Come Opening Day 2019, seven teams will have a different manager than the one they employed on Opening Day 2018. That will be the highest degree of turnover since 2011 (also seven).The Cardinals already skipped through the skipper-picking process by removing Mike Shildt's "interim" tag mere weeks after he replaced
Come Opening Day 2019, seven teams will have a different manager than the one they employed on Opening Day 2018. That will be the highest degree of turnover since 2011 (also seven).
The Cardinals already skipped through the skipper-picking process by removing Mike Shildt's "interim" tag mere weeks after he replaced Mike Matheny. But for six other squads, the search is on, and the sheer number of availabilities means there are several candidates in the mix with multiple teams. One or more of them could even wind up with his pick of jobs.
So let's take a look at each opportunity out there and subjectively rank them in order of basic desirability.
2018 record: 80-82
Rumored and/or known candidates: Brad Ausmus, Eric Chavez, Dino Ebel, Joe Espada, Joe McEwing, Josh Paul, Omar Vizquel, Brandon Hyde
Any job that requires writing Michael Trout's name in the lineup on a nightly basis is a pretty good one. That said, there will be pressure and challenges here, especially with Trout currently under wraps for only another two seasons. Injuries have eroded the pitching ranks (and that includes two-way talent Shohei Ohtani, whose Tommy John surgery removes him from the mound for 2019 and complicates his availability as a hitter). The shadow of the departed Mike Scioscia could loom large, and somebody -- soon -- is going to have to be the one to tell Jose Pujols it's time to take a drastically reduced role.
Again, though, you've got Mike Trout. And Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons. And some good young arms. And an aggressive general manager in Billy Eppler, who is going to try to get you some reliable rotation and bullpen arms and do right by Trout. You aso have a farm system that has improved considerably in recent years (as evidenced by three players -- Jo Adell, Griffin Canning and Brandon Marsh -- appearing on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list).
And if all else fails, the weather is nice.
2. Blue Jays
2018 record: 73-89
Rumored and/or known candidates: Sandy Alomar Jr., Rocco Baldelli, David Bell, Stubby Clapp, Mark DeRosa, Espada, Joe Girardi, John McDonald, Eduardo Perez, John Schneider, Rob Thompson, Eric Wedge
Whoever gets this job will have the privilege of being the first big-league skipper to write Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s name in the lineup, and that's the kind of player who can drastically accelerate a rebuilding project. Bo Bichette is not far behind. Toronto's farm system is solid.
But it's still going to take time in Toronto. The payroll is dropping (propped up only by the albatross contracts of Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin), the pitching is thin, and playing 38 games each season against the Red Sox and Yankees is brutal. What you know going in, however, is that when this club is ready to compete in 2020 or '21, the resources are there to spend big.
2018 record: 67-95
Rumored and/or known candidates: Ausmus, Baldelli, Freddie Benavides, Bell, John Farrell, Girardi, Billy Hatcher, Pat Kelly, Hensley Meulens, Charlie Montoyo, Tom Prince, Jim Riggleman
The Reds ranked in the middle of the pack in the NL in runs and OPS, but they were next-to-last in team ERA. So it's not hard to identify the primary area of need, and president of baseball operations Dick Williams has said publicly that the Reds are expecting to make significant additions to the payroll for 2019. The infield of Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett, Jose Peraza and Eugenio Suarez offers a very solid backbone for success, and Raisel Iglesias is a coveted closer. But young starters like Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo did not progress as much as hoped in '18, and an important developmental year for top prospect Nick Senzel, who could transition from the infield to the outfield, was derailed by injury issues.
So it's hard to say how close the Reds are to contention after four straight fifth-place finishes. With Votto entering his age-35 season, it will be interesting to see what Williams and GM Nick Krall land in the free-agent pitching market.
2018 record: 78-84
Rumored and/or known candidates: Alomar, Espada, Brandon Hyde, McDonald, Brad Mills, Jeff Pickler, Derek Shelton, Joel Skinner, Jayce Tingler
Seven months ago, this was a situation pointed firmly upward. The Twins had just surprisingly surged to a 2017 American League Wild Card spot. They made some seemingly solid offseason additions in the likes of Jake Odorizzi, Lance Lynn, Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney, and there was optimism that Byron Buxton was ready to be an MVP Award-caliber player.
Today, it's hard to say which way the arrow is pointing. The Twins were a bust in 2018, and most troubling of all were the steps backward for supposed linchpins Buxton and Miguel Sano. But with a ton of payroll flexibility, top prospect Nick Gordon nearing readiness, young players like Jose Berrios and Eddie Rosario offering optimism, and a division loaded with rebuilders (the White Sox, Tigers and Royals) who can pad a win total, it's not impossible to envision a competitive effort as soon as '19.
2018 record: 67-95
Rumored and/or known candidates: Espada, Girardi, Hyde, Jayce Tingler, Don Wakamatsu
Texas is not far removed from back-to-back AL West titles, but it's going to be a challenging road back to that status, to say the least. Their rotation put up a 5.42 ERA this year and has to be basically started over from scratch (and the Rangers won't be big spenders this winter), with little to work with in the upper levels of the system. The lineup had just three regulars with OPS+ marks above league average (Joey Gallo, Shin-Soo Choo and Jurickson Profar).
So whoever gets this job is likely to have some of the same headaches Jeff Banister had in 2018. General manager Jon Daniels has talked about "re-establishing a foundation for a long-term sustainable model to win here for a long time," which is a very fancy way of saying the Rangers are rebuilding. It will be interesting to see how soon after the opening of Globe Life Field in 2020 the Rangers have the pieces back together, but '19 is almost certain to not be much fun.
2018 record: 47-115
Rumored and/or known candidates: No concrete reports, as the general manager search takes precedence, but the names of former O's player Mike Bordick and Minor League managers Gary Kendall and Ron Johnson are among those that have been floated
On the one hand, there is something to be said for entering a situation with no/low expectations. Baltimore will be a breeding ground for unproven players, so perhaps this will be a job reserved for an unproven skipper to learn and grow.
But you're not going to win here in 2019. And given the overall state of the O's farm system, the transition taking place at the very top (with the Angelos brothers, John and Louis, having taken over the operational reins from their father, Peter, and a general manager search ongoing) and the difficulty of life in the AL East, there's no telling when this club will be in position to win again.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.