Detroit Tigers general manager search: Jason McLeod, Dana Brown, other possible candidates

Detroit Free Press

Ask around the league.

Check with executives, scouts and agents.

Jason McLeod has been mentioned several times.

The Detroit Tigers have just begun their search for a new general manager, after Al Avila was fired last Wednesday in his seventh season at the helm. Owner Christopher Ilitch wants to hire a forward-thinking leader, and McLeod — lauded for his leadership, confidence and success in many areas of baseball operations — could be the perfect fit.

But McLeod, who serves as a special assistant with the Arizona Diamondbacks, is one of many potential candidates.

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Before taking a deeper look, let’s examine four big names: Theo Epstein, Jeff Luhnow, Billy Beane and Brodie Van Wagenen.

Epstein helped end World Series championship droughts with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, but since stepping down from the Cubs in November 2020, he is believed to want significant ownership stake in his next venture with a franchise; Luhnow was fired from the Houston Astros for the sign-stealing scandal and now owns soccer teams in Mexico; Beane has been in the Oakland Athletics’ front office since 1990.

Van Wagenen is closest to Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, who will assist Ilitch throughout the hiring process but isn’t expected to determine his boss. They were roommates at Stanford, and Van Wagenen — the former New York Mets general manager — was the best man at Hinch’s wedding.

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Van Wagenen, though, is not interested joining the Tigers.

Brandon Gomes, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ executive vice president and general manager, is second-in-command to president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. In January 2022, the Dodgers promoted Gomes to his current role after reportedly denying the Mets permission to interview him for their general manager opening.

Gomes is not interested in leaving the Dodgers.

Two internal candidates will be considered: Sam Menzin and Jay Sartori. Avila promoted them to vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager titles in August 2021. If the Tigers hire from outside the organization, Menzin could remain with the club in his current role due to his wide range of skills.

Here’s a list of potential external candidates:

Jason McLeod

Before joining the Diamondbacks as a special assistant to general manager Mike Hazen in December 2021, McLeod had been with the Cubs for a decade under Epstein and Jed Hoyer serving as vice president in the player development, amateur scouting and player personnel departments. McLeod has a relationship with Hinch and worked alongside him in the front office with the San Diego Padres. He interviewed for general manager jobs with the Minnesota Twins in 2016, New York Mets in 2018, San Francisco Giants in 2018 and Los Angeles Angels in 2020.

Amiel Sawdaye

Sawdaye, the Diamondbacks’ senior vice president and assistant general manager, oversees his team’s amateur and international scouting departments. He joined the Diamondbacks in 2016 after 15 seasons (and three World Series championships) with the Red Sox. He is best known for his expertise in scouting, both nationally and internationally, key areas where the Tigers need to improve under the next general manager.

Dana Brown

Brown, who aspires to be a general manager, joined the Atlanta Braves in January 2019 as the vice president of scouting after nine seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays as a special assistant to the general manager. He also worked for the Washington Nationals for eight seasons. For the Braves, Brown drafted Michael Harris II in the third round in 2019 and Spencer Strider in the fourth round in 2020. He previously interviewed for general manager jobs with the Mets in 2010 and Seattle Mariners in 2015.

Matt Arnold

Arnold is the senior vice president and general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, operating under president of baseball operations David Stearns. He has a hand in everything that happens — making him well-equipped for the Tigers’ job — and worked under Friedman during his nine seasons in the Tampa Bay Rays’ front office. The Brewers reportedly blocked the Mets from interviewing Arnold in October 2021 for New York’s president of baseball operations gig, then signed Arnold to a contract extension. He seems like a long shot.

Josh Byrnes

Like McLeod, Byrnes — the Dodgers’ senior vice president of baseball operations — has a relationship with Hinch. They first worked together with the Diamondbacks, when Byrnes, the general manager, hired Hinch as a rookie manager. They were fired together in July 2010. Shortly after, Brynes and Hinch met up again in the Padres’ organization, with Byrnes becoming the general manager after one season in the front office. Could Hinch and Byrnes team up for a third time? Time will tell, but Brynes is believed to be at a point in his life where he’s ready to lead an organization again.

