What Do You Think of Your Team’s Front Office?

FanGraphs used to run something called the organizational rankings. Sometimes it was funny. Arguably the main reason we stopped was because it seemed just entirely too difficult to objectively grade a team’s front office. That was an important grade for the rankings, and if you couldn’t trust a component grade, there wasn’t much sense in trusting the overall grade. The intent was always good; the outcome was always iffy.

I’ve been thinking a little bit about front offices lately. Monday, I thought about the Mariners’ misfortune in Robinson Cano developing some sort of energy-sapping stomach ailment. And not long back, I was thinking about the Angels, and Jerry Dipoto, and how the Angels might not be in a perfect position, but also how Arte Moreno forced Dipoto’s hand with some major transactions. What I keep coming back to is the idea that front offices are almost impossible to evaluate, in any meaningful way. Everything they do, they do for a reason, but there’s an enormous element of luck, and there are other sometimes hidden factors we might not know a lot about. Sometimes a decision really came from ownership. Sometimes a success or failure was more about player development. It’s almost hopeless out here. For these purposes, there’s little the analyst can do but react.

But then, I’m a big fan of crowdsourcing. Not necessarily because the people always know the answers, but because it can be really interesting just to see how different people think. Who pays more attention than you? Who thinks more critically than you? Why wouldn’t I want to tap into this audience, to see what it believes?

In this post, many polls. I want to know what you think about the front office of the team you follow most closely. I know this is an impossible task, but I want you to think about the front office independent of ownership, and independent of player development. Think about the methods, or about what you perceive to be the methods. Think about how the front office might work with an average payroll. And think about the front office right now. What’s really being asked: relative to the other front offices, how much would you believe in your team’s front office, if it were given an ordinary roster and an ordinary budget? Would it build something successful, or would it end up as a mess?

No part of me believes we’ll get real answers out of this. But it’s not like you’re being graded on how you vote. I’m interested, mostly, in how the 30 front offices are perceived. That’ll be made possible with your feedback. We’ve tried to grade the front offices before. Consider this your turn. And unlike when you’re picking a president, this time your vote could actually count for something. FanGraphs is for the people!

To proceed directly to a specific team poll, click on the team’s name below. The polls themselves — you can probably figure out the polls themselves.

Angels, Astros, Athletics, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees

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Angels

In this particular case, I’m asking about the Dipoto front office, not the slightly adjusted front office that’s only existed for a matter of days.

Astros

Athletics

Blue Jays

Braves

Brewers

Cardinals

Cubs

Diamondbacks

Dodgers

Giants

Indians

Mariners

Marlins

Mets

Nationals

Orioles

Padres

Phillies

Pirates

Rangers

Rays

Red Sox

Reds

Rockies

Royals

Tigers

Twins

White Sox

Yankees





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.

newest oldest most voted
Well-Beered Englishman
Guest

Nationals front office – I voted “Pretty good”

Scouting: Very good
Draft strategy: Very good
Trade strategy: Off the charts. Capps for Ramos, Guzman for Roark, Ray for Fister, Langerhans for Morse, Souza for Turner/Ross
International presence: Average
Medical staff: Below average. The Nationals seem to suffer from a lot of misdiagnoses, missed injuries, and guys getting back in the lineup before they’ve healed properly. Among our fanbase we have a crippling fear anytime the front office says “no MRI is needed” because that usually ends in the player missing 2-3 months.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest

I also voted “Pretty good” for the Astros (as a 2-team fan).

Scouting: Very good
Draft strategy: Excellent
Trade strategy: Maybe too frantic
International presence: ?????
Medical staff: Fine

Still have doubts about their interpersonal skills and, as a fan of Bo Porter’s managing, I have questions about their firing of him.

