The Orioles will interview Dodgers executive De Jon Watson tomorrow morning, making him the third candidate to fly into Baltimore after Jerry Dipoto and Tony LaCava. Here we’ll review each candidate and begrudgingly offer an endorsement.
Jerry DiPoto – DiPoto is a former MLB relief pitcher for the Indians, Mets, and Rockies. As DiPoto’s playing career wound down he began to gain exposure to front office work. When he retired from playing in 2001, DiPoto assumed a utility role for the Colorado front office, participating in everything from baseball operations and trade discussions to postgame commentary on television. He continued on to the Red Sox front office in 2003, before returning back to the Rockies as director of player personnel in 2005. Ultimately, DiPoto settled in with the Diamondbacks in 2006, briefly serving as interim GM in 2010. While DiPoto openly discusses the Bill James literature and a combination of statistics and scouting in terms of evaluating player development, he is not on the cutting edge statistical strategies. During his time as interim GM in Arizonia, Dipoto made two major trades. The first trade saw Edwin Jackson move to the Chicago WhiteSox for Daniel Hudson. At the time this deal seemed like a no brainer and has continued to be a terrific decision. Hudson is younger, cheaper and has been a better pitcher than Jackson since his acquisition. DiPoto’s second major deal was largely regarded as a salary dump and a mistake. DiPoto sent Dan Haren to Anaheim for Joe Saunders, Rafael Rodriguez, Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs. While Haren has maintained his status as an elite starting pitcher, Tyler Skaggs has become one of the better pitching prospects in baseball and is significantly younger and cheaper than Haren. Ultimately, this may be seen as a very even trade which benefited both teams.
Tony LaCava – LaCava started his MLB career as a scout for the Angels in 1989, eventually moving on to Atlanta, Montreal and Cleveland. He remains an active scout to this day – part of his job with the Blue Jays involves evaluating possible trade candidates and reporting back to Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. While working with the Expos, LaCava became acquainted with advanced metrics through contact with Baseball Prospectus writers. He reportedly includes advanced stats like xFIP and BABIP in his player analysis and scouting. He oversees player development and Latin American operations for the Blue Jays, who have one of the top-ranked farm systems in the game.
De Jon Watson – Watson is a former MLB draft pick who spent five years in the minor leagues. Currently, Watson is responsible for the Dodgers’ player development as assistant GM to Ned Colletti. Watson’s current role includes hiring minor league coaches, overseeing Latin American player development and providing input on Major League transactions. Watson spent time scouting for the Reds and the Indians before he arrived Los Angeles. Much like DiPoto, Watson discusses statistics in terms of player evaluation but is not on the cutting edge of employing new strategies.
Ultimately, none of these three candidates represent the type of GM that By the Numbers would be truly excited about. While each appears to use advanced metrics, none of them are on the forefront of employing new quantitative evaluation strategies from fields such as economics. The most frustrating aspect of the lack of these types of candidates is that they are available and cheap. The current GM Market is flooded with young MBAs who are capable of the types of analysis that the Chicago Cubs just paid through the nose for in their acquisition of Theo Epstein. If forced to chose between these three, By the Numbers will endorse LaCava. His ability to off handedly cite statistics like xFIP and BABIP is encouraging and his presence in Latin American player development is something the Orioles desperately need.