The Dodgers added to their front office stable on Thursday with the hire of Gerry Hunsicker as a senior advisor of baseball operations. The 62-year old left the Rays after seven years, telling Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times he would "forever cherish" his time in Tampa Bay:
But as much as he liked his stay, Hunsicker said Thursday, "I felt … that it was time to look for another challenge."
So when old friend Stan Kasten, the Dodgers president, called 10 days ago asking him to join his new ownership group and "help restore the Dodgers to the preeminent organization in baseball," Hunsicker decided to take the job.
It's not surprising that this is a Kasten move, as he has stated his willingness to rebuild the Dodgers via scouting and development of players, both domestically and internationally. The Dodgers in their initial press release to announce Hunsicker's hire noted his involvement in the Ray's expanding their efforts in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Brazil, Asia, and Europe.
The move was praised by many. Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times said, "This is addition without subtraction, the Dodgers’ makeover ongoing." Colleague Bill Shaikin tweeted, "Dodgers have made 2 great signings under new owners so far: Hunsicker and premier ballpark architect Janet Marie Smith."
Chad Moryima agreed:
Either way, there’s little downside to getting more quality baseball minds in the front office, regardless of what you think of the current GM. Undoubtedly this should improve the Dodgers decision-making, and it’s another sign that the owners understand that it’s not just player payroll that needed attention, but personnel as well.
Mike Petriello at Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness made a good point:
With the new CBA limiting international spending, it’s going to take more than just money to win that battle. It’s going to take knowledge and experience, and Hunsicker certainly brings that.
At the season end meetings on Oct. 4, I asked Kasten if the spending caps in both the draft and international spending put more of an emphasis on having the right people in place in the front office.
"That's always been the case," Kasten said. "Whatever good fortune I've had in my career has been the product of really good front offices. I think we have one here as well, and we're going to be looking to add and make it better in whatever way that we can."
The Rays had nothing but good things to say about Hunsicker upon his leaving.
"I have worked side by side with Gerry for the past seven years, and I am extremely grateful for all he has done for me and the Rays' organization," said Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, in a statement. "He has been instrumental in the growth and development of our department, and I am proud of the successes we have enjoyed together. We will miss his contributions and presence, and we wish him well in his new role in Los Angeles."
Hunsicker was general manager of the Astros from 1996-2004, and he joined the Rays in November 2005. Tampa Bay made trades with Houston at the next two trade deadlines. They acquired Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot for Aubrey Huff in July 2006, and traded Ty Wigginton for reliever Dan Wheeler in 2007. The Rays also hired performance psychologist Dr. John Eliot, luring him from Rice University in Houston with the help of Hunsicker, as outlined in The Extra 2%, Jonah Keri's 2011 book on the success of the Rays.
Back in 2007, Hunsicker was interviewed by Jacob Larsen at DRays Bay, and was asked about the Rays' deals with Houston:
While it is true I had some familiarity with the Houston acquisitions, all of our decisions are collaborative efforts and Andrew Friedman always has the final say. But safe to say, because of the years I have spent in the game, my network has been an asset for us to utilize.
Now the Dodgers get the benefit of that asset, Hunsicker's 35 years in baseball.