There are now four manager openings: the two that were expected (Tigers and Mets); one long thought dependent on the playoffs, though that may not be the case (Red Sox); and one that wasn’t expected at all (Phillies). Here were our managerial expectations a month ago, but the carousel is moving faster than even we projected.
Surveying the landscape, with no obvious shoo-in/slam-dunk candidates linked to any of the jobs, like Torey Lovullo was last winter with the Diamondbacks and their new GM Mike Hazen, who also came from Boston, the first three teams with openings (Tigers, Mets, Phillies) are said to have considered around 50 or so candidates.
There’s no doubt the Red Sox wish they could hire Lovullo now. He did such a terrific job filling in for John Farrell while Farrell was out battling lymphoma late in the 2015 season. They did the proper thing by not firing Farrell when he had cancer, but it cost them; they had to know then that Lovullo would make a terrific big-league manager.
Of the four managers let go, Brad Ausmus seems to be the one who’s a hot name, and that goes along with the trend to favor younger candidates (both Terry Collins and Pete Mackanin were announced as having taken jobs in their original organizations and have yet to be mentioned anywhere else). Also, the two men most apt to hire an older man – Nats GM Mike Rizzo and ex-Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria – are not making hires, Rizzo because Dusty Baker, the oldest manager in the game now, will surely be brought back (a “Hall of Famer,” Rizzo called him) and Loria because he sold his team (and the Marlins aren’t changing managers, anyway).
Ausmus has already been linked to Phillies and Mets, and in some ways he would seem like a natural fit for Boston considering Red Sox president/GM Dave Dombrowski hired him for Detroit. Some people think the Mets or Phillies might be more likely as they wonder if Dombrowski would hire him for a second time.
However, Ausmus’ resume might be the most impressive of anyone out there — the just-fired Tigers manager’s credentials include four years managing in Detroit as well as working in the Padres front office and 18 years as an MLB catcher. And as someone close to the situation said, “If he gets in the room with John Henry and Tom Warner, Ausmus would impress them.” They also wondered if Ausmus might prefer Boston given the choice — he grew up in Connecticut a Red Sox (and Jim Rice) fan and went to Dartmouth.
Farrell’s name barely has had a chance to circulate, but he’s obviously solid and there was little reason to think he wouldn’t get a third managing job elsewhere at some point after a World Series title and two straight AL East titles (though maybe he shouldn’t ask for a recommendation from the Red Sox, based on what was said Wednesday; more on that in the AL notes).
Things looked slightly dicey in the Twin Cities, before the new regime wisely made it work with AL Manager of the Year candidate Paul Molitor on a new three-year deal, which was the right thing to do. People around the game suggested they believed with new bosses, there wasn’t a high probability they’d keep Molitor beyond this year. But his outstanding performance in the team’s 26-game improvement convinced them that a change would look/be silly. (Plus, the Pohlad family is said to be a big supporter of Molitor.) Those outside folks saw Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway as someone on their radar, but Callaway could be a hit name elsewhere, as well.
Ex-Marlins and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and ex-Marlins manager Mike Redmond have been linked to the Tigers, as have Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens, Astros bench coach Alex Cora and White Sox coach Joe McEwing, along with Ruben Amaro, the ex-GM and an outside-the-box candidate. Although the Tigers were thought to be favoring experience, they seem at least open-minded about hiring a second straight manager without an MLB managing job on the resume. McEwing is thought to have done well in Detroit, and Cora is a hot name, with possible AL Manager of the Year A.J. Hinch giving him high marks for his first year as his right-hand man.
Amaro, the ex-Phillies GM, was linked in a report to Philly (that seems unlikely), but they are taking a look at him in Detroit, as was reported by FanRag Sports. They’ve also interviewed three in-house candidates, including Lloyd McClendon, though some took the “fresh start” comment by GM Al Avila to mean they may be leaning toward an outside hire.
The Mets, like the others, seem willing to consider just about anything. Callaway could be a dark horse (Indians president Chris Antonetti said he’s sure he’d make a great manager), and if Mattingly’s available, that could be an interesting choice. But the names most often linked to the Mets so far include Chip Hale, Bob Geren, Robin Ventura (he got the endorsement of Bobby Valentine, but some wonder how much Ventura wants to manage again), Cora, Ausmus and current hitting coach Kevin Long. Some believe Long could leave if he doesn’t get the top job, but Sandy Alderson’s history is to favor experience, which could be especially important in a big market.
Geren is thought to be better-liked by Alderson than the club-owning Wilpons, and
others had some mixed results in their first job. So it’s possible the personable, popular Cora could get a decent look. Sandy Alomar also has been mentioned, and while he’d get an endorsement here, he doesn’t seem like a favorite at the moment.
Like the Mets, the Phillies’ job seems to be “wide open.” Many of the same names have been connected to Philly, with Redmond, Ausmus, Cora, Callaway and Red Sox bench coach Gary DiSarcina potentially among those in the mix, as well Jorge Velandia, who’s very close to GM Matt Klentak, according to Jim Salisbury of Comcast Philadelphia. The Amaro rumor, which I’ve heard (in addition to reading it), does seem to be very far-fetched. (As one GM pointed out, “The fans don’t like Amaro there.”)
The Red Sox job just opened, but it’s hard to see them going with a neophyte. Big markets almost demand experience – though Dave Roberts, who only served one game as an MLB manager before his hiring, as an interim in San Diego, has been absolutely fantastic in LA, bigger than Boston and almost as tough. Ron Gardenhire, as a veteran with big experience, makes sense. The coaching staff has been told they are eligible to look around, but Amaro’s getting outside interest, for what that’s worth.
Other potential managerial candidates include Dave Martinez, Bo Porter, Ron Washington, Ron Roenicke, Dino Ebel, Joey Cora, Chili Davis, Raul Ibanez, Tony Pena, Don Wakamatsu, Gabe Kapler, Jim Riggleman, Robbie Thompson, DeMarlo Hale, Willie Randolph, Eric Wedge, Pedro Grifol, Charlie Montoyo and Tim Wallach, along with Farrell and Pete Mackanin and Terry Collins, of course. While there are preferences for experienced guys in many places, there does seem to be a strong leaning toward the young.
“They want someone they can control,” one current manager said to explain that trend.
Perhaps that’s it. But, either way, the job sure ain’t easy.
Neither is predicting the next manager. But the very early guess here would be Ausmus in Boston, Callaway in Philly, Cora with the Mets and Redmond in Detroit. Check back with me if I go 0-for-4 (very possible).
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