DETROIT – Two more names have surfaced in the Twins search for a leader of their baseball department, but only one of them turned out to be a candidate.
J.J. Picollo, a vice president and assistant general manager with Kansas City, has interviewed for the position, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the search. The same sources also have confirmed that the Twins reached out to former Boston GM Ben Cherington, but he declined an interview, citing personal reasons.
These are the latest known developments as the Twins seek to restructure their front office and join a growing trend of teams that appoint a director of baseball operations, who then will hire a general manager. The Twins remain in the initial phase of finding someone to lead the baseball department, and have conducted several interviews in the Twin Cities and out of town. They have worked off a list of candidates they assembled along with suggestions from executive search firm Korn Ferry.
Picollo, who was interviewed last week when the Royals faced the Twins at Target Field, is considered one of the up-and-coming executives in the game.
Dayton Moore was hired from Atlanta in 2006 to take over baseball operations and, shortly thereafter, brought in Picollo from the Braves to be the director of player development. Since then, Picollo has moved up the ranks. He became the assistant GM in charge of scouting and player development in 2008 and currently is their vice president/assistant GM in charge of player development.
Under Moore and Piccolo, the Royals reached the World Series in 2014, losing to the Giants, then won it last year. Picollo interviewed for the Phillies’ GM job during that run but lost out to Matt Klentak.
Picollo, 45, was drafted as a catcher in 1989 and ’93 by the Reds, then played a season in the Yankees organization.
Cherington immediately was mentioned as a candidate when the Twins position become open, and it seemed like a forgone conclusion that he would be a target. He worked his way up the ranks with the Red Sox, finally getting his chance as GM before the 2012 season. When Dave Dombrowski was hired as president of baseball operations during the 2015 season, Cherington decided to resign.
Cherington spent the past academic year teaching a “Leadership in Sports’’ class for the Columbia School of Management.
The Twins were unable to get Cherington to interview for the job, indications are that they ended up picking his brain about potential candidates.
On Monday, the Twins received permission to speak with Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ senior vice president of scouting and player development. The Twins could have interest in other Cubs officials as well.
The Twins also have been linked to current Dodgers executive Alex Anthopoulos — who used to run the Blue Jays — but indications are that he never was a serious candidate.
During an interview last week, Twins President Dave St. Peter said he believed that a new baseball boss could be installed by the end of October. The Twins even pushed back their deadline for the first installment for 2017 season tickets, one reason being that fans would then have time to learn who was hired.
On the surface, hiring someone with a team in the playoffs — such as the Cubs — would be problematic. But the Twins could announce a hire while allowing that person to finish out the season with that club.
Rob Antony, named acting GM on July 18 after Terry Ryan was dismissed, still is expected to interview for the position.