- The Red Sox are an “obvious” fit for Tony La Russa, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe observes. La Russa, who’s set to exit the Diamondbacks’ front office at the end of the month, has a longstanding relationship with Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, Cafardo points out. La Russa spoke glowingly of Boston’s front office leader, telling Cafardo, “There’s nobody in baseball I respect more than Dave Dombrowski.” Both La Russa’s friendship with Dombrowski and his vast experience in baseball could make him a candidate for an advisory role with the Sox. When asked about the possibility, Dombrowski said, “We’ll see.”
The Red Sox have offered their managerial job to Astros bench coach Alex Cora, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag. It’s a three-year proposal, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (on Twitter), and the belief is that he’ll accept it when Houston’s season concludes, Heyman reports. The Astros’ year will end Saturday with a loss to the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. Should the Astros advance to the World Series, the Red Sox will have to wait another week-plus to officially tab Cora.
It’s no surprise that the Red Sox are set to hire the 42-year-old Cora, who has been the favorite to take over for previous skipper John Farrell since his firing on Oct. 11. Newly named Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire and Detroit predecessor Brad Ausmus also drew consideration for the job.
Unlike Gardenhire and Ausmus, Cora doesn’t bring any major league managerial experience to the table, and this will go down as his only year on A.J. Hinch’s coaching staff in Houston. Nevertheless, it seemed inevitable he’d get an opportunity somewhere this offseason. The Tigers showed interest in Cora before going with Gardenhire, while other teams with openings – the Phillies, Mets and Nationals – have also eyed him. The Nats, who parted with Dusty Baker on Friday, are the newest club seeking an interview with Cora, but it doesn’t appear they’ll get the opportunity to speak with him.
From a talent standpoint, Cora will enter an enviable situation in Boston, which won its second straight AL East title in 2017 before falling to Cora’s Astros in a four-game American League Division Series. The Red Sox’s array of quality players, not to mention their big-spending ways, should help Cora’s cause, though he’ll also enter a pressure-packed position that comes with high expectations from fans and media alike. Farrell can attest to that, given that wasn’t particularly popular during his five-year Boston tenure despite being in the dugout for three seasons of at least 93 wins – all of which ended with division championships – and a World Series title in 2013.
Cora will be the first managerial hire in Boston for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who inherited Farrell when he took over the franchise’s front office in 2015. In the Puerto Rican-born Cora, he’ll get a bilingual manager who’s known to value analytics. Cora’s also already familiar with the Boston organization, having been an infielder with the Red Sox from 2005-08 during a major league playing career that spanned from 1998-2011.
Last week, we took a look at the Tigers’ managerial search, breaking down the list of candidates that are slated to interview and those that have been more casually linked to the vacancy in Detroit. The Phillies, too, have an opening in the dugout after surprisingly removing Pete Mackanin from that role and transitioning him to a front office role. Philadelphia had extended Mackanin just four months earlier, making the decision all the more unexpected.
As with the Tigers (and eventually with all of the managerial searches of the offseason), we’ll track the majority of the managerial chatter in a single place over the course of the search and update accordingly as the hunt progresses. Here’s the most up-to-date chatter on the Phils…
Will Interview/Have Interviewed
- San Francisco Giants third base coach Phil Nevin interviewed for the job, via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Robert Murray of Fan Rag notes that Nevin was once a candidate for a managerial opening with the Diamondbacks, and that having played for 12 years on seven different major league teams sets him apart from other candidates.
- The Phils have already interviewed Athletics bench coach Chip Hale, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. The 52-year-old fell out of favor with the Diamondbacks after just two years on the job, exiting along with GM Dave Stewart after a disappointing 2016 campaign.
- Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway is slated to interview with the Phils. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported the initial interest, with Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reporting that Philadelphia has officially asked for permission to discuss the opening with Callaway. Now that the Indians have been bumped from the postseason, the path is cleared to discussions. As Hoynes notes, the 42-year-old Callaway has had quite some success with an excellent Indians pitching staff.
- The Phillies already have one strong internal candidate in Jorge Velandia, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Currently a special assistant to GM Matt Klentak, Velandia interviewed for the opening on Wednesday and is a “strong candidate,” according to Salisbury, though other interviews are sure to be conducted with external candidates. Nonetheless, Salisbury writes that the 42-year-old Velandia is well versed in player development and has embraced the analytical side of the game. His work with Klentak and the rest of the front office should bode well for communication. He’s spent time on the Phillies’ big league coaching staff in the past and has also spent six seasons as a manager in the Venezuelan Winter League.
