Pick Your Preferred General-Manager Job

You’re a bright, available general-manager candidate. Not only that, but you’ve also scored a bunch of interviews. Congratulations! There are six teams out there that appear to be looking for a new GM, and you’re going to talk with all of them. Even the Marlins, who are super weird about everything. You know you’re ready. You know you’re prepared, and you feel pretty good about every individual chance. You don’t know how the teams are going to feel about you, but you feel like you should arrange your own priority list. Where would you like to go the most? Where would you like to go the least?

I should mention, you’re extremely flexible. Perhaps you knew that about yourself. It doesn’t really matter the city in which you end up employed. You love the beach, you love beer, you love hiking, and for some reason you love traffic (listening to podcasts?). And besides, you’re so devoted to your potential future job that you don’t anticipate all that much downtime anyhow. You’re either single, or your very understanding partner is like, “sure, anywhere’s good.” You evidently have family all over the place. Varying costs of living? Not on your radar! All you care about is that you make enough, which you will. You are stupidly easy to please. The specific job here is the only thing that matters. It’s the entire basis of the decision.

So, you’re looking at six interviews. Six possible GM positions. Which opening do you find most desirable? It’s not an easy choice, is it? But, make the choice. Make the choice! It’s one of your very favorite things to do, making choices. You make choices in your spare time. Here is a choice, to make.


  • 5-year average payroll: $146 million
  • 5-year highest payroll: $155 million

It’s never a great sign when you’re looking to take over for a guy who just walked away, of his own volition. The circumstances that existed that caused him to leave remain very much in place. It’s not much of a secret that Arte Moreno can be a difficult guy to work with. Even if you get along, Moreno might take some decisions out of your hands. The same goes for field manager Mike Scioscia, who’s quite probably the most powerful individual manager in the sport. Decisions here are group efforts. Power is split. You don’t want to end up on the wrong side of the people already in place.

But let’s not pretend like it’s all doom and gloom. Say what you will about Moreno, but the man wants to win, and he’s willing to spend for it. He’s proven that beyond any doubt in the past, and it wasn’t all that long ago that Scioscia was also considered a brilliant strategist. He’s stern, but he’s won, and people listen to him. Going beyond those two, this organization comes with the best player in baseball, and he’s under contract for a while. Though the farm system still appears thin, it’s improving, and there’s a good amount of young starting pitching depth. The fan base is kind of flaky, but big, and profitable if you can tap into it. Big market. Lots of fans to capture. Though it would be daunting to try to compete with the Dodgers, would that not also be exhilarating? Let’s say it would be exhilarating.


  • 5-year average payroll: $96 million
  • 5-year highest payroll: $104 million

The lowest-profile job available has a good amount going for it. Ownership wants to win, but it’s also understanding that these processes can’t take place overnight. In Milwaukee, you could build the front office you want, and really just take over this organization and install most of your own philosophies. The rebuild process already began, so it wouldn’t be on you to make the unpopular moves, and you’d benefit from some of the new youth. That Orlando Arcia is really something.

The downside is, yeah, the market is small, maybe the smallest in the game. That limits the payrolls, which can limit the success. There’s only so much talent in place, with a mostly uncompetitive roster. It’s quite frightening news that Jonathan Lucroy is struggling with concussion symptoms, and while it’s insensitive in a way to think about him as a player instead of a person, just from a roster-building standpoint, Lucroy’s one of the most important assets. To keep, or to trade. Oh, and, the Cardinals are in great shape, and the Pirates are in great shape, and the Cubs are in great shape, and that makes this an intimidating division. The Brewers, overall, aren’t looking at great odds.

Maybe you love the idea of that challenge. Maybe you love the idea of that flexibility, that degree of potential autonomy. Or maybe you just want your team to not be bad. This team could be bad. 🙁


  • 5-year average payroll: $95 million
  • 5-year highest payroll: $123 million

This is a weird and difficult situation. The team should be better than its record, but its record is its record, and it’s been a mostly horrible year for the farm system. It seems like more of a win-now team, but it’s not winning now, and while the usual course of action when that’s the case is to tear down and rebuild, this team just went through a rebuild and it’s in no hurry to do that again. Ownership is reluctant to do anything but stay the course and get better, and they have made the investment. Money is available. But a little more money can’t fix everything. There is much to be fixed.

