Former Dodgers GM and current BP columnist Dan Evans answers your questions from an insider perspective.
Dan Evans: Thanks to everyone for taking the time to be on this chat. Looking forward to this! Let's get started...
Ida (Pasadena, CA): Who do you like in the American League's Central Division?
Dan Evans: Thanks for leading us off, Ida. I like the Tigers in the AL Central, as I believe the schedule favors them. I have known Robin Ventura for nearly 25 years and root like heck for him, and have a lot of friends from my White Sox days, but they stopped hitting about 10 days ago and it's tough to recoup against the Rays' staff. Tampa Bay is a tough opponent for anyone right now.
temple (madison): the dodgers spent a lot of money on y. puig. What kind of a hitter does it look like he is going to be? Will the dodgers be glad that they got him or regret spending so much?
Dan Evans: Thanks for your question, temple, much appreciated. It's way too early to evaluate any 2012 signing, but the early indications are that Puig has a lot of talent. The Dodgers have solid evaluators, and Logan White is the guy who pulled the trigger, so my guess is that Puig has a good chance of being a really good player. It's funny, but no one ever worries about how much a guy cost if he turns out to be a good player.
John (Colorado): Hi, Dan. I'm curious as to what the day-to-day activities of a front office are during non-draft or trade deadline periods are. Is it mostly scouting? Thanks!
Dan Evans: Great question, John. What part of Colorado, one of my favorite states. Day-to-day activities for a front office person is subject to change at a moment's notice, but in regards to your question, how they handle non-draft or non-deadline periods, is a good one. You have a lot of administrative work that gathers, plus need to see affiliates and minor leaguers in instructional league and/or the AFL. My first boss told me that every day is Monday when you're in the front office, so you really need to manage your time well. A lot of time is spent during "down" periods in studying the other 29 organizations also.
edwardarthur (Illinois): It's been fascinating to watch the different ways the Astros, Indians, Marlins, and Red Sox have handled managerial moves that have seemed inevitable for a while. Leaving aside the particulars of each of those situations, what are the factors front offices consider in deciding whether to make a managerial move in the off-season versus in the waning days of the current year?
Dan Evans: Thanks for your question, edwardarthur, and wondering what part of my home state of Illinois you're from? Every club has its own menu when it comes to a managerial decision. When you're making that move, and usually it is because you have someone in mind that you want to beat the competition to. In addition, you try to identify how best to remedy those issues and who is the best person. My experience in this tells me that you have to determine what type of guy that you want to lead your next club. There are a lot of candidates to sift through too. One of the difficult situations is that you know the other clubs are looking at your options also, so you have to keep an ear to the ground. It's a good time to network and get candidates from people you trust. Sometimes those moves are made because it just isn't a good situation in the clubhouse, but every decision like that is a tough one and unique in nature.
Cord Bird (Hollywood): Hey, Dan. Please regale us with an anecdote about the Dodger prospect who most-pleasantly surprised you during your tenure. Thanks!
Dan Evans: Hello, Cord Bird from Hollywood, and thanks for the question. You're likely not doing much during this weekend's Carmageddon. My favorite one was a call from current Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, who I had known for a few years and brought into the Dodger organization when I was hired. He was at our South Georgia affiliate and called me in mid-May one year and said that the transition of outfielder Edwin Jackson was going way better than expected, and said that he would be a really good big league pitcher quickly. I had seen Edwin in the spring and liked his athleticism, but it all came together so quickly. It was great to have someone with such a good feel for the big league game to make that call and let me know. Roger has turned out to be a great pitching coach, and I am thrilled for him.
Ralph Kramden (Downstairs): How much will Strasburg's absence undermine Washington's playoff chances? (Cincy, StL, and especially San Fran, have terrific records vs. southpaws this year, and the Nats seem to be lefty-leaning now.) Thanks, Dan!
