Yesterday the Dodgers officiallly announced the hiring of former Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos. While we found out AA would be joining the Dodgers last week, no one knew what position he would serve in an already crowded front office. It turns out the Dodgers will make him Vice President of Baseball Operations. Anthopoulos will be the sixth (!) member of the Dodger's front office with General Manager experience.
President of Baseball Operation Andrew Friedman of course brought the Tampa Bay Rays to relevance before heading to the Dodgers. Current GM Farhan Zaidi is in his first stint as a GM but was the assistant GM of the A's before brought on board along with Friedman last year. Senior Vice President Josh Byrnes was a former GM of the Padres and the Diamondbacks, Senior Advisor Ned Colletti was the Dodger's GM before Friedman and Zaidi were hired, and Special Advisor Gerry Hunsicker was GM of the Astros during their run of success from 1995 to their World Series appearance in 2005.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals have dealt with an exodus of smart baseball minds. After 2011 they lost Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow so that he could build a juggernaut in Houston. He also brought several scouting and development minds with him. Last year saw Scouting Director Dan Kantrovitz take an Assistant GM position in Oakland. His replacement is, um, under Federal Investigation and will almost certainly never work in baseball again. His replacement is Randy Flores, seemingly brought in for his Video Scouting company used by eleven MLB teams.
The next big hit could be a team hiring away Assistant GM Michael Girsch. He's interviewed for GM jobs before and Assistant GM's are generally seen as GM's-in-training. What can the Cardinals do to block this, and if they can't, how can they counter it?
The Dodgers are an extreme example of a growing trend in Baseball front offices. More and more teams have opted to create a new title for the highest-ranking decision maker, generally called the President of Baseball Operations. The team still retains a General Manager and an Assistant General Manager, but they become number two and three in the decision-making process rather than one and two. Essentially, this allows a team to have three brains and three sets of eyes with significant responsibilities to building and maintaining a MLB team and organization.
The logic is three brains are better than two, and while these people are executives making an executive's salary, those salaries pale in comparison to growing free agent salaries. It's also a way for a team to retain an executive; a team can promote their GM to President of Baseball Operations and their AGM to GM, and thus block another team from hiring away the former AGM.
When the Blue Jays hired Mark Shapiro to Team President they became the twelfth team to hire someone as Head of Baseball Operations other than a GM. Anthopoulos didn't so much leave his job as much as refuse a demotion. Cardinals fans are lucky to root for a team with a smart front office, but quickly other teams are catching up. If the Cardinals want to continue to stay ahead of the game, They should promote John Mozeliak to the new title of President of Baseball Operations.
Then, they have a decision to make about Michael Girsch. As outsiders, we can't know the level of value Girsch brings to the table. Do they consider him a future GM in the making? If so, they need to promote him to GM as soon as possible, working under Mozeliak as President. Otherwise he will probably eventually be poached away by a team with a GM opening. If they don't see Girsch that way, then they should still add another executive to the mix, either from inside or outside the org. Someone they could see as a future head decision maker.
Perhaps if the Cardinals regret the loss of Dan Kantrovitz, they could lure him back with a GM job. Perhaps someone Luhnow took with him to Houston would come back if it meant a promotion. Or they find someone who strengthens a perceived weakness within the org. There's a lot of options, what's important is that the Cardinals begin to add brains to the brain trust, rather than simply weather the storm of brain drain that has occurred over the last few years.