With Joe Girardi out, here are the top candidates for next Yankees manager

The New York Yankees announced they parted ways with manager Joe Girardi on Thursday. Girardi managed the club to a 910-710 record over 10 seasons, the best record in baseball during that time, and he was at the helm for their 2009 World Series championship.

Girardi’s contract expired following the 2017 season, so technically he was not fired. He is not being brought back. There were rumblings Girardi was feeling burnt out and wanted to spend more time with his family, leading to speculation he could walk away, though general manager Brian Cashman’s statement made it clear this was the team’s decision.

“I want to thank Joe for his 10 years of hard work and service to this organization,” Cashman said in his statement. “Everything this organization does is done with careful and thorough consideration, and we’ve decided to pursue alternatives for the managerial position.”

Replacing Girardi, who was wildly successful but of course far from perfect as a manager, will not be easy. There are already conflicting reports about which direction the Yankees will take during their managerial search.

Cashman does tend to promote from within, or at least hire people with whom he has a strong working relationship. It’s not often that he has hired someone without a relationship already in place. So, with that in mind, let’s run down a not at all complete list of potential managerial candidates for the Yankees as they prepare to hand their exciting young core over to a new skipper.

Coaching staff

Joe Espada: Espada has been New York’s third base coach since 2015, and before that he worked alongside Cashman in the front office, so the two know each other well. Espada seems to satisfy the three major criteria of the modern manager: He’s young (42), he’s versed in analytics and he has a relationship with the front office. And, as a bonus, Espada already knows the Yankees players. He came up as a minor-league coach and manager with the Marlins before joining the Yankees a few years ago.

Tony Pena: The 2003 AL Manager of the Year with the Royals, Pena joined the Yankees in 2005 and has since had stints as their first base coach (2005-08), bench coach (2009-14) and first base coach again (2015-17). Cashman interviewed Pena for the team’s managerial opening in 2007, when the job went to Girardi. Pena has a career 198-285 (.410) managerial record, which came during some lean years with Kansas City from 2002-05.

MLB: New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians

Longtime Yankees coach — and former MLB manager — Tony Pena is a candidate to replace Joe Girardi.
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Larry Rothschild: A longtime big-league coach, Rothschild has been New York’s pitching coach since 2011, and he was also the first manager in (Devil) Rays franchise history. Tampa went 205-294 (.411) under his watch from 1998-2001. In addition to his time in New York and as manager of the Rays, Rothschild also spent nine years as pitching coach with the Cubs. If nothing else, he has experience with the demands of a big market.

Rob Thomson: Thomson served as Girardi’s bench coach in 2008 and again from 2015-17, as well as his third base coach from 2009-14. He has been with the Yankees for a baseball lifetime. Thomson started with the organization as a minor-league coach in the early 1990s and has since held several different coaching staff and front office positions. He has no big-league managerial experience, though Thomson is a known quantity and already has relationships in place with the players and front office.

Other in-house candidates

Jay Bell: Yes, that Jay Bell, the former infielder who randomly socked 38 home runs one season. Bell joined the Yankees this past season and managed their High Class-A affiliate in Tampa. He is currently managing in the Arizona Fall League, and a few weeks ago, Baseball America‘s annual survey of scouts and league personnel named Bell the best managerial prospect in the High-A Florida State League. Bell has big-league coaching experience with the Diamondbacks (bench coach from 2005-06), Pirates (hitting coach in 2012) and Reds (bench coach from 2014-15).

Josh Paul: Paul, the former journeyman catcher, has been working in the Yankees’ minor-league system as a coach and manager the past several years, and is said to be highly regarded by players and the front office. Making the jump from the lower levels — most of Paul’s coaching and managerial experience has come at the rookie ball and Class A level — is rare, though we’ve seen teams hire managers with no experience before, so we shouldn’t rule him out.

Al Pedrique: Pedrique has spent the past two seasons managing New York’s Triple-A affiliate in Scranton, during which time the team won back-to-back division titles and the 2016 Triple-A championship. With his Triple-A success, Pedrique is said to be eager to get back into the MLB coaching ranks.

Pedrique has extensive minor-league coaching experience, and he has also spent time on big-league staffs with the D-Backs and Astros. That includes a stint as interim manager in Arizona in 2004. The Yankees are going young, and Pedrique has already managed pretty much all of the team’s top young players at Triple-A, including Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres.

Tim Naehring: An outside-the-box candidate? You bet. Naehring is the Yankees’ vice president of baseball operations and one of Cashman’s most trusted lieutenants. He’s a former big-leaguer and an old school scout/talent evaluator who also knows analytics and has an open line of communication to the front office. The biggest knock against Naehring is his lack of coaching and managerial experience. He has been in player development pretty much his entire career, which is a different animal than working a clubhouse and calling the shots on the field.

