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Pirates embark on first manager search since '10

September 30, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- For the first time since the winter of 2010, the Pirates are searching for a new manager. After dismissing Clint Hurdle before Sunday’s season finale, general manager Neal Huntington said Pittsburgh’s front office will create a list of managerial candidates and meet with them as they seek a

PITTSBURGH -- For the first time since the winter of 2010, the Pirates are searching for a new manager.

After dismissing Clint Hurdle before Sunday’s season finale, general manager Neal Huntington said Pittsburgh’s front office will create a list of managerial candidates and meet with them as they seek a “new voice” in their clubhouse.

“We’re not going out looking for one specific thing or one specific person. We’re going out to find the next, best manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates,” Huntington said. “Part of the process is learning new people. Part of the process is learning from the process. We’ll be looking internally. We’ll be looking externally.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a partial list of potential candidates for the Pirates to consider.

Internal candidates

Jeff Banister, special assistant

Banister, 55, must initially be considered the leading internal option to replace Hurdle. He’s more familiar with the organization than anyone, having spent 30 years with the Pirates in various roles, and he was a finalist for the job when Hurdle was hired.

He has previous coaching and managerial experience, as he served as the Rangers' skipper from 2015-18. During that time, Texas won two division titles and Banister won the 2015 American League Manager of the Year Award.

Banister returned to Pittsburgh this season to work as a special assistant in the front office, but he remained close to the clubhouse. He spent time with the big league team early in the year, did a wide-ranging tour of the Minor League system during the summer and rejoined the Major League club late in the season.

There will be questions about his candidacy considering he was dismissed by the Rangers late in the 2018 season, when general manager Jon Daniels said they were also seeking a “new voice” in their dugout. And it’s fair to wonder if his viewpoint is different enough considering his history here. But Banister learned a great deal from his time in Texas, and he is held in high esteem by the Pirates.

“If somebody believes that I have the skill set to help their team,” Banister said when the Pirates visited Texas in late April, “obviously I have to listen.”

Tom Prince, bench coach

Prince is certainly qualified for the role. He’s spent 36 years in professional baseball and 26 of them in Pittsburgh’s organization. He’s been a Minor League field coordinator, a Minor League manager and a big league bench coach. He’s earned the respect of Pittsburgh’s players and staff.

And he wants to be a Major League manager, even if he wasn’t particularly eager to talk about it the day his friend and colleague was let go.

The most obvious pushback against Prince would be that the 55-year-old doesn’t represent a significant enough change in direction. He was there alongside Hurdle for all the Pirates’ in-fighting and losing streaks during the second half of this season.

Joey Cora, third-base coach

The Pirates might dismiss several members of their coaching staff this week, with the new manager then deciding what to do with any returning coaches, but perhaps they’ll ask Cora to go through the managerial interview process. Cora, the brother of Red Sox manager Alex, has previously been considered for managerial jobs and served as the Double-A skipper in Pittsburgh’s system before being promoted to the Major League staff.

Outside hires

Derek Shelton, Twins bench coach

The 49-year-old Shelton is currently working under Rocco Baldelli for the AL Central-winning Twins, even though Shelton was passed over for Minnesota’s managerial job. He also interviewed for the Rangers' job that ultimately went to Chris Woodward. Shelton worked with Huntington when they were both with the Indians.

Shelton possesses the requisite experience. He managed for three years in the Yankees’ Minor League system, he was a hitting coach for the Indians and Rays, and the former Minor League catcher is receptive to new-school baseball thinking.

Joe McEwing, White Sox bench coach

McEwing, 46, is a veteran of the managerial interview process. He was considered for the Cardinals' job in the offseason of 2011 before becoming the third-base coach with the White Sox. He interviewed with the D-backs, Rangers and Twins during the ’14 offseason, and he interviewed with the Mets and Tigers after the ’17 season.

Sam Fuld, Phillies Major League Player Information Coordinator

This might be a longshot, considering the 37-year-old has no experience as a coach or manager. But the former outfielder, a cult hero with the Rays, is a student of analytics with a friendly disposition. Fuld once interned with STATS, Inc. and graduated from Stanford University as an economics major. If the Pirates are thinking outside the box for 2020 and beyond, Fuld would be an interesting fit.

Fuld drew interest from the Rangers and Blue Jays last offseason, but he ultimately stayed put in Philadelphia, where he translates the Phillies’ analytical research into usable information for players and coaches.

Dusty Wathan, Phillies third-base coach

Wathan, 46, has a baseball pedigree as the son of John Wathan, a former Major League player and manager. He has the necessary Minor League managerial experience, too, having worked his way up the system. He was a finalist for the Phillies' job that went to Gabe Kapler two years ago.

Vance Wilson, Royals bullpen coach

Wilson, 46, has generated some buzz with Kansas City’s managerial post now open following the retirement of Ned Yost. The former catcher began his Minor League managerial career in 2010 and worked his way up until he was named the Royals' bullpen coach in November 2017.

Fun to think about, but…

Don Kelly, Astros first-base coach

He’s from Pittsburgh, he’s worked as a scout, and he’s currently employed by the Astros, who are at the forefront of the Majors’ analytical revolution. What’s not to like? But the Pirates might not want to put that kind of pressure on a local product in his first managerial job, much less a 39-year-old with no coaching experience before this season.

Carlos Beltran, Yankees special assistant

Beltran, 42, has expressed a desire to manage in the future and would presumably be thrilled to lead Roberto Clemente’s team as a fellow native of Puerto Rico. The 20-year MLB veteran interviewed for the Yankees' job that went to Aaron Boone, but that made a little more sense considering his family is based in New York and he previously played there.

Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon, former MLB managers

Their names will come up in every search, but the two World Series winners can presumably name their place and price when they’re ready to manage again. Maddon, a proud Pennsylvania native, will be linked to the now-vacant Angels job given his history with that organization.