The Dodgers have made arguably their biggest acquisition since Guggenheim Baseball Management took over the organization nearly six months ago. No, I'm not talking about Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, or Josh Beckett. Nor am I talking about Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, or even Alex Rodriguez.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the Dodgers have brought in Gerry Hunsicker as a Senior Advisor. While that may not sound like a big deal to most Dodger fans, believe me when I say it is.
As some of you may know, I used to work in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, where Hunsicker has spent the past seven seasons as Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations. Prior to that, he was the General Manager of the Houston Astros for nine years. I've seen Hunsicker at work, and I can tell you that he's one of the most exceptional people that I've ever come across. Here is a Q&A for the company newsletter that I conducted with him back in 2006.
While I firmly believe that Rays GM Andrew Friedman is the best general manager in Major League Baseball, Tampa Bay would not have enjoyed the success that they had without Hunsicker. He brings a wealth of experience to the Dodgers, but more importantly, he brings wisdom.
I've written numerous times about the major changes that the Dodgers need to make to their scouting and player development systems in order to be successful. It's a great advantage to be able to absorb $100+ million contracts like the new ownership has done thus far. But you cannot sustain a winning organization on expensive free agents alone, and the Dodgers absolutely need to develop players from within in order to become a championship team.
Fortunately, with Hunsicker, I now have confidence that the Dodgers have someone on their payroll who knows how to do that. He's one of the few executives in baseball with acumen in scouting, statistics, and finance.
In order to build a great system, the Dodgers need to have a consistent coaching philosophy across all levels of the minor leagues. They need to have the most advanced computer analytics and video technology to evaluate players' technique. They need to be open-minded to new approaches and understand that minor league players need to be taken care of both emotionally and physically. The Dodgers also need to do a better job of scouting amateur talent, and they have lagged behind other organizations in acquiring international players.
When Hunsicker was GM of the Astros, the organization had one of the best farm systems in the game, and they developed a steady stream of talent that made Houston a premiere team from the mid-90s through the mid-2000s. With the Rays, Hunsicker has been a part of an organization that develops Major League-ready prospects nearly every season to replace established players that the franchise can no longer afford. He also has a reputation for finding talent overseas. While in Houston, the Astros had a very successful Venezuelan academy. With the Rays, he helped develop academies in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Brazil, and has advanced the club's international scouting in Asia and elsewhere. His international expertise was cited in the Dodgers press release announcing his hiring, so I imagine he will play a major role in rebuilding the franchise's overseas presence.
It remains to be seen exactly how involved Hunsicker will be, and how he will work with Ned Colletti. My guess is that Hunsicker will maintain a residence in Houston, where he has owned thoroughbred race horses. But I'm assuming the Dodgers aren't paying him to do nothing. They will benefit greatly by listening to his advice.