Jon Heyman
Wednesday September 29th, 2010

Coincidence or not, the respective Executives of the Year choices here represent the two teams involved in the landmark Mark Teixeira trade two years ago, Texas and Atlanta.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels jump-started his team with that blockbuster trade, then fortified it with many other positive moves. Daniels acquired great young shortstop Elvis Andrus and closer Neftali Feliz in the trade-deadline Teixeira deal that was a key to an incredible Texas turnaround. But Daniels didn't come close to stopping there.

Meanwhile, Braves GM Frank Wren was an assistant to the legendary John Schuerholz at the time of that deal and has recovered from that rare Atlanta overpay for Teixeira by making more good moves than anyone this year while promoting several talented prospects from a continually fertile farm system.

Here are my executives of the year followed by a list of prospective GMs ...

1. Daniels, Rangers. He is a hot name in the game right now, and a perfect fit for the Mets if they're willing to pay for a new GM. More likely, he'll re-sign in Texas, where he has an out in his contract but the faith of new owner Chuck Greenberg, who has said Daniels is a priority. He's taken the lead of predecessor John Hart and put together a workaholic staff that's a nice mix of the young and not quite as young (including Thad Levine, A.J. Preller, Scott Servais, Don Welke, etc.).

Transitioning C.J. Wilson (14-8, 3.35 ERA) from the bullpen to the rotation was the positive internal move this year following last year's then-controversial switch of franchise man Michael Young from shortstop to third base. Returnee Darren Oliver (1-2, 2.52, 65 Ks in 60 2/3 IPs) played a big role in the pen, especially in the first half. And Matt Treanor stabilized their catching situation after coming from Florida.

Ace pitcher Cliff Lee was the most prominent acquisition and will determine in the playoffs whether this year was a grand slam or merely a home run. After a balky back limited him early, he appears to be back to his old dominating self. Plus, he's made a nice impact in a clubhouse that loves his tough persona.

The big pickups have been mostly excellent, including Colby Lewis (12-13, 3.72) and Vladimir Guerrero (29 HRs, 112 RBIs, .301 BA). But the biggest plus has been the development of a farm system and international pipeline that has given them one of the best young nuclei in the game. The trade of Teixeira for Andrus (86 runs, 32 SBs), Feliz (38 of 41 saves) and three others was a game changer. The late pickup of Jeff Francoeur (11 for 33) has provided a needed right-handed fill-in bat. But there have been so many more excellent moves, including the hiring of pitching coach Mike Maddux and hitting coach Clint Hurdle.

2. Andrew Friedman, Rays. They are battling the Yankees head-to-head and neck-and-neck despite a $130-million disadvantage in payroll that promises to get bigger next year. Eyebrows were raised when Friedman, who came from Bear Stearns, was named Executive VP of Baseball Operations in November 2005, but no more, as he has proven to be one of the better executives in the game. The loss of reliever J.P. Howell in spring training looked huge, but the Rays' back-end bullpen duo of Joaquin Benoit (1-2, 1.39, 28 hits, 72 Ks in 58 1/3) and Rafael Soriano (3-2, 1.76, 44 saves in 47 chances) has been the best in the game. Bringing Dan Johnson (seven HRs in 99 ABs) back from Japan was another move that's paid off

Several Rays have slumped offensively this year, but the lineup has so many ways to beat teams that it hasn't hurt the team's overall excellent record. Their original plan to value defense has paid off and become a blueprint for several others.

The erudite and humorous Joe Maddon has proven to be the perfect manager for a young team, as well.

3. Bill Smith, Twins. The Twins are "baseball's best organization,'' according to one competitor. That's not really provable, but they are really quite amazing, taking six division titles in nine years despite being among baseball's lower-spending teams until moving into their new Target Field.

This year they finally spent some money, and it resulted in their best season since the days of Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, etc. What's most remarkable is that they did it all despite a season-ending injury to star closer Joe Nathan, a season-shortening concussion for first baseman Justin Morneau and assorted other ailments.

Carl Pavano (17-11, 3.83), who bombed in New York, has become a rotation stalwart, and Delmon Young (19 HRs, 108 RBIs, .299 BA), who looked for a while like he might never reach his potential, is finally the player he was supposed to be.

New acquisition Matt Capps (2.16 ERA, 15 of 17 saves) and Jon Rauch (21 of 25 saves) filled the closer role well in Nathan's absence. J.J. Hardy (.276) did a nice job at shortstop after coming from Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez. And the pickup of Jim Thome (25 HRs, 59 RBIs, .280 BA) for $1.5 million may be the bargain of the year.

4. Brian Cashman, Yankees. The signing of Teixeira (33 HRs, 107 RBIs, .259 BA) after the 2008 season will continue to pay dividends for years. Of course, only a few teams can afford someone like that. But the Yankees weren't even on the radar for him until Cashman made a late plea to Hal Steinbrenner. Teixeira's presence in New York has also hurt the Angels and Red Sox, who tried to sign him.

On a smaller scale, the late-season pickup of Kerry Wood (2-0, 0.36 ERA, 29 Ks in 25 IP) has been boffo. Wood has been basically untouchable since coming from Cleveland.

