If you’re trying to keep track of all the talk surrounding candidates to supplant Brian Graham as Pirates’ general manager, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mentioned seven front-office types (Muzzy Jackson, Jim Beattie, Ed Wade, Ruben Amaro Jr., John Mozeliak, Steve Lubratich and Tony LaCava) in even vague relation to the job—and that’s by no means a concrete (or exhaustive) list.
This morning, Paul Meyer tossed another name into the hat:
Peter Woodfork, assistant to Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes, could draw interest from the Pirates [as a GM]—especially if Frank Coonelly becomes the team’s president.
Woodfork, who has a Harvard background, worked with Coonelly in Major League Baseball’s New York offices before going to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Lucky No. 8?
If I were trying to handicap the race—and I suppose I am, since there are far too many candidates to cover thoroughly—then my short list would (and does) have two names on it: LaCava and Woodfork. That’s admittedly pure speculation; I’m just going with my gut based on what I’ve been reading. But again, with a seemingly endless pool of potential applicants, you’ve got to start (and finish) somewhere.
There’s been a good bit written about LaCava’s qualifications—see the discussion surrounding a Beaver County Times article penned by John Perrotto for a quick background—so let’s take a look at Woodfork.
- “After the Boston Red Sox were sold in 2002, they tapped Theo Epstein of Yale as the greenest of baseball GMs at 28. Today, his assistant is Haverford (Pa.) grad Josh Byrnes, 32. Peter Woodfork, the team’s director of baseball operations, is 26, with a psychology degree from Harvard.” – USA Today, 3/17/04
- “Woodfork, a Swampscott, Mass. native, … will focus on contract issues but also help Director of Player Development Ben Cherington and Special Assistant to the General Manager/Player Development Craig Shipley.” – AP, 3/17/03
- “Woodfork worked for the commissioner’s office for two years in the labor relations department before joining the Red Sox [as director of baseball operations]. He holds a psychology degree from Harvard University, where he was a four-year starter for the Crimson’s baseball team.” – The Boston Globe, 11/23/05
- “Red Sox director of baseball operations Peter Woodfork was named assistant general manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks, joining Josh Byrnes, who previously had held that title in Boston. Byrnes was named Diamondbacks GM last month and had requested permission to take Woodfork to Arizona.” – Ibid
- “‘[Woodfork] has built a tremendous reputation in this industry due to his successful track record with the Commissioner’s Office and the Red Sox,’ [Josh] Byrnes said. Indeed, one West Division executive said upon hearing about the hiring, ‘They’ve got themselves a good man. He’s smart, very enthusiastic and has great people skills. That’s a great hire.'” – MLB.com, 11/23/05
- “Jeff Moorad, [Diamondbacks general partner]: Josh [Byrnes] and Peter [Woodfork], along with Bob Gebhard, A.J. Hinch, Jerry DiPoto, Mike Rizzo, and the like make up something like a ‘Dream Team’ baseball operations staff—I wouldn’t trade a one of them. They’ve worked very effectively under Josh’s leadership.” – MLB.com, 7/14/06
And, perhaps the most complete profile I was able to find (from The Arizona Republic, 4/28/06):
Woodfork has carved out an expertise in all matters financial and technical, including arbitration, contracts and the fine print in roster shuffling. But he says he still has a lot to learn, including honing his player-evaluation skills.”It’s definitely something I’m going to need to improve on in my game,” he said.
As for the future?
“I’ll learn a lot in this job to see if I have those skills to be a good GM,” Woodfork said. “Some day you hope that that’s true. But I’m realistic. I’m not going to step into something that I don’t think I can do well.”
I wrote yesterday that in order to squeeze the maximum return out of their latest front office moves, the Pirates must pair Coonelly with a general manager who excels at evaluating talent. My thinking was that Coonelly seems to have the business side of the game down pat; to complement his skill set, it’d be wise to bring on a GM known for his ability to buy low and sell high on players.
It sounds as if Woodfork himself admits that he’s not that guy—or at least he wasn’t a year ago. He’s another financial wunderkind, one of the new-age baseball men who can crunch numbers and execute a plan. But he’s not the kind of general manager candidate that can take a look at a player and know whether or not he has what it takes to have big-league success.
Josh Byrnes has certainly surrounded himself with a talented staff, and undoubtedly Woodfork could do the same if he were brought to Pittsburgh by Coonelly. But I’m sticking to my guns: To ace the next hiring, Bob Nutting and Frank Coonelly must find someone (not unlike LaCava) who is able to evaluate what’s happening on the diamond, not in a board room or a spreadsheet.