Ranking the Rays' 8 Preliminary Candidates Targeted to Replace Joe Maddon
The offseason has only just begun, and already it's been a very tumultuous one for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Indeed, new president of baseball operations Matt Silverman—who took over the job in October after Andrew Friedman, his longtime predecessor, left for the Los Angeles Dodgers—has his work cut out for him.
Not only is Silverman new to his own job, but he also has to choose the man to succeed former skipper Joe Maddon, who did plenty of succeeding himself by posting a .529 winning percentage and winning two AL East titles and one AL pennant in his nine seasons before opting out of the final year of his contract and signing a five-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.
On Thursday, the team revealed the eight preliminary candidates to replace Maddon.
That's a rather large number of baseball minds to bring in and interview for a managerial search, but the Rays can handle this however they desire.
And it sounds like there will be more to come, according to Silverman, who said, "This is a preliminary list of candidates, and we expect it will grow as we continue through this process."
As for these eight to start, well, the list is—how do we put this?—eclectic. There's really a little of everything to consider, which is why we'll count down all of them, in order of least to most likely to actually land the gig.
No. 8: Raul Ibanez
This is the most surprising name in the bunch.
At last check, the New York Yankees were considering Raul Ibanez for their vacant hitting coach job. That is, if the 42-year-old, 19-year veteran actually is done with the idea of playing in 2015, which remains a possibility, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish.
That the Rays are including Ibanez echoes what the Colorado Rockies did two years ago when they interviewed Jason Giambi, who hadn't yet retired from playing (and still hasn't, by the way).
As such, consider Ibanez a long shot. Then again, there is a trend of former players with no managerial experience—like Brad Ausmus, Matt Williams, Walt Weiss, Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura—getting jobs as big league bench bosses.
No. 7: Craig Counsell
You remember Craig Counsell for being a part of two teams that won the World Series in dramatic fashion in Game 7: the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks and the 1997 Florida Marlins, for whom he scored the clinching run in extra innings.
Well, that and his awkward, bordering-on-hilarious batting stance.
Since retiring after the 2011 season, the former scrappy utility man has served as a special assistant to Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin.
This presents another outside-the-box option by the Rays, but given Counsell's reputation in and around the game, it could be a good one.
No. 6: Ron Wotus
There could be an intriguingly similar path for the Rays to take in going with Ron Wotus, currently the bench coach for the San Francisco Giants, as Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area points out: "Maddon was a well regarded bench coach and recent World Series winner when Rays hired him. If they want to repeat formula, Ron Wotus is it."
Thing is, Wotus has been Bruce Bochy's No. 2 since 1999 and a member of the coaching staff with the Giants organization for the past 24 years. He might be too ingrained.
No. 5: Kevin Cash
A third straight candidate with experience playing in the big leagues, Kevin Cash is now a bullpen coach with the Cleveland Indians under manager Terry Francona.
Cash finished his playing career after the 2010 campaign and turns just 37 in December, so he would be the youngest manager in the majors, as Matt Snyder of CBS Sports notes.
That might make him an unlikely pick, but Cash does have some other things in his corner: He's a former backstop, providing him with a common path to becoming a bench boss; and he's at least a little familiar with the organization, having spent part of the 2005 season with Tampa Bay (back when the team was known as the Devil Rays).
No. 4: Charlie Montoyo
If you've never heard of Charlie Montoyo, you're not alone.
He's been the manager for Tampa Bay's Triple-A club, the Durham Bulls, for the past eight seasons. In that time, he's earned Manager of the Year in the International League two times.
Montoyo has been around, and he knows the Rays organization, structure, process and players, many of whom he's helped funnel to the majors.
As Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com writes, Montoyo is "the time-tested minor league lifer who has guided all that terrific young talent that passed through this system."
No. 3: Manny Acta
Formerly manager of the Washington Nationals (2007-09) and then the Cleveland Indians (2010-12), Manny Acta has been working as a part of ESPN's Baseball Tonight broadcast.
His .418 winning percentage as a skipper isn't exactly promising, but Acta is only 45, is well-regarded and appears open to getting back into the dugout rather than staying in front of the camera. Plus, those Nationals and Indians clubs were hurting for talent when he was on at the helm.
Acta's energy, personality and ability to communicate with players would go a long way in Tampa Bay.
No. 2: Don Wakamatsu
The Rays certainly are using 2014 success in their criteria, as Kansas City Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu joins Wotus as the other manager's right-hand man from the just-completed World Series.
Wakamatsu could wind up as Tampa's manager by riding the wave of momentum from helping the perennial cellar-dweller finally return to the postseason and make it all the way to the Fall Classic.
The 51-year-old's first skipper gig with the Seattle Mariners started off well (85-77 in 2009), only to fall apart quickly (42-70 in 2010) before he was fired.
Despite that, Wakamatsu is worthy of a second chance and might be the "best fit" for Tampa Bay, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
No. 1: Dave Martinez
Currently the Rays bench coach, Dave Martinez is considered by many to be the favorite to replace Maddon, under whose tutelage he served since 2008.
As Marc Normandin of SB Nation writes: "While they're not the same person, you have to assume that a little bit of Maddon's style rubbed off on Martinez over the course of seven seasons as his No. 2."
Martinez, 50, clearly has the inside edge, unless Silverman and the rest of the decision-makers would prefer going outside the organization for the hire.
A former outfielder and first baseman for 16 years in the majors, Martinez also knows how to relate to players. Plus, the man is an original Devil Ray.
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