Inside Baseball: Projecting the 2018 manager merry-go-round

It’s almost that time of year.
Yes, it’s the time when playoff scenarios start to sort themselves out, and also when potential award winners begin to clarify themselves. But it’s also that time when many managers start to wonder whether they will be back for another year.
Being an MLB manager is more and more a year-to-year job, and there are several managers, including one of the interim variety (down from two interims after the Cardinals’ Mike Shildt deservedly was extended for three years), who may have some reason to wonder whether they will be back. Plus, there are at least a couple others expected to enter the 2019 season with a tenuous situation, assuming they do indeed make it to next year.
In addition, there’s even a bit of intrigue regarding one of baseball’s most successful managers — including even this year, where he currently has his team in first place again — and that’s on Chicago’s North Side, where baseball’s most-publicized, highest-paid manager Joe Maddon (tied with Mike Scioscia and Bruce Bochy on the money) is seen as questionable to receive an extension heading into the final year of his original five-year, $25-million deal (which became a $28-million deal following his historic Cubs’ World Series victory in 2015). 

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Here are 14 situations that require some inspection, starting with the most likely to go and ending with that interesting situation at Addison and Clark streets in Wrigleyville. The vast majority of these guys are expected back, but any case with any sort of question is being considered here.
1) John Gibbons, Blue Jays:
He has no illusions about staying beyond this year. Just ask him.

Gibbons will tell you that he knows the score, and he figures he trails in the game, following a tough season in Toronto. He’ll say that’s OK by him, that that’s the way the job works.

He’ll tell you that he and his boss, GM Ross Atkins, have spoken about the situation, and without saying exactly what that is, you’ll know. Gibbons, in the words of one Jays front office person, is an “open book,” which is terrific (Gibbons is perpetually candid), though the term is used in such a way that it seems they might look for someone who’s a little less so.

Gibbons, a smart, old-school coach who knows how to handle tough personas and can run a game as well as anyone, was originally extended by the relatively new Jays regime; even beyond two straight playoff appearances, it’s easy to see why. It's just that his being a straight shooter may have run its course in Toronto.
2) Buck Showalter, Orioles:
It’s been nine years in Baltimore, Showalter’s fourth managing locale, and the timing just isn’t adding up for Showalter, who is seen as one of baseball’s most prepared, strategically excellent managers.

It isn’t easy to be a lame duck manager in a historically bad season for a (sort of) new regime (brothers John and Louis Angelos are in charge now that their father, longtime Orioles owner Peter Angelos, is ailing). There are a few variables here — former Orioles star Brady Anderson has significant say now, and longtime GM Dan Duquette, who did a terrific job with the team's trade deadline fire sale, like Showalter, is also a lame duck.

Showalter also seems to have some serious supporters in the media, and that’s nice. But in the end, despite a mostly successful tenure — hard as it is to believe, the Orioles had a better record than the Yankees and Red Sox over one five-year period — an extension for Showalter off a 100-loss season would seem improbable.

3)  Mike Scioscia, Angels:
Mike Scioscia is a legend in Anaheim (or Los Angeles, or wherever the team claims to be) but with his contract up, the team out of the playoff picture again and the trend toward younger and cheaper managers, an extension seems highly unlikely.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that Scioscia is expected to step down after the year. However it plays out or is worded, a change is expected.

The day that report came out, coincidentally or not, Eric Chavez took over the Triple-A Salt Lake City team. He would appear to be a likely successor, providing his seeming apprenticeship goes well.

4) Jim Riggleman, Reds:
He’s done a terrific job as Reds interim manager and owner Bob Castellini is said to be a fan. However, word is that the Reds plan to conduct a search. That doesn’t mean they won’t keep Riggleman, but at the very least they want to go through the exercise.

Riggleman, who showed once again that he is a team player, would seem to deserve to stay in the job. “He’s done a great job,” one rival GM said. However, there are no guarantees.

Riggleman doesn’t fit the mold of today’s manager — he’s older than 60 and has managed five teams (including the Reds). But he has more experience than anyone else with rebuilding teams (he once had a San Diego team much further away than this one), and he has the attention of this band of kids.

More to the point, Riggleman took a dead-in-the-water 3-18 team and had them rise above at least the Orioles, Royals and a few others, and he even had them playing .500 ball for a while. Plus, the Nats’ continually wacky managerial go-round makes him look better for his one past issue, which was the decision to resign that job.
5) Paul Molitor, Twins:

The Twins are weird. And that is no reflection on Molitor.

When they are expected to bomb, they surprise. When they are hoping to contend, they blow up.

Molitor got a three-year deal following an excellent and surprising 2017 season, and he remains an icon in the Twin Cities, so a firing seems highly unlikely even though he is a holdover from the previous regime. There are some who wonder, though, how long Molitor, the only Hall of Fame player currently managing, wants to keep going.

6)  Jeff Banister, Rangers:
Banister seems to have enjoyed the respect of his bosses, who expected this year to be a second straight down one (with a possible third tome to come), so there’s a good chance he stays. But there were clubhouse rumblings as far back as last year. He was also only given a one-year extension, so there’s room to wonder (a little, anyway).