- Current Phillies third base coach Juan Samuel has also interviewed for the opening, as Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Daily News recently reported. Samuel, 56, has been on the Phillies’ coaching staff since 2011 after coming over from the Orioles, where he worked with Andy MacPhail, who was then the Orioles’ president and now holds that same role with the Phillies. Samuel spoke to Brookover about his own openness to incorporating more data-driven decisions into on-field decisions. “If you have something available to you that gives you an advantage over other clubs, you should definitely use it,” he said.
- Both Salisbury and Brookover list Triple-A manager Dusty Wathan as another internal candidate that is expected to interview. It’s not known yet whether the 44-year-old has interviewed, but he’s spent the past 10 seasons managing at various levels throughout the Phillies’ system, so he obviously has plenty of familiarity with the Phillies’ homegrown players and a number of the front office execs that have been with the club for an extended period of time.
Preliminary Candidates (Interview Status Unknown)
- In addition to a few of the other names already covered here, Heyman hears that the Phils have some level of interested in Red Sox bench coach Gary DiSarcina and possibly former Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. Boston is in the midst of its own managerial hiring process, with the club leaving coaches like DiSarcina free to explore their options with other organizations.
- Like the Tigers, the Phillies are interested in speaking to Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond, per FanRag’s Jon Heyman. There’s been no definitive word of an interview, but the former Marlins manager has been building his dugout resume since calling it quits as a player back in 2010. At 46, he’d give the Phillies a considerably younger voice than they’ve had under recent skippers like Mackanin, Ryne Sandberg and Charlie Manuel.
Not in the Mix/No Longer in Consideration
- Ryan Lawrence of PhillyVoice.com reported recently that the Phillies won’t consider bench coach Larry Bowa or former GM Ruben Amaro Jr. for the post. Klentak has stated a desire for a “new voice” and a “new style” in the dugout, Lawrence notes, which wouldn’t be accomplished with the 71-year-old Bowa. As for Amaro, while he’d been previously connected to the role and is reportedly on the Tigers’ radar, Lawrence definitively characterized the chances of Amaro being on the team’s radar as nonexistent.
The Nationals announced on Friday that they will not bring back Dusty Baker as manager for the 2018 season, despite praise from his players and rumblings that the two sides had been discussing a reunion in recent days. In fact, the club intends to replace the entire coaching staff. The decision comes in the wake of yet another tough NLDS loss for a club that fought injuries to many key players in order to grab the NL’s second-best regular season record.
A few other clubs began their managerial search well before the Nationals, and at least one option (Ron Gardenhire, now with the Tigers) is off the table. The Red Sox appear to be nearing the end of their search as well. Another factor that could limit the club’s options is the organization’s pattern with the lengths of their managerial contracts. In the past decade, the Nationals have never been willing to guarantee a manager more than two years at a time, a factor that could be a deal breaker to certain candidates also in the mix for jobs with other clubs.
On Saturday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported on Twitter that the Nationals have requested permission from the Astros to interview Astros bench coach. Some reports from Boston media outlets say that Cora is already tabbed to manage the Red Sox in 2018, and that the club is simply waiting until after the ALCS to announce the news. A source close to Evan Drellich of NBC Boston even told him, “Not a doubt it is [Cora].” But the invitation to interview with the Nationals could certainly throw a wrench into this rumor.
The 42 year-old Cora played mostly in the middle infield throughout his 14-year major league career, including a 2011 stint with the Nationals in his final year before retirement. Many have spoken highly of Cora’s presence in the clubhouse during that time, which would prove valuable on a Washington team with a lot of young talent on the roster.
With the Tigers reportedly settling on Ron Gardenhire as their next manager, attention has focused on the Red Sox’ managerial opening. All indications are that Astros bench coach Alex Cora will receive the nod, as Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston writes, though there’s still no firm reporting tying Cora to the position. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes echoes that it’s quite likely Cora will end up in Boston, but says any formal word will need to wait at least until the conclusion of the ALCS.