Dan Evans: Hey, Ralph Kramden! Strasburg's absence cannot be ignored, because he is one of the few starters who could be expected to be potentially dominant in the post-season. I think that it brings the Nationals back to the pack, although their starters are still darn good. I think the NL first rounds will be great, and feel that the Giants and Braves have better rotations entering the playoffs.
jsdspud (Everson, PA): Dan, Thanks for the chat. Neal Huntington and staff are taking a lot of heat in Pittsburgh right now. What is your opinion of Neal's overall performance? Also, what do you think about the non-traditional development practices currently in place?
Dan Evans: I appreciate you taking the time to ask a question jsdspud. My wife actually hails from your state. Neal Huntington is a really talented guy and he inherited an extremely difficult situation. There has been progress, but it is a tough hurdle to go from improvement to contender, especially when your nucleus has not won before. You cannot hold him responsible for the problems leading up to his GM job, and that 19-year losing streak will end shortly. Every organization has its own way of doing things, and we can all evaluate their techniques in time. Their Bradenton facility is unbelievable, a great place to develop players on and off the field. My guess is that the Pirates will improve in 2013.
Justin (Chicago): Hi Dan, thanks for your time! As someone who grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago, I always wondered why the White Sox never had their low A affiliate in Kane County, or in the Midwest League at least. Now that the Cubs have taken over the Kane County affiliate, is there a reason why a major league club would not want an affiliate so close to home, so to speak?
Dan Evans: Thanks for the question, Justin. The White Sox were in the Midwest League for years, in fact, during my time there we had a great affiliate in Appleton and then in South Bend. It was a lot of fun to see our players (and other team's players) on a regular basis. I knew the owners of the Kane County club when they started, but we were loyal to South Bend if I remember correctly. The Cougars are a great affiliate and an incredible area to draw fans from. I love the Midwest League a ton, as that's where I am from, and George Spelius, the league president, is one of the really great people in the sport. Every organization has its own reasons for affiliate links and only the White Sox could answer that one.
Entheos (NJ): Darin Ruf has had some good ab's in his limited sample size. Any chance he has a spot out of spring training next year?
Dan Evans: Thank you for your question, Eutheos. Pretty darn good 20th round senior draft choice for Phillies' Assistant GM/Director of Scouting Marti Wolever. He put up huge numbers at the Phils' Reading affiliate this year, but with Howard a fixture, he is likely going to have to play the outfield to play with the big club in the near future. I saw him at Creighton and a little bit in spring training the last couple years, but could not make an assessment as to whether that would work. I think he is 25 now also.
Kyle (Wilmette, IL): With the Reds having such a good year and a good shot at the World Series, do you agree with their decision to not call up Billy Hamilton? As a pinch runner alone, he could be such a weapon. Guys like him can disrupt the game so much on the basepaths. I've seen Tony Campana do it so many times with the Cubs.
Dan Evans: Hello, Kyle, love your city a whole bunch. The Reds have one of the best management teams in the game, and one of the very best GM's in Walt Jocketty. Knowing how forward thinking that group is, I am sure they debated that subject a lot during the second-half of the 2012 season, because Billy Hamilton had an extraordinary season. I am sure they know their player better than we do, because Bill Bavasi, who runs their minor league system, has incredible feel for young players' ceilings. I know that he is scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League, and he would still to eligible to replace an injured player if the Reds wanted him to be on a post-season roster. Baserunners can be disruptive in the playoffs, but a lot of things have to be taken into consideration before you promote a player from Double-A.
dianagram (VORGville): From a strict financial standpoint, the addition of a 2nd WC berth in each league should be greeted with smiles from teams, but do you have a sense of how "fair" the owners/admins of the teams thinks this is?
