HOUSTON -- Cubs third-base coach Will Venable will be the third candidate to interview to become the Astros’ new manager when he meets Friday morning with owner Jim Crane at Minute Maid Park, a source confirmed to MLB.com. The Chicago Sun-Times was the first to report Venable was interviewing.
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 former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons on Thursday, according to reports. Hinch and president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow were dismissed Monday after MLB suspended them one year for their roles in the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme.
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 University before spending nine years as a player in the big leagues, including eight with the Padres. He was named special assistant to Cubs president Theo Epstein in 2017 and served as the Cubs' first-base coach in 2018 and ’19 before shifting over to third prior to this season.
A source told MLB.com the Astros would like to have a manager in place by Feb. 1 before the club turns its attention to finding a new general manager. The other names on the Astros’ working list of candidates to replace Hinch are skippers Bruce Bochy and Dusty Baker, former Rangers manager Jeff Banister and Dodgers special assistant Raúl Ibañez. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Thursday that Bochy isn’t planning to pursue any current openings.
The Red Sox have a managerial opening after parting ways with manager Alex Cora -- the Astros’ bench coach in 2017 -- on Tuesday for his role in the sign-stealing controversy, and the Mets did the same with manager Carlos Beltran on Thursday. Beltran, who was hired to manage the Mets in November, was the only player mentioned in the nine-page report issued by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday.
Here’s a closer look at some of the candidates to take over as manager:
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 postseason. Baker is highly respected in the game, with 1,863 career wins, but his struggles 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 AL West titles in his first two years. The Astros wrestled control of the division away from the Rangers 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 '18 season.
Joe Espada (Astros bench coach): Espada, 43, would make a smooth transition into the managerial chair after serving as Hinch’s bench coach the past 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 past 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 '14 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 AL Championship Series 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 postseason 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): Venable, 37, played basketball and baseball at Princeton University 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.