- As the Phillies weigh a new managerial hire, Heyman says the team is not giving out much information. But he notes that Athletics bench coach Chip Hale has been interviewed. Red Sox coach Gary DiSarcina is receiving some consideration, Heyman adds.
- Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis is drawing interest, as has previously been suggested. He is among several names in contention for the same gig with the Padres, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, San Diego will also need to find a new infield coach after deciding to part ways with Ramon Vazquez. Davis is also sitting down with the Giants, Andrew Baggarly of the Bay Area News Group reports. Thus far, San Francisco hasn’t made clear its plans for the coaching staff for the coming season, but Baggarly discusses some of the considerations at play.
The Red Sox moved on from manager John Farrell following the team’s exit in the American League Division Series, putting Boston in the hunt for a new skipper for the first time since 2012. The decision wasn’t entirely unexpected — many reports had suggested that Farrell could be on the hot seat if the team endured a second consecutive exit in the Division Series, and Farrell was put in place by former general manager Ben Cherington as opposed to current president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
Dombrowski will now have the opportunity to make his own hire and install a manager of his choosing in the dugout. And although Boston’s managerial post was vacated more recently than the Tigers, Mets or Phillies, it’s seemed as if the Sox are choosing from a more limited field of candidates than the other clubs seeking a new skipper. Reports have indicated that Astros bench coach Alex Cora, Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire and recently dismissed Tigers manager Brad Ausmus are the the three likeliest candidates to replace Farrell. Dombrowski did tell reporters yesterday that he’s still deciding whether to interview others, but each of the three apparently leading candidates has reportedly had an interview.
[Related: The Red Sox’ Managerial Search]
Ausmus, of course, is no stranger to Dombrowski after managing the Tigers for four seasons. Dombrowski hired Ausmus while serving as general manager of the Tigers and worked with him until August of 2015 when Dombrowski was dismissed from his post and replaced by longtime assistant GM Al Avila. Ausmus doesn’t have the managerial experience that Gardenhire has, but he’s managed a team more recently and is likely more in tune with analytical data. MLB Network’s Peter Gammons reported that Ausmus also thoroughly impressed the Sox when he interviewed there in 2012 and would’ve been their skipper had they not been able to pry Farrell away from the Blue Jays. He’s also been tied to the Mets’ post.
Gardenhire managed the Twins for 13 seasons, giving Dombrowski an up-close look as arguably his Tigers’ top division rival. Though he’s viewed more as an “old school” baseball mind, Gardenhire is renowned for his ability to connect with players and maintain a clubhouse. He managed the Twins to a winning record over his 13 years at the helm and won the American League Central in six of his first nine seasons. Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has called him one of the “final three” for the job (via Twitter). Gardenhire is also reportedly a candidate for the Tigers.
Cora, meanwhile, has never managed at the big league level but has managed in winter ball and is Houston skipper A.J. Hinch’s right-hand man. He’s probably the most analytically inclined candidate of the bunch and has been touted as a future big league manager for years now. He’s been popular already, drawing interest from both the Mets and the Tigers in their respective searches for a manager. Evan Drellich of CSN New England has written that Cora is the favorite, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has also suggested as much (on Twitter).
All that said, let’s open this up for debate (link to poll for MLBTR mobile app users)…
- After interviewing Ron Gardenhire today, the Red Sox are “still deciding” whether to sit down with any other candidates, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski informs Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Alex Cora and Brad Ausmus are the other two names under consideration at present. You can catch up on prior developments in the search right here.
Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez has undergone a significant knee surgery, per a team announcement. Specifically, he had a patellofemoral ligament reconstruction performed on his right knee. The joint has been a source of problems for Rodriguez for some time, though he was able to turn in a mostly complete 2017 season.
Per the announcement, it is expected that Rodriguez will not be able to resume pitching for around six months. That would put him on course to be ready by mid-April of next year, though of course he’ll need some time to build up into full game condition. Accordingly, it seems clear he won’t be available for the club for some time early in the 2018 campaign.
That will leave Boston looking for options to fill out the rotation at the start of the year, though perhaps the club will feel confident enough in Rodriguez’s return that it will be happy with a shorter-term fill-in. The Sox are also hoping that Steven Wright will be back at full strength, potentially providing another option to join a rotation that’ll feature Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Drew Pomeranz. But there’s now rather clearly some cause for the team to pursue added depth — if not even to go ahead and add a full-time starter if a reasonable opportunity arises.