Dan Evans: Thanks for your question, dianagram, and you're fun to follow on Twitter. The second Wild Card has been an excellent maneuver for MLB in 2012, as it has brought even more excitement into the playoff races. I haven't spoken to people within the sport yet about their opinion on it, as I like to wait the season is over to fully evaluate an addition. Personally, I'd like to see the team with the best record during the regular season have a better reward than playing their first two games on the road and not know where they play until two days before, but that will all be fixed, I am sure.
jlarsen (chicago): Rays have a large amount of money coming off the books after this season and the most important keys to the offseason are keeping David Price's salary from going too high(extension, perhaps?) and possibly locking up Matt Joyce long-term. Rays have prospects to possibly make trades for a C, 1B and SS(3 needs) but could just as well spend money in free agency. What do you consider to be the better plan of action for the Rays?>
Dan Evans: Thank you for your question, jlarsen from my hometown of Chicago. The Rays have done a great job stocking their system as a result of their talented front office and excellent scouting director, RJ Harrison. They have some tough decisions, but those are fun to have, because options are fun to explore and there is strength in having options. Joe Madden is exceptional, and he consistently keeps the Rays among the upper echelon. Without knowing their budget for 2013, it would be difficult to have an opinion on their best move, because the baseball decisions are also influenced by their budget, like every club. I would not want to be playing them right now.
Dredd (The bench): Better way to judge a GM: run differential or wins/losses. The former seems somewhat more afflicted by dame fortune, eh? Thanks, Dan!
Dan Evans: I appreciate your question, Dredd. I do not think it is fair to judge a GM only on his Major League club's won-loss record or run differential, as his responsibility is to oversee the entire baseball operations for the franchise. How have they drafted? Are they making good decisions in player development? Are their minor league staff preparing players on and off the field? Regarding the Major League team, I think there are multiple factors involved, and I think wins and run differential come into that evaluation. I think you also have to know whether the manager of the club is the GM's hire also, because that is usually a better reflection of the baseball philosophy he brings to the table on a daily basis. Lastly, how did injuries factor into the club's record? It's so difficult to evaluate a GM with a quick peek, and that's because it is such a complex job.
Scrap Iron (On queue for Hurdle's job): Why do owners/GM's repeatedly recycle established boneheads like myself, Jim Tracy, Clint Hurdle, Bobby Valentine, et. al., instead of giving the Venturas & Mathenys of the world more opportunities? Thanks, Dan!
Dan Evans: Scrap Iron, that's a good question. Sometimes unheralded or inexperienced people fail to get opportunities because the scope of the GM or owner is not broad enough to make their candidate list. I have found that some really terrific people are there if you are thinking about candidates ALL of the time. There is nothing wrong with a guy who's done it before, because there are different reasons why people get fired in one situation and thrive in another. Robin Ventura was a great hire by the White Sox, and his demeanor during last night's post-game presser was amazing for a first-timer, in fact it was text book. Some people are born to lead, and you have to keep your eyes open for them all the time. It is such a tough job, but there are so many different ways to do it.
Theo Retishun (Erehwon, S.D.): Hey, Dan! How *much* more difficult would you say it is, for a GM to take his team from average to excellent -- as compared to taking a team from bad to average? I ask because the latter doesn't actually seem that difficult...but the former seems really challenging.
Dan Evans: Theo Retishun, that is an outstanding question. It is tougher for a GM to take a club from average to excellent than it is to go from bad to average, because usually that average team hasn't won lately and they have to learn how to win as a unit, a tough, humbling task. The challenge is that a pretty good team usually has a larger payroll and less room to maneuver, so your options are limited. Here's where your scouts and minor league system come into play. I always think that the key to get from average to excellent is to have impact players in your system and a manager who isn't afraid to play a young kid when you're trying to win. That's why Atlanta's great run under John Schuerholz is so impressive to me.
R.A. Wagman (Toronto): Dan, in light of the recent Yunel Escobar incident, what do you think could be done to not only promote increased tolerance in MLB (and milb) clubhouses, but to foster an environment wherein a player would not feel ashamed to come out of the closet?