Off the field, ownership has been known to meddle, but according to some reports, that’s been reduced. The stadium is considered one of the best in the game, so that’s a plus, and I don’t know how many people have referred to the northwest as a “sleeping giant” in terms of fan support. People will support a winning Mariners team. But it will also take them a while to trust a Mariners team, given everything that’s happened. The stadium could buzz, like the stadium across the street, but that’ll need to be earned. Since the Mariners will have the longest active playoff drought if the Blue Jays go on to qualify, there’s a very real sense of urgency here. That can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Work in Seattle, and you could be a hero. You could revive a moribund organization. But the roster situation itself isn’t an easy fix. Many of the best players will only decline, and the youth has been mostly unimpressive.


  • 5-year average payroll: $65 million
  • 5-year highest payroll: $102 million

You’re going to have to try to take this seriously. If you’re going to interview, you’re going to have to try to take this seriously. Start with Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez. Two of the best young players in baseball. There’s also Christian Yelich. Really, there’s a lot of young talent here. Maybe not enough, but there is a foundation, and while Jeffrey Loria is one of the worst owners in professional sports, he does seem to take care of his own. Win him over, and you can win his trust, and with his trust, you can have more flexibility than you might think. All Loria wants is to win. He wants to make money if the winning isn’t happening, but if there is winning, he’ll be satisfied. Stroke his ego, make it seem like his ideas matter, and this isn’t an impossible situation. It could really turn into a rather successful situation, in somewhat short order.

Put simply: work in Miami, and people will have zero expectations. When they think of the Marlins, they think only of Loria. How many people know the Marlins haven’t had a GM for months? How many people know the name “Michael Hill”? When there are zero expectations, the expectations are easy to exceed. There’s talent in place. And though it would be an incredible challenge to win Loria over, and keep him over, this could conceivably be the story of how the Miami Marlins became a real and respectable baseball organization. Maybe that’s a fairy tale, but, imagine. Imagine!


  • 5-year average payroll: $165 million
  • 5-year highest payroll: $178 million

Most of what you want is there. Money? Money is there. Fans? Fans are there. They’re there in great numbers, even if they’re presently dormant. You can’t blame them for not coming out in such numbers for this product. But this is a passionate fan base, and they want to win every year. The rebuild has already started, and most of the veterans have been shuffled out. It’s really particularly great timing — people came to dislike the previous GM, but in his final act, he did well to stock the system with young talent, so you could inherit all that while getting a boost in support just from not being your predecessor. You’d begin as a possible savior. You’d have to try hard to do worse than the last few years.

The issues are pretty simple. The big-league product sucks. There are some interesting players there, but not enough of them. Not close. So you’d be hard-pressed to build a competitive team for 2016. Also, it’s hard to know how responsibility will be split between the new GM and Andy MacPhail. MacPhail has been around the game for a while, and his is a strong presence. In Philadelphia, you might not have complete autonomy. The 2016 team will almost certainly lose. But this organization has already bottomed out. Which means it’s on the rise. For a patient individual, this is a hell of a spot.

Red Sox

  • 5-year average payroll: $167 million
  • 5-year highest payroll: $184 million

What do you want? This is, ultimately, about how much power you want to have. The Red Sox have almost everything you’d like. A big-league team that isn’t far from being competitive. A minor-league prospect group considered by some the strongest in baseball. There’s money, so much money. There are fans, so many fans. The brand is recognized around the whole world, and people expect a winner. There’s constant pressure, but also constant attention. If you deal well with stress, then the attention’s a good thing. Keeps you focused.

The concerns: ownership, and Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski is the new element. I don’t think Dombrowski has a history of not getting along with his co-workers, but if you’re worried about power, it’s going to be split at least evenly with Dombrowski, and more likely, he’s going to have the majority of it. Though he won’t have the GM title, he’ll be the guy signing off on almost everything, so full or near-full autonomy is out of the question. Maybe you like the idea of that split responsibility. Maybe you like the idea of working as a team. When the Red Sox win, everyone gets credit. But if you’re looking to flex your muscles as a GM candidate, well, there’s already a bigger name here. It’s kind of why the last guy left.


The choice is all yours. Good luck!

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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7 years ago

This is great, Jeff.

Mr Big Swingin' D
7 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

“All Loria wants is to win.”