The World Series is over, which means we will start to see managerial vacancies get filled. There will be extra intrigue this year as two of the available names are former Boston manager Alex Cora and former Houston manager AJ Hinch, who were both suspended for 2020 because of their involvement in a sign-stealing scandal during their time with the Astros. Both parted ways with their respective clubs after being suspended last winter but are eligible to be interviewed and hired now that the World Series is over. It is widely expected that they will both be seriously considered for managerial vacancies this winter.
There are three openings — White Sox, Red Sox and Tigers — and we gathered our beat reporters from those clubs to break down each opening, and the likeliest spots for Cora and Hinch.
Matt Meyers (national editor): Let’s start with you, Ian. There is a persistent rumor that the Red Sox are going to rehire Cora. Do you think they will bring him back?
Ian Browne (Red Sox beat reporter): I think they will, and I think they should. He carries a lot of weight in the clubhouse, with ownership, the front office and the fan base. He could be tempted by the White Sox. I suspect he’ll see that as a good situation.
Scott Merkin (White Sox beat reporter): The interesting thing about the White Sox opening is I haven’t heard Cora’s name being mentioned all that much, although he seems like a great candidate for this team. His brother, Joey, was part of the team’s last championship run in 2005 as the third-base coach and worked under Ozzie Guillen. General manager Rick Hahn already announced Guillen would not be a candidate for this job at this time, so I wonder if there’s maybe too close of a tie-in there. They love Ozzie and all he did for the team. But he wasn’t the fit for this opening.
Jason Beck (Tigers beat reporter): The Tigers interviewed Cora when the job was open three years ago, and I’ve always wondered what would’ve happened if the Red Sox had hired Ron Gardenhire and the Tigers hired Cora. I do think he left a good impression on them, and the same front office is doing the hiring process this time. But it’s a different situation.
Browne (Red Sox beat reporter): The thing about the Red Sox and Cora: They recently announced that most of the coaching staff — other than bullpen coach Craig Bjornson and bench coach Jerry Narron — was invited to come back. Cora either had those guys on his staff, or in the case of the new guys from last year, he played a part in hiring them. Why would they bring those guys back if they weren’t going to bring Cora back?
Merkin (White Sox beat reporter): That makes sense. Cora is a great baseball mind, or at least seems that way from afar. He’s bilingual and would be a good mix of analytics and the gut instinct needed in a manager. But I have not heard his name mentioned since the White Sox parted ways with Rick Renteria after losing to the A’s in the Wild Card round. Tony La Russa has to be the most interesting candidate to emerge, with one Chicago radio station reporting he has interviewed. If I had to guess, though, I think Hinch is the club’s top target.
Browne (Red Sox beat reporter): Hinch would bring instant credibility to the team he manages, I would think, aside from the obvious controversy of the scandal.
Beck (Tigers beat reporter): The Tigers have cast a pretty wide net in their search, partly because it’s easier to interview guys on Zoom, partly because they had time before anyone could even talk to Hinch or Cora. A lot of the guys who have interviewed have Tigers ties, like George Lombard [Dodgers first-base coach], Marcus Thames [Yankees hitting coach] and Don Kelly [Pirates bench coach]. Even Phil Nevin [Yankees third-base coach] played for the Tigers early in his career and spent a few years managing in the Tigers’ farm system. But the Tigers also have reached out to guys like Royals bench Pedro Grifol and Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza, which is interesting.
Browne (Red Sox beat reporter): The one wild card with the Red Sox and Cora is Chaim Bloom. Cora was in place before Bloom got there as head of baseball operations. Does Bloom want his “own guy” or is he totally comfortable with Cora? He has played this really close to the vest. If he wants to go in another direction, this could have a big impact on all three of these teams.
Beck (Tigers beat reporter): I think the Tigers would love to have Hinch, who is close with player personnel director Scott Bream from their days together in San Diego’s scouting department. But if the Tigers can’t get Hinch or Cora, I think there could be an interesting first-time hire.
Merkin (White Sox beat reporter): Hahn made it clear about being open to all candidates, but he added that the next manager ideally would have previous managerial experience and recent October championship experience. That description sounds a lot like Hinch to me — and Cora, as well.
Meyers (editor): I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I was surprised by the rumor of La Russa returning to the dugout in Chicago, where he started his managerial career. Is there any way that actually happens?
