By: Chris Larson
The Hot Stove season always brings about a high level of pressure for, any General Manager of a team, as fans expect the General Manager to make the necessary additions or subtractions to their respective team. In addition, the players of every team expect their General Manager to alter their roster in a way that makes their role more viable and cohesive in the overall picture.
After all, sports is an industry dominated by expectation and with the lack of patience that many fans exhibit in today's society, it comes with the territory. Looking ahead to this week's Winter Meetings, it's certainly no exception and yet another benchmark where every General Manager will be evaluated and either heavily praised by, the industry as well as the fans, or scrutinized for the decisions they make.
Regardless of the level of pressure for each individual team or General Manager around the game, here are the General Managers with the most pressure riding on their shoulders this week.
1. Farhan Zaidi (San Francisco Giants) - From the outside looking in, the San Francisco Giants are one of those teams that could either elect to go all in and contend one last time or take a huge step back and start the difficult rebuilding process. Either way, it's an extremely hard decision and something that almost anyone would rather not have riding on their shoulders. The hardest decision that Zaidi will likely face this week is whether or not to change the team's face of the franchise in Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner has one-year remaining on his contract for $12 million dollars, meaning that he will be an extremely affordable option for any contending team looking to bolster their pitching staff, and he comes along with a tremendous postseason pedigree as well. However, the biggest challenge for Farhan Zaidi and the San Francisco Giants, in trying to find a suitor for Bumgarner, is trying to find the right return and a return that will either help the Giants contend this coming season or start the rebuild process. Depending on the overall plans of the team, will ultimately decide which direction they go, but again the pressure facing Zaidi, is something that no General Manager wants to have riding on their shoulders right now.
2. Andrew Friedman (Los Angeles Dodgers) - The Dodgers have made it to the World Series the past two consecutive years, but have walked away without a World Series Championship under their belt both times. Given that factor and the fact that the team has won the National League West each of the past six years, puts added pressure on Andrew Friedman and his entire staff both this week and the remainder of the offseason. Thus far, the Dodgers have been linked to a couple of key pieces, mainly on the trade market, in Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and J.T. Realmuto. There have also been murmurs of the Dodgers checking in on certain free agents, most notably relievers that might be available, and the biggest fish of them all, Bryce Harper. Whether or not the team ultimately lands Harper has yet to be seen, but given how persistent the Dodgers are in making, Yasiel Puig and/or Jocelyn Pederson available, suggests that they could have enough payroll flexibility to make a Harper signing possible and logical. Either way, Los Angeles has to finally figure out a way to get over the hump and give their fans a World Series Championship, something that hasn't happened since 1988, which lends to plenty of pressure on Andrew Friedman & Company this week and beyond.
3. Matt Klentak (Philadelphia Phillies) - After the Philadelphia Phillies owner, John Middleton, came out and said the team was going to spend "stupid money" this offseason, the Phillies immediately went under the microscope and became the center of attention out of all 30 teams. That attention certainly doesn't boyd well for Phillies General Manager, Matt Klentak, this week and beyond as he is now expected to make a major splash or two by the entire Phillies fanbase and do something that completely changes the overall image of the team heading into the 2019 regular season. If you recall, the Phillies were a team that played well during the first part of last year, but then the wheels seemed to fall off and everything went to shambles, as the team finished the year with an 80-82 record, good enough for third place in the National League East. So far this winter, there has been plenty of speculation that the Phillies will likely land one of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, potentially even both, and that will certainly come to light this week in Las Vegas. Even after the team traded for Jean Segura last week, they have to continue to focus on making their defense more sound and that's going to be something that fans push for out of Matt Klentak & Company.
4. David Stearns (Milwaukee Brewers) - The Milwaukee Brewers barely won the National League Central last year, although they had a mighty fine season with plenty of grand accomplishments, giving them even more reason to look at every possible upgrade this season. Now that the St. Louis Cardinals have Paul Goldschmidt in tow and the Chicago Cubs, a team that has lurked in the weeds before still has the potential to sign Bryce Harper, the Milwaukee Brewers need to be very attentive to what's going on around them in the NL Central and look to add more valuable pitching depth to the 25-man everyday roster. Sure, the Brewers pitching did a phenomenal job all of last season, but will it hold up and perform the same exact way come 2019? Nothing is for sure in baseball and that certainly is something that can't be assured meaning that the Brewers need to do something big to address their starting rotation either via trade or free agency. Thus far, Milwaukee has been linked to Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets, but it appears that Syndergaard is staying put in Queens, meaning that the Brewers will have to look at other potential avenues. Either way, this is an important offseason for the Brewers as they look to capitalize off of the success of last year and be even more competitive in 2019.
5. Brodie Van Wagenen (New York Mets) - Since taking over the General Manager chair for the New York Mets, Brodie Van Wagenen continues to preach about the team being in "win-now mode" and that's something that adds an extra level of pressure to his job description. Add in the fact that the Mets play in New York City and have a fanbase that is critical of every move the team makes. Since it has been published that the team is focused on winning sooner (in 2019) than later (2020 and beyond), fans now expect the Mets to continue to look at every possible upgrade available to them and look for ways to make the 25-man roster even stronger. Just a few weeks ago, Mets fans and the rest of baseball alike, expected the Mets to trade Noah Syndergaard for a package that consisted of both MLB ready players as well as high level prospects to address holes on their roster, but it now appears as though Syndergaard will stay put and that adds more leverage to the Mets trying to look at both starting pitching, bullpen, and defensive upgrades around the diamond. Since making the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz, the New York Mets have a bit more pressure to continue to try and get better and that's something that will truly evaluate Brodie Van Wagenen's first offseason as Mets General Manager.