Baseball GMs land in Milwaukee

Today, the baseball offseason heats up as the general managers meet in Milwaukee.

Unlike the winter meetings scheduled for early next month, this annual get-together is a bit more relaxed and allows all 30 general managers to meet and lay out their plans for the offseason. Owners are scheduled to meet on Thursday, when the focus is expected to be on new Astros owner Jim Crane a new collective bargaining agreement.

Here’s a look at each general manager who will be at his first such meeting, at least with his current team. Some are returning from last season with a new team, others have been out of commission for a while and a few can finally know what it feels like to have this exclusive title.

Dan Duquette, Baltimore Orioles
Age: 53
Previous experience: Began as a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers; 1992-93 served as GM of the Montreal Expos; 1994-2002 served as GM of the Boston Red Sox.

It’s no secret that Duquette was the team’s distant fifth or sixth choice, but after scaring off other promising candidates the Orioles settled on this front office veteran. Duquette was a major architect of the successful 1994 Expos and later helped lay the foundation for the multiple World Series winning Red Sox during the 2000s. Duquette promises to govern in a way similar to his days in Montreal. He is an active trader and capable of finding success on a budget, but he will have his work cut out for him.

What we can expect this offseason: The team can go in two very different directions. First, he could blow up the team by trading off valuable players like J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Jeremy Guthrie and even Mark Reynolds. This strategy would leave the team incredibly bare and would only serve to shave off close to $27 million for next season. That’s not a whole lot of money when you take into consideration the key positional players who are being dealt, so the return would have to be look promising to make it worth it.

The other option is to keep these players and try to add some extra wins by investing in a cheaper mid-rotation pitcher and see if Luke Scott’s shoulder is healthy enough come January. Assuming the Orioles project as 70-74-win team next season. will it be worth it to pay for a few extra wins in the hope of reaching 78-80? Based on the strong competition in the AL East, where 78 wins could still mean last place, I don’t think so. But this seems to be the direction that owner Peter Angelos and manager Buck Showalter are heading. I just hope the team drafts well over the next few seasons.

Terry Ryan, Minnesota Twins
Age: 58
Previous experience: Began his career as a scout for the New York Mets; hired as the Twins’ scouting director in the late ’80s; served as Twins GM from 1994-2007; remained as senior advisor to the Twins 2007-2011.

Ryan is an excellent player evaluator and is very shrewd in off-loading veterans for young, major league-ready talent. The question is for how long can we expect Ryan to be the acting general manager? Will he remain through the winter meetings? Step down before spring training? Strong rumors do suggest that Mike Radcliffe, the Twins’ current minor league scouting director, could get the job fairly soon.

What we can expect this offseason: The Twins signed Jamey Carroll for two years at $7 million total. They have declined the option on Joe Nathan and don’t seem particularly interested in bringing back Matt Capps, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. Ryan is known to flip affordable veterans for useful prospects, so it’s expected he’ll listen to offers on Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker.

Josh Byrnes, San Diego Padres
Age: 41
Previous experience: Scouting director for the Cleveland Indians in 1998; named assistant GM for the Colorado Rockies 1999-2000; assistant GM of the Boston Red Sox from 2002-2005; GM Arizona Diamondbacks from 2005-2010; named VP of baseball operations for the San Diego Padres 2010-2011.

Byrnes is your classic boom-or-bust GM. He’s not afraid to take chances and is open-minded to new strategies. His tenure as GM of the D-backs had its share of good and bad moments with trades for Chris Young and Ian Kennedy still paying dividends for the current squad. He did have some misses in firing a bit early on Carlos Quentin and the return haul he received when he shipped Randy Johnson off to the Yankees was a bit underwhelming for fans in Arizona. Owner Jeffrey Moorad has all the confidence in Byrnes and his staff, so expect him to be very active this offseason.

What we can expect this offseason: Jason Bartlett should fetch some interest from teams like Atlanta or St. Louis and others looking for an affordable shortstop. Chase Headley is a named frequently mentioned by opposing teams. Byrnes has been known to trade some of his highly regarded prospects for a big name player if the contract makes sense.

Jed Hoyer, Chicago Cubs
Age: 37
Previous experience: was co-assistant GM of the Boston Red Sox from 2005-2009; named GM of the San Diego Padres 2009-11.