1. Wren, Braves. Nobody has made more moves, and a very high percentage of them have worked. Billy Wagner (36 saves, 67 IPs, 36 hits, 99 Ks) has been so unhittable everyone wonders why he's planning to retire. Takashi Saito (2.52 ERA, 69 Ks in 53 2/3 IPs), Troy Glaus (16 HRs, 71 RBIs, .238 BA) and good-luck charm Eric Hinske (11 HRs, 50 RBIs, .259 BA) have worked out from the winter, and Alex Gonzalez (6 HRs, 38 RBIs, .250 BA) and Derrek Lee (2 HRs, 18 RBIs, .270) have helped among the summer moves. Earlier trades for Jair Jurrjens and surprise All-Star Omar Infante (.326) look even better now. Jurrjens came in the Edgar Renteria deal, and Infante was acquired with Will Ohman from the Cubs for Jose Ascanio. Wren also re-signed Tim Hudson (16-9, 2.76) for $27 million over three years, then had to trade either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez and wasn't burned by the Vazquez deal. Among the organization gems, Jason Heyward may be Rookie of the Year and a star for years to come, Jonny Venters (4-3, 1.78, 56 hits in 81 IPs) has been huge out of the bullpen and Craig Kimbrel (4-0, 0.47, 37 Ks in 19 IPs) has been very impressive, as well.

2. Ruben Amaro, Phillies. Folks second-guessed Amaro when Lee was traded to Seattle, especially when Lee pitched so well there. But Amaro made a huge comeback with the deadline trade for Roy Oswalt (7-1, 1.65), who's been the best pitcher in baseball over the last two months. It doesn't hurt that Philly is doing so well financially and his bosses are committed to winning, but Amaro's moves look excellent so far. Besides Oswalt, Placido Polanco (6 HRs, 52 RBIs, .298 BA) has been an upgrade over Pedro Feliz at third, and he rebuilt the bench, which has proved important in an injury-plagued year. The slick-fielding Wilson Valdez (.257) has been especially vital in Jimmy Rollins' absence.

3. Walt Jocketty, Reds. The trade for Jocketty favorite Scott Rolen (20 HRs, 84 RBIs, .290) during the 2009 season laid the foundation for winning in Cincinnati at little cost (Edwin Encarnacion, who's hitting .230, hasn't lived up to his potential in Toronto). Rolen helped show them the way. A lot of good young players were already in place when Jocketty arrived, but two high-profile moves that have proved prescient were the drafting of Mike Leake (8-4, 4.23), who jumped straight from Arizona State to the big leagues, and the surprise signing of Aroldis Chapman, who's been nothing short of a sensation with his radar readings. Orlando Cabrera (4 HRs, 41 RBIs, .262) has been a nice upgrade at shortstop, and Jonny Gomes (17 HRs, 84 RBIs, .264) has paid off surprisingly big for a bargain signing.

4. Jed Hoyer, Padres. Hoyer was smart enough not to disrupt a mostly anonymous, underrated team, adding a few low-cost pieces such as Jerry Hairston (10 HRs, 52 RBIs, .244 BA), Yorvit Torrrealba (7 HRs, 36 RBIs, .278 BA) and Jon Garland (14-12, 3.52) to a young and hungry club while holding onto stars Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell. Nobody but the Padres figured they could contend, but they have. His trade for Miguel Tejada (8 HRs, 31 RBIs, .276 BA) gave them a midseason lift and enabled them to have a shot at the postseason with days to go.

Also, he had the foresight to lock up excellent manager Bud Black to a three-year deal.

Below is a list of baseball people who could be GMs in the future (note: Sandy Alderson, Pat Gillick, John Hart, Gerry Hunsicker and some others on this list already have been GMs and are obviously very accomplished, and while they may not be as actively seeking a new GM job as some others, teams may still try to hire them.).

1. Rick Hahn, White Sox. Long-running assistant GM of the winning circus that is Chicago's South Side team and features feuding GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen as its main players. Hahn is in the background doing a lot of the heavy lifting. He is on the list of those being considered for the Mets' expected GM opening and may be prepared for more craziness. Would he leave one circus to join another? Hahn, a Chicago product who has degrees from Harvard, Northwestern and Michigan, has turned down a GM interview in Pittsburgh, withdrawn in St. Louis and had a possibility in Seattle been rebuffed by the White Sox.

2. Josh Byrnes. Well-respected ex-GM of the Diamondbacks doesn't have to rush back in as a GM; he's being paid like one by Arizona through 2015 and may want to recharge himself for a year after a disappointing ending following a mostly successful run in Arizona. Led the D-backs to the 2007 NLCS and is known for impeccable loyalty (he disagreed with his higher-ups wanting to fire manager A.J. Hinch, perhaps costing himself his job) and integrity.

3. Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees. He had his chance to interview in Arizona rebuffed by the Yankees, where he has a three-year deal through 2011. So he can rule out the Mets now, too. Well-respected talent evaluator has come up with some very good ones for the Yankees, including Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, though many of his better ones wind up succeeding elsewhere (Ian Kennedy).