Jeff Kingston

Kingston is in his third season as Dodgers assistant general manager and vice president of baseball operations. He also spent nine seasons with the Mariners and nine seasons with the Padres. Kingston focused on player acquisitions and contract negotiations in Seattle, along with overseeing the player development and analytics departments. He was a finalist for the general manager position with the Angels in 2020 and was named a candidate for the Philadelphia Phillies’ general manager opening a few weeks later.

Alex Slater

For proof of the Dodgers’ supremacy, look no further than Slater. He is an assistant general manager and vice president of baseball operations. Slater, born in 1986, is the youngest of Los Angeles’ front office contingents, which speaks to his success and bright future. Before his promotion in January 2022, he worked for Friedman as the senior manager of pro scouting, assistant director of scouting and director of baseball development and scouting. His first five years in MLB were spent with the Padres, beginning in April 2009. Many in the industry believe Slater is on track to be a general manager, possibly sooner than later.

Pete Putila

Younger than Slater — by three years — is Putila. He is in his 12th season with the Astros and his second as an assistant general manager, focusing on player development, amateur scouting, international scouting (he spends a lot of time in the Dominican Republic) and sports medicine/performance. He is also well versed in advanced technology and applies data to his scouting efforts. Putila joined the Astros in 2011 as a baseball operations intern and has been with the organization for his entire career, so there’s an obvious connection to Hinch.

Sig Mejdal

From NASA to MLB, Mejdal read “Moneyball” in 2003 and pursued a career in baseball. Now, he is the vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager for the Baltimore Orioles. He worked for the St. Louis Cardinals to kickstart his career, then the Astros from 2012 until 2018 as the director of decision sciences. When Mike Elias became the general manager of the Orioles in November 2018, he took Mejdal with him to boost the organization’s analytics department. The biggest question: Is he a one-trick pony? Regardless, Mejdal would immediately accelerate the Tigers’ analytics department to one of the best in baseball. He worked with Hinch in Houston and thinks highly of him.

Randy Flores

Remember when the Cardinals beat the Tigers in the 2006 World Series? Flores played for St. Louis from 2004-08 and spent eight seasons (and over 200 games) in MLB as a relief pitcher. He returned to the Cardinals in 2015 as the organization’s scouting director and was promoted to assistant general manager in 2018. Before that, he started his own company, OnDeck Digital, to help players and scouts through video software.

Moisés Rodríguez

If the Tigers want to improve their international scouting department, Rodríguez has the expertise to do so. He has been with the Cardinals for the past 13 seasons, and before becoming an assistant general manager in 2017, he worked as the director of international operations. Rodríguez helped identify Carlos Martinez, Sandy Alcantara and Randy Arozarena, among others, on the international market. As an assistant general manager, he influences player transactions, contract negotiations, player evaluations, player development and the scouting departments.

Matt Slater

Slater, who has family ties to Michigan, is the Cardinals’ special assistant to the general manager and is involved in player acquisitions at the major-league level, minor-league level, amateur draft and international market. He has been in MLB for 26 years, beginning with the Brewers in the early 90s. He also worked for the Dodgers and Orioles. He is a consultant to the Orix Buffaloes in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League.

Carlos Rodriguez

Rodriguez is a vice president of baseball operations for the Rays (under president of baseball operations Erik Neander), with an emphasis on international scouting. He has been with the Rays for 12 seasons, including the past three as a vice president. He previously worked as the club’s vice president of player development and international scouting before his promotion in 2021. Rodriguez joined the Rays in 2010 after working as an area scout with the Blue Jays for four seasons.