7) Brian Snitker, Braves:
He has the clear support of his clubhouse, and more importantly, he has the Braves in first place.

It’s hard to imagine the Braves letting Snitker go, even if the Braves don’t make the playoffs – but since he was hired by a previous regime (one that incidentally was poised to let him go in favor of Ron Washington, Showalter or someone else) he’s included here. Barring an utter collapse, he seems safe. 

8) Don Mattingly, Marlins:
The Marlins “have played with a lot of energy,” notes one rival GM. Mattingly certainly has gotten the most out of an obviously outmanned team (How outmanned? They could become the first team ever not to have a six-game winner, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported). The real question is: Is he Derek Jeter’s guy? Mattingly was an early hitting coach of Jeter, and he preceded Jeter as a Yankee captain. But the Jeter regime hasn’t said much on the score (beyond keeping Mattingly for this year), so who knows?

9)  Andy Green, Padres:
There have been some small rumblings of a learning curve for their bright young GM and manager combo, but Green — a high school valedictorian — seems to have the support of a front office that’s solidly in charge (GM A.J. Preller recently got what is believed to be a four-year extension).

10 Mickey Callaway, Mets:
Mets people have suggested he’s staying, and he probably is. But what if the new GM insists on having his own guy? Callaway is a terrific person and a great pitching coach but he has seemed at times to be in over his heads as a manager in New York (admittedly, not an easy job). “He’s a pitching coach from Mississippi (actually Tennessee),” points out one rival GM. Sandy Alderson, who hired him, is gone. He probably gets next year (but he may need a quick start with more staying power than this one).

11)  Davey Martinez, Nats:
Is there a Curse of Dusty? Dusty Baker’s unfair, even ridiculous, firing, may be seen as a curse on this team following a season in which they disappointed more than anyone (the Mets and Twins are in the discussion). Anyway, while scouts are saying the well-liked Martinez is a work in progress as a manger, any more quick changes in Washington would start to look silly.

12)  Ned Yost, Royals:
Kansas City GM Dayton Moore has signaled that it’s up to Yost, and there’s little reason to believe he doesn’t want to return (in fact, he’s said aloud that he does). Their year was truly dreadful however.

13) Rick Renteria, White Sox:
His bosses have said nothing but words of support, the team has had a nice and winning August and they are still probably a year away from competing, anyway. If he does go, he’d have turned the rare trick of being let go by both Chicago teams. However, between the timetable and owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s legendary loyalty, assuming good health (he had a bit of a scare a week ago but is OK), it would be a stunner if he’s let go now. Some could see a repeat of his Cubs situation where it happens when they are ready to win. But not now.

14) Joe Maddon, Cubs:
According to some, there is thought to be some tension over the “Joe Show,” baseball’s most entertaining manager’s strong and public presence, and there’s a real movement away from older legendary guys (and $6 million salaries). So it’s definitely worth wondering about.

Rumblings of some possible discontent have been heard at least since last spring, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today recently suggested Maddon might need to go deep into the playoffs to make it to next year. It seems crazy, but don’t forget that Dusty Baker, John Farrell and Joe Girardi were all let go last year after what would seem like successful seasons.

Of course, a Maddon dismissal would be even more surprising for two obvious reasons: 1) he has a year to go at $6 million (the pay was bumped up after the historic World Series win in 2016), not an expiring contract like the fired trio, and 2) that historic title is hard to forget (and only two years old).

At the very least it will be interesting to see whether, with Maddon heading into his walk year, Cubs baseball honchos Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are anxious to discuss an extension at year’s end or let him operate as a lame duck. So far they haven’t said a word about it.

For his part, Maddon is said to be “very happy” in the job, and he told us in spring he hoped to stay with the Cubs beyond his contract. There’s no good reason for him not to be kept, it would seem. But these are strange times for managers indeed.

And on Thursday, Epstein also tried to pour cold water on any controversy surrounding the team's manager in an interview with 670 The Score sports radio:

"It’s over," Epstein said on the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 The Score on Thursday afternoon. "We’re not the type of organization to let the tail wag the dog. A national writer comes in, misrepresents the situation and then we have to address it because it’s threatening to become some sort of controversy – OK, that’s fine. But then once we’ve addressed it, it’s over. There is nothing here.

"To refresh the background, we spent and I spent an awful lot of personal and organization capital at great risk to bring Joe in following the 2014 season. Of all the people in baseball, he was our single choice to run the team. And we brought him in, and it’s gone extraordinarily well. Relationships are great, results are great. The contract has been great for Joe, it’s been great for us. Things couldn’t be better. So just because someone comes in from the outside and misrepresents the situation doesn’t mean it has to be an ongoing narrative. It’s done."

The early buzz is that Girardi — a Peoria, Ill. native, Northwestern product and ex-Cub — could eventually become a candidate here. He’s also a Joe, but there’s no real show there.

Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.