02/10/12 2:00 PM EST
Servais, Klentak offer unique expertise
Assistant GMs part of Angels' new baseball-operations team
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Pretty much every member of Jerry Dipoto's recently assembled staff brings something different to the table.
But his two new assistant general managers cover two opposite ends of the spectrum.
Matt Klentak, who spent the past four years in Baltimore and whose current role mostly involves navigating through contract logistics, is all about the tangible elements.
"Matt is extremely adept in his ability to navigate the rules," Dipoto, the Angels' first-year GM, said. "There's literally no question that I could throw out there that I haven't gotten a quick answer from Matt."
Scott Servais, brought over from the Rangers to oversee player development and be heavily involved in scouting, puts a heavy emphasis on the human side.
"I would say his greatest strength is that he's a tremendous environment builder," Dipoto said. "Scotty pays attention to the culture more than he pays attention to the fastball or the swing."
'The best player-development guy in the industry'
This offseason -- as the Angels added Albert Pujols and stole away C.J. Wilson, and the Rangers countered with Yu Darvish -- Arlington and Anaheim have seemingly put themselves on a collision course, setting up what could be the beginning of one of baseball's biggest rivalries in 2012.
Servais, who spent the last six years helping rebuild the Rangers' farm system before being hired by the Angels in November, has essentially been in the middle of it.
"It's going to be very intense," Servais said of the Angels-Rangers rivalry. "It's going to be a very fun summer, not just this summer but years to come, with the long-term commitments that we've made with certain players, and they've done the same thing with certain players. I'm really looking forward to it."
After an 11-year catching career that took him through four organizations -- the Astros, Cubs, Giants and Rockies -- Servais spent two seasons as a roving catching instructor for the Cubs, then served as a professional scout for the Rockies while Dipoto was director of player personnel.
Following the '05 season, newly named Rangers GM Jon Daniels made him senior director of player development in Texas.
The Rangers' farm system ranked 28th by Baseball America heading into the '07 season. But just two years later, it rose all the way to No. 1. And in 2010, the Major League club started a run of back-to-back World Series appearances.
"I'm a little biased here," Dipoto said, "but I think Scott Servais is the best player-development guy in the industry."
Servais helped expand the Rangers' international reach, implemented a new Draft philosophy and integrated a hands-on approach system-wide that helped develop the likes of Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando and Nelson Cruz -- who especially credits Servais for helping him with his swing.
As Servais will often say, "It's all about people."
"We started not only teaching the game -- that was secondary -- but teaching guys how to manage their time, a lot of life skills that were going to help them out," he said. "And then you take talented players, instill that kind of background, and then that foundation is laid so you have a chance to let that talent play up, and it plays up at a young age if you set it up right. Those were some of the fundamentals, but the key to the whole deal was the people that we were able to bring in, we were able to hire, and then bought into the program."
While meeting with Servais this offseason, Angels manager Mike Scioscia stressed the need for players to reach the Majors with a knack for controlling the strike zone and getting into favorable counts -- something Dipoto touched on in his opening press conference.
The Angels' farm system may not need an overhaul like the Rangers' did seven years ago, but controlling counts is something Servais will put a focus on in Anaheim -- and something he believes can be taught.
"It takes a lot of effort," Servais said. "It's hard, it's very frustrating at times with young players. But you can teach it. I truly believe it."
Thrown into the fire
Barely two weeks into his new job, Klentak was already dealing with perhaps the most complex contract in baseball history.
On Dec. 8, the Angels signed Pujols to a 10-year deal that included so much more -- a $240 million base salary, a 10-year personal-service clause, a marketing deal, a no-trade provision, an array of incentives, a backloaded nature and so many other elements Klentak had to pore through to ensure perfection.
That alone is a lot to take in. But at around the same time, the Angels also agreed on a five-year, $77.5 million contract with Wilson and a one-year, $3 million deal with LaTroy Hawkins.
"What was fascinating about that was that those three free-agent contracts all really came to fruition within about five or six hours of each other," Klentak said, in reference to a hectic Winter Meetings. "There was a period where several of us in the front office were dealing with [agent] Larry Reynolds for LaTroy Hawkins, another was meeting with Bob Garber for C.J. Wilson and another was meeting with Danny Lozano about Pujols. We were running all over the Hilton down in Dallas."
Klentak grew up in Massachusetts wanting to be Cal Ripken Jr. and attended Dartmouth College, where he majored in economics and starred at shortstop before realizing his Major League ambitions wouldn't be fulfilled.
Shortly after graduating, Klentak took an internship with the Rockies' baseball-operations department in '03 -- before Dipoto jumped on as an executive -- then landed a job with Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department, where he helped negotiate the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Four years later, in March 2008, he followed Andy MacPhail to Baltimore to serve as director of baseball operations. Then, during the General Managers Meetings in Milwaukee this past November, Dipoto convinced him to handle all aspects of baseball operations with the Angels -- from player negotiations, to back-and-forth with agents regarding contract language, managing the 40-man roster and myriad other similar tasks.
"Matt brings so much to the table," Dipoto said. "Matt understands the inner workings of baseball from the field to the finance. He understands baseball from the staff in the clubhouse to the players on the field to how to communicate back and forth with a finance department and ownership. He's been in all those positions, and he provides a unique end road for us with MLB."
Klentak, recently married and a new father, had no plans of leaving his job with the Orioles and moving all the way west.
But Dipoto, whose convincing powers became evident with the Pujols and Wilson signings of two months ago, made Klentak feel this was the right career move.
"More than anything, Jerry has a passion for baseball that I don't think is rivaled by many in this industry," Klentak said, "and that, probably more than anything else, was what made this job so appealing, having a chance to work with somebody who's just that good and that focused on winning."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.