Intriguing days in the manager trade
Ozzie Guillen was entering the final year of his contract with the White Sox, so being “traded’’ to the Marlins last week for a couple of prospects wasn’t as dramatic as past transactions involving managers.
Guillen was fed up with the White Sox and they were fed up with him.
But did the Guillen deal open the door for other managers who may not be completely happy with their current situation to leave their employer for a chance to manage the Red Sox?
“I think it has to be a special circumstance,’’ said agent Alan Nero, who has represented Lou Piniella and many other big league managers for many years.
“We got Lou traded from Seattle to Tampa Bay. At the time, Lou’s mother was very sick and he wanted to be closer to home in Tampa where she lived. A trade was made and Lou was let out of his contract to go to Tampa Bay. I think there are special circumstances where it could work out. But to say it’s maybe going to be a trend, I doubt that.’’
If John Farrell were still around, he would have been a likely choice to take over the Sox for Terry Francona. But Farrell left for Toronto after last season, and the chances of the Sox being able to make a deal with the Jays for Farrell appear slim.
When Farrell was hired in Toronto it was a neck-and-neck race with DeMarlo Hale, the Sox’ bench coach in 2011 who has been endorsed by Francona.
Farrell, who completely bought into Boston’s philosophy, is precisely the type of manager the Sox are looking for. But while he certainly had his share of growing pains in Toronto, he looks to be a good fit there.
What current manager would be good for Boston?
1. Joe Maddon, Rays - The likely American League Manager of the Year, Maddon is analytical but also plays his share of hunches, a la Joe Morgan. Maddon has a great personality and in his own way makes his players accountable. He’s a player’s manager - until you cross him, and then he puts his foot down. Would he be as loose and carefree in Boston as he would be in Tampa Bay?
Nero represents Maddon, who has one season remaining on his contract at $1.3 million. Maddon is very close with Tampa general manager Andrew Friedman, and there’s been talk that if Friedman ever went to the Cubs he would try to bring Maddon with him. But it seems that Maddon, Friedman, and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg are all very close. If Friedman doesn’t go with the Cubs, he’s likely to earn his first written contract, and likely for good money (Friedman always has worked on a handshake with Sternberg). Maddon, too, could be extended, for at least twice the money he’s making now. But if Maddon told ownership he really wanted to go to Boston, could it happen? The feeling is no. Maddon might love to manage the Red Sox, but not bad enough that he would ask Tampa ownership to work something out.
2. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks - Try drinking beer like those Red Sox pitchers supposedly did on days they didn’t start, in Gibson’s clubhouse. He would be all over you. What great energy he brings to a team. But the chances of getting him are slim to none.
3. Tony La Russa, Cardinals - La Russa’s contract is up. The feeling is if he doesn’t return to St. Louis he’d go to Chicago. Would the Red Sox ever consider making a bid for the future Hall of Famer? Discipline would be a priority under his watch, and the players would have to be hard-nosed under La Russa.
4. Bruce Bochy, Giants - There’s a San Diego link to both Sox GM Theo Epstein and president/CEO Larry Lucchino with Bochy, who won the World Series last season. An excellent manager, he is working on the final year of his contract. He’s been on the West Coast all his career as a skipper, so a move East might not be preferable to him.
5. Eric Wedge, Mariners - Wedge has Boston ties, having caught for the Red Sox. He’s tough with players, but is young enough to relate to them. Wedge, who has some business interests in the Boston area, has a good young core in Seattle, and has moved his family there. Maybe now isn’t the time, but he would be an interesting choice.
6. Buck Showalter, Orioles - Crazy, right? Nothing has been settled in terms of what Showalter’s role will be with the Orioles. He could be the GM. He could be the manager with GM powers. But to this point, nothing has happened. If things weren’t settled to his liking, would he want to escape?
7. Jim Tracy, Colorado - He is entering the final year of his deal and he’s coming off a bad season with the Rockies. Tracy always has been a solid manager, but last year was abysmal. He would be easier to pry loose than any of the above.
8. Bud Black, San Diego - Signed an extension last season through 2013 with options. He’s likely not available, but in terms of someone whose emphasis is on pitching, and someone who’s really learned how to manage, he’s another ideal choice.
As Nero points out, the right circumstances have to exist and there has to be a mutual interest. If a team doesn’t mind losing its manager because it feels he’s replaceable as long as it gets a top player in return, it could work.
It’s likely the Sox will have to go with an experienced bench coach or a former manager who is either unemployed or working as a coach somewhere.
We’ve listed some of those in previous columns, including Bobby Valentine, Don Wakamatsu, Dave Martinez (Maddon’s trusted bench coach), Trey Hillman, and A.J. Hinch. Hale also would be a great manager and recently was endorsed by Curt Schilling.
We also mentioned Tony Pena, who knows Boston as well as anyone because of playing here. He would run a team with a stern hand and also relate well to Latin players. Not to mention that he’s one of the best catching instructors in the game.
We shouldn’t leave out Tim Bogar, Boston’s third base coach in 2011. Many fans had issues with him for getting runners thrown out at the plate, but in terms of a future manager Bogar is highly regarded.
One name we left off our original list is Jim Riggleman. The former Nationals skipper didn’t help his cause by quitting on the team in a contract dispute at the midway point of the season. But if you can ignore that, Riggleman is a solid manager who did a great job in Washington before that incident.
One could think a bit outside the box and consider Ryne Sandberg, who has had great success as a minor-league manager in the Cubs and Phillies organizations and whose Hall of Fame credentials would earn him respect in the clubhouse.
Others to consider are Pete Mackanin, the Phillies’ bench coach under Charlie Manuel, and former Blue Jays manager and current broadcaster Buck Martinez, a bright guy who likely would be very good his next time around. How about Willie Randolph, the former Mets manager who now has served as a coach in Milwaukee and Baltimore? The Mets’ Chip Hale is highly regarded.
Nero doesn’t believe Piniella is in play at this time.
With all those names to choose from, does anybody really wow you?
It’ll be interesting to see how creative Epstein, John Henry, or whoever makes the call for the next manager gets.