The Phillies fired Gabe Kapler on Thursday, leaving them as one of eight major league teams searching for a manager at the moment. Fellow National League clubs in the Padres, Mets, Pirates, Giants and Cubs are in the same position, while the Royals and Angels are seeking new skippers in the AL. The question is: Which team has the most desirable job?
For starters, we can probably rule out the Pirates and Royals. Both teams have been hamstrung by low payrolls, with notoriously penny-pinching ownership holding back Pittsburgh and Kansas City (a team whose ownership is in transition) coming off its second 100-loss season in a row. Neither team looks as if it’ll contend in the immediate future, and the same may apply to the Giants, though they are a club with big-spending capabilities and promising president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi at the helm. On the other hand, the rest of the league’s manager-needy organizations look to have decent odds of pushing for relevance sooner than later.
The Phillies just wrapped up their eighth consecutive non-playoff season, but with 81 wins, they weren’t exactly a basement dweller. Kapler’s successor will be taking over a team with big-time talent on hand (Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Aaron Nola, to name a few) and the spending power to amply address its most obvious weaknesses this offseason.
Like the Phillies, the Padres have been suffering for too long. They’re fresh off their 13th straight year without a playoff berth, but they’re another team with front-line talent (Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Chris Paddack). Moreover, the Padres remain loaded on the farm, and owner Ron Fowler has made it clear it’s time to start winning in 2020.
The Mets also have no shortage of top-line players, including ace Jacob deGrom and NL Rookie of the Year favorite Pete Alonso. However, their managerial position is probably the most pressure-packed of all the openings. Previous skipper Mickey Callaway oversaw an 86-win team in 2019, but he dealt with scrutiny from the media, fans and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen from start to finish.
There’s also high expectations in Chicago, where even an exemplary record over five years wasn’t enough to keep Joe Maddon employed. The Cubs and president of baseball ops Theo Epstein gave Maddon the boot even though he helped them break a 108-year World Series drought in 2016 and led them to an overall 471-339 regular-season record with four playoff berths during his reign. But the Cubs, another financially well-off club with enviable high-end talent (Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Hendricks, for example), saw enough of Maddon after a late-season collapse and a non-playoff showing in 2019. Maddon’s replacement will be inheriting an 84-win team that will have playoff expectations for next year.
The Angels, who seem like the favorites to land Maddon next, are another franchise with a sense of urgency to win in 2020. Despite the presence of the game’s best player, center fielder Mike Trout, they haven’t gone to the playoffs since 2014. The Halos haven’t even won a playoff game since October 2009, just a few months after drafting Trout. With fourth-year general manager Billy Eppler set to enter the last season of his contract in 2020, it’s imperative for him to get this hire right (his previous selection of Brad Ausmus didn’t work out). Otherwise, he and the Angels’ next manager could be out a year from now.
That’s a basic overview of where the sport’s manager-less teams stand heading into the offseason. There are more factors you could consider, of course. Which job looks the most appealing to you?
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