Busy offseason coming (cont.)
Ex-Rockies and Cubs manager Don Baylor, currently the batting coach with the Rockies, could be a possibility to replace the retiring Cito Gaston in Toronto, as Gaston is said by some to be pushing for him. Blue Jays third base coach Brian Butterfield and Yankees third base coach Rob Thomson are also expected to receive consideration there. Yankees coach and former Royals manager Tony Pena was said by one person to be a possibility for the Marlins, where organization man Edwin Rodriguez is the interim manager. One interim manager that appears to have a very good chance to retain his job is Kirk Gibson in Arizona, though with the GM situation not yet settled even that's not a certainty.
Former Pirates GM and catching great Ted Simmons and White Sox coach and former Mariners infielder Joey Cora are thought to be high on Seattle's long list of managerial candidates. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, whose own status is suggested by some to be slightly more tenuous after a rough season in Seattle following a great debut year for him, said he'd prefer major-league managing experience for that job but isn't about to "box'' himself in by eliminating those who do not.
The Cubs' managing job is already creating a lot of interest. Gonzalez declined an interview for that prestigious post, adding to the very strong speculation he already has Atlanta basically locked up (Gonzalez was unavailable for comment the last couple days), but it's a desirable job for many because of the history, high payroll and other factors. Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg, who is managing their Triple-A team, looks like a strong candidate to many after four seasons apprenticing as a minor-league manager in that organization. Interim manager Mike Quade is said to be another candidate while Mets scout Bob Melvin and Nationals coach Pat Listach are reportedly getting interviews, as will former Indians manager Eric Wedge. Ex-Diamondbacks manager and current Cubs announcer Bob Brenly also has been seen as a potential candidate. That job may appeal to the available big names such as Torre, Valentine and even La Russa (though it's hard to imagine the Cubs hiring a hated longtime Cardinal for that job), but people in the know say they aren't necessarily seeking a "celebrity'' manager after employing Baker and Lou Piniella most recently.
Girardi, an ex-Cubs catcher, Northwestern product and Illinois native who was passed over for Piniella the last time the job came open after the 2006 season, is once again a possible candidate with the Cubs. Some have suggested he would seriously consider that particular job if he were to make the leap from the team with baseball's highest payroll. But while Girardi's three-year, $7.5-million contract Yankees contract expires after the season, Yankees people are confident Girardi won't want to leave baseball's most storied franchise (and that $200-million-plus payroll) even though the team has has no intention in raising Girardi's salary into the stratosphere of Torre's last Yankees deal, which was between $6-7 million annually. Managers salaries are generally held to around $4 million, or a bit above that now.
Bob Melvin has been given permission by his current employer, the Mets, where he does not appear to be a leading candidate for the managerial job, for at least two managing interviews. He could have a shot in Milwaukee, where Ken Macha seems likely to go. Pirates manager John Russell is another one on the hot seat, especially after team president Frank Coonelly told USA Today, "I have been extremely disappointed in the team's performance'' when asked about Russell and GM Neal Huntington.
Huntington is very new to the hot seat and seems more likely to survive than Russell, whose weak teams have floundered even more than they expected and have the worst record in baseball this season at 48-97.
In Seattle, the speculation over Zduriencik's situation picked up after his good friend and pro scouting director Carmen Fusco was fired earlier this week after a mound of bad publicity regarding the team's acquisition of pitching prospect Josh Lueke, a talent with a criminal conviction for false imprisonment, from Texas in the Cliff Lee deal. Zduriencik, who took over a 100-loss team after the 2008 season, declined comment on the Fusco firing. Zduriencik did say, "I've got a job to do every day. We have a plan in place. And I'm staying with the plan ... My goal is to build the organization for the long haul. That's the only thing I can be concerned about.''
Two GM jobs that have yet to be decided are the ones with the Diamondbacks and Mets. Arizona's list of candidates is a strong one with interim Jerry Di Poto, Towers, Dodgers executives Logan White and De Jon Watson and Angels exec Eddie Bane. They also sought to interview Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer but the Yankees turned down Arizona's request for Oppenheimer, who's under contract with the Yankees through 2011. Baseball insiders see the experienced Towers and Di Poto -- who is said by one D-backs person to have done a "terrific'' job -- as the favorites in an impressive field.
Towers, a possible candidate with the Mets, too, sounds like he wants back in as GM after a year recharging as a Yankees consultant this season following 14 years as GM in San Diego, where he earned a rep as an excellent trader who knew pitching and did well despite lower payrolls. "I'm motivated by building a team, building a front office and competing on a daily basis,'' Towers said. There have been suggestions that Arizona, hampered by a weak local economy, might not want to pay enough to lure Towers. However, speaking generally about a GM position, Towers said, "I don't think I'm in position to be picky. There are only (30) of these jobs out there.'' He's from the Northwest, lived in the West his whole life (he's still in San Diego while working this year for the Yankees), but while he concedes word that he might prefer the West is probably true, he added, "I don't rule out the Midwest or East if the opportunity presents itself.'' One friend of his said he believes Towers actually would love the challenge of the Mets, where in a sense he'd match up with good buddy Brian Cashman of the Yankees. "Geographically, I can't settle on one spot. I'm not Pat Gillick,'' Towers said, referring to the legendary baseball executive.