Joe Girardi earned his keep. That is what the New York Yankees brass believed when they made him the second highest paid manager in baseball with a new 4 – year $16 contract. In a season lost to injuries and off-field drama, Girardi kept the Yankees afloat in the Wild Card chase until the final week of the season. This is a great move for the Yankees and one they had to make considering the player changes that will occur in the Bronx next season. While the Girardi signing brings security to the Yankees, it will have implications around baseball.
Chicago Cubs fans who yearned at the thought of Girardi and President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein, teaming together will have to dream of something else. It is well documented that Girardi grew up in the Chicago area (he also played for the Cubs on two separate occasions) and signing with the Cubs would have been a homecoming of sorts. However, Girardi mentioned that his connection to Chicago is not as strong as it was when he was a player and his family now has roots in New York. The Cubs could go after a few people for the managerial spot. Manny Acta, the former manager of the Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals, could be an interesting fit. He is known as a good teacher (and an excellent analyst on ESPN) but he has never produced a winning season as a manager. A.J. Hinch, the former manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is also a viable option. However, he also has not had much success as a big league manager. Dave Martinez, the bench coach of the Tampa Bay Rays, could be a hot choice. The Chicago Cubs are at the same point the Rays were before the Rays became a serious contender in the American League. The Cubs have a strong farm system to complement their young core at the big league level. Just as Epstein was a part of taking the Boston Red Sox to the next level in the front office, Martinez was a part of taking the Rays to the next level as a coach. Another candidate could be New York Mets’ AAA manager, Wally Backman. Backman is known for his work with young players, which would make him a solid fit in Chicago.
The Washington Nationals made it public that they wanted to interview Girardi. However, the Yankees never gave them the chance. Now, Cal Ripken Jr. might become a serious candidate for the Nationals managerial job. Davey Johnson is retiring and the Nationals want to make a splash. With Buck Showalter cemented as manager of the Baltimore Orioles (Ripken’s former team), the job in Washington is his second best opportunity. Ripken has never managed at any level, but that has not stopped teams from hiring managers without previous managerial experience (the Chicago White Sox hired Robin Ventura for the 2012 season and the St. Louis Cardinals hired Mike Matheny for the 2012 season). If Ripken does not get the job, Nationals’ bench coach, Randy Knorr, and Arizona Diamondbacks’ third base coach, Matt Williams, should compete for the job. Former Cincinnati Reds’ manager, Dusty Baker could also be a possible selection.
With the firing of Baker, the Reds have a few candidates they could reach out to. One is former Reds’ and Yankees’ outfielder, Paul O’Neill. O’Neill has mentioned that he would be interested to see if the Reds have any interest in him. Another candidate could be Backman. His up-tempo style could provide the spark needed to get the Reds past the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central. Reds’ pitching coach, Bryan Price, should also draw considerable attention, as he is an in-house solution.
The Seattle Mariners round out the teams looking for a new manager. With Eric Wedge’s resignation, the Mariners reached out to their former manager, Lou Piniella, to gauge his interest, which is apparently nonexistent. Girardi was not on their list of possible candidates because he was viewed as too expensive. Therefore, the Mariners put together a list of top candidates who would be hired for their first fulltime major league managing jobs: San Francisco Giants bench coach, Ron Wotus, Oakland Athletics bench coach, Chip Hale and Philadelphia Phillies third base coach, Pete Mackanin.
One other interesting point to note is that Don Mattingly might never become the Yankees manager. Coupled with the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers advanced to the National League Championship Series, Girardi’s signing blocks Mattingly from moving to the helm of his former team. Depending on how the Dodgers fare in the rest of the playoffs and at the start of next season, Mattingly might be in line for a contract extension.
Expect the Cubs, Nationals, Reds and Mariners to have their managerial search resolved soon. Putting a manager in place is key to a successful season. The Yankees knew that and took care of business. These four teams can only hope that they will be able to find the consistent, reliable star the Yankees have in Girardi.