The Pittsburgh Pirates have reportedly narrowed their search for a replacement for former general manager Neil Huntington down to two choices. Those two choices are Ben Cherington and Matt Arnold. While both are excellent candidates, Cherington is arguably the best candidate for the position.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are said to be meeting with the two finalists for the vacant general manager position this week and hope to announce their selection for the position on Monday. Ben Cherington, the current Vice President of Operations for the Toronto Blue Jays and Matt Arnold, the Assistant General Manager of the Milwaukee Brewers have been reported to be the two finalists.
While the 40-year Arnold checks integral boxes for what the Pirates have been rumored to be searching for in a general manager candidate, primarily the fact that he is an analytics guru, Cherington may be the stronger candidate for the position,
Cherington, prior to joining the Blue Jays front office, served as the General Manager for the Boston Red Sox from 2011-2015. During his tenure as GM, Cherington saw his Red Sox team win a World Series Championship in 2013.
While many gave Theo Epstein the lion’s share of the credit for that championship, stating that he had built the core and Cherington was simply working with the team he had been provided, Cherington deserves a great deal more credit than he has been given.
Cherington was the one responsible for bringing in key free agent acquisitions such as Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, David Ross, Jake Peavy, Joel Hanrahan and Ryan Dempster. Each played an integral role in the Red Sox winning the championship in 2013 and show cased Cherington’s ability to find crucial pieces to fill out a championship contending team.
Many pundits glaze over these important signings, instead choosing to focus solely on the free agent signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, to make the case that Cherington’s decision making is flawed. Choosing to ignore the importance of his decisions in crafting the 2013 World Series team is disingenuous.
In addition, Cherington was responsible for moving the large and detrimental contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, that totaled $265.5 million, when he traded them to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two pitching prospects. In doing so, he allowed the Red Sox to immediately remove themselves from the detrimental salary cap situation that appeared as though it would plague them for years to come.
In addition, Cherington was responsible for the prudent decision to allow Jacoby Ellsbury walk to the rival Yankees in free agency, a signing that remains a major boon on the Yankees payroll six years later. He also traded for Rick Porcello and signed him to an immediate extension. Porcello would go on to win the Cy Young Award for the Red Sox in 2016.
While those in favor of the Pirates selecting Matt Arnold as the new GM will point to the success that the small market brethren of the Bucs, the Milwaukee Brewers, have had during Arnold’s tenure with the club, they can’t ignore the magnitude of Cherington’s successes in one of the largest, most rabid markets in Major League Baseball.
Following the 2013 World Series Championship, Cherington was named the Major League Baseball Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. In doing so, he was only the third person in franchise history to do so, joining former owner Tom Yawkey (1946) and former general manager Dick O’Connell, who won it twice (1967, 1975).
The ability to thrive under the adversity and bright lights that comes with being the Red Sox General Manager, is a clear indicator of the makeup that Cherington possesses. The pressure from the Red Sox fan base to be a perennial World Series contender is rivaled by few fan bases in professional sports. Cherington was able to handle this pressure while delivering on a championship.
In addition to his successes as the Red Sox GM, Cherington also benefitted from learning under the tutelage of one of the greatest general managers in baseball, Theo Epstein. Epstein most notably broke the prolonged curses of both the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs and has three World Series rings between the two franchises. Being an understudy under one of the greats in the game is certainly a plus for Cherington.
If selected to be the next General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ben Cherington has the track record of success that would indicate that he could rebuild the Pirates from the ground up and make them a regular contender.