Red Sox coaches could enter the search for vacant manager jobs

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 25: Former player and coach Jason Varitek #33 of the Boston Red Sox talks to assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett #58 during batting practice before MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on April 25, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jason Varitek;Andy Barkett
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 25: Former player and coach Jason Varitek #33 of the Boston Red Sox talks to assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett #58 during batting practice before MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on April 25, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jason Varitek;Andy Barkett /

Teams could look at Red Sox coaching staff for managerial candidates

While the league and the MLBPA are in a negotiation standoff that has resulted in a lockout putting free agency, trades, and the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft on hold, clubs are able to make organizational hires for managers, front office personnel, and coaching staffs. There are two teams currently in need of a manager heading into the 2022 season. The New York Mets and Oakland Athletics should both be giving consideration to candidates from the Boston Red Sox coaching staff.

Each of these organizations presents a unique opportunity for their next manager. The Mets, under the ownership of Steve Cohen, have put themselves in the class of the league’s upper payroll teams, spending big in free agency in an effort to buy their way into contention with a “win now” mentality.

The results so far have been unimpressive, as their big moves for the 2021 season came up short. They finished the season with a 77-85 record and a 3rd place finish in the AL East. Their key addition, 4-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, had his worst season as a big leaguer hitting .230 with a .734 OPS. They’ve continued to spend to augment their roster, signing future Hall of Fame pitcher Max Scherzer to a record deal, and adding former All-Stars Eduardo Escobar and Starling Marte in free agency heading into 2022.

The Athletics traditionally operate on the opposite end of the spectrum regarding payroll. A small market franchise with outdated facilities, the A’s have taken the “Moneyball” approach to roster construction, relying heavily on analytics to find value on the free agent market and consistently having among the lower payrolls in the sport.

Their results have been better than their spending would suggest, and they remained in playoff contention into the final week of 2021. With highly productive younger players getting closer to free agency, all indicators point them toward trading away some of that core talent for prospects when the lockout ends.

The Mets are known to have interviewed at least seven managerial candidates to this point. They don’t seem to have a specific profile for what they’re looking for in their next manager, and have interviewed former managers, current bench and position coaches with no managerial experience, and former players without MLB coaching experience to this point. Among the candidates that have been interviewed are former big league managers Buck Showalter and Brad Asmus, and Astros bench coach Joe Espada.

The Athletics have kept they’re search a little closer to the vest. It’s been reported that they’ve spoken to internal candidates Mark Kotsay, Darren Bush, and Marcus Jenson, who all currently hold coaching positions with the team. Beyond those names, they are reported to have interest in Joe Espada and Red Sox bench coach Will Venable.

Venable, who played in the major leagues as an outfielder from 2008-2015 before becoming a first base coach for the Chicago Cubs in 2017, was brought on the Alex Cora’s Red Sox staff in November of 2020, ten days after Cora resumed his position as manager of the team after parting ways with the club for the 2020 season as a result of his role in the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal. He’s been mentioned inside baseball circles as a future candidate for a manager position, and his seat next to Cora on a team that went to the ALCS in 2021 may help to fast track path.

Beyond Venable, the Red Sox staff has several other coaches that could factor into the search for the remaining manager jobs currently available.

Third base coach, Carlos Febles, who’s been a coach or manager in the Red Sox organization since 2007, is one name to consider. Brought into the organization as a minor league hitting coach, Febles landed his first manager job with the Red Sox Rookie League Lowell Spinners in 2011, and worked his way up the minor league manager ranks to Double-A Portland, where he was the manager through the 2017 season before being promoted to the big league club as third base coach.

Like Venable, Febles has been mentioned as a future major League manager. He interviewed for the vacant manager position with the Minnesota Twins in 2018, and was strongly considered for the role with the Red Sox in 2020 after Cora was relieved of the position. The Red Sox ultimately hired Ron Renokie, but Febles remained with the team resuming his role of third base coach.

Perhaps the most intriguing member of the Red Sox staff is former catcher and current “Player Information Coach” Jason Varitek. The long time “captain” and two time World Series champion has been viewed as a future manager since his playing days. He was named Special Assistant to the General Manager, Ben Cherington, in 2012 and remained in a front office advisory role through 2019, and was put into the uniformed coaching role as “Game Planning Coordinator” in November of 2020.

For Red Sox fans, watching Varitek take a manager job with another organization would be an emotional blow. Varitek has long been a fan favorite, and has been with the organization as a player, advisor, and coach for nearly 25 years. The fan base started to champion Varitek for manager after the 2017 season, before the club made the decision to hire Alex Cora. The buzz around Varitek as manager intensified prior to the 2020 season when the job became available with the departure of Cora.

While it’s not known if the Sox had any formal discussion with Varitek about the vacancy, or the level of any discussions, Varitek did make a statement regarding any rumors saying that he needed more time in the dugout and did not yet consider himself ready for the role.

It’s long been thought that former catchers make the best managers. Their in-game responsibilities from calling the pitches to setting the defense make them the on field manager by definition. Nearly 1/3 of the current MLB manager landscape is made up of former catchers, and the list of candidates that have interviewed for the managerial openings in New York and Oakland has several former catchers on it. The question surrounding Varitek as a future MLB manager isn’t if, but when?

With Cora having a World Series ring and an ALCS appearance in two of his three years as skipper for the Red Sox, his future with the club is hardly in doubt. While managing the Red Sox – the only Major League organization Varitek has known in his nearly two and a half decades in the game – seems like the perfect fit, his path to the helm is not a clear one. While he expressed as recently as two years ago that he wasn’t ready for the role, Varitek checks all the boxes for what a first time manager should look like. With Cora firmly entrenched as the manager of the Red Sox, seeing Varitek take his first job as a big league manager with another team would be painful, but understandable.

The two manager jobs currently available require different types of leadership from their next manager.  While on-field results will define how well the next managers are at their jobs, the success of each team will likely be achieved in opposite fashions. For the Mets, it will be about getting the players on the same page. Getting them to buy into cohesion, and creating a winning culture among highly paid veteran players that were brought in and paid handsomely to win the franchise’s first World Series since 1986. That’s no small task for a manager in the game’s biggest market, under intense media scrutiny and the bright lights of New York City.

In Oakland, the manager position will have a more hands on approach. A young roster, void of high dollar free agents, and many players getting their first regular role in the Majors requires an approach equally as delicate, but completely opposite from what’s required in New York. Helping young players adjust and acclimate to life in the big leagues both on and off the field, while fielding a competitive team that lacks the payroll advantages of most of its competitors can be a turbulent experience. While the leash on being consistently competitive will no doubt be longer, Oakland has been in contention with the built in disadvantages of a small market franchise more often than not in the two decade reign under General Manager, Billy Beane.

While the circumstances in Oakland are more favorable for any first time manager, the finite number of managerial positions in MLB makes both jobs appealing should either organization come calling for any of the three current Red Sox coaches considered to be future Major League managers.

While each of the three managerial candidates on the Red Sox staff have carved their own path to dugout supremacy over years in the game, they’ve all come together under Cora. Even if it’s not in Queens or Oakland, Red Sox fans should be prepared for changes to the coaching staff in the near future. Like his counterpart on the gridiron in New England, Bill Belichick, who’s “coaching tree” has produced nearly two dozen head coaches or high powered executives in just over two decades as Patriots head coach, the Alex Cora “manager tree” is about to bear fruit.

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