With Mike Hazen headed to Arizona, the Red Sox find themselves in need of a GM. Plenty of names have been floated around, but the one that seems to have gained the most momentum thus far is Frank Wren.
First, a caveat: Wren as the “leading candidate” seems to be based on two things. The first is this Bob Nightengale tweet which cites no sources at all, named or otherwise:
Frank Wren now becomes leading candidate to be promoted and become #Redsox GM— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 16, 2016
The second? Red Sox fans’ predisposition to assume that Bad Things Will Happen.
If that last bit doesn’t tip you off, I’m not a huge fan of Frank Wren. His Braves teams experienced some success, but much of that could be attributed to his predecessor John Schuerholz (which, frankly, is also true of Dave Dombrowski’s success in Boston thus far). He’s an old-school GM whose talent seems to lie primarily in recognizing present talent. He sees the talented 30-year-old, but not the unremarkable 32-year-old that player will become less than halfway through his contract.
That makes him entirely capable of helping to build a strong farm system, but a questionable voice indeed when it comes to building a major league team. And it also makes him largely useless to Dave Dombrowski.
Dombrowski, really, is just not all that dissimilar from Wren. They fall into the same category of executive. Don’t get me wrong, I mean this in the same way that David Ortiz and Mark Trumbo are not dissimilar compared to, say, David Ortiz and Mookie Betts. How much would Wren bring to the decision-making process that Dombrowski would not have been able to provide himself, likely with somewhat more nuance?
Compare that to, say, any of the various Cherington disciples. Yes, these are the guys who will dream up Hanley in left and Bard to the rotation and, yes, if those ideas take hold they might end up sucking. But that’s kind of what the Dombrowski filter is there for. The Dombrowski approach matches square pegs and square holes. The Cherington-type points out that while there may not be a round peg available for that one round hole, if you turn this one just right...
Odd peg-and-hole analogies aside, they’re styles that should work well together so long as the one in charge is willing to listen to his subordinate. But that only works if that voice is there. With Wren, Dombrowski gets someone who will likely agree with him most of the time. They will break on opinion, but that’s more likely to be when Wren just has a Melvin Upton style idea that Dombrowski is just going to wave off than anything else.
If the Red Sox do make Wren the GM, then it’s not the end of the world. His actual role in the team might not even change all that much. He’d spend more time in Boston, sure—when Wren was brought in last year it was as more of a remote consultant than anything—but he’s already had the ability to get in Dombrowski’s ear when he wanted to do so. Realistically, it’s more of a missed opportunity, and a general ill-omen.
Red Sox fans should not want Dombrowski to want a guy like Wren as his second-in-command. The only reason to surround yourself with like-minded advisers in any position that involves making major decisions is when you’re absolutely convinced that your way of thinking is the only correct way. And then you’re probably just wrong. Dombrowski should want to keep around the old Epstein and Cherington disciples who can actually give him something to think about, especially if they often disagree. Promoting Wren would not only suggest he’s not interested in that, but also possibly send a message to extremely important holdover personnel like Amiel Sawdaye that they’ve hit their ceiling in the organization, and might want to look elsewhere if they aspire to rise higher.
That’s the real danger with Wren. Not that he’ll sign the next Upton, but that Dombrowski will end up not really considering the next Porcello or Uehara or Napoli, and perhaps lose the type of people who might have otherwise pinged them out.