HOUSTON -- The Astros are moving swiftly in their search for a manager to replace AJ Hinch, having already interviewed veteran skipper Buck Showalter on Wednesday and set to interview former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons on Thursday, according to reports.
MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Thursday that Showalter interviewed with Astros owner Jim Crane on Wednesday. A source confirmed to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand that Gibbons was set to interview with Crane on Thursday.
With Spring Training a month away and the Red Sox also searching for a manager, the Astros would like to have a manager in place by Feb. 1, and they plan to hire a manager before finding a replacement for general manager Jeff Luhnow, who along with Hinch was dismissed Monday in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal.
The Astros' strategy of finding a manager soon will allow them to start planning for Spring Training and give the players some peace of mind of who will be in charge when the team hits the field in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Feb. 13. Crane is running the baseball operations in the short term until a GM can be found.
In addition to Showalter and Gibbons, among the names on the Astros’ list of potential managers are bench coach Joe Espada, veteran skippers Bruce Bochy and Dusty Baker, former Rangers manager Jeff Banister, Cubs third-base coach Will Venable and Dodgers special assistant Raúl Ibañez.
Here’s a closer look at some of the candidates to take over as manager, along with their current or former roles:
Dusty Baker (former Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals manager): A three-time National League Manager of the Year, Baker managed for 22 years with four teams, leading the Giants to the 2002 World Series and taking the Cubs, Reds and Nationals to the playoffs. Baker is highly respected in the game with 1,863 career wins, but his failures in the postseason have been notable. He’s known as a players’ manager, but he's 70 years old.
Jeff Banister (Pirates special assistant): Banister, 55, went 325-313 in four seasons as manager of the Rangers, winning two AL West titles in his first two years. The Astros wrestled control of the division away from Texas and won the AL West from 2017-19. Banister grew up in the Houston area and attended the University of Houston. The AL Manager of the Year in 2015, he was the Pirates' bench coach from 2011-14 and returned to the Pittsburgh organization after he was dismissed by the Rangers following the 2018 season.
Bruce Bochy (former Giants and Padres manager): Bochy, 64, just recently stepped down after a hugely successful 13-year run with San Francisco (2007-19), where he led the Giants to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. That came on the heels of 12 years as the San Diego Padres manager, which included one World Series appearance. The former Astros catcher would bring a wealth experience and knowledge to a club that will contend in the AL this year.
Joe Espada (Astros bench coach): Espada, 43, would make a smooth transition into the managerial chair after serving as Hinch’s bench coach the last two years. Espada was a finalist for the managerial jobs with the Cubs and Giants this offseason. He came to the Astros after four years with the Yankees (2014-17), serving the last three as the Yankees' third-base coach. Prior to that, he had an eight-year stint with the Marlins (2006-13), including time as third-base coach for four seasons (2010-13).
Raúl Ibañez (Dodgers special assistant): Ibañez, 47, spent 19 years as a player in the big leagues, mostly with the Mariners. He also played for the Royals, Phillies, Yankees and Angels. Ibañez has been a special advisor with the Dodgers since 2016. He was a finalist for the Rays' managerial position in 2014 even though he had not officially retired as a player.
John Gibbons (former Blue Jays manager): Gibbons, 57, spent 11 seasons in two stints as the manager of the Blue Jays (2004-08 and 2013-18). He posted a 793-789 record and led the Blue Jays to the ALCS in 2015-16. Gibbons, who lives in San Antonio, would likely adapt quickly to new surroundings in Houston.
Buck Showalter (former Yankees, D-backs, Rangers and Orioles manager): A three-time AL Manager of the Year, Showalter, 63, served as manager of the Yankees (1992-95), D-backs (1998-2000), Rangers (2003-06) and Orioles (2010-18). He has a 1,551-1,517 record during his managerial career, during which he was known for taking over floundering clubs and turning them around. He guided the Yankees, D-backs and Orioles to the playoffs and managed the Yankees and D-backs the year before they won the World Series (1996 and 2001, respectively).
Will Venable (Cubs third-base coach): Less than four years removed from his playing career, Venable is considered an up-and-coming managerial candidate. Venable, 37, played basketball and baseball at Princeton before spending nine years as a player in the big leagues, including eight with the Padres. He was named special assistant to Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein in 2017 and served as the Cubs' first-base coach in '18 and ’19 before shifting to third base prior to this season.