There are quite a few notable managers and top front office executives (general managers or heads of baseball operations who have different titles) entering their last guaranteed year under contract in 2017, creating even more pressure than usual to have a good season. Thanks to Cot’s Baseball Contracts for providing many of these contract details.
As always with this list, it should be noted that contract length is far from an absolute measure of job security. Teams with seemingly stable management could be one disastrous season away from a shakeup in the dugout or front office, while some of the managers or executives listed here could have “stay as long as you want” handshake deals in place. Some teams also don’t publicize contract details for front office executives, so some of the names on the list could have already quietly signed extensions, or there could be other execs entering their last year under contract.
Here are some of the names who could be facing a hotter seat than usual in 2017…
Blue Jays: John Gibbons reworked his contract with the club last March, eliminating the “rolling option” provision of his previous deal. There was some question over the last year as to whether Gibbons’ time in Toronto was running out with Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins running the Jays’ front office instead of Alex Anthopoulos, rumors that continued into the season as the Blue Jays got off to a slow start. As the Jays recovered to capture a wild card and eventually reach the ALCS, however, Gibbons secured his job for next year and drew praise from Shapiro. The whispers probably won’t entirely go away until Gibbons signs a multi-year extension, though given Toronto’s success last year, the announcement of a new deal for the manager during Spring Training wouldn’t be a surprise.
Braves: John Hart’s three-year contract as Atlanta’s president of baseball operations is up after the 2017 season. After shepherding the club through a rebuilding process, it would be somewhat unusual to see Hart leave just as the Braves are entering their new ballpark and are beginning to turn toward being competitive again. Then again, Hart could also return to a senior advisor role and let GM John Coppolella fully take the reigns of the baseball ops department. Manager Brian Snitker’s contract consists of one guaranteed year and a club option year for 2018, though since Snitker beat out a distinguished field to become the Braves’ full-time skipper, he likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Mets: Terry Collins has already given some indication that 2017 could be his last season regardless of whether or not the Mets would want him back as manager, as the 67-year-old had a particularly tough time dealing with the grind of the 162-game schedule this past year. There were a number of rumors about Collins’ job security over the summer, though the Mets’ unlikely September push to a wild card spot ensured that he would stay in the dugout for at least one more year. GM Sandy Alderson is also entering his final year under contract, and past reports from 2014 suggested that he didn’t want to remain in the job beyond four more seasons. An extension of his general manager contract doesn’t appear to be in the cards, though it wouldn’t be surprising if Alderson moved into a new upper management role with the Mets and let someone else step into the day-to-day GM duties.
Nationals: Dusty Baker delivered an NL East title in his first year as Washington’s manager, though since the Nats are clearly in win-now mode, another first-round postseason exit could potentially cost Baker his job. That might seem like undue pressure for a veteran skipper like Baker, though it wouldn’t be unusual for a Nationals franchise that a rather checkered history with hiring and firing managers.
Phillies: Pete Mackanin already received an extra guaranteed year from the Phils last March, as well as a club option for 2018. Barring a major step backwards in the development of the team’s young players, Mackanin’s job should be safe.
Pirates: After three straight postseason appearances, the Bucs dipped back under the .500 mark last year, and another losing season could lead to some questions about Neal Huntington’s tenure as general manager. It’s probably more likely that Huntington would get more time to see if he could engineer another Pirates turn-around, however, and ownership does have a club option on Huntington’s services for 2018. Manager Clint Hurdle is also entering his last guaranteed year with a club option for 2018, and as of last November, he hadn’t had any talks with the Pirates about a new deal. Like Huntington, however, there isn’t any sign that Pittsburgh’s rough 2016 year has jeopardized Hurdle’s long-term future with the team. There is some sense, however, that bench coach Tom Prince is being groomed as a future manager should Hurdle eventually leave the job or be fired.
Reds: Just prior to the end of the season, the Reds announced that Bryan Price had signed a new contract that contained a guaranteed year in 2017 and a club option for 2018. It’s worth noting that this is less security than Price’s initial three-year deal with the team, though since the Reds are in a rebuilding phase, GM Dick Williams could be giving himself flexibility if a change in the dugout is needed as Cincinnati eventually shifts back towards trying to contend.
Tigers: This could be the most uncertain situation on the list, as Brad Ausmus has himself expressed some annoyance about his lack of job security. Detroit came close to firing Ausmus after the 2015 season, and the team simply exercised its club option on his services after this past year without adding any other guaranteed or option years beyond 2017. The Tigers have two winning seasons and an overall winning record in Ausmus’ three years at the helm, though they’ve missed out on the postseason in each of the last two years. The team’s change in direction in regards to their spending practices doesn’t mean the Tigers’ desire to win is any less great, so even a slow start next season could potentially end Ausmus’ tenure.
Twins: Even with the hiring of a new front office led by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, Twins owner Jim Pohlad requested that Paul Molitor remain the team’s manager. It doesn’t look like Molitor is going anywhere, despite how the Twins badly struggled in his second year running the clubhouse.
Yankees: GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi are both entering the last year of their deals, and Cashman has already said that, as far as he knows, Yankees ownership will stick to its usual tactic of waiting until the season ends to discuss new contracts. While the last few years have been disappointments by New York’s high standards, Cashman and Girardi have overcome injuries and disappointing performances from both high-priced players and prospects to continue the Yankees’ string of winning seasons. Cashman also reloaded the Yankees’ farm system with elite prospects in a series of midseason trades, putting the team in a better position to contend in the future. Girardi at least considered other managerial jobs prior to signing his most recent contract with the team, though right now he looks like a good bet to continue in the job unless he wants a new challenge or if the Yankees have a rough 2017 season.