Dropping A.J. Hinch wasn’t just a momentous occasion for the Astros. It also created an entirely unexpected opportunity for some as-yet-unknown skipper-to-be. The keys to an extremely talented Houston roster are lying on the dugout bench, waiting to be claimed.
Astros owner Jim Crane will be looking for a steady manager who can both guide the players and put a trustworthy face on the organization as it navigates choppy waters. It’s a tough and somewhat unusual gig, at least at the outset, but you can bet there’ll be no shortage of interest.
We’ve already seen an initial slate of candidates. It’s about what you’d expect.
The ’Stros will consider current bench coach Joe Espada along with former big leaguers Raul Ibanez and Will Venable. Espada is familiar and already under contract. But his presence in 2018 may cause some problems. While we don’t have any indication what (if any) role he played in the team’s sign-stealing efforts at that time, it’d certainly raise some questions and would not really represent the clean slate that Crane purports to seek. It’s not yet clear whether the latter two names will really be available at all: the former has spurned interest from other clubs previously while the latter is slated to play a significant role on the Cubs’ staff.
Most of the attention is sure to focus on the other possibilities. It makes sense, at first glance, for the Astros to bring in a highly experienced skipper. No surprise, then, to see Dusty Baker, Buck Showalter, and Bruce Bochy listed as possibilities. It isn’t really evident whether Bochy would have interest in jumping back in the saddle; he has indicated he would prefer at least a one-year respite after wrapping up his tenure with the Giants. But Baker and Showalter would no doubt love a shot at driving the Astros bus. Jeff Banister is also said to be of interest to the Houston organization. He has much less experience at the helm than the other three former managers but did spend a few years with the cross-state, division-rival Rangers.
We’re just at the outset of the search, though it’s expected to move quickly. From the names we’ve seen named already, who do you think the Astros ought to hire? (Poll link for app users; response order randomized.)