Merkin (White Sox beat reporter): I remember talking with Jerry Reinsdorf in 2006, before the Cardinals came to town for Interleague action. Jerry said letting La Russa go as manager was one of the biggest mistakes made in his long and successful ownership of the team. La Russa and Hawk Harrelson, the iconic broadcaster who was GM at the time, were not seeing eye to eye, so Reinsdorf let him make the move. With that in mind, it would be quite a story to have a man he views like a brother, a Hall of Fame manager, come back and lead this team as they take their next step toward a World Series title. But I just don’t see it happening.
Beck (Tigers beat reporter): Same GM who fired a young Dave Dombrowski, if I remember correctly.
Browne (Red Sox beat reporter): If we are rooting for storylines, I root for La Russa to the White Sox.
Merkin (White Sox beat reporter): One thing I’ve learned about the White Sox over the past two decades is the “news” that becomes front and center about the team without confirmation usually doesn’t happen.
Meyers (editor): There has been a trend in recent years of guys getting managerial jobs without any coaching or managing experience — Aaron Boone, for example. Any candidates to watch on that front for any of your teams?
Browne (Red Sox beat reporter): I guess it depends on whether you put Jason Varitek in that classification. He has been a catching instructor/front office assistant for years with the Red Sox and he is a guy who could easily profile as a manager.
Beck (Tigers beat reporter): Tigers GM Al Avila said at the outset that he wanted somebody with experience, either managing or coaching at the big league level or managing in the Minors. I don’t think they want to go the same route Detroit took with Brad Ausmus seven years ago.
Merkin (White Sox beat reporter): Some fans would like to see A.J. Pierzynski in the mix, the team’s catcher from the 2005 World Series title season. He’s a great baseball mind and would be tremendous for the media. But the White Sox are looking for experience to lead them now.
Meyers (editor): If you had to guess who will be the manager of the clubs you cover in 2021, who would it be? Let’s have one prediction from each of you, as well as a wild card, along with a brief explanation for both names.
Browne (Red Sox beat reporter): Alex Cora. He has already led them to a championship, and it would be a big PR boost at a time the team needs one. Wild-card choice: Luis Urueta. He is the D-backs’ bench coach. They interviewed him last year after Cora’s departure and recently interviewed him again. He gets high marks from D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, who used to coach in Boston. Like Cora, Urueta is bilingual, which is an important factor.
Merkin (White Sox beat reporter): AJ Hinch. Hahn said the conversations with former manager Rick Renteria had been going on for some time about what the team needed and a potential change down the line, but I also think they saw the chance to get Hinch and they saw Detroit having interest in him. Sam Fuld as a wild card. Highly thought of as a player and the same in his work with the Phillies.
Browne (Red Sox beat reporter): Fuld is a great candidate. He is another wild-card Red Sox candidate. Bloom knows him from Tampa Bay, when Fuld played there.
Beck (Tigers beat reporter): If the Tigers can’t get Hinch or Cora, I would guess Pedro Grifol. He’s bilingual, has interviewed for jobs before, has a lot of respect around the game and would bring a fresh perspective. But I think Marcus Thames is a wild card. There’s a ton of respect in the organization for him from his playing days, and what he has done with Yankees hitters — not the superstars, but guys like Gio Urshela and Luke Voit — is something the Tigers need to replicate to some extent to get this team back to contention.
Merkin (White Sox beat reporter): One point I should add: In 2003, after Jerry Manuel was let go, it looked as if Cito Gaston was the favorite to be hired by Ken Williams. But Ozzie Guillen had a historic interview with his former teammate and friend and changed history. So that possibility of a surprise jumping up always exists. A little less so, as I said, with the White Sox looking for experience in this instance.
Meyers (editor): Last question: If you had to guess, of these three clubs, is your club more likely to be first or last in filling its vacancy?
Browne (Red Sox beat reporter): Last for Red Sox. I feel like Bloom is so methodical in everything he does.
Merkin (White Sox beat reporter): That’s a good question: I think the White Sox will have a manager in place by Election Day. So I’m going first.
Beck (Tigers beat reporter): I think the Tigers would love to be first and get Hinch or Cora before the other clubs. But short of that, I think they move last.