Busy offseason of job changes likely, especially in Queens
New York Mets are all but certain to replace Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel
Some estimates say there could be 12-15 managerial openings this winter
There could also be geneal manager jobs available for several teams
The Mets are all but certain to replace Omar Minaya as general manager and Jerry Manuel as manager, and although both officially have until the end of the year to prove themselves and keep their jobs, it has become clear neither man will retain his current position.
That only adds considerably to what is expected to be an unusual amount of attention paid to high-profile, non-playing baseball jobs openings this winter. A few GM jobs and no fewer than 10 managerial jobs are either open or in question, including also the prestigious managing positions with the Cubs (open) and Dodgers (in question).
Mets people have high regard for assistant GM John Ricco and consider him a future GM, but the team apparently will instead look to someone with more experience for their top front office position. They are is said to be ready to consider ex-Padres GM Kevin Towers, ex-Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes and White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn, among others, to replace Minaya for that role. Byrnes and Hahn, assuming they are interested, are both extremely highly regarded. Byrnes helped bring the D-backs to the NLCS championship series in 2007 while Hahn was part of the 2005 World Series championship team with the White Sox.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels is a logical possibility for the Mets since he is a native of Bayside, Queens and has an "out'' in his contract after the year. However, all indications are that Daniels likes it in Texas and the Rangers are extremely interested in retaining him. New Rangers people like co-owner Chuck Greenberg have expressed how badly they want to keep Daniels.
As for the new Mets manager, that will likely wait for the front office situation to be settled, as the new GM officially will have a say-so in that job. But while the new GM has yet to be decided, the Mets are already said by those in the know to be on the lookout for a manager who's "high energy'' for the managerial position, which could seem to suggest that feisty Brooklyn Cyclones manager Wally Backman and workaholic ex-Mets manager Bobby Valentine will at least be considered.
Many baseball insiders question the idea of promoting Backman from the Mets' Single-A New York-Penn League affiliate to one of the toughest jobs in the majors. Experience is viewed as a question for Backman, too, by many baseball insiders, including some with the Mets. "The New York-Penn League to the majors is quite a jump,'' one National League executive opined.
But Backman seems to have forged a couple key alliances and is credited by some with the Mets for taking such a low position a few years after being offered the Diamondbacks' managing position, which he lost within a few days when some personal transgressions became public. Backman appeared to make a major misstep recently by being quoted in the New York Post suggesting he could do better than Manuel -- though some with the team accepted his explanation that he was actually saying he could do better at his own job, and club executives are generally impressed with his managing performance this year.
Valentine should be the most obvious choice for Mets manager and is eminently qualified as someone who already succeeded in that very job, taking a seemingly a good but unimposing team to the Subway World Series in 2000. However, office politics could get in the way. What's been described as a bad ending with a higher-up or two when Valentine was fired at the the end of the 2002 season is apparently a hurdle that will need to be cleared first.
People within the Mets organization see ticket sales as a key issue and some opine that Valentine could be the man to re-energize the organization in that regard. However, some others also wonder whether the bad ending with ownership and expected higher salary demands could be impediments.
In any case, New York is only a small part of the story this winter. Some estimate there could be as many as 12-15 managerial openings, with suspense all over the map. One rare place where the likely hire is believed to be known is Atlanta, where ex-Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez is seen by sources close to the situation as a fait accompli to replace retiring legend Bobby Cox (though Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton is also well-liked in the organization and will at least get an interview).
Managers will also be hired by the Mariners, Cubs, Marlins, Blue Jays and quite possibly Brewers, Pirates, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and maybe even Cardinals (though some suggest they could see the legendary Tony La Russa staying one more year) and Yankees (though Joe Girardi, whose contract is also up, isn't believed by most likely to leave the Yankees, even for his hometown Cubs). The Reds, who employ ex-Cardinals GM and La Russa ally Walt Jocketty in their GM job, have been seen as a potential landing spot for La Russa, but most baseball people seem to believe Dusty Baker is likely to remain in Cincinnati. Baker has yet to agree to a new deal, but he's been offered one for close to $4 million, the same salary he makes now.
Insiders say they'd still be surprised if future Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre stayed in Los Angeles, where a soap opera is developing with the Dodgers at the ownership level, with owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, battling for the team in their high-profile divorce court case. Torre's current Dodgers deal is for slightly more than $4 million a year, though his offer for 2011 is not known and the Dodgers' payroll is expected to decrease after already going from $120 million to $83 million in recent years, leading most baseball people to believe Torre will leave.
Hitting coach Don Mattingly earlier was thought to be the favorite to replace Torre, but people familiar with the situation say the job is more likely to go to Triple-A manager Tim Wallach. Dodgers icon and consultant Tommy Lasorda continues to stump for Valentine, but the Dodgers have self-imposed financial constraints that may make that a long shot. Baker is another ex-Dodger who could be out of their price range.