Dan Evans: A good question, R.A. Wagman, and one that is more about the real world than it is baseball. The game needs to reflect the world that we live in, and our world has become so much more tolerant in the last 10 to 20 years in so many areas, which I am thankful for. Hopefully, we all learned from the Escobar situation, because there is no place in our game or our society for what occurred. I hope that we continue to grow as a sport so that a player would feel comfortable about who he really is, and that women would have an equal chance of working within the sport. It would not only be good for the game, but also the world we live in. The Dodgers' bold decision to sign Jackie Robinson changed our lives for the better, and it wasn't an easy move for all involved.
mjordan (Wisconsin Dells): Where would you put the next Major League Team? I really enjoy these chats with you, Dan, they're so insightful.
Dan Evans: Hey mjordan in the Dells, do they still have that house that has its own magnetic field there? Thanks for the kind words. Selfishly, I would like the next Major League club to be in Paris, as it is my favorite city in the world! But I think the key is to make the current 30 franchises work well, get them to thrive before adding any more franchises. The game is so healthy right now, but we need to make sure that our current franchises are working on all cylinders. Down the line, a couple of metropolitan areas immediately come to mind, and they are Charlotte and Montreal.
Aquasox Frog (Banff, Alberta, Canada): Give me your idea of what MLB will look like in 20 years... less and less Americans involved? More or less teams? International expansion?
Dan Evans: Easily the coolest logo in baseball, Aquasox Frog, and I wish I could be in Banff right now!! Great question. I think we will continue to explore acquiring players from outside of the USA, and feel the next great explosion of players will come from China. Hopefully, we will spend the next 20 years fully supporting youth baseball programs all over the USA, because we need kids from our nation playing the game for the next generation of fans and players. I think we will see international expansion in the next 20 years, perhaps Mexico City, Australia, Japan, China, South America, or Europe. It's fun to think about the future like that. Before we expand, I just hope we get all 30 teams working well as it would be good for the sport.
Ralphie Buff (Arizona): Hey Dan, I've always truly respected your business ethics within the game. It's rare to have someone who is dedicated to a team and its organization and still hold themselves to a higher standard. I've heard nothing but positive stories of your leadership skills and am shocked at how many people respect the hell out of you. On that note, my question is: how does someone excel in a front office position while being both passionate about your staff and also willing to be the bad guy? How does someone in your position cultivate and keep respect? Thanks again for your time.
Dan Evans: Thanks for the kind words, Ralphie Buff. I was lucky to have great mentors like Roland Hemond, who taught me what a great work ethic can do for you. Being the "bad guy" is part of having a lofty title, or a position with decision-making. But being the bad guy does not mean that you have to be a BAD guy, it just means that you have to occasionally make decisions that are uncomfortable or unpopular. That is where you simply need to be a professional, and handle issues upfront and direct. I don't think you cultivate respect, instead I think that you earn it. One thing I know for sure, and that is you cannot attain a high role in an organization without making some people unhappy, and how you handle that has a lot to do with how you are perceived. You should go see the Arizona Fall League when it starts in a little more than a week.
Lil' Sebastian (The Barn): Sam Miller's piece got me wondering: Is there a player you regret not protecting from the Rule 5 draft?
Dan Evans: Thanks for your question, Lil' Sebastian from The Barn. I gave your question a lot of thought, and the answer for me is NO, because I do not remember getting burned by losing someone permanently in the Rule 5. Sometimes you know that a player might get selected, but your assessment was that the player would return. An example is one of my favorite players, Shane Victorino, who we decided to leave unprotected while I was with the Dodgers and he was selected by the Padres. I thought that we we would get him back, as there were phases of his game that had not fully progressed, but I loved his character, competitive desire, and ability. Luckily, we got him back. I also remember leaving Magglio Ordonez unprotected one year, but his game also had yet to mature enough to stick in the Majors. It's one of the great chess games.
hotstatrat (Toronto): Hi. Do think Brandon Moss will continue to mash for a few years or will pitchers have solved him by June of next year?
Dan Evans: hotstatrat, thanks for your question. He is one of the most improved players in the Majors this year, and I have been really impressed with his improvement in pitch recognition and driving the baseball in counts. He is a better player than I saw when he was a Red Sox or Pirate. It will be interesting to see how he responds after big league teams have a winter to review how they pitched him, because making adjustments is the key to sticking around for a long time as a successful Major Leaguer.
