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Person of Interest: Blue Jays managerial candidate Brandon Hyde

Now that the Toronto Blue Jays have completed preliminary interviews for their open managerial job, they’re narrowing their focus with in-person interviews for a group of finalists.

That final group includes Astros bench coach Joe Espada, Rays major-league field coordinator Rocco Baldelli, Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo and Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde. Former Giants farm director David Bell had also been a finalist before taking the Reds’ managerial job.

We started taking a closer look at the finalists with a look at Baldelli and Espada. Today, a closer look at Hyde…

Hyde’s relatively short playing career began with little fanfare in 1997 when he signed with the White Sox as a undrafted free agent out of Long Beach State. He caught and played first base in the Chicago system for four seasons, topping out at triple-A in 2000. After a brief stint with the independent Chico Heat, Hyde’s playing career ended in 2001.

Hyde started coaching immediately after his playing career ended, starting at his alma mater as a coach on the Long Beach State team that reached the 2002 College World Series (he just missed Troy Tulowitzki, who would debut with the Dirtbags the following season).

The Marlins hired Hyde as the hitting coach for their Class A affiliate in 2003 and he remained in that role for two seasons before his managerial career began in Greensboro at age 31. For the next five seasons, Hyde managed various Marlins affiliates including the 2009 Jacksonville team that won the Southern League title.

Though Hyde began the 2010 season as the Marlins’ minor-league infield coordinator, he became the club’s bench coach that June. He’d stay in that role for the 2011 season and even managed one game after Edwin Rodriguez resigned. (The Marlins lost. “I’m 0-1,” Hyde later joked. “I’ve got to get back to .500 at some point.”)

After the 2011 season, Hyde joined the Cubs, who were by then under the leadership of Theo Epstein. Though Hyde was initially hired as minor-league field coordinator, he was promoted to director of player development in 2012. In that role he worked to develop prospects like Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras.

For the last five seasons, Hyde has been back on the field as the Cubs’ first base coach and bench coach.

Hyde appears to be one of the industry’s more coveted managerial candidates. He has interviewed with the Rangers, he was a candidate in Los Angeles before the Angels hired Brad Ausmus, and, according to Dan Hayes of The Athletic, he’s a finalist in Minnesota along with Baldelli and former Blue Jays quality control coach Derek Shelton.

Hyde’s background in player development would likely resonate with the Blue Jays, who are seeking “an organizational leader and spokesperson,” according to Ross Atkins, “not just a leader of the 25-man clubhouse.” Atkins has also said he’s looking for a strong communicator, and based on this description from Epstein, that’s one of Hyde’s strengths.

“He’s someone who’s extremely positive, is invested personally with every player he comes in contact with and is a difference-maker,” Epstein told ESPN in 2013.

An endorsement from Epstein would mean something under any circumstances, but it’s perhaps especially significant in Toronto where his longtime colleague Ben Cherington is among the top front office executives.

Along those lines, it’s also worth noting that the Mets “hotly pursued” Hyde for their bench coach job last winter, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. That’s significant because the Mets are managed by Mickey Callaway, who worked closely with Atkins and Mark Shapiro in Cleveland before leaving for New York.

Based on that apparent interest from Epstein and Callaway, it’s no surprise to see that the Blue Jays are intrigued by Hyde, too.

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