Over the years, we have seen former big league players make the transition to become Major League managers. Take Rays manager Kevin Cash, for example: He never played regularly during his seven years in the Majors, but baseball people admired his knowledge for the game and how he dealt with analytics. Today, he is considered one of the best managers in baseball. In the last two years, in fact, Cash has finished in the top three in the American League Manager of the Year voting.
This week, we ask our AL East beat writers to pick a future manager for each of the five teams in the division. These future managers must be current players. The reporters don’t know when that day will arrive, but if the cards fall right, any one of these players could be big league managers after their playing careers are over.
Blue Jays: 2B Cavan Biggio
Even as a rookie in 2019, Biggio quickly established himself as a leader in the Blue Jays' clubhouse, earning the respect of young players and veterans alike. Behind closed doors, Biggio has held teammates accountable and picked the right moments to make his voice heard, which can be a difficult balance. We often lump the Blue Jays’ three young stars together, but it’s interesting to see the group’s complementary roles emerging. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may collect the home run crowns and Bo Bichette could very well be the face of the franchise, but it’s Biggio who will be looked to as the (sometimes) quiet leader who speaks for the team. It’s not hard to picture him with a lineup card in his hand down the road. -- Keegan Matheson
Orioles: Catcher Bryan Holaday
There aren’t many obvious candidates on the young and inexperienced Orioles, who remain focused on youth and development during this still-early stage in their rebuild. But perhaps best fitting the bill is Bryan Holaday, a non-roster invitee this spring who was vying to make the team when camp was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Holaday, 32, has developed a reputation as a strong receiver and game-caller over parts of eight MLB seasons as a backup catcher, and had drawn praise in Orioles camp for his communication and leadership abilities. A veteran with his fifth organization, Holaday was brought in to provide an experienced hand for the Orioles’ many young pitchers. It stands to reason he could utilize those skills as an instructor down the road. -- Joe Trezza
Rays: Catcher Mike Zunino
It’s not just because he’s a catcher. (Fine, maybe a little bit.) But aside from that, Zunino does have several traits that would make him a good manager. He has strong communication skills, especially with a pitching staff, and served as a veteran voice in the Rays’ clubhouse in 2019 despite having a subpar season at the plate. Zunino has also been a calming influence for the Rays, which is something a manager needs during a 162-game season. He would also be willing to adopt analytics and all the new strategies that have been introduced to the game. Zunino is only 29, so this wouldn’t happen anytime soon, but it shouldn’t surprise people to see the Rays' catcher in a manager’s office in the future. -- Juan Toribio
Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia
At this point, it is iffy at best if Pedroia will ever play again, thanks to a left knee that has given him nothing but trouble for three years. However, there is no doubt that Pedroia will wear a uniform again. He lives, eats, breathes and sleeps baseball, and his passion could one day land him in a dugout as a manager. Pedroia has several traits that would make him a top manager, starting with his smarts for the game. Whether it is offense, baserunning or defense, his instincts and intelligence have always been off the charts. Another ingredient he clearly possesses is fire. Pedroia has long known which buttons to push to get the most out of his teammates. And with an outgoing and confident personality, Pedroia would certainly have no problem dealing with the daily media briefings every manager has. -- Ian Browne
Yankees: OF Brett Gardner
The longest-tenured player in Yankees pinstripes, Gardner has served as a frequent sounding board in the clubhouse and dugout for managers Joe Girardi and Aaron Boone over the last decade-plus, helping his teams forge a strong connection between the coaching staff and the players.
While Gardner is focused on finishing his playing career and might prefer a quiet retirement of hunting and fishing in the woods of South Carolina, Boone has said that he believes Gardner's work ethic would translate well to the challenges of being a big league manager. Gardner has also taken well to helping younger players, citing Johnny Damon's example when Gardner was trying to establish himself as a regular. -- Bryan Hoch