Like bananas, flowers and carrots, managerial openings come in bunches in MLB these days. There were six of them after the 2017 season, another six after the 2018 season and eight of them after the just-completed 2019 season.
One of the eight skipper spots has been filled by Joe Maddon’s return to his Angels roots. But as the World Series looms, there are still interviews being conducted, with several examples of the same guy going for multiple jobs.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the seven remaining openings, and the pros and cons that a discerning managerial candidate must consider with each one.
2019 record: 84-78 (3rd in National League Central)
You’re replacing: Joe Maddon (471-339 in five seasons with CHC)
Pros: Though this club fell flat again this year, there is certainly enough talent on the Major League roster that you don’t have to squint hard at all to see a contender in 2020. The front office is highly motivated to kick things back into gear and to be more progressive in terms of technological adaptation at every level. And, of course, the allure of managing one of baseball’s most supported franchises in one of its two most hallowed ballparks sells itself.
Cons: No matter how polished, professional and experienced you might be, you’re replacing a guy in Maddon who was generally a master at handling the media and absorbing and overcoming the inevitable controversies and distractions that come with a 162-game schedule. Fan angst is at a high point given the way the past two seasons ended abruptly, the rotation is old and the farm system was raided by trades and graduations, lessening the margin for error in a market where nothing goes unnoticed. Oh, and Kris Bryant is a free agent in two seasons, just so you know.
2019 record: 77-85 (3rd in NL West)
You’re replacing: Bruce Bochy (1,052-1,054 in 13 seasons with SFG)
Pros: A supportive fan base in a big market means there could be opportunity to make significant additions in the not-too-distant future, and after season loss totals of 98, 89 and 85 the past three years, expectations are necessarily tempered for 2020, so even flirting with .500 would be considered a success in your first season. Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is one of the brightest minds in the game, and we have every reason to suspect that he can successfully reshape the roster.
Cons: You’re replacing a legend in Bochy, so, while the bar might not be set high for '20, three titles in a decade is a pretty steep organizational precedent. The upper levels of the farm system are not stocked with what is considered to be elite talent, so there’s no telling how long the aforementioned roster recalibration might need to take real shape. Zaidi’s general manager and managerial searches are taking place concurrently, so at the moment it’s unclear who you’ll be working closely with or what the power dynamic might be moving forward.
2019 record: 86-76 (3rd in NL East)
You’re replacing: Mickey Callaway (163-161 in two seasons with NYM)
Pros: A team that for the past few years has put too much hope and emphasis on its potentially great rotation now finally has the legit offensive cornerstones to be a viable NL contender. Though the farm system took a hit with the aggressive bid to make the 2019 team a contender, it still has enough talent to feel comfortable with the long-term ability to fill some needs internally. And while working in New York is its own animal, succeeding in New York is a reward like few others.
Cons: Look, things can get messy with the Mets. This isn’t the smoothest ship on the MLB waters, and the tabloids are quick to recognize any ripples in the water. You’d better bring your "A" game from a game-management perspective, and you’d better understand -- as Callaway apparently didn’t -- that even when you’re winning, media members are going to pick at (and spotlight) any negatives. That’s life in the big city. Furthermore, Brodie Van Wagenen’s approach to the GM job is still very much under scrutiny after his aggression in the both the winter and midsummer went unrewarded, so it’s hard to say if the margins of the roster will be accurately addressed.
2019 record: 70-92 (5th in NL West)
You’re replacing: Andy Green (274-366 in four seasons with SD)
Pros: First off, have you ever been to San Diego? Yeah, I mean, come on. But as far as the baseball is concerned, the arrow is certainly pointed upward here, with a rich farm system, a strong nucleus at the big league level with Manny Machado entering his age-27 season, and Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack entering their sophomore years, among other pieces. This team hasn’t been competitive in a decade and hasn’t been to the playoffs in 14 years or the World Series in 21, so even finishing above .500 will earn you praise.
Cons: With so much money already committed to Machado, Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer, is this club going to expand the payroll enough to adequately address other problem areas on the roster? And while the farm system is undeniably strong, how long will it take to build a legitimate, postseason-caliber starting rotation? Trying to compete with a rich Dodgers team loaded at both the big league and Minor League levels is no picnic, even if San Diego is a lovely place to have a picnic.
2019 record: 81-81 (4th in NL East)
You’re replacing: Gabe Kapler (161-163 in two seasons with PHI)
Pros: This is another market where your legend can grow quickly if you win, and a roster with Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Andrew McCutchen and Aaron Nola, among others, can most certainly win -- provided health cooperates a bit better than it did in ’19. Ownership’s commitment to building a winner was made quite evident last offseason, and consecutive second-half fades have everybody on board hungry to take the next step.
Cons: After ownership forced the front office’s hand in the replacement of the hitting coach and then the manager, is greater discord on the doorstep here? Furthermore, does this team legitimately have the infrastructure to justify the big expenditures at the top of the roster, or are you entering a scenario in which even an average rate of injury and ineffectiveness sullies the season? Do the aforementioned second-half slides mean the law of averages should aid the next skipper, or are they a systemic issue that a mere managerial change can’t fix?
2019 record: 69-93 (5th in NL Central)
You’re replacing: Clint Hurdle (735-720 in nine seasons with PIT)
Pros: Let’s be honest: After particularly miserable finishes to the 2018 and '19 seasons (and four straight losing seasons overall), it’s a low bar for what is considered a success here. The farm system, while deservedly not ranked among the top 10 in the game, does have some tools and upside, and the Major League roster is not devoid of young talent, given what we saw from Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman this season.
Cons: This club had a lot of clubhouse discord in '19, and those issues don’t necessarily resolve themselves overnight. There isn’t much ceiling with this big league roster, and there is no indication that external investment is coming anytime soon. Because the pipeline, personnel and general philosophies toward pitching approach and trade evaluation have all fallen flat in recent years, very real and pressing questions pervade this organization, and it’s never a comfortable feeling when the person who hires you could find himself in the crosshairs before long.
2019 record: 59-103 (4th in American League Central)
You’re replacing: Ned Yost (746-839 in 10 seasons with KC)
Pros: Between Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler, Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier, there’s a fun positional player core in place here. As far as the system is concerned, a recent change in Draft strategy seems to be reaping results in the low levels, and the Royals are getting results from their pitching prospects. So the overall outlook could improve in the not-too-distant future.
Cons: The Royals, simply put, are a long way from competing. And with an ownership change being finalized, there’s really no telling what changes might be afoot in terms of personnel or budget or approach. It’s a time of general uncertainty, with not much immediate help looming in the upper levels of the farm system.