BOSTON -- If the Red Sox want to entice an established executive to replace Dave Dombrowski atop their baseball operations department, the sell might be tougher than they think. The rest of baseball has noticed that Boston's last two World Series-winning architects found themselves unemployed within two years.
Ben Cherington won it all in 2013 and was replaced by Dombrowski in August of 2015. Dombrowski didn't even last a year after building the 2018 juggernaut that romped to 108 wins and the team's fourth championship in 15 seasons.
He was fired on Sunday night, which puts the Red Sox in the market for a general manager at one of the most pivotal moments in recent franchise history. The team faces a number of challenging decisions this winter, not least of which is whether to extend or trade defending MVP Mookie Betts. They must also rebuild their farm system, determine whether they can trust their top three starters, and prepare for the possibility that J.D. Martinez opts out of his contract.
That's not an easy job, and the Red Sox know it. They're prepared to take their time filling the position, which decreases the likelihood that they'll simply hand the reins to an internal option like assistant GM Eddie Romero or analytics chief Zack Scott.
If they go outside the organization, whom might they target? It's possible they don't even know at this point, but here's a hunch -- it's worth focusing on the Theo Epstein executive tree.
The former GM took over in November of 2002 and had the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS a year later before securing the Curse-busting title of 2004. Principal owner John Henry is comfortable with the systems and processes Epstein built way back when, which is what made the more instinctual Dombrowski such a departure.
The Red Sox under Epstein and then Cherington married scouting and analytics in a way that blazed a trail, though most organizations have caught up in the last decade. Both believe in winning from within -- Epstein boasted of building a "player development machine," while Cherington focused on turning homegrown talent into "the next great Red Sox team."
When Cherington's style proved a little too deliberate during last-place finishes in 2014 and 2015, ownership altered course with Dombrowski, who aggressively swapped youngsters for veterans en route to a magical 2018.
With Theo holdovers peppering the front office -- including the interim brain trust of Romero, Scott, Brian O'Halloran, and Raquel Ferreira -- it makes sense from a continuity standpoint to return to the Epstein model.
The good news is there should be no shortage of options. The name that's sure to leap to mind is Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen, a Massachusetts native and Princeton grad who has overseen exactly the kind of rebuild-on-the-fly the Red Sox hope to undertake themselves.
The D-Backs were a game under .500 when they traded ace Zack Greinke at the July 31 deadline. Instead of imploding like the Red Sox, though, they've caught fire. They're 21-14 since and have leapfrogged three teams to draw within two games of the Cubs in the wild card standings.
It's unclear if Arizona would allow Hazen to interview for a lateral move, however, or if he'd even want to, given what he's building in the desert with former Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo.
He's not the only Arizona exec with Boston ties, though. Former Red Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye and pro scouting director Jared Porter are also members of Arizona's front office, and both remain well-respected in Boston.
Another possibility, albeit a remote one, is Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, a Wesleyan grad who served as one of Epstein's most trusted assistants in the 2000s before leaving to run the Padres. He has since reunited in Chicago with Epstein, where they ended a second title drought in 2016.
Another name that hasn't come up in a while is Josh Byrnes. One of the first Epstein assistants to ascend to GM, he has spent time running the Padres and Diamondbacks. He's currently one of the many former GMs working as a VP with the Dodgers.
If the Red Sox want to go younger, Mets farm director Jared Banner spent more than a decade in Boston after graduating from Amherst and is considered a rising star in the game.
These names are mostly speculation, because the job has barely been open a day. But as the Red Sox begin their search, they'll certainly give some consideration to the Epstein tree, which means we should, too.
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