Kevin Ibach

After several years with the Miami Marlins and Orioles, Ibach joined the Rays in 2012 and has been with the organization ever since. He began as a pro scout, then took over as the director of pro scouting and is now the senior director of pro personnel and pro scouting. Ibach’s name has been tossed around in general manager searches in previous years. It’s only a matter of time before he gets to run his own team. (Peter Bendix, the Rays’ general manager and senior vice president of baseball operations, is another intriguing possibility.)

Billy Owens

He is one of two assistant general managers for the Athletics under general manager David Forst in the Beane-led baseball operations department. Owens is also the director of player personnel. He became an assistant general manager in 2015 and has worked more than 20 years with the A’s. He interviewed for the Angels’ general manager gig and was a finalist to become the Mets’ general manager, both in 2020.

Zack Minasian

Minasian, who is from the Midwest, has been with the San Francisco Giants for four seasons, and ahead of the 2022 campaign, he was promoted to vice president of pro scouting. His brother, Perry, is the general manager of the Angels. He previously spent 14 seasons with the Brewers and is well respected in baseball circles. His godfather is the late Tommy Lasorda. 

Ray Montgomery

Don’t be fooled by Montgomery’s position as the Angels’ bench coach. He is respected as an executive and has plenty of experiences away from the field and dugout, including as a scouting director for the Brewers and Diamondbacks. He reached vice president and special assistant to the general manager status in Milwaukee. Before being a bench coach, Montgomery was the Angels’ director of player personnel in the 2021 season. He interviewed for the Padres’ general manager job in 2014.

Justin Hollander

Working for the Mariners, Hollander is the only assistant manager under president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto. He has also carried the vice president of baseball operations tag since February 2020. Hollander joined the Mariners in 2016 and took over as an assistant general manager in 2018. He is known as a strong leader and has experience in all aspects of the job, so he appears ready to run a club. In 2020, Hollander was one of the final two candidates — with Perry Minasian — in the Angels’ general manager search.

Daniel Adler

Thad Levine is the Minnesota Twins general manager and could be a candidate for the Tigers, but don’t forget about Adler, who went to Harvard, is an analytics expert and has been with the Twins since 2017. He was promoted to vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager in 2019. Before joining MLB, Adler worked for the Jacksonville Jaguars and launched one of the NFL’s first research and development departments. (Jeremy Zoll, the Twins’ other assistant general manager, is a name to watch, too. He has a relationship with Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter.)

Michael Fishman

Fishman, a Yale graduate and mathematics genius, is the vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager for the New York Yankees. He is one of two assistant general managers under Brian Cashman and has led the analytics department since the Yankees hired him in 2005. He has been involved in all aspects of baseball operations and — based on the Yankees’ success — could be considered for a general manager opportunity as teams become more progressive.

Scott Sharp

What stands out about Sharp, the Kansas City Royals’ senior vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager, is his blend of experience within the scouting, player development and analytics departments. He has worked under president of baseball operations Dayton Moore since 2006 and helped produce 22 All-Stars that arrived to MLB through Kansas City’s farm system. Sharp interviewed for the Angels’ general manager job in 2020.

Chris Getz

Getz was born in Southfield, attended Grosse Pointe South High School and played college baseball at Michigan. He played seven years in the big leagues before transitioning upstairs to the front office. He has been the player development director for the Chicago White Sox since 2017 and was promoted to assistant general manager ahead of the 2021 season.

Craig Breslow

After a 12-year MLB career, which included more than 570 games as a relief pitcher, Breslow — a Yale graduate — joined the Cubs in 2019, becoming Epstein’s director of strategic initiatives for baseball operations. He currently serves as the Cubs’ vice president of baseball operations, assistant general manager and director of pitching.

Dan Kantrovitz

The Cubs, under Epstein, hired Kantrovitz as the vice president of scouting in 2019. He oversees the amateur scouting department and runs the draft. Before joining the Cubs, he spent five years as an assistant general manager with the Athletics and focused on statistical analysis for the draft, trades and free-agent acquisitions. He also worked for the Cardinals.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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