The Miami Marlins may be behind the eight-ball from a talent standpoint at the moment, but at least a few parties think the club is ahead of the game in terms of building the front office. At first, Peter Gammons reports (H/T Marlin Maniac) that the Marlins have hired former Tampa Bay Rays scouting director Jeff McAvoy and former Oakland Athletics director Craig Weissman in intelligent moves that could further the franchise's rebuilding. Now Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the Fish have poached another well-respected name in former Arizona Diamondbacks special assistant to the general manager Mike Berger.
Marlins quietly having a great offseason. After poaching superscout Jeff McAvoy from TB, sources say Mike Berger leaving Arizona for VP job.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 26, 2013
If Jeffrey Loria is giving Dan Jennings the sort of autonomy that he didn't with Larry Beinfest, Marlins could have talent in place to win.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 26, 2013
The praise for the Marlins' quiet offseason is interesting, especially coming from Passan, who is always first to point out the harsh negatives of the Jeffrey Loria regime. But his second tweet is of particular importance in his point: if these hires are indeed a sign of more autonomous action by president of baseball operations Michael Hill and general manager Dan Jennings, then the Fish are indeed moving in the right direction.
The one concern I had with the franchise's decision on firing long-time front office head Larry Beinfest was that the organization replaced him with "more of the same" in Hill and Jennings. Both Hill and Jennings have been with Miami for the greater part of the last decade of Loria's reign, so it is not exactly like they were newcomers to the organization. With their promotions, it felt as though Loria wanted to remove the pesky figurehead of Beinfest but maintain the status quo in terms of decision-making. The Marlins have been making decisions in the same fashion since 2002, and the franchise has not gone far beyond the 2003 World Series. Promoting from within appeared to be a mistake, no matter how qualified Hill or Jennings were.
Now it sounds as though the Fish are hiring from outside the organization to fill out its front office around Hill and Jennings. That is important because it introduces new voices to a stagnant organizational leadership. Hill and Jennings, under the pressure of Loria, have not gotten the job done when Beinfest was around, but you can imagine that their ideas have not changed significantly since that time. With new folks from outside the organization mixing into the established top, the team can become less insulated and stuck in the past and more open to new ideas. Berger, Weissman, and McAvoy may not be the advanced stat-heads whom the Marlins also need, but at least they can provide Miami with a fresh perspective.
Of course, this is all dependent on what Passan says: Loria has to be more trusting of the front office. Otherwise, a Jerry Jones situation will continue to reign, no matter who is hired and which leaders serve as figureheads. But if Loria really is willing to listen more to Jennings, his supposed favorite for some time, then these staff additions can only be good signs for the Fish.