Jeff (Springfield): I know you can never have too much pitching, but take a look at the Cardinals for a moment if you'd be so kind. What would you do with all those arms?
Dan Evans: Jeff from Springfield, thanks for the question. Trust me, GM John Mozeliak does not think that he has too much pitching, because those words don't ever come out of a GM's mouth. The great thing it brings them is having options and being able to decide who fits in what role and who they can consider moving in a deal to get better. I don't think the Cardinals have received enough credit for what they have accomplished this year after losing a Hall of Fame manager in Tony LaRussa, the best pitching coach on the planet in Dave Duncan, and one of the great players of our generation in Albert Pujols. Plus, they come off a World Series title and have a rookie manager. That's pretty impressive. Rejoice in having options, Jeff.
bradleyankrom (New York): Were you in favor of baseball implementing a signing deadline and abolishing the draft-and-follow system?
Dan Evans: Thanks for your question, bradleyankrom. Yes, I was in favor and like the earlier signing deadline for three major reasons: 1) players sign and begin their professional career, getting used to the grind and the failures which are inevitable; 2) the short-season teams and their great fan bases get to see the best young players in the game and all benefit; and 3) the downtime that the players used to have to endure no longer exists, keeping them with their draft class. It is better for all involved. The draft-and-follow has been less of an issue since the advent of scout ball across the nation, as scouts get to see kids play more than ever before.
Kyle (Wilmette, IL): For aspiring baseball operations professionals, what are some of the most important publications/websites to read?
Dan Evans: Kyle, everyone has their own tastebuds when it comes to information flow. I am a big fan of reading opinions that aren't consistent with your own, insightful sites that provoke conversation. That's what I like best about Baseball Prospectus, because it challenges you to have an opinion. I think Baseball America is exceptional, and also use Twitter (follow me @DanEvans108) a great deal to keep me aware of things on a more timely basis. I have found that some iPad apps like Zite and Flipboard help me keep up on things better than ever before.
jlarsen (chicago): With Rick Hahn likely ascending to the role of GM from his Asst. GM spot, who do you see as the next Asst. GM to be an attractive candidate for future GMing jobs? Also, with in-house promotions becoming more rampant in baseball, has the job of an Asst. GM grown or has the front office as a whole become more like a 3-headed monster with the Team President, GM and Asst. GM all being assigned duties throughout the organization?
Dan Evans: Thanks for your question, jlarsen. Rick Hahn has a chance to be a really good GM, by the way. He is a really talented guy. I don't think it's appropriate for me to anoint anyone, because there are so many talented people out there. Sometimes the best candidate isn't the best fit because he or she mirrors talents that are already on staff. Organizations have changed because the game has changed with more clubs and more things to stay on top of, but the key is that the best organizations still consistently draft and develop players better than their competitors. Distributing responsibilities as you suggested is always good for a team because people have so much on their plate and really never get a break.
dianagram (VORGville): The institution of an international player draft registry, hard-slotting and team-by-team draft $ allotments would seem to hit smaller market and/or FA-averse teams harder. There is also the grey area of what revenue-sharing receiving teams are doing with their allotment. How would you fix the draft, and revenue sharing?
Dan Evans: Good question, dianagram. I am always for what rewards the best-run baseball organizations, not what levels the playing field. I think brilliance should be rewarded, so I like anything that gives scouts the ability to make decisions and explore options. I'd like another year of the draft before I have firm opinions on it, because I want to see how the 2013 draft responds to what happened in 2012. I would like to see draft choices be able to be traded with clearly defined rules. When it comes to revenue-sharing, I think it is in the best interests of the game for those clubs to re-invest in their product.
jlarsen (chicago): Will Kim Ng ever get the GM job that she has always deserved? It seems like she's come so close, but has yet to get the brass ring.
