TORONTO -- The Blue Jays turned to a division rival in their search for a new manager by hiring Charlie Montoyo away from the Rays on Thursday.The 53-year-old Montoyo, who signed a three-year contract with a club option for 2022, also interviewed with the Reds. He is a seasoned veteran
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays turned to a division rival in their search for a new manager by hiring Charlie Montoyo away from the Rays on Thursday.
The 53-year-old Montoyo, who signed a three-year contract with a club option for 2022, also interviewed with the Reds. He is a seasoned veteran with 18 years of experience as a manager in the Rays' Minor League system who most recently was the bench coach for an overachieving Tampa Bay team that made waves last season for its unique in-game strategies and implementation of advanced statistics.
"I am extremely honored and humbled to join the Toronto Blue Jays organization, and I would like to thank Mark [Shapiro] and Ross [Atkins] for this amazing opportunity," Montoyo said in a statement. "Managing a team that represents an entire nation is incredibly special. My family and I look forward to working towards the ultimate goal of winning a championship for this city. I also want to recognize the entire Tampa Bay Rays organization for giving me the chance to start my coaching career."
The hiring comes as somewhat of a surprise, if for no other reason than reports had David Bell, Rocco Baldelli and Astros bench coach Joe Espada as the early frontrunners. Bell filled the Reds' managerial opening earlier this week while Baldelli was announced as the new Twins manager on Thursday afternoon. Espada remains on the market and might end up returning to Houston.
Montoyo might have slid a little bit under the public radar, but he appears to have the type of skill set the Blue Jays stated they were looking for all along. His ability to speak Spanish will be considered a major asset for an organization with a lot of younger international players, and his willingness to accept advanced stats was a must-have.
"Charlie is a highly regarded leader by so many individuals in the game, and we were thoroughly impressed by his experiences and approach as we learned more about him during the interview process," Atkins said in a statement. "Charlie is passionate about the game, with a superior ability to connect and relate, and we are confident he will have an overwhelmingly positive influence on Blue Jays players and staff. On a personal level, I am looking forward to working with him as we continue to build and sustain a championship organization."
During his media availability at the end of the regular season, Atkins pointed to the Rays and Astros as two teams that were ahead of the curve in terms of how they dissected information and used it in their in-game decision making. Espada, Baldelli and Montoyo had big roles in each of those organizations and after multiple rounds of over-the-phone and in-person interviews, the Blue Jays opted for Montoyo.
The Rays were the first team to begin regularly implementing the opener strategy of using relievers to start games, and they are known for being particularly aggressive with their use of shifts and platoons. That's just one aspect of the job, but when combined with the vast amount of time that Montoyo has spent on the ground as a coach, it produces the type of overall package the Blue Jays' front office wanted from a new manager.
One added perk is that Montoyo was teammates with Vladimir Guerrero at Double-A Harrisburg in 1996. He was considered one of Guerrero's early mentors and now Montoyo will have the opportunity to manage his son, Vlad Guerrero Jr., at the next level. Guerrero Jr. is ranked the No. 1 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, and he's expected to be the face of the Blue Jays' franchise for years to come.
"Charlie possesses the warmth, authenticity and extensive experience that will help foster a championship culture in our clubhouse and throughout the Blue Jays organization," Shapiro said. "His collaborative nature and leadership ability will undoubtedly have a broad impact across the club."
Montoyo becomes one of four active Latin American managers in the Major Leagues and one of two born in Puerto Rico, joining Alex Cora, the manager of the division-rival Red Sox. Nationals manager Dave Martinez is also of Puerto Rican descent, and White Sox skipper Rick Renteria is Mexican-American. When Renteria was hired in October 2016, he was the only Latino manager in the big leagues, and Montoyo is the third hired in the span of just over a year.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.