The Houston Astros’ decision to fire manager AJ Hinch amid this week’s MLB sign-stealing punishments creates a managerial opening with just a month before spring training.
While the Astros’ current situation is complicated, with GM Jeff Luhnow’s firing leaving an undetermined front-office structure under owner Jim Crane, whomever Houston tabs as its next skipper will be inheriting one of the most talented rosters in baseball.
Here are some names who could fit as candidates in the Astros’ search for the next manager:
The in-house option
Joe Espada: The current Houston bench coach, Espada was a hot name in manager searches immediately after the season and interviewed for several vacancies, including the Cubs and Giants