5 MLB Teams Terry Francona Could Turn into Instant Contenders in 2013

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2012

5 MLB Teams Terry Francona Could Turn into Instant Contenders in 2013

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    As the season comes to a close, managerial firings are just around the corner for under-performing teams who were expected to contend this season and are looking to right the ship next season.

    Assuming Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre stay in their current roles, former Red Sox manager and current ESPN announcer Terry Francona represents perhaps the best managerial option on the market, should he decide to return to the dugout.

    He interviewed for the Cardinals job last season, so there is a good chance he is interested in managing again in the right situation. Here are five teams that could make sense for Francona, as his addition could make them immediate contenders.

Detroit Tigers

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    One of two teams he has been speculatively linked to early on (h/t Jon Heyman of CBSSports), the Tigers may represent Francona's best chance to step in and lead a team to a title immediately.

    Current skipper Jim Leyland has opted to go year to year on his contract, so the team could opt to part ways with him after the season, especially if their star-powered lineup fails to make the postseason.

    Leyland's commitment to Jose Valverde as his closer has drawn the ire of fans all season, and if he blows some key saves between now and the end of the season, that could be their reason for cutting ties.

    Francona has dealt with a roster of stars before in Boston, and while the Tigers have their roster holes, they have the foundation to be a serious contender for years to come. 

Cleveland Indians

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    The other team Francona was linked to (h/t Jon Heyman), the Indians are a far bigger reclamation project than the Tigers would be, as they have been a massive disappointment this season and currently sit in last place in the AL Central at 61-88.

    Their roster could essentially be a complete tear down and rebuild, with Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana being options as building blocks.

    The pitching staff needs a complete overhaul, and the team could look to deal Justin Masterson and decline Ubaldo Jimenez's option if they really want to start over. 

    Still, the option of being able to build a team the way he wants from the ground up could appeal to Francona, and in a perennially weak AL Central, the Indians could contend sooner rather than later if they make the right moves.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Signed though 2018, the Angels have shown consistent support in manager Mike Scioscia, and a few weeks back, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto backed his manager following a tough loss (h/t L.A. Times).

    That said, the Angels put themselves in a position where they have to win now after spending big on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and raising the team's payroll north of $150 million.

    They're currently in third place in their own division and 3.5 games out of a playoff spot, as they have an uphill battle if they are going to make the playoffs this season.

    Scioscia and Francona both fall under the umbrella of being a player's manager, so bringing in Francona would not be all that major of a shakeup, but it could be enough to push a talented roster over the top in the American League, as anything short of the World Series is a disappointment for the Angels at this point.

Miami Marlins

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    The only National League team on this list, the Marlins entered the year with lofty expectations, as they looked to open their new stadium in style by signing high-price free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell and bringing in outspoken White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

    The team struggled mightily, though, and they sold big at the deadline in an attempt to restock what was a very thin farm system. They did so by moving the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.

    Guillen made headlines once again this year for the wrong reasons, first for some comments in support of Fidel Castro (h/t ESPN) and recently for ripping Buster Olney on Twitter after the writer called the team "not competitive" (h/t USA Today).

    Even with the players they traded, the Marlins have a solid core to build around, and they picked up some nice players in their trades. With so much money invested in the team following the move, don't be surprised if ownership moves quickly to replace Guillen, and Francona could be just the type of skipper the team needs.

Boston Red Sox

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    Is it a long shot? Absolutely, but bringing Francona back to Boston just one season after firing him in favor of Bobby Valentine could make a lot of sense for the Red Sox. Earlier this month, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports suggested the team do just that.

    No one will deny that Valentine's first season in Boston has been a disaster, and it looks very likely that his first season with the club will be his only one, as he and the team have simply not been a match.

    Following their blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, the Red Sox have an opportunity to start over and build the team back to contention with a ton of money to spend this offseason.

    Francona was always well-liked in Boston, and he was more or less forced to fall on the sword for losing the locker room in 2011. With clubhouse cancer Josh Beckett gone and the team looking for a fresh start, Francona could be just the man to bridge the gap between the previously successful teams and the upcoming new-look Red Sox.