And here we all thought that this off-season was going to be the calm before the free-agent storm, that not much was going to happen until next winter when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, Josh Donaldson – basically, everybody who’s anybody – are all eligible for free agency.
Given what transpired Thursday, just hours after one of the best World Series games of all time, it might be time to re-examine that assertion. Suddenly, maybe the notion of the Miami Marlins trading Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Does it?
Look, it’s not a complete surprise that the New York Yankees told Joe Girardi that they would look elsewhere for a manager now that his contract has expired following the Yankees elimination in the American League Championship Series. There were rumblings when the team was in Toronto late in the regular-season that the relationship between Girardi and the front office had cooled, and that the unexpectedly early emergence of the new Yankees core resulted in an internal debate as to whether the regimented Girardi was the right person to oversee a team that will continue to get younger.
The fact that his team was seen making something of a statement when it won Game 3 of the AL Division Series after Girardi’s well-documented faux pas in the playoffs – failing to ask for a review on a pitch that clearly did not hit Lonnie Chisenhall in Game 2 – didn’t matter. His players may have had his back, but general manager Brian Cashman didn’t. Not any more.
Girardi has managed the Yankees for 10 years – a long time for a guy who is a deeply religious family man believed to desire more time with his south Florida-based family. He has won a World Series and with Derek Jeter now making decisions as president of the Marlins, the natural question is whether there is room for Girardi within that organization, even though the two men never seemed especially close. (Indeed, the suggestion is Girardi’s bedside manner with players is one of the major reasons he is not coming back to the Yankees.) It is, of course, a Yankees legend, Don Mattingly, who is the current manager of the Marlins and having Jeter row him out into the middle of the lake like Fredo in The Godfather Part II might seem like a little too much of a karmic mind-bender, but – I don’t know – maybe Girardi can spend a year in the broadcast booth or something?
As for Mattingly: would there be a fit for him in New York?
This is going to be one interesting winter for managers. Whoever gets the Yankees job will inherit a team that is on the cusp of a decade of dominance with transcendent, young stars already on the roster and a few more awaiting in the minor leagues. Cashman has been partial to people with Yankees ties in the past – current coaches and former coaches such as Sarnia-born Rob Thomson (who has been a Yankees coach for 25 years) and Kevin Long will likely be interviewed, as might Yankees minor league managers Jay Bell and/or Al Pedrique. Yankees advisor Tim Naehring has been the Yankees vice-president of baseball operations since 2007, and is a well-regarded baseball man.
Buck Showalter is a wild card, mentioned prominently on Thursday by Michael Kay, the Yankees broadcaster, on his radio show on ESPN New York. Showalter has another year on his contract with the Baltimore Orioles but it’s already known that there was at least one back-channel approach from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Orioles. Baltimore owner Peter Angelos and his sons would ask for something or someone in return, and as Toronto Blue Jays fans know all too wlel, a manager can be traded. Showalter managed the Yankees from 1992-1995, is enough of a numbers guy and as he will tell you, invented the game of baseball.
Perhaps he can bring Zach Britton out of the bullpen – oops, I mean out of Baltimore – since Britton is also a free-agent after next season. I know. That was cheap.
Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez is always a hot name for these openings. Jim Hickey, the former Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach who is hugely-regarded as a pitching mentor, might be ready to follow Bud Black and John Farrell into the managerial ranks and, yeah, what about Farrell himself?
It’s not just the Yankees, either. The Washington Nationals fired Dusty Baker and they have at least another year in their window of opportunity – another year before Harper might leave – and perhaps that’s a destination for Girardi. The Phillies, meanwhile, are at ground zero in a rebuild. They’ll have a ton of money to spend in that 2018 free-agent class (senior advisor Pat Gillick said the organization has been planning for it for the past three seasons) and most people expect them to be a major player in that class, maybe even moreso than the Yankees.
And we haven’t even talked about teams that might end up jettisoning managers in-season, including a certain local team whose current manager is well aware that he needs a good start to the season more than at any other point in his career…