Managers and front office bosses are always doing their best to progress their teams forward, though this particular list of names could be feeling a bit more pressure this coming season, as 2019 is their final guaranteed year under contract.
As always when compiling this list, a pair of caveats should be noted. Firstly, several teams don’t publicize the lengths of management contracts, and some teams don’t even announce when new contracts have been finalized. It could very well be that at least some of the executives listed have already quietly reached extensions beyond the 2019 season, or there could be some other names with unknown contract terms who have 2019 as their end date.
Secondly, lack of an official contract doesn’t always mean that a manager or an executive is lacking in job security. Some clubs have unofficial handshake agreements in place with the skipper or GM/president of baseball operations, wherein the job is promised as theirs, with the specific contractual details to be hammered out at some point in the future. In the case of managers, specifically, many do prefer some type of public agreement, if for no other reason than to avoid being perceived as a “lame duck” who lacks authority within a clubhouse.
With a big tip of the cap to Cot’s Baseball Contracts for many of these details, here are the managers and executives who are believed to be entering their final seasons…
Angels: General manager Billy Eppler is three years into his original four-year contract to run the Halos’ front office, a term that has yet to result in a winning record. Much has been made about the Angels’ inability to build a contender around Mike Trout during the outfielder’s Cooperstown-level prime years, and time is running short in that regard, given that Trout can become a free agent the 2020 season. In Eppler’s defense, he has added quality pieces like Andrelton Simmons, Justin Upton, and Shohei Ohtani as GM, though he has been hampered by a seemingly endless list of pitching injuries, not to mention some payroll-albatross contracts (Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson, and the ongoing Albert Pujols deal) left over from the tenure of previous Angels GM Jerry Dipoto. Longtime manager Mike Scioscia had reportedly always had quite a bit of influence within the front office, though with Scioscia not returning, Eppler had the opportunity to make his own managerial hire in the form of Brad Ausmus. There hasn’t yet been any indication that Eppler could be in particular danger of not being extended, though it’s worth noting that neither of Eppler’s predecessors in the job (Dipoto and Tony Reagins) lasted more than four years.
Blue Jays: Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi noted in September that general manager Ross Atkins was likely to receive an extension, and that such a deal wasn’t likely to receive public acknowledgement. So, Atkins may already be locked up beyond the original end-date of his four-year deal prior to the 2016 season. Atkins and president Mark Shapiro have planted the seeds for a rebuild over the last two seasons, and with the Jays now in full-fledged retooling mode for at least one more year, it makes sense that Atkins would continue to hold the reigns as Toronto prepares for the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. era.
Brewers: This one is a bit speculative, as terms of GM David Stearns’ original deal with the Brewers weren’t released, though The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported in October that “Stearns has at least one year left” under contract. Stearns was hired prior to the 2016 season, so a four- or five-year deal seems pretty standard for a new general manager, particularly one that was seemingly facing a rebuild upon taking the position. Needless to say, things are ahead of schedule in Milwaukee, as the Brewers were just a game away from the World Series last October. Even if Stearns’ deal runs through 2020 rather than just 2019, it seems likely that Brewers ownership will have some talks about an extension this offseason given Stearns’ immediate success.
Cubs: There has already been quite a bit of speculation about Joe Maddon’s future at Wrigley Field, as the Cubs aren’t planning to discuss a new contract with the manager. Though Maddon himself seems unperturbed about the situation and president of baseball ops Theo Epstein denied rumors of any hard feelings with his skipper, it does seem like a dugout change could be made unless the Cubs make another deep postseason run.
Diamondbacks: With two winning seasons and the 2017 NL Manager Of The Year Award on his resume in two years as manager, Torey Lovullo seems like a prime candidate for a new deal. Though Arizona is now moving into a semi-rebuilding phase, this actually seems closer to the situation Lovullo was expected to inherit when he initially took the job, before he led the D’Backs to their surprise postseason berth in 2017. I’d expect Lovullo to have an extension in hand by Opening Day at the latest.
Dodgers: Since president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman signed his five-year, $35MM deal to take over the Dodgers’ front office in October 2014, the club has extended its streak of NL West titles to six in a row, and finally got over the postseason hump to return to the World Series, capturing the NL pennant in each of the last two seasons. While the Comissioner’s Trophy has remained elusive, Friedman has managed to keep the Dodgers competitive even while cutting salaries, getting the team under the luxury tax threshold last season after payrolls touched the $300MM mark earlier this decade. This is probably another instance of an extension being just a matter of time, as the Guggenheim Baseball ownership group seemingly has every reason to want to keep Friedman in the fold for several years to come.
Giants: The leadership shakeup that installed Farhan Zaidi as the Giants’ new GM didn’t extend to the dugout, as longtime manager Bruce Bochy will return for the last year of his current contract and his 13th overall season in San Francisco’s dugout. Bochy turns 64 in April and he has dealt with heart issues in the past, leading to some whispers that he could move into retirement and hand the job over to a new manager. Longtime coaches Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus have both been mentioned as possible managers-in-waiting, or Zaidi could prefer to hire a new face from outside the organization. It also wouldn’t be a shock to see Bochy stick around in 2020 or beyond, should he want to continue managing and he forms a solid relationship with Zaidi. Given Bochy’s championship-winning track record and the large amount of respect he holds within the organization, the possibility exists that he has already been promised the opportunity to end his tenure on his own terms.
Indians: General manager Mike Chernoff reportedly agreed to an extension with the team in November, though this is technically still an unknown situation since there wasn’t any official confirmation from either side. That said, since Cleveland is one of the organizations that generally stays quiet about contract details for management figures, we can probably consider this one a done deal. Chernoff was promoted to general manager in October 2015, so he could have been at the end of a three-year contract or the Tribe was getting an early jump on extending his four-year contract. It’s also worth noting that president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti signed an extension of indeterminate length back in 2013 and we haven’t heard any further contract news since, so Antonetti could also be approaching the end of a deal…unless he also signed an unreported extension at some point. It’s safe to assume that big changes aren’t in the offing for a team that has won three straight AL Central titles.
Marlins: “There are indications the Marlins would like to retain [Don] Mattingly beyond 2019,” MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro recently reported, though Mattingly said that he had yet to hear from the team about extension negotiations. Mattingly has managed the Fish through three tumultuous years in the organization’s history, and the fact that he is one of the few members of the Jeffrey Loria regime still in Miami could indeed be a sign that Derek Jeter and company have interest in keeping the veteran manager around to help mentor and develop young players during the franchise’s latest rebuild.
Red Sox: Principal owner John Henry recently noted that the team was “running out of time” in regards to an extension with president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, whose five-year contract is up after the 2019 season. (Since Dombrowski was hired in August 2015, the deal can probably be more accurately described as 4.5 years in length.) Regardless of when the specific end-date may be, Dombrowski could hardly be in better position to land an extension in the aftermath of Boston’s World Series triumph.
Rockies: 2019 is the last guaranteed year of Bud Black’s contract as manager, though he has a bit of extra cushion since the Rockies hold a club option his services for 2020. Since Black has led Colorado to the postseason in each of his first two seasons as manager, it seems like he’ll at least get that option exercised to add a bit more security, plus the team is likely to discuss a longer-term deal as well.
Royals: GM Dayton Moore has often reiterated that manager Ned Yost will decide on his own when to step away from the dugout, though that won’t happen for at least one more year, as Yost agreed to a one-year extension last September. As Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman put it, however, there is “strong belief” that Yost won’t manage beyond 2019. The Royals’ recent hiring of Mike Matheny to a special advisor role could be another sign that the team already has a successor in place for the 2020 season.