Dan Evans: jlarsen, good question. Kim Ng is one of the most talented people in the game, clearly one of the brightest minds in the sport. She truly does deserve an opportunity, but there are only 30 GM jobs in the game, and they are hard to get. There are some incredibly talented people through the years that never get that chance. I know one thing for sure when it comes to her, as I have hired her twice and loved working with her - if she gets an opportunity, she will thrive and won't fail if she has support from management. No doubt for me. But she is doing a great job for MLB right now, and the game will benefit from that down the line.
Thinker (Rodin's basement): Hey, Dan! Are you a fan of the remodeled draft, with its $$ limits? Same question re: international kid signees. Thanks!
Dan Evans: I discussed some of that in an earlier question, Thinker. I'm not a fan of the international draft, but that's because every club has its own priorities and I think they should be allowed to be independent thinkers. I do have some concern in the new draft, as it is harder for a club to have a gut hunch on a guy now with the limitations, plus multi-sport athletes are a tough task.
deech (NY): If you had to guess, how long until we see the first female GM? Is it just a matter of a team having the guts to make that hire? Is there any upside to that move or will an alternative always be sufficient?
Dan Evans: deech from NY, I hope that he get to the point where race and gender are no longer an issue in a hire, because then we have really matured as a sport and society. As a father with two incredible daughters who both love sports, I hope that we see it sooner than later, and hope that whoever that pioneer is has the good fortune to be successful because it could lead to a generation of brilliant young women in baseball. I see where the game is today compared to where it was when I started, and we have made made great progress but still need to overcome some gender issues.
Bryant (San Diego): I've talked to you briefly on Twitter regarding San Diego County prospects to look for & can't thank you enough for your time. I was wondering what an untrained eye like mine should look for at these HS games. Purely tools-based skills? Game-readiness? Mechanics? What sort of skills, education, or training must an amateur scout possess that might differ from scouts looking at players from college, independent, int'l or pro ball? Thanks.
Dan Evans: Hello, Bryant, thanks for the question. Get to the park before everyone, and examine everything from the minute you arrive until the moment you leave at the end. High school players are the toughest to scout, particularly the hitters, but a lot can be gained when you examine the other phases of the player's game. Tools are great, but he won't be the best player on the field once he is drafted, and has to adapt to being just another really talented player. Work ethic? Personality? Can he be coached? Instincts? Desire? Examine mechanics and understand that every single one of those kids will have to make some changes down the line because the game gets tougher and faster. The best tool a scout can have is getting there early and working your ass off to determine exactly what you have in front of you.
beerchaser42 (North Carolina): Dan, following up on your expansion question answer, what is needed to get all 30 franchises "working well"? What is the benchmark for something like that? On-the field parity? Financial parity (doubtful)? How can other franchises "fix" a situation like the Rays are in with their ballpark/local politicians? And how can we get the 30 current owners to be more cooperative on issues like the TV blackouts, where they guard their current TV territory like lions on fresh meat? This would be a necessary precursor to expansion, imo. I love the idea of expansion into North Carolina (though I prefer Raleigh to Charlotte for selfish personal reasons).
Dan Evans: beerchaser42 from North Carolina...I think it is important for the game's well-being that all the MLB franchises are thriving and their stadium is the best-case scenario for them. The sport is thriving right now as a unit, but before we expand again I would like to see some clubs get settled a little bit. Expansion has been good for the sport, but the next round has fewer options (I do love your Charlotte idea) so let's get the current 30 right before we leap.
deech (Long Island): What is the consensus on Jorge Soler? Even though he has debuted he is still much of a mystery as very little information is available. From what you've heard is he an elite talent?
Dan Evans: deech from Long Island....I have heard great things about him in the early phases but have not seen him play, so I withhold judgment until that time. You really don't know how good a player is until he gets to Double-A and then the big leagues, but everything I have heard about the kid indicates that he has a chance to be really good.
Dan Evans: I really appreciate all of today's questions, and I am sorry that I cannot get to the many more that are in the cue, but I have some things to do before getting to Dodger Stadium tonight. Thanks a bunch for participating, and for being a fan of Baseball Prospectus!!!!