Could Ryne Sandberg be the Philadelphia Phillies' manager in 2013?
Probably not, because Charlie Manuel is under contract to be the Phillies' skipper next season and the team likely doesn't want to eat the reported $3.75 million he's set to be paid in the final year of his contract.
However, the fact that the Phillies haven't offered Manuel a contract extension beyond next year could be a sign of the team's future intentions. The typical move made in this situation is to offer a manager at least a one-year extension so that he doesn't look like a "lame duck" whose job status gives him little authority.
Yet according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, Sandberg is highly regarded within the Phillies organization. The former Chicago Cubs second baseman is currently the skipper for Philadelphia's Triple-A Lehigh Valley team and could be a popular candidate to fill some managerial openings around MLB next year.
If the Phillies view Sandberg as their manager of the future, can they afford to leave him out there for another team to hire?
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledges that there's "nothing to be done" if Sandberg wants to take a big league managing job next year. But the hope in the organization seems to be for Sandberg to bide his time for one more season and take over in the Phillies dugout for 2014.
Is Sandberg willing to wait one more year for his first major league managing job? He worked his way through the Cubs' minor league organization for four years, showing that he was willing to pay his dues and prove his merit as a manager.
There was no payoff, however, as Sandberg was passed over for Mike Quade when Lou Piniella retired as Cubs manager in 2010. Disappointed at not getting a promotion and not seeing much of a future for himself with the Cubs, Sandberg took a job with the Phillies to be their Triple-A manager.
How many major league teams will be looking for new managers next year?
The Houston Astros will definitely have an opening after firing Brad Mills and finishing the season with interim manager Tony DeFrancesco. The Boston Red Sox will almost certainly fire Bobby Valentine when the regular season ends.
Valentine's firing could create a vacancy in Toronto if the Red Sox pursue Blue Jays manager John Farrell. The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reports that Farrell, who was a pitching coach for four years under Terry Francona, is the Red Sox's top choice to replace Valentine.
Sandberg would be a good candidate for any of those jobs. He might be especially appealing for the Astros since he has so much experience managing developing players in the minor leagues.
Nothing has apparently been promised to Sandberg by the Phillies. Amaro's "nothing to be done" comment virtually confirms that. Sandberg's experience with the Cubs also surely taught him that there's no such thing as a chain of succession when it comes to teams hiring managers. A "manager-in-waiting" is often left waiting.
So if Sandberg has a chance at an opportunity elsewhere, he will almost certainly take it. There just aren't that many major league managing jobs available.
Yet Sandberg might also realize that the best job will open up for him in 2014 if Manuel retires after his contract runs out. If Sandberg is viewed as favorably within the Phillies organization as Heyman reports, waiting might be the best move for him. He'll likely have a contending team to manage and a general manager behind him who wants to keep winning.
But the Phillies shouldn't panic and give Sandberg the job for 2013 because they're worried about losing him. Manuel is a proven commodity who managed five consecutive first-place teams and led the Phillies to back-to-back World Series.
Perhaps there was some thought that Manuel shouldn't be back next season when the Phillies were one of the most disappointing teams in baseball. Now that the team has played itself into contention for an NL wild-card playoff spot, however, he's shown that he can still manage capably with a healthy roster.
Manuel has earned the right to finish out his contract. He's arguably earned an extension, but perhaps views next season as his last. Letting Manuel go out on his terms and lead a Phillies team that should be improved and a contender in the NL East next year is the right move.
If that means losing Sandberg, so be it. But the right move for him might be to stick around in the organization for just one more year.
Putting Sandberg on Manuel's coaching staff next year might be a nice assurance for his future, however. Why not ensure a smooth transition?
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