The Brewers are suddenly looking for a manager for the first time in almost a decade, with Craig Counsell’s stunning move to the Cubs yesterday. Some of the options they are considering as a replacement, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, are current Brewers bench coach Pat Murphy, Blue Jays bench coach Don Mattingly, Astros Bench coach Joe Espada, Dodgers first base coach Clayton McCullough, Astros hitting coach Troy Snitker and former player Rickie Weeks.
Counsell departing Milwaukee wasn’t totally unforeseen. He was on an expiring contract in 2023 and extension talks didn’t come to fruition. But with David Stearns moving on from the Brewers to become president of baseball operations for the Mets and then firing manager Buck Showalter, many assumed Counsell would follow him to Queens. But Counsell joining the division-rival Cubs was not foreseen or known to be on the table.
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio spoke on the matter yesterday, per Curt Hogg of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and it seems he was surprised as well. “When he first told me, I said, ‘Are you messing with me?’” Attanasio added that “It is what it is” and that the club intends to continue putting their best foot forward without Counsell. “We have a really good thing. I give Craig credit for helping to build that, and for adding all these coaches, all of whom have stayed. So we’re going to look for a manager who can continue having a terrific clubhouse culture and that can help us keep winning and hopefully get over the hump in the playoffs.”
As for the Mets, despite the generally spendthrift behavior of Steve Cohen in recent years, they apparently never got close to the $40MM over five years that Counsell secured from the Cubs. Per Andy Martino of SNY, there was a sense that his interest in coming to the Mets wasn’t actually that high and he was merely using them to drive up the bidding. That would track with his reported interest in resetting the market for managerial salaries. Perhaps he wasn’t especially willing to do that in Queens since he grew up in the Midwest and Chicago is a better fit for him, or perhaps the Mets were content to hire a manager with lesser demands, but the end result is that the Mets landed first-time manager Carlos Mendoza instead.
As for the Brewers’ immediate concerns in relation to this, though it may sting that Counsell joined a division rival instead of the Mets, the focus now will be on filling the void. It seems they weren’t terribly proactive while Counsell was still available, with Attanasio stating that he and general manager Matt Arnold “thought it was going to muddy things if we started interviews with third parties” but that Arnold has “conducted a couple of internal interviews, for what that’s worth.” That suggests they are still in the early stages of their search, with still a wide list of potential candidates being considered, as mentioned above.
Murphy, 65 this month, has a small amount of managerial experience. He was in the Padres’ organization in June of 2015 when Bud Black was fired as manager. Murphy got the gig on an interim basis for the second half of that season but Andy Green took over for the 2016 campaign. Murphy then came to the Brewers to serve as bench coach under Counsell and has garnered plenty of interest from clubs with managerial openings since, but has stayed in Milwaukee.
Mattingly, 63 in April, has plenty of experience as a bench boss. He was at the helm for the Dodgers from 2011 to 2015 and then for the Marlins from 2016 to 2022, before joining the Blue Jays as bench coach for the 2023 season.
Espada, 48, has coaching experience with the Marlins and Yankees but has been the bench coach of the Astros since the start of the 2018 season. He has been connected to various managerial gigs in the past few years but is still with the Astros, who just saw Dusty Baker step out of the skipper’s chair. It’s been speculated that Espada could take over in Houston but nothing is official there.
McCullough, 44 next month, has been the first base coach of the Dodgers since the 2021 campaign. He recently interviewed for the managerial opening in Cleveland but that position has now been filled by Stephen Vogt.
Snitker, 35 next month, is the son of Atlanta manager Brian Snitker. He has been co-hitting coach for the Astros for the past five seasons alongside Álex Cintrón.
Weeks, 41, played in the majors from 2003 to 2017, most of that in Milwaukee. He was hired by the Brewers for a player development role going into the 2022 season.