Dusty Baker’s contract is up whenever the Astros conclude their playoff run, marking the second straight year that the veteran manager has entered the offseason with uncertainty about his future. However, it looks like Baker might be staying put in Houston, as Jon Heyman of the New York Post hears from sources that “Baker will be invited back to manage in 2023.”
The Astros have reached the ALCS in all three years of Baker’s tenure as manager, and are two wins away from their second consecutive American League pennant. While he is still looking for his first World Series title as as manager, Baker’s 230-154 regular-season record with Houston has only further enhanced his case for enshrinement in Cooperstown, as only eight managers in baseball history have more wins than Baker’s 2093 career victories.
Despite this resume and Baker’s most recent track record of success, the Astros have been somewhat strangely hesitant to make a true long-term commitment, perhaps owing to Baker’s age (he turned 73 in June) and the unusual circumstances that led to his hiring. After A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, Baker was hired just a few weeks later to replace Hinch, with James Click then brought in from the Rays front office to replace Luhnow as Houston’s general manager.
Baker was given a one-year contract with a club option for 2021, and the Astros made the early call to exercise that club option in July 2020. No further extension came, however, and Baker’s next contract wasn’t finalized until after the Astros were eliminated in last year’s World Series — even then, Baker’s new deal just covered the 2022 campaign.
For his own part, Baker hasn’t shown any public displeasure with this lack of security, and most recently said that “I ain’t worried. Worrying does no good,” when asked about his contract situation. Heyman writes that Baker “is reportedly open to returning” as Houston’s manager, as it would make sense that Baker would want to remain in a comfortable environment with a winning team. Hypothetically, Baker could be a candidate for any of the open managerial positions (with the Marlins, Royals, Rangers, or White Sox) since he’ll be a free agent, though the Astros are in a better position to contend in 2023 than any of those other four clubs.
Click’s contract status is another additional wrinkle. The GM will also be out of contract after the season, and there have been rumors that the Astros might be looking to make a change in the front office, despite Click’s success in the job. It doesn’t appear as though Click’s situation will impact Baker, however, as Heyman notes that the two men don’t have a particularly close relationship, even though this obviously hasn’t led to any issues with the Astros’ on-field success. Astros owner Jim Crane reiterated in a text message to Heyman that he “will make a decision after the season is over on both contracts. That has not changed.”