Bowden a Candidate For D-Backs' GM Job

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 16, 2005

HOUSTON, Oct. 15 -- With Major League Baseball continuing to delay the announcement of an owner for the Washington Nationals, the team's general manager, Jim Bowden, has emerged as a candidate to fill the same job with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and could become a candidate for other teams as well, baseball sources said Saturday.

A baseball source with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the process, said Diamondbacks officials have already spoken with Bowden, though it was unclear whether the parties had met face-to-face.

Reached Saturday by telephone, Bowden declined to comment on his future.

"I'll talk about the Nationals," he said, "but not about any other team."

Nationals President Tony Tavares, however, said one team with a GM opening called him to ask permission to speak to Bowden, which Tavares granted. Tavares, who would not identify the team, said he wouldn't be surprised if other franchises called in the near future. Because a new owner hasn't been named -- eight groups have submitted formal bids to purchase the Nationals for $450 million -- Tavares, employed by MLB, is unable to grant long-term contracts to anyone in the front office, including Bowden.

"I can't hold anybody back," Tavares said. "We've told our coaches, our manager, our GM that if there's a job that is available to you and you want to interview for it, you should. It would be inappropriate of me to be denying permission for teams to speak with our people."

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies are both looking for GMs as well, and Bowden, who spent 10 1/2 years as the general manager in Cincinnati before joining the Nationals, could surface as a candidate for either job. Neither had asked the Nationals for permission as of Saturday, a baseball source said. San Diego Padres GM Kevin Towers also is a potential candidate in Arizona.

Tavares has said that if he returns as president when a new ownership group is named, he would bring Bowden back. Bowden, 44, has worked to get to know the potential ownership groups in hopes that he could keep his job once they take over. None of the groups that lead the race to land the team -- businessmen Frederic Malek and Jeffrey Zients; the Lerner family, which runs a Bethesda-based real estate empire; and Indianapolis media mogul Jeffrey Smulyan -- has publicly indicated whether it would keep Bowden, but there are indications that Bowden has a better chance to remain if either of the two local groups assume ownership.

The Nationals, who spent much of June and July leading the National League East, finished 81-81 and in last place. Some of Bowden's moves -- such as trading for right fielder Jose Guillen and signing right-hander Esteban Loaiza -- worked out. Others -- such as signing shortstop Cristian Guzman to a four-year, $16.8 million contract and trading pitcher Tomo Ohka to Milwaukee for infielder Junior Spivey -- did not.

The limbo for Bowden trickles down throughout the front office and coaching staff, including Manager Frank Robinson, who has said he wants to return. The entire staff has contracts that expire on Oct. 31, and the lack of an owner means the Nationals could be stripped of the few quality people they have. The New York Mets, for instance, have inquired about speaking with scouting director Dana Brown, possibly about becoming a national scout rather than a director, two baseball sources said Saturday. But for now, the Nationals are reluctant to grant permission for other teams to speak to their employees about positions that aren't at least a lateral move.

Reached Saturday, Brown said he hasn't spoken with the Mets, whose GM, Omar Minaya, ran the Nationals from 2002 to '04 when the franchise played as the Montreal Expos. Minaya hired Brown in 2002.

"I'm in a holding pattern," Brown said. "I'm like an airplane circling the airport for three hours. I'd like to stay in Washington. I love the city. I think we've started something special there. I think we've got players that we've developed that are certainly going to add impact. But right now, I just don't know."

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