DHawk
Guest
DHawk

Password Development: Poor

John
Guest
John

I’m gonna steal your idea but rate the Pirates instead

Scouting: Pretty Good, especially in Latin America
Draft strategy: Average. The team has found some nice pitching prospects in the middle of the draft (Glasnow for example) but has really whiffed on a few picks, most notably Tony Sanchez.
Trade strategy: Excellent. Getting Cervelli for Justin Wilson is a perfect example of how the front office is able to identify low-cost high-value players.
Medical Staff: Pretty good. The pirates haven’t spent much time on the DL the past few years and the team seems to be proactive about injury prevention and maintenance. A perfect example is the article Grantland wrote about Russ Martin wearing that biometric tracker last season.

mpep86
Member
Member
mpep86

I agree, but I want to know who rated the front office as very bad. I know it couldn’t have been Dave Littlefield, or any of his former staff, he wouldn’t be caught dead on this site.

szielinski
Member
Member
szielinski

Nutting haters would give a thumbs down.

Well
Guest
Well

The Pirates did have that whole thing where they were allegedly abusing their minor league players and doing weird Marine SEAL training type stuff. Who broke that? Kovajevic?

szielinski
Member
Member
szielinski

DK broke the story. The practice was ill conceived from what I could tell. But it was a wrong turn, not a disaster.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

While I agree the Pirates have a good front office; you missed their biggest strength of finding diamond in the rough type free agents.

szielinski
Member
Member
szielinski

The Coonington FO:

Scouting: Pretty good
Draft strategy: Very good
Trade strategy: Very good
international presence: Very good plus!
Medical staff: Pretty good
Innovation: Very good plus!

The Pirates’ FO excels at identifying players, practices and opportunities that promote organizational success while working within the constraints given by their market, television contract, etc. The ML team reflects the organization’s commitment to team-building through the draft and by finding value in underappreciated players and players who perform below their talent levels. The Pirates have provided exclamation points to the careers more than a few pitchers, including Burnett, Liriano, Morton and Volquez while providing rebound points to pitchers like Volsted, Worely, etc. It has provided a showcase for Martin and Cervelli, revealed the value of a player like Barmes, signed young players to team friendly contracts. There is a Pirates’ Way for pitchers and hitters. The organization has dedicated itself to developing efficient pitchers (pitch low, inside and to contact), hitters (a plus hit tool with good plate discipline) and defenders (athletes who are trained to position themselves to reflect the organizations pitching strategies.

Pitchers want to come to the Pirates. The FO made Seligula to rig the draft to suppress an aggressive team like the Pirates. The analytics department identified pitch framing, defensive shifts and ground ball pitchers as valuable assets. The Pirates consistently outperform their team FIP and pitching WAR, suggesting that the FO found a formula for success which these metrics fail to capture.

The McClatchyfield era — defined by a yearly ‘Drive for 75’ — was a living Hell for Pirates fans. The 2015 team should win 90 games — again.

Intelligent opportunism. I have no decisive complaints to make.

Treaty of Zoilo Versalles
Guest
Treaty of Zoilo Versalles

“Seligula.” Haw.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)

And free agents: pretty good – Werth’s contract is starting to look palatable, but Zimmerman’s contract is looking worse. The best part might be the contracts not given (e.g. Desmond).

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter

Regarding your last point, isn’t that more luck than talent though? I thought the Nats offered Desmond a contract, but he turned it down.

Sean
Guest
Sean

They offered Desmond $107 mil/7 years (rolling in his 2015 deal, I believe) and refused to budge on it.

Depends on your perspective, but I’d say refusing to budge on it is worthy of praise (even though $107 mil/7 years for him would look terrible now).

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)

They offered him a reasonable contract, not a “whatever it takes to sign our own homegrown guy” contract. So that’s a win for the front office (as was holding LaRoche to 2 years, not re-signing Soriano or Dunn etc.)

We’ll have to wait and see on not [yet] extending Span/Fister/JZimm.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter

My point is that they offered him a contract that, had it been accepted, would already look bad even though the extension wouldn’t have kicked in yet. Sure, they were smart to not give him an even larger deal – but they were lucky that their highest offer was rejected.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)

But they knew he’d reject it – it was an offer for the fans, not for the player.

kdl
Guest
kdl

It isn’t just Desmond, though.
They let Soriano and Dunn walk when there was TONS of fan pressure to keep those players.

siggian
Guest
siggian

Another category perhaps: Roster Management

That is, does the team know how to minimize the talent lost through waiver claims and rule 5 drafts, claim useful players off waivers, handle transactions between the majors and minors, handle promotions rationally, protect themselves from injury with capable replacements, build roster flexibility, and so on. Basically how well does the team handle the 25 man and 40 man roster and how well do they handle promotions and demotions in the minors?

