner Jerry Reinsdorf is extremely loyal to his top employees. Williams does not appear in danger of losing his job; the only question is whether Reinsdorf would want to elevate him to club president to keep Hahn from becoming a GM elsewhere. Those familiar with the franchise believe that such an arrangement would be difficult on both men.
YOU NEVER KNOW
Doug Melvin, Brewers: He received almost universal praise for obtaining right-handers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in offseason trades, and the early returns are good on his pickup of reliever Francisco Rodriguez.
But what happens if the Brewers miss the playoffs?
Melvin is signed through 2012, but owner Mark Attanasio showed impatience near the end of the ’08 season when he was the driving force behind the firing of manager Ned Yost. The Brewers’ payroll is a franchise-record $88 million. A disappointing finish could prompt Attanasio to review the entire baseball operation.
Bill Smith, Twins: Injuries are largely to blame for the Twins’ trying season, but Smith’s signing of Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka looks questionable and the GM failed to reconstruct the bullpen adequately after losing several relievers to free agency.
Smith’s critics say that he is a better administrator than evaluator, but the Twins pride themselves on stability. It seems doubtful that they would dismiss Smith after a season filled with rotten luck.
Neal Huntington, Pirates: A year ago, Huntington appeared in greater danger than perhaps anyone on this list. But the Pirates have crafted a remarkable turnaround, and new manager Clint Hurdle does not deserve all of the credit. The team’s commitment to young talent finally is yielding results – and this season appears to be just the start of the Pirates’ renaissance.