Rodriguez, 24, has steadily provided Boston with good innings over the past three seasons — when he has been available. While he has yet to take more than 24 starts in a given campaign, and hasn’t yet taken a final step to producing dominant results, Rodriguez is quite a valuable asset and still seems capable of more.
In 2017, Rodriguez threw a personal high of 137 1/3 innings, working to a solid 4.19 ERA. While he recorded 9.8 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9, he also surrendered 1.25 home runs per nine. ERA estimators all landed in range of his actual results, but perhaps there’s still another gear for a pitcher who has steadily increased his swinging-strike rate (most recently, 11.6%) and managed to produce despite a series of lower-body issues. Surprisingly, he has maintained rather pronounced reverse platoon splits in the majors; beyond getting healthy, then, perhaps the biggest challenge Rodriguez faces is to find a way to tamp down on the .270/.338/.447 batting line that southpaw swingers have put up against him.
2:43pm: Ramirez underwent an arthrocopy and debridement. It is not expected to prevent him from being ready for a full 2018 campaign.
12:50pm: Details remain unknown, but Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston tweets that it’s believed to be a “relatively minor” surgery.
12:06pm: Red Sox first baseman/DH Hanley Ramirez underwent surgery today on his left shoulder, he announced. The details of the procedure, which comes as something of a surprise, are not yet known.
Shoulder issues plagued Ramirez throughout the season, but he had not previously given any indication that he was set to go under the knife, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com notes on Twitter. And president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said less than a week ago that he was not aware of any players who’d need surgery. (Of course, it was later announced that lefty Robby Scott underwent a procedure that very day.)
Ramirez, who’ll turn 34 in December, is owed $22MM next year. If he takes at least 497 plate appearances and passes a physical, he’d also trigger a $22MM vesting option for the 2019 campaign, though odds are the club won’t allow that to happen unless Ramirez is playing well enough that the extra year doesn’t seem like a burden.
Boston will hope that Ramirez can bounce back from another rough season. He was productive in 2016, but otherwise has given the organization below-average offensive work since joining the organization before the ’15 campaign.
This year, Ramirez managed only a .242/.320/.429 slash with 23 home runs over 553 trips to the plate. He did not show significant erosion in plate discipline, with a typical 9.2% walk rate and a slightly elevated 21.0% strikeout rate. And perhaps there’s some hope that a reversal in fortune on batted balls will help Ramirez make up lost ground. After all, he managed only a .272 BABIP, well below his career .322 measure, despite a batted-ball mix that mostly mirrors those of recent seasons.
Ramirez was signed for his bat, and perhaps it can still come alive with a healthy shoulder. If not, he won’t hold much function for the Red Sox. Though he once ran well, Ramirez racked up -5.3 runs on the bases in 2017 by Fangraphs’ BsR measure. And at this point, the former shortstop is only an option at DH or first base. He wasn’t able to play the field much at all this year due to the shoulder problem, but perhaps there’ll be greater availability in the future.
Regardless of Ramirez’s availability, the Red Sox will likely look for more pop over the offseason to come. But HanRam’s outlook matters, too. If he’s healthy and capable of lining up at first base, perhaps the team would have greater positional flexibility in adding a bat. At this point, though, it seems likely that the Boston organization will assume it needs to add a player capable of playing first in 2018. Indeed, it’s even possible to imagine pursuit of multiple hitters, depending upon the post-surgical prognosis.
Whatever the Red Sox may prefer, the odds are that the organization will again go over the luxury tax line in 2018, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe explains. Indeed, with a hefty arbitration class set to land on top of an already robust set of guaranteed contracts, the team will enter the offseason without much hope of improving unless it’s willing to exceed the $197MM luxury tax line. Of course, the club reset its luxury tax status by staying under the 2017 mark, which reduces the penalty for going back over (but would also begin a new climb upward in the escalating tax scheme).
- As the Red Sox continue looking into candidates for the team’s open managerial position, the team is allowing its coaches to look into their own alternatives. Well-regarded hitting coach Chili Davis is set to visit with the Padres, per Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter links). San Diego parted ways with hitting coach Alan Zinter, leaving the club looking at alternatives. Of course, it’s still also possible that a new Boston manager would prefer to keep Davis or certain other members of the staff, but the staff is now free to make its own decisions at this stage.