As a Blue Jay fan, I find that this is one area that the AA regime is particularly weak in. They’ve muffed a few recalls and lost a few semi-interesting prospects because they’ve planned poorly or not known the rules properly

ndbrian
Guest
ndbrian

You could also add a category of “being bad during the right years”: Exceptionally good

Happening to have the 1st pick in the years where arguably the two biggest no-brainer prospects of all time were in the draft is a stroke of genius. (This isn’t taking away from all of the other things the Nats have done, just pointing out the randomness of some of it).

Pig.Pen
Guest
Pig.Pen

I think the poll could be much better if broken down into a few categories. I voted the same for the Nationals, but I think Rizzo and Co. have mostly been excellent, except at building a bench and hiring managers. Riggleman was a dumpster fire, Davey was good, but perhaps past his prime and Matt Williams better be everyone’s best friend in the clubhouse because he’s horrendous at managing a bullpen and building a LOLineup, although his media management skills have improved from tire-fire to slightly below average. The trades have been outstanding. Scouting has been very good, especially when you consider where they’ve picked, but they only seem to draft out of the southeast and mid-atlantic, almost no California or Texas born players except at the very top, which is puzzling. But hey, it’s working so whatever.

Bryz
Guest

For the Twins…

Scouting: Average/Above-average
Draft strategy: Average
Trade strategy: Average
International presence: Above-average
Medical staff: Below-average (used to be much worse, but they still have some guys with nagging injuries that take longer than expected to heal)
Roster Management: Poor (they can favor 3 catchers and 13 pitchers, have absolutely no bench bat to speak of, play Eduardo Escobar in LF, call up Doug Bernier as a 3rd middle infielder on the bench, kept Brian Duensing for over $3 million and he’s been terrible…)

Joe Mauer's Contract
Guest
Joe Mauer's Contract

Twins…

Scouting- Average
Draft Strategy- Poor- Drafting 20+ college relievers in the first 10 rounds over the past 4-5 years is blowing up in their face. 4 of their previous 5 first round picks are looking like busts.
Trade Strategy- Below Average- Still picking up the pieces from the Bill Smith era and many of the same people are in place.
International Presence- Good- One of the few areas they excel in, as their drafts have mostly been awful, much of the young talent in the system comes from finding talent all over the world and in some unusual places.
Medical staff- Below Average- Used to be terrible, but the changes they’ve made there the past few years seem to have worked.
Roster Management- Awful- One of the worst teams around at managing the 25 and 40 man rosters, and their love of veteran retreads over youth on a rebuilding club is bordering on insanity.

Another area we could rate front offices is player development:
Player Development- Poor- They tend to be overly cautious with college players and keep most pitching prospects toiling away in AA and AAA until they are 25. Yet, amazingly rush young hitters to the majors with only 150- 200 PA’s above A+ leaving many of their talented prospects with ZERO plate discipline.

Overall I’d say they are a “Pretty Bad” to “Very Bad”

Akalhar
Guest
Akalhar

As a Rangers fan, I didn’t even think about the medical staff. I’d seriously consider moving the FO grade I assigned down a notch. Some of it is bad luck, but it seems like some of these guys are using medical knowledge and equipment that dates back to WWI.

Akalhar
Guest
Akalhar

So, for the Rangers:

Scouting: Pretty good
Draft strategy: Pretty good (Last 3 years have been great, so there’s some recency bias here. Previous years were pretty bad).
Trade strategy: Average
International presence: Very good (love that the Rangers invested heavily when the penalty for overage was just one year. Love that they won the bidding war on Yu Darvish. Love that they’re waiting for 2016 to bust the J2 cap).
Medical staff: Very bad.