Outside the organization

Brad Ausmus, Dusty Baker, and John Farrell: Ausmus, Baker and Farrell are worth mentioning only because they were recently let go and are available managers with experience. Baker in particular is the kind of manager a win-now team, which the Yankees are at this point, tends to hire. That said, neither Ausmus nor Baker nor Farrell have a prior connection to the Cashman era Yankees, which could work against them.

Eric Chavez: A dark horse. Chavez played two seasons with the Yankees (2011-12) and also spent the 2015 season in the front office as a special adviser to Cashman. He reportedly pushed hard for the Didi Gregorius trade. Chavez is a special assistant with the Angels — he headed west when the Halos named former Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler their new general manager two years ago — but if he’s looking to get back on the field and is open to returning to the East Coast, he could be a sneaky good managerial candidate for the Yankees.

Jason Giambi: For years now Giambi, who played in New York from 2002-08, has been said to be a future manager, mostly because he was a top notch clubhouse guy who managed to be both a mentor to young players and the team prankster during his playing days. The problem? Giambi has zero coaching or managerial experience. He would be the most rookie of rookie managers. I wouldn’t completely eliminate him from contention, but I think the odds of this happening are quite small.

Trey Hillman: Hillman is managing the SK Wyverns in Korea and is one of Cashman’s closest friends in baseball, dating back to their time working together in the Yankees’ minor-league and player development system in the early 1990s. He has big-league managerial (Royals from 2008-10) and bench coach (Dodgers from 2011-13, Astros from 2015-16) experience, as well as lots of front office experience. Hillman returned to the Yankees in 2014 and spent time working alongside Cashman. If he wants to return to the majors — and if his contract with the SK Wyverns allows him to leave — Hillman could be among the leading candidates to replace Girardi.

MLB: Houston Astros at Arizona Diamondbacks

Trey Hillman has big league managerial experience and is close to Brian Cashman.
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Raul Ibanez: Ibanez has long been considered a future manager and he did spend the 2012 season with the Yankees — you remember all those clutch postseason home runs, don’t you? — giving him a chance to get to know Cashman and vice versa. Throughout his career Ibanez was regarded as one of the best clubhouse guys and teammates in the game, as well as media friendly, which is a big plus in New York. He currently works as a special assistant for the Dodgers, but has no coaching or managerial experience.

Kevin Long: Long spent three years as hitting coach with New York’s Triple-A affiliate before becoming their big league hitting coach in 2007. He was with the team until being let go following the 2014 season. Long has been with the Mets as their hitting coach since, though he was considered for their managerial opening this offseason, and is reportedly receiving managerial consideration elsewhere as well. It stands to reason the Yankees could have interest in bringing him back to replace Girardi.

Pete Mackanin: Mackanin took over as Phillies manager midway through the 2015 season and he remained their manager through this season before being removed from the role and bumped up into the front office. Before joining the Phillies, Mackanin spent two years working as a trusted scout for Cashman and the Yankees, so the two know each other. With gobs of coaching and player evaluation experience, the suddenly available Mackanin could be on the team’s short list of managerial candidates. 

Don Mattingly: The former Yankees star (and hitting and bench coach) just watched his Marlins change ownership, and when ownership changes, a managerial change often follows. Mattingly did interview for New York’s managerial job in 2007 — Girardi, Mattingly and Pena were the only candidates Cashman interviewed — when he would’ve been a rookie skipper. Now he’s an experienced manager with a career 446-363 (.551) record in parts of seven seasons with the Dodgers and Marlins.

Alex Rodriguez: Now this sure would be fun, would it not? At least from a “let’s watch the chaos unfold” point of view. A-Rod is currently killing it as an analyst for Fox Sports and his knowledge of the game is unmatched. Say what you want about the guy, but his baseball mind has never been in question. He’s brilliant. Also, Rodriguez has also worked closely with so many of New York’s young players in recent years, including Judge and Sanchez. There’s no way this will happen though. A-Rod hasn’t expressed an interest in managing full-time and besides, it was only three years ago that he sued the Yankees and MLB as part of his performance-enhancing drug suspension scorched earth appeal. Something tells me he has burned a few too many bridges.  

MLB: Spring Training-Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees

Alex Rodriguez as Yankees manager? Never say never.
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The Core Four: That is Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. Bernie Williams should really be included in this group as well, though I guess Core Five isn’t as catchy. Anyway, Yankees fans probably shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for one of these guys to manage the team. Jeter now owns a chunk of the Marlins and the others have shown zero interest in coaching or managing full-time. They’ve made way too much money in their careers to go through the grind. The same goes for former Yankees players and current YES Network analysts David Cone and Paul O’Neill. Collectively, this group of beloved former Yankees has shown basically zero interest in getting back in the dugout full-time.

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