Both Hoyer and the team’s new ,president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, are entering an offseason very similar to the one they had when they were first tabbed to improve the Boston Red Sox. The Cubs generate a lot of revenue, so spending above the average payroll shouldn’t be a problem. Hoyer’s background is in quantitative analysis, but he values the opinions of his scouts, especially Jason McLeod, who was named senior vice president of scouting and player development and was also a key member of the Red Sox’ successful front office.

What we can expect this offseason: The Cubs do have the spending power to make a big splash this offseason, but the team may fill some of itsr needs with short-term options. So far the market has been higher than last offseason for such fringe utility infielders—Willie Bloomquist, Jamey Carroll and Mark Ellis all received multi-year deals. For a team that has been saddled with so many bad contracts, it looks like some light is at the end of the tunnel. Epstein and Hoyer both seem firm on not bringing back Aramis Ramirez and will be looking to fill third base with no one spectacular unless a trade is made. Carlos Marmol could be an interesting name offered for a position of need.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Ben Cherington, Boston Red Sox
Age: 36
Previous experience: Began as an advance scout for the Cleveland Indians in the late ’90s; named co-assistant GM of the Boston Red Sox 2005-2009; named assistant GM of the Red Sox 2009-2011.

And then there was one. After the Red Sox spent years building a dream team of front office types in Boston, Cherington looks to be the last man of note with the Red Sox. He comes from a strong background in both statistical and scouting analysis and has his work cut out for him as he looks to quickly re-mold one of the league’s storied franchises to his liking.

What we can expect this offseason: I’m sure the Red Sox’s aren’t ready to give Cherington complete autonomy this offseason, which is probably smart in light of last season’s spending spree. Boston’s new GM will have to decide on the structure of next season’s bullpen while also factoring in the ramifications of losing David Ortiz to free agency. The market for relievers has gone haywire with Jonathan Papelbon’s recent defection as well as the contract nearly given to Ryan Madson. Up until last September Daniel Bard seemed like a lock to be the closer in 2012. I think he still has a chance and as insurance it may help to look at a cheaper option like Joe Nathan.

Jerry Dipoto, California Angels
Age: 43
Previous experience: Scouting director for the Colorado Rockies 2003-2004; named scouting director and director of player personnel for Arizona Diamondbacks 2005-2010; named interim GM of Arizona Diamondbacks 2010.

Dipoto made quite a name for himself during his brief tenure as interim GM of the D-backs during the second half of 2010, though by current estimations he seemed to whiff on the Dan Haren deal for Joe Saunders and prospects. However, he came out on top in the trade that sent Edwin Jackson to the White Sox for current D-backs ace Dan Hudson.

What we can expect this offseason: Dipoto has shown the ability to effectively cut payroll and move veterans for younger players with interesting upside. Current Angels owner Arte Moreno surprised many insiders when he signed his new GM to a five-year contract. The team is expected to not shoulder much of a payroll past last season’s $141 million. Some money is coming off the books with Joel Pineiro and Fernando Rodney expected to walk as free agents. Dipoto will be looking for back-end starters and some depth in the bullpen. Expect him to slash payroll through trades, but this could be tough since most of the enviable players like Peter Bourjos and Howie Kendrick aren’t as expensive as some of the albatrosses they would like to kick out.

Other GM notes

Will the Astros have a new GM before the start of next month’s winter meetings? Jim Crane is expected to take over as principal owner on Nov. 21 and current Astros GM Ed Wade has been on the hot seat since the team was sold last May.

It’s expected that new ownership wants to operate on a low payroll, in the short term, while focusing on improving their farm system. Wade has pretty much operated under Crane’s plan, so it’s possible that he remains on board through the rest of the offseason.

The Dodgers’ hiring of Alex Tamin received a lot of buzz last week. I’m sure he’ll do a fine job as the team looks to find a fair long-term price for Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Tamin looks like an excellent addition and provides the team with a legitimate chance to finally replace Kim Ng, who departed earlier this year. What’s curious is how Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has jumped all over this as proof that he ready to turn a new leaf… into the crazy and dangerous world of statistical analysis.

We’ll see if the new owners will buy it.

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