Former Padres star Adrian Gonzalez was interviewed as part of the team’s recent managerial search, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune and MLB Network’s David Vassegh. Gonzalez made it deep into the process, with Vassegh describing him as one of three finalists for the job, along with bench coach and eventual hire Mike Shildt.
Among the known candidates, Shildt and Phil Nevin had managed at the MLB level before, while Flaherty, Carlos Mendoza (hired by the Mets as their manager) and Benji Gil had experience on Major League coaching staffs. Gonzalez was an outlier in comparison, as he doesn’t have any experience as a manager or coach in the big leagues or even in the minors. While most of San Diego’s candidates were former players, the 41-year-old Gonzalez brought perhaps a different perspective as not only a player, but as an established superstar during his 15-year MLB career.
This might be the first managerial search in baseball history to ever include two former first overall draft picks, between Nevin (selected first overall in 1992) and Gonzalez (in 2000). Gonzalez lived up to that lofty potential by hitting .287/.358/.485 with 317 homers over his 8046 career plate appearances. His resume included five All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, three finishes within the top seven of MVP voting, and just recently became eligible for the Cooperstown ballot since it has been five full seasons since his last Major League game. While Gonzalez isn’t likely to receive induction to the Hall of Fame, just making the ballot is a notable recognition of an outstanding career.
This first-hand knowledge of what it takes to be a top-tier Major Leaguer might’ve had some appeal to the Padres, given the number of high-profile stars on the roster. Given past rumblings about tumult within the San Diego clubhouse, the Padres might’ve seen Gonzalez as an interesting candidate as perhaps something of both a boss and a peer for San Diego’s players, given that Gonzalez’s playing career only recently wrapped. President of baseball operations A.J. Preller also has a long history with Gonzalez, as the first baseman broke into the big leagues with the Rangers in 2004 just when Preller had been hired to join the Texas front office.
It makes for an interesting what-if within the Padres’ managerial hunt, and it remains to be seen if Gonzalez might seek out further coaching or managerial opportunities in the future, whether with the Padres or another organization. This job had obvious specific appeal to Gonzalez because he was born in San Diego and because he played with the Padres from 2006-10.
With Shildt now hired, attention will turn to the coaching staff. The Athletic’s Dennis Lin writes that pitching coach Ruben Niebla and bullpen coach Ben Fritz are likely to remain, though Fritz interviewed for the Angels’ pitching coach job that eventually went to Barry Enright. The third base coach and associate manager’s position are both open after the departures of Matt Williams and Ryan Christenson, and it might be interesting to see how whether the “associate manager” role remains at all, or if it was somewhat unique to the division of duties between Christenson and Flaherty.
Shildt has been working for the Padres for the last two years, so it isn’t as if he is an entirely new skipper coming in and wanting to install his own staff. That said, Lin isn’t sure if Flaherty (who is both the bench coach and offensive coordinator) could be back after coming up shy in the managerial search. This uncertainty might also extend to first base coach David Macias, who Lin describes as close with Flaherty and possibly also a candidate to leave if Flaherty isn’t back in 2024. Lin also notes that Shildt isn’t expected to make any coaching hires from the Cardinals, his longtime former team before his arrival in San Diego.