SAN DIEGO -- For the first time in four years, there's a managerial opening in San Diego. The Padres parted ways with manager Andy Green on Saturday, sparking a search for a new skipper that will extend into the offseason.
The job is a bit more appealing than it was when Green was hired in 2015. The Padres expect no shortage of high-profile candidates.
"Big-picture wise, we think we're in a good place," general manager A.J. Preller said. "It's an attractive job. It's a system that's very talented. We've got young players like Fernando Tatis, Chris Paddack, that have shown they belong. ... We've got more guys of a similar ilk coming through the system. We're optimistic. We're excited. But we're realistic that we've got some real steps to take."
Arguably the most important step is hiring the right manager to carry the club into its window for contention. Here's an early look at some of the potential candidates.
1) Joe Maddon
The Cubs' skipper remains in the thick of a tight National League Wild Card race. But Maddon is in the final year of his contract, and his club has fallen three games back with seven left to play. Chicago could move on from Maddon after the season, and if that happens, he would become one of the frontrunners for the Padres' job.
With both Tampa Bay and Chicago, Maddon has taken young talent and turned underperforming franchises into perennial contenders. With the Cubs, it resulted in a World Series.
2) Rod Barajas
Barajas has spent six seasons in the Padres' organization and the last three as the manager at Triple-A El Paso before he was promoted to bench coach this year. On Saturday, he took over as interim manager, and there's every reason to believe he'll be in the mix for the full-time job. Barajas has already developed extensive relationships with a number of the Padres' young players, and he led El Paso to three consecutive division titles and the 2016 Pacific Coast League title. A 14-year big league catcher, Barajas has long been regarded as a potential manager.
"That was always something that was one of the goals," Barajas said Saturday. "But that wasn’t on my mind. I’m sure in the offseason when I get to reflect a little bit, I can sit down, I can talk about it."
3) Moises Alou
Another in-house candidate, Alou has served as a special assistant to Preller, and he's played an important role in cultivating one of the sport's top farm systems. A 17-year big leaguer, Alou has long been rumored as a managerial candidate. It's unclear whether he'd take the job, but sources have indicated the Padres are interested.
4) Bruce Bochy
Bochy -- who is one of 11 managers in history with 2,000 wins and who skippered the Padres to the 1998 pennant -- is slated to retire after the season. After three World Series titles in San Francisco, he's a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Before the Giants' game against the Braves on Saturday afternoon, Bochy was asked about the opening.
"I'm not even going there," he said. "Again, I'm concentrating here right now. ... That's the last thing on my mind."
5) Joe Girardi
Another manager with a World Series pedigree on this list. That's not a coincidence. Multiple people familiar with the Padres' thinking have noted the importance of big-game experience in their next hire. The club won't rule out candidates without it. But it's clearly going to be viewed in a very positive light.
Girardi managed the Yankees for 10 seasons -- he finished 200 games above .500 and took home the 2009 World Series. A year ago, after he was dismissed by New York, Girardi was rumored for nearly every opening. That's sure to be the same this winter.
6) Mark Loretta
If not Maddon, why not his bench coach? Loretta is still regarded very highly in the Padres' organization. He spent three seasons manning second base in San Diego, batting .314 in that span as part of an impressive 15-year big league career.
After his retirement, Loretta rejoined the Padres as a special assistant in baseball operations, and he spent nine years in that role before joining Maddon's staff. Like Alou, Loretta has no prior managerial experience.