4. Dan Jennings, Marlins. One of a few excellent behind-the-scenes guys in one of baseball's better-run organizations. Excellent scouting is one big reason the Marlins are able to assemble competitive teams on a shoestring.

5. Kim Ng, Dodgers. She's had a few GM interviews, and the ex-Yankees and White Sox exec appears the most likely candidate to break the glass ceiling by becoming baseball's first female general manager. She is cited by competitors as prepared, professional and bright. The Yankees' Jean Afterman is very smart and should get some looks, as well.

6. Allard Baird, Red Sox. One of the hardest-working men in baseball never had a chance in Kansas City, where he was given pennies to work with. He is also one of the best-liked people, perhaps in part because he did an impossible job without complaint. He's been serving the last few years as one of Theo Epstein's right-hand men.

7. David Forst, A's. With Billy Beane, part owner, world traveler and movie subject as GM, there's plenty that's delegated for Forst to do in Oakland as it is. The Harvard-educated Forst would have plenty of chances if he showed interest in leaving, though.

8. Thad Levine, Rangers. Very bright assistant to Daniels is a big part of the Rangers machine.

9. Jerry Di Poto, Diamondbacks. Came close to getting the GM jobs in Washington and Arizona, where he served ably as the interim before being displaced by the veteran Kevin Towers. Appears likely to stay on now in Arizona in a big role, where he is valued by their top people despite being passed over. Best move he made was acquiring young pitcher Daniel Hudson from the White Sox in the Edwin Jackson deal.

10. John Coppolella, Braves. The 32-year-old has grown up in the Yankees and Braves organizations, two of baseball's best. Notre Dame grad is well-regarded.

11. Ben Cherrington, Red Sox. He and Hoyer ran the Red Sox in Epstein's short absence a few years ago, and while in charge they acquired Josh Beckett in one of baseball's more impactful trades.

12. Al Avila, Tigers. A big part of the Tigers turnaround (with Scott Reid and John Westhoff) before injuries derailed them this year. The good times should be back next year in Detroit, with $50 million coming off the books. Once came close to getting the Mariners GM job.

13. Bill Geivett, Rockies. A highly underpublicized but excellent GM candidate who helped build great systems in Montreal and Tampa before going to Colorado, where the drafts have been superb. Bill Schmidt is another good one in that excellent organization.

14. Logan White, Dodgers. Well known for a series of great drafts that stocked the system of the historic franchise with the likes of James Loney, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and others.

15. DeJon Watson, Dodgers. Another great personality in a fine front office that is handicapped by working within the McCourt soap opera. As with White, was interviewed by Arizona.

16. John Ricco, Mets. Doesn't appear to be getting a great GM chance with the Mets, where they apparently feel they need even more experience, but he is extremely well-regarded by everyone he's worked with for his smarts and integrity.

17. Mike Arbuckle, Royals. Appeared to have a chance to succeed Gillick in Philly but left when he was passed over for Amaro. Has the personality and know-how.

18. Charlie Kerfeld, Phillies. The former reliever is a protégé of Gillick and seems to be an excellent talent evaluator based on the past few years.

19. Jason McLeod, Padres. Young draft guru has quickly earned a big reputation.

20. Mike Chernoff, Indians. Another in the long line of fine Indians execs who works for Mark Shapiro and will remain under Chris Antonetti as Antonetti ascends to GM next year.

21. Tom McNamara, Mariners. Prince Fielder was his pick with the Brewers, and he's stockpiling more good ones as the Mariners' scouting director under Jack Zduriencik. He also worked the pro side of scouting for five years for Towers in San Diego, where they did as good a job as anyone.

22. Wayne Krivsky, Mets. Duke grad didn't do a bad job at all in a short tenure as GM in Cincinnati.

23. A.J. Preller, Rangers. Hard worker learned Spanish to help make the Rangers big-time players in Latin America.

24. Peter Woodfork, Diamondbacks. Another of the young guns, his time will come.

25. Hunsicker, Rays. He did an excellent job with the Astros, and it can't hurt he's been with the stunning Rays. Appears very happy in Tampa Bay's front office, but it would be interesting to see if he'd go back to work for the Mets.

26. Hart, Rangers. The MLB Network personality was one of the more successful GMs of the past quarter century, making some excellent trades (as Indians GM he got a young Omar Vizquel from the Mariners), locking up stars early, reaching two World Series and putting together two of the best front-office staffs in baseball, first in Cleveland and then in Texas, giving young talent like Dan O'Dowd, Shapiro, Byrnes, Antonetti and Daniels a chance.

27. Mike Port, MLB. Excellent administrator did under-rated job with Angels, briefly was Red Sox GM and came close to getting Mariners job.

28. Joe Garagiola, Jr., MLB. Nice guy won a World Series title with the Diamondbacks.

29. Alderson. Legendary A's GM is a candidate to go back to the commissioner's office, as well.

30. Gillick. He won't be a candidate with the Mets, where it's recalled that he once said he wouldn't work for "that kid,'' referring to COO Jeff Wilpon. But you can't count out the legendary GM from taking another job.

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