These coaches could fit as Royals' next manager

October 12th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- While postseason baseball is in full swing, Royals brass is in Arizona for meetings with their pro scouts and other executives, mapping out the offseason and focusing in 2023.

At the top of the agenda is filling the managerial vacancy.

The Royals are not the only team looking for a new manager, with the White Sox, Marlins and Rangers all conducting managerial searches so far this offseason. That could mean Kansas City needs to move quickly, although executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager J.J. Picollo indicated last week that he won't rush the search.

Here are six candidates who could fit in Kansas City:

1. Pedro Grifol, Royals bench coach

Grifol interviewed for the Marlins' managerial opening on Tuesday, a source confirmed to, and he’s also a candidate for the White Sox job. The 52-year-old has been a candidate for multiple managerial opportunities in the past. He’s spent the past three seasons as the Royals’ bench coach after holding a variety of titles on the Major League staff, including quality control/catching coach, hitting coach and special assignment coach.

Would Grifol prefer heading home to manage a young Miami club or remain with Kansas City, an organization he’s been with for 10 years? He’s especially close with catcher Salvador Perez and the Latino players in the Royals’ system. Kansas City is looking for someone who is analytically driven and can communicate with players to build trust; Grifol certainly fits that bill.

2. Matt Quatraro, Rays bench coach

Given their success at every level and their innovative approach to winning on a budget, the Rays’ front office, coaches and staff are often in demand during the offseason. Quatraro has spent the last four seasons as the Rays’ bench coach after serving as their third-base coach for one year. The 48-year-old has spent 27 seasons in professional baseball, including 18 as a coach, manager or instructor and nine as a Major League coach. He was also Cleveland’s assistant hitting coach from 2014-16, which lines up with Royals owner John Sherman’s time in Cleveland.

Quatraro interviewed for the Mets and A’s managerial openings last year. If Sherman wants his organization to be more like the Rays with data driving decisions, it would make sense for Picollo to look at Quatraro to lead the big league club.

3. Clayton McCullough, Dodgers first-base coach

McCullough had Minor League managerial experience in the Blue Jays organization before he became the Dodgers’ Minor League field coordinator ahead of the 2015 season. This is his second season on the Dodgers' coaching staff, and he interviewed for the Mets manager opening last year. He’s praised for his game-planning, knowledge of the game and relatability with players, given he's 42 years old.

McCullough is on the coaching staff of a perennial World Series contender and dominant National League team. Having a manager who can bring that winning culture into the Royals’ clubhouse is key for the organization. Plus, his dad, Howard, is a part-time amateur scout for the Royals.

4. Joe Espada, Astros bench coach

Like Grifol, Espada’s name has come up every time there’s a managerial vacancy. The 47-year-old Puerto Rican is as well-rounded of a candidate as any. After retiring as a player in 2006 -- he did spend '02 with the Royals’ Triple-A team -- Espada spent eight seasons coaching in the Marlins organization, from Minor League hitting coach to Major League third-base coach. He was a pro scout with the Yankees, as well as their third-base coach. He’s been the Astros' bench coach since '18 and also serves as their infield coordinator.

Espada has interviewed for at least seven managerial jobs during his Astros tenure. He’ll be a candidate for all four that are already open this offseason, and he figures to be a favorite in Houston if Dusty Baker does not return.

5. Vance Wilson, Royals third-base coach

Grifol and Wilson are the two internal candidates the Royals named publicly. A former catcher, Wilson just finished his fifth year on the Royals' Major League coaching staff and third as the club’s third-base coach. He was previously the bullpen coach and has Minor League manager experience with Class A Kane County in 2011, Class A Advanced Wilmington from '12-13 and Double-A Northwest Arkansas from '14-17.

Wilson, 49, has been building his managerial candidacy for quite some time and knows the game well, and he spent ‘22 working with the Royals’ young infielders. That familiarity should help him in his interview.

6. Dusty Wathan, Phillies third-base coach

Wathan doesn’t have big league managing experience, but he has just about everything else. Plus, he has history with the Royals: His dad, John, just retired following a 51-year baseball career that included 47 years with the Royals, including five as manager. Dusty played in the Royals’ organization for a year, reaching the big leagues for three games. And he’s with the Phillies, an organization with which Picollo -- a Philadelphia native -- is close.

Wathan, 48, managed 10 seasons in the Phillies’ Minor League system before joining the big league coaching staff in ‘18. He’s been on the big league staff under three managers now, including Rob Thomson, who had his interim tag removed on Monday. Wathan is praised within the industry for his baseball mind and how he can communicate with players. The Wathan name means a lot in Kansas City, but Dusty’s resumé speaks for itself.