A unique set of challenges faced anyone running a Major League franchise in 2020, between dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and then the difficulties involved in playing games during the delayed-then-shortened season. Nevertheless, it seemed like only a certain amount of slack was granted the sport’s managers and front office leaders (whether that top title was president of baseball operations, general manager, chief baseball officer, etc.) through the turbulent year, as we still saw a number of teams make changes either in the dugout or at the top of the baseball ops department.
As such, it’s fair to assume that a “normal” amount of pressure to put a winning — or championship-winning — team on the field will be the same in 2021 as in any usual season, even if 2021 is already looking it may have its own share of abnormality. That means that for managers and executives heading into the last guaranteed year of their contracts, job security will likely be on the line in the coming months.
Thanks to Cot’s Baseball Contracts for information on the various contractual details of team personnel, though this list may not be complete. Some teams don’t publicly reveal contract lengths of managers or front office execs, so it’s possible some of these names might be locked up beyond 2021 whether due to the original terms of their current deals or due to extensions that haven’t been announced.
Astros: Originally signed to a one-year deal with a club option for 2021, Dusty Baker saw Houston exercise that option last summer, lining Baker up for his 24th season running a Major League dugout. Recent comments from Baker indicate that the 71-year-old is taking something of a year-by-year approach to his future, though if the Astros again reach the postseason, one would imagine the team would certainly have interest in retaining Baker for 2022. A longer-term extension seems unlikely, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if at least another club option (or even a mutual option) was tacked onto Baker’s deal to give both sides some flexibility going forward.
Athletics: While major postseason success continues to elude the team, Oakland has reached the playoffs in each of the last three years. This makes six postseason appearances for Melvin in 10 years managing the A’s, and it seems likely the team will discuss another extension for Melvin as he enters the final year of his current contract. While Billy Beane’s possible departure would naturally have a major impact on the Athletics, the likelihood of longtime executive and current GM David Forst taking over the baseball operations department would probably mean that Melvin would be welcomed back.
Blue Jays: Charlie Montoyo is entering the last guaranteed year of his original three-year contract, and the Jays hold a club option on Montoyo’s services for 2022. That option could be exercised to give Montoyo a bit more security as a reward for leading Toronto to the playoffs last year, though expectations are certainly higher for the 2021 team. It should also be noted that there hasn’t yet been any official confirmation that president/CEO Mark Shapiro has signed a new contract with the team after his five-year deal ran out after last season, but last October, Shapiro seemed to imply that a new deal was all but complete.
Braves: After going from interim manager to full-time manager following the 2016 season, Brian Snitker has twice been signed to extensions — most recently last February, when Atlanta turned its 2021 club option on Snitker into a guaranteed year. Snitker has led the Braves to three straight NL East titles and the team fell one game shy of the NL pennant last October, so Snitker seems like a prime candidate for another extension prior to Opening Day.
Diamondbacks: 2020 was an overall disappointing year for a D’Backs team that was aiming for the postseason, but team president/CEO Derrick Hall indicated that the organization wasn’t planning to make any wholesale changes due to the season’s unusual nature. This bodes well for manager Torey Lovullo as he enters the last year of his contract, and it seems possible Arizona could add another year to Lovullo’s deal just so he can avoid lame-duck status.
Mariners: Both GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais were in the final year of their contracts when both inked extensions with Seattle in July 2018. The terms of those extensions weren’t known, but 2021 would be the final guaranteed year for both if the extensions were three-year deals like their original contracts, though it’s possible Dipoto and Servais each got more security than just a three-year pact. The Mariners have mostly been in rebuild mode since those extensions were signed, and with the team only starting to deliver on some of the young talent amassed in the farm system, ownership could give Dipoto (and quite possibly Servais) more time to see if they can finally get the M’s back to the playoffs. Considering the previous extensions weren’t announced until midseason, we might not know Dipoto/Servais’ fate for some time — and if the Mariners get off to a particularly disappointing start, changes might be in the offing.
Marlins: One of few holdovers from Jeffrey Loria’s ownership, Don Mattingly was signed to a two-year extension following the 2019 season that contained a club option for 2022. The young Marlins reached the postseason last season, so Mattingly has a good case to at least get his option exercised at some point this year, and another extension could well be discussed if CEO Derek Jeter and GM Kim Ng are satisfied with the team’s progress. It can’t hurt that Ng knows Mattingly well from her past days an assistant general manager with the Yankees and Dodgers.
Mets: The winds of change have swept through the Mets organization this winter, yet Luis Rojas wasn’t affected, as team president Sandy Alderson announced that Rojas will remain in the dugout for 2021. Making the move from quality control coach to manager after Carlos Beltran’s quick resignation last winter, Rojas signed a two-year deal with club options for both 2022 and 2023. Expectations are definitely higher for Rojas under the Steve Cohen regime, but given all of the tumult of the 2020 season, Cohen and Alderson (plus newly-hired GM Jared Porter) seem interested in seeing what they actually have in Rojas before deciding on whether a new manager is required.
Orioles: According to The Athletic’s Dan Connolly, “one industry source said it’s believed” that 2021 is the last guaranteed year of manager Brandon Hyde’s contract, with the club possibly holding a club option for 2022. For that matter, executive VP/general manager Mike Elias didn’t have his contract terms revealed when he was hired in November 2018, so he could also be in his final guaranteed year if he hired Hyde on a similar timeline to his own deal. It doesn’t seem like a change is coming in either the front office or the dugout, as the Orioles are still at least a couple of years away from coming out of a complete rebuild. (Connolly makes the case that Hyde should be retained, as Hyde has had little to work with as manager and deserves a chance to steward an actual competitive roster.)
Rangers: Chris Woodward is entering the last guaranteed year of his deal, with the Rangers holding a club option for 2022. Woodward has a 100-122 record over his first two years in the Texas dugout, and since the team is looking to get younger in 2021, it doesn’t seem like an immediate return to contention is in the cards. If it’ll be a year or two until the Rangers are done with what seems like a mini-rebuild, it’s possible the team might decide to hire a new manager to herald them into something of a new era. Woodward may have to prove himself anew by shepherding this younger talent and keeping the Rangers as competitive as possible while they shuffle the roster.
Rays: Erik Neander’s contract terms aren’t known, and it has been over four years since his promotion to the GM/senior VP of baseball operations position in November 2016. So, if Neander’s new gig came with a five-year contract, it would be up at the end of 2021. He makes the list due to uncertainty over his contractual situation, but it doesn’t seem like Neander and the Rays will be parting company any time soon, especially after the club reached the 2020 World Series. Neander reportedly has no interest in leaving the organization and the Rays turned down the Angels’ request to speak with Neander about their GM opening earlier this offseason.
Reds: 2021 is the last guaranteed year for manager David Bell, with the Reds holding a team option for 2022. On the plus side for Bell, he led the team to the playoffs in 2020, though Cincinnati was swept out of the two-game wild card series without scoring even a single run against Atlanta pitching. The Reds spent a lot of money to build that winning team, yet now seem focused on moving salaries, with Raisel Iglesias dealt to the Angels and such names as Eugenio Suarez and Sonny Gray also coming up in trade talks. It remains to be seen if the Reds are trying to just trim payroll or make more wholesale cuts, and this direction could certainly impact Bell’s future if the club is already thinking rebuild.
Rockies: Now through six full seasons as Colorado’s GM, Jeff Bridich’s contractual status is unknown. Between the Rockies’ struggles over the last two years and the frosty relationship between Bridich and star third baseman Nolan Arenado, it would certainly seem like Bridich will need to get things turned around quickly. However, payroll cuts appear to be on the horizon, and the front office is also dealing with the loss of two-thirds of the analytics department. As has been noted many times in the past, Rockies owner Dick Monfort tends to give his employees lots of opportunities, but if Bridich’s contract is up any time soon, one wonders if Monfort might feel a change is necessary.
Yankees: While no official statement has been made, owner Hal Steinbrenner clearly stated after the season that manager Aaron Boone will be returning in 2021, so it’s safe to assume the Yankees have exercised their club option on Boone. There hasn’t been any buzz about an extension, and until then, there will be plenty of media focus on Boone’s lame-duck status. Boone has a 236-148 record and three postseason appearances in his three seasons as manager, but as always in the Bronx, the focus is on playoff success — the Yankees have only made it as far the ALCS once during Boone’s tenure. Anything short of a World Series appearance could spell the end of Boone’s stint as manager.