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All four open MLB manager positions have now been filled. Which new hires will be in the best positions to succeed with their new teams?
Major League Baseball’s lockout is almost a month old and while there have not been any free-agent signings, every managerial position has finally been filled.
The St. Louis Cardinals, who abruptly and unexpectedly fired Mike Shildt, hired first-time manager Oli Marmol. The San Diego Padres replaced Jayce Tingler with Bob Melvin, a move that has drawn widespread praise throughout the industry. The New York Mets hired Buck Showalter, who was widely regarded as the favorite for the position after Luis Rojas was fired. The Oakland A’s hired Mark Kotsay, who spent six seasons learning and studying under Melvin.
Here are my rankings and thoughts on each hire.
Which new MLB manager is in the best position to succeed?
1. Bob Melvin, San Diego Padres
I was walking around Truist Park in Atlanta, Georgia preparing to cover my first World Series when word of the Padres hiring Melvin as manager leaked. My first reaction was, “Holy (expletive).”
My next reaction was “Wow, what a great hire.”
After first-time managers Andy Green and Jayce Tingler did not work out, the Padres needed someone with experience and credibility to guide them through their most important seasons in franchise history. They could not have hired a better person for the job than Melvin. Melvin, 60, routinely exceeded expectations with a small market, low budget Oakland A’s team, making the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and having a winning percentage of at least .531 in that span.
Now, Melvin takes over a Padres clubhouse that was fractured in the final months of Tingler’s tenure. The team views him as the manager who can repair that clubhouse and finally put them in position to compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. His ability to build relationships and connect with players, combined with his in-game strategy and previous track record, have general manager A.J. Preller and club officials confident that Melvin will quickly vault them into World Series contention.
After all, if he was able to consistently get the A’s and their $71.9 million payroll to the playoffs, just imagine what he can do with Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and a $140+ million payroll.
2. Buck Showalter, New York Mets
In the first days of Steve Cohen’s tenure as Mets owner, he made it clear that he does not want to pay for people to learn on the job. So when the team fired Luis Rojas as manager, the expectation was that he would prefer someone with previous managerial experience. Then Buck Showalter quickly emerged as the favorite for the job.
Showalter, 65, has 20 years of experience as a manager and has previously managed in New York. He has worked under a demanding owner (the late George Steinbrenner) and won’t be fazed by Cohen demanding a World Series in 3-5 years. He has built an organization from the ground up (Diamondbacks) and managed in undesirable situations (Baltimore).
In Arizona, Showalter had Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson. In New York, Showalter now has Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, two sure-fire Hall of Famers, and a roster that includes Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha, among others. There will be expectations, and a lot of them, for Showalter to win immediately.
There are some concerns that Showalter is too old, too far removed from managing (he hasn’t managed since 2018) and won’t adapt to the analytical era. We don’t know if that’s true. But if you ask Showalter, he will tell you: “I’ve always been spongeful with information, to a fault. If you think that I’m going to let somebody beat us by having better analytical information, you don’t know me very well.”
3. Oli Marmol, St. Louis Cardinals
When the Cardinals fired Mike Shildt, Marmol emerged as the immediate favorite to replace him as manager. While he has never managed in the majors (he managed 493 games in the minors), people around the team have praised his communication skills and his willingness to adapt to the modern, data-driven game, something the organization is optimistic will put its players in better positions throughout the season.
In his introductory press conference, Marmol said that he will specifically use the data to help with in-game decisions, lineup constructions (example: more platoons) and bullpen usage. But he will be learning on the job with a team that has playoff — and perhaps World Series aspirations — in what is expected to be Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright’s final seasons.
There will be ups and downs. How Marmol, 35, deals with them and overcomes them, especially when he is younger than both Molina and Wainwright, will be key in ensuring the Cardinals meet those expectations. How will Marmol and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak work together and will they not have the same “philosophical differences” that resulted in Shildt being let go after the wild-card game?
Those are just a few of the questions surrounding Marmol in his first year as manager. The Cardinals know him better than anyone, as he has been in the organization since 2007 and spent the last five seasons on the major-league coaching staff, and are confident that he was the right person for the job.
4. Mark Kotsay, Oakland A’s
I believe that Kotsay has a chance to be a very good manager, but unlike the previous three managers, he is taking over a team that appears destined for an extensive rebuild.
After the lockout, the A’s are prepared to listen to trade inquiries on almost every player, including first baseman Matt Olson, right-handers Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt and left-hander Sean Manaea. There is a realistic chance that at least two of them are traded before Opening Day. But the A’s, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported, will not cut payroll to a miniscule $40 million.
They do not intend to tank. That is not a strategy that Billy Beane and David Forst have ever adopted, and something they are unlikely to ever consider. Rosenthal reported that one possibility is that they sign a plethora of players to one-year contracts to 1) remain competitive and 2) collect assets to potentially further stock the farm system at the trade deadline.
It would allow the A’s to stay somewhat competitive and avoid being in the same conversations as, say, the Baltimore Orioles and Colorado Rockies. They just are unlikely to be serious contenders for at least the next couple seasons as they undergo this transition period, and Kotsay seemingly understood that before taking the job. Heck, it’s a big part of why the job was open in the first place.