Entering the offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays were one of six teams in Major League Baseball expected to be in the market for a new manager after the organization confirmed the departure of former skipper John Gibbons before the final home game of the regular season in September.
Two of those managerial vacancies were filled on Sunday.
The Cincinnati Reds named David Bell as their new manager, replacing Jim Riggleman, who served as the interim skipper after Bryan Price’s firing in mid-April. Bell was reportedly one of five finalists for the Blue Jays vacancy according to Shi David of SportsNet.
David noted that the candidates — aside from Bell — are Astros bench coach Joe Espada, Rays’ major-league field coordinator Rocco Baldelli, Cubs’ bench coach Brandon Hyde and Phillies’ major-league player information coordinator Sam Fuld. However, Fuld reportedly interviewed, but withdrew his name, per Jerry Crasnick.
Possible candidate Brad Ausmus can also be ruled out as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hired him to replace Mike Scioscia, the team’s skipper for 19 seasons, who stepped down at season’s end.
Another high-profile candidate, Joe Girardi, remains available but he reportedly withdrew from consideration for the Reds opening — despite being the team’s first choice — and his managerial future is unclear.
In addition to the Blue Jays, the Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles, and Texas Rangers remain in the hunt for a new manager.
During his end-of-season press conference, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins listed “tough, smart and passionate” as qualities the Blue Jays seek in a new manager.
“Smart, open-minded, collaborative, innovative and open to the information and understanding how to get it all synthesized,” Atkins said. “And passionate, somebody who is constantly thinking about the environment; the 25-man roster, the 40-man roster, all the people that are touching that and feeding into that 25-man roster and what it means to create an environment that is of championship standard and expectation.”
In a separate report from SportsNet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, Espada appears to be the early favorite for the position. While Espada, just like the rest of the candidates, has never managed in the majors, he has a decorated career as a bench coach and winter league skipper. The 43-year-old — who also interviewed with the Reds, Rangers and Angels — is currently with an organization that won the World Series just one year ago.
Spoke to #BlueJays managerial candidate and current #Astros bench coach,Joe Espada. He’s completed the phone interview process. “I think I did pretty good.” #Jays gave no indication whether he’d fly to Toronto for next phase.”They know my schedule right now.”
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) October 16, 2018
Working alongside his former minor-league teammate and current Astros skipper, A.J. Hinch, gives Espada a leg up on his competitors. With Houston eliminated from the postseason, Espada now has the opportunity for in-person interviews with teams in search of a new manager. While he could always elect to remain the Astros’ bench coach, the interest in his services as a manager suggest he will be managing somewhere in 2019.
Whether or not it will be Espada or another candidate managing Toronto next season remains to be seen.