NEW YORK -- Now that the Mets officially have a managerial vacancy, it’s time to comb through the list of candidates to replace Mickey Callaway. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen called his initial list “extensive,” and it no doubt includes names not mentioned here. Remember, Callaway himself was not considered a favorite for the Mets’ job until the final stages of the interview process two years ago.
Still, some clear favorites exist heading into the process. Here’s a list of those who do or could have interest in the Mets job:
It’s difficult not to consider Girardi anything other than one of the strongest candidates for the job. He’s had plenty of success in New York, posting winning records in all 10 of his seasons with the Yankees. His resume includes a World Series title in 2009, though Girardi’s tenure in the Bronx ended in part because he went eight consecutive years without winning another. Speaking on Chicago’s 670 The Score on Wednesday, Girardi all but confirmed his candidacy, saying: “Obviously anything that comes across your desk, you’re going to be very interested in.” It remains to be seen if Van Wagenen and Mets ownership will be as bullish on Girardi, who reportedly butted heads with Yankees GM Brian Cashman during his final years in the Bronx.
Don’t count on this one. The brightest “celebrity manager” on this list, Maddon is widely expected to fill the Angels’ managerial opening. Even if he doesn’t, Maddon would be an expensive piece for a Mets team that hasn’t spent big on its manager in over a decade.
Like Girardi, Showalter understands the unique responsibilities of New York, having engineered the Yankees’ transformation from American League East bottom-feeder to perennial contender from 1992-95. The primary question regarding Showalter is if he would be satisfied settling into more of a middle-manager type role, which is what the top dugout seat has become in Flushing and around the game.
Well before Beltrán’s retirement as a player, his name began popping up as a future manager. Now a special advisor for the Yankees, Beltrán seems destined for that role someday. The Mets, though, may prefer more experience in their front office. And Beltrán didn’t exactly leave Flushing on good terms with ownership, following miscommunication regarding his knee surgery in 2010. There’s a reason why many believe Beltrán, who played more games in Flushing than anywhere else, won’t go into the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap on his plaque.
Keeping with the theme of former players, Cone told the YES Network on Thursday that while he doesn’t know if the Mets have interest in him, “it’s not an interview I would turn down.” An analytical mind, Cone could be the Yankees’ answer to Aaron Boone -- a smart, affable former player well-versed in what it takes to win in New York.
As far as those with no big league managerial experience go, Rojas may have the best chance. A successful manager for eight years in the Mets’ Minor League ranks, Rojas joined the big league coaching staff this season and quickly gained the trust of both players and front-office staffers. Second baseman Robinson Canó, who is close with Van Wagenen, is particularly fond of Rojas, whose job as quality-control coach required him to serve as liaison between players and the front office. Even if the Mets don’t promote Rojas to manager, it’s possible they could install him as Jim Riggleman’s replacement at bench coach.
Many fans received their first exposure to DeFrancesco this September in a viral video of him announcing the team’s September callups. DeFrancesco has managed the Mets’ Triple-A affiliates in Syracuse and Las Vegas the past two seasons. Before that, he served as interim manager of the Astros in 2012. The Mets thought enough of the Suffern, N.Y., native to name him to their September coaching staff each of the past two years.
Robin Ventura, Joe McEwing, Edgardo Alfonzo
Lumping together three well-liked former Mets may be a little clumsy because all three are in different situations. Ventura, the former White Sox manager, declined to interview for the Mets’ job the last time it was open. Whether he’d be interested now remains unknown. McEwing did interview last time, but he lost out to Callaway. He was close with front-office advisor David Wright during his playing days, and hugely popular with fans. Also popular was Alfonzo, who led the Mets’ Class A Brooklyn affiliate to its first outright New York-Penn League title in September. Alfonzo is a strong candidate to continue jumping up the Mets coaching ladder, but it’s difficult to see him leapfrogging both Rojas and DeFrancesco this winter.
Matheny attended the University of Michigan, which is no small deal for Wolverine-loving Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon. He posted six consecutive winning seasons in St. Louis before the Cardinals fired him with a winning record last summer. They performed significantly better under interim Mike Shildt, who stuck around to lead the Cardinals to the playoffs this season.
Cora previously managed in the Mets farm system, and the team was interested in his brother, Alex, the last time they had an opening. He’s currently the third-base coach on Pittsburgh’s staff, but he has no big league managerial experience. The Pirates may be more likely to take a leap with Cora than the Mets.
A.J. Hinch, Joe Espada
A caveat: Hinch is under contract for the next three seasons, and there’s probably nothing the Mets can do to trade for one of the most successful managers in baseball today. That’s ironic, considering Hinch’s close friend and former agent, Van Wagenen, is the one who negotiated his contract for him. But that relationship could help Espada, Hinch’s bench coach who is rumored to be on the lists of multiple teams seeking a manager this winter.