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The Indians are Treating Front Office Personnel as System Assets

During the Mark Shapiro transition two things were made clear: the Indians interested in providing opportunities to front office staff and front office staff are to be considered organizational assets similar to players.

A recent trend in Major League Baseball has been that when a front office executive makes a lateral move to another organization while under contract, the team he left will receive player compensation. This happened most recently when Theo Epstein moved to the Cubs for Chris Carpenter. It has happened in similar situations with managers like Lou Piniella and John Farrell.

Which is why, when the Indians did not receive any player compensation for Shapiro's lateral move to Toronto, I began to suspect the purpose was to make a good faith agreement regarding front office poaching.

Lewis Pollis wrote a phenomenal paper which discussed the manner in which we value front office staff and further, that the deviations in quality between different staff and specifically general managers have significant on field value, which of course has significant monetary value to a franchise. I hope I have not betrayed his work in any way and it should be read.

Whether you agree with the valuation or not the Indian's have a fairly widely respected front office in Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff. Both of whom have been widely pursued for general manager jobs with other teams.

Indeed, these two with the help of Director of Scouting Brad Grant and VP of player personnel Ross Atkins have helped the Indians post three consecutive winning seasons while being in the bottom ten in payroll, two of those years in the bottom five.

Returning, to the value of the front office, Antonetti and company have been incredibly efficient on a cost per win basis which means they are organizational assets and in back of napkin manner we can ascribe a positive WAR value to this front office.

Which brings us to protecting these assets. Jon Morosi when discussing GM candidates for the Blue Jays said the following:
Also, Shapiro will be allowed to consider a limited number of employees of his former team, the Cleveland Indians, for roles in the Blue Jays front office. For an Indians executive or scout under contract to join the Blue Jays, the new job would need to be a promotion; it’s unlikely that more than one or two Indians employees will be permitted to make the move.
The Indians didn’t require the Blue Jays to give up a player or another form of compensation in return for allowing Shapiro to leave, so there’s been a good-faith atmosphere between the clubs from even before the announcement of Shapiro’s departure in August.
While perhaps implied as a good faith effort, it is likely that the Indians negotiated the above terms in order to protect people like themselves from people Chernoff  making lateral moves. The Indians moved quickly to promote Chernoff to general manager, and it appears it was done with a purpose to protect him from taking a move up the ladder with the Blue Jays.

Essentially the Indians organization, did not compel the inclusion of a player in the Shapiro transition in order to hold on to key staff which have been essential in creating a competent on field product. Of course, it is possible, that Atkins may become the  Toronto GM, after a search, since Tony Lacava has been named interim GM.

However, while many in the organization have different philosophical approaches than Shapiro, they all seem to have a respect for Shapiro and share his process. This endangered the Indians with the possibility of losing a front office staff that has had significant on field and monetary value to them because of working relationships they have with Shapiro.

Front office staff are interesting assets also because they would appear to have significantly less varaince in their production and do not age out of value as quickly as on field assets. This is one of the reasons why stability with the right front office staff is a significant competitive advantage.

The Indians ascribed field and monetary value to front office staff. This is a divergent approach and is a very smart move for the future of the organization.

A final note on the offseason. While Antonetti shares a organizational process with Shapiro, Antonetti has shown an audacity Shapiro lacked, Chris was behind the aggressive Ubaldo Jimenez trade a bold go for it move, as well as the Brandon Moss deal which while foiled was smaller asset push deal.

Antonetti will be bold if the opportunity is right, and now is the right time.

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