If a team is intent on shaking up its front office or dugout, contract length is usually not a great concern. For example, when the Mariners decided to part ways with GM Jack Zduriencik last summer, the club didn’t hesitate even though Zduriencik signed a multi-year extension in August 2014. Likewise, former manager Lloyd McClendon’s guaranteed contact through 2016 didn’t stop new GM Jerry Dipoto from making a change after the season.
This being said, everyone obviously wants more security than less when going into a season. It’s usually rather unusual for a team to let its manager or top baseball executive be a “lame duck” for optics purposes if nothing else, though there are some extenuating circumstances. Some executives or managers are so entrenched that they’ve already been given unwritten assurances that they’ll eventually receive new deals, or some skippers prefer to work on one-year deals (i.e. Walt Weiss’ original contract with the Rockies) since they’re unsure as to how long they wish to remain on the job.
Here’s the rundown of managers and GMs who could be facing a bit of extra pressure in 2016 as they’re entering the final guaranteed year of their contracts. (Much thanks to Cot’s Baseball Contracts for many of these details.) While we’re focusing mostly on GMs, there’s also one very prominent example on this list of a president of baseball operations entering a contract year. One caveat: some teams don’t make front office contract details public, so it’s possible that some of these executives may have already quietly agreed to extensions.
White Sox: Team owner Jerry Reinsdorf is a big fan of Ventura, so the skipper’s contract status (he’s entering the last season of a two-year extension) may not be a big factor. Of larger import, of course, could be Chicago’s performance given how the Sox underachieved in 2015. Another rough season could also lead to some speculation about the status of GM Rick Hahn; his contract terms aren’t known, though he was promoted to his current role after the 2012 season.
Twins: The details of Terry Ryan’s contract aren’t known, though given his long history in Minnesota and the Twins’ return to winning baseball last year, it’s hard to imagine Ryan leaving as GM unless he chooses to do so himself.
Tigers: Brad Ausmus was reportedly almost fired last season before former GM Dave Dombrowski fought to keep the manager. Reports then emerged in September that the club was planning to let Ausmus go at season’s end, though when ownership let new GM Al Avila make the decision, Avila opted to keep Ausmus in place. Avila’s support notwithstanding, it still seems like Ausmus is on thin ice given how badly owner Mike Ilitch wants to win; even a slow start next season could raise new rumors about a managerial change. Ausmus is signed through 2016 and Detroit has a club option on his services for 2017.
Royals: GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost are both entering the last year of their contracts, so they clearly have a lot of negotiating power in the wake of Kansas City’s World Series championship. Yost, however, signed just a one-year extension last winter and said at the time that he only wanted to manage two or three more seasons. If he still feels this way, Yost may sign another one-year extension at most or he could just ride his current deal out before retiring. Yost and Moore both expressed no doubts that ownership would work out extensions with both men, so it’s likely just a matter of time before those new deals are finalized.
Rockies: Walt Weiss is entering the last season of the three-year extension he signed after the 2013 season and he’s yet to top even the 74-win plateau as Colorado’s manager, posting an overall 208-278 record. It’s rather hard to blame Weiss, however, given how the Rockies have suffered through injuries, consistently poor pitching and a change in front office mentality (as evidenced by the hiring of GM Jeff Bridich and the trade of Troy Tulowitzki) since he became manager. As such, it’s hard to judge exactly how much or little job security Weiss has, though if the Rockies struggle again in 2016, Bridich could quite possibly get the green light to hire his own manager.
Reds: Bryan Price is entering the final year of his original three-year contract, and there was some question as to whether he’d return for that third year in the wake of a tough season on and off for the field for the skipper. With Cincinnati going into a rebuild, however, the club’s expectations for its manager may have changed; rather than wins and losses, Price may now be judged on how he handles the development of an overall younger roster.
Phillies: The team was impressed enough by Pete Mackanin as an interim manager that they gave him the full-time job in September, signing him through 2016 with a club option for 2017. It’s fair to say that Mackanin is quite safe as he leads the rebuilding young Phillies.
Nationals: After Washington grossly underachieved from their preseason favorite status, GM Mike Rizzo may just have a “tenuous” grip on his job. Rizzo is under contract through 2016 and the Nats have a club option on him for 2017, and it’s quite possible Rizzo will need a major rebound season for his team in order to keep his job.
Diamondbacks: Chip Hale signed a two-year contract with a club option for 2017, and his first season as manager saw the D’Backs make a 15-win improvement from 2014. It was a good first step in leading the Snakes back to respectability, but expectations are now sky-high following Arizona’s acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller. Barring a disaster season, however, I’d think Hale’s job is fairly safe. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the D’Backs extended Hale this winter, at least in the form of guaranteeing that club option year.
Cubs: Theo Epstein’s contract as Chicago’s president of baseball operations is up after this season. While GM Jed Hoyer’s contractual status isn’t public, given that he was hired just a week after Epstein in October 2011, it’s safe to assume that his deal is probably also set to expire at the same time as his boss and longtime co-worker. Epstein didn’t sound too concerned about his contract status when asked about it in October, and he hinted that extensions for other front office members would be more of a priority. It’s difficult to imagine Epstein leaving just as the Cubs have become contenders again, especially given the historic significance of a Cubs World Series victory. Given his track record and how the Cubs have rebounded, Epstein is already in position to command the largest contract ever given to a baseball executive in his next contract, whether it’s in Chicago or elsewhere.
Braves: The club extended Fredi Gonzalez’s contract last summer, guaranteeing his 2016 year and adding a club option for 2017. The Braves are now in such full-fledged rebuild mode that firing Gonzalez now would seem unusual given how they had arguably more reason to do so prior to his extension, such as after the team’s late-season collapse in 2014. Atlanta has targeted 2017 and the opening of its new ballpark for a return to respectability, so it wouldn’t be a shock if a change was made next winter if the team feels its rebuild is over and a dugout upgrade is needed to take the next step into contention.
Blue Jays: John Gibbons is only technically on this list for another few days given his rolling contract. If Gibbons is still the Jays’ manager on January 1, Toronto’s club option on his services for 2017 will become guaranteed and another club option will be generated for 2018. Despite the Jays’ AL East title last year, Gibbons (who had a close relationship with former Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos) may still be under extra pressure in 2016 with Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins now atop the Blue Jays’ baseball operations pyramid.
Astros: The terms of Jeff Luhnow’s original deal to serve as Houston’s GM weren’t revealed when he was hired in the 2011-12 offseason, nor were the terms of his extension during the 2013-14 offseason (in fact, news of that extension didn’t even break until roughly a year after the fact). Looking at the timeline of these deals, it’s possible 2016 could be Luhnow’s last year under contract, though this all could be a moot point — given how his extensive and sometimes controversial rebuild paid off in the form of a playoff berth, Luhnow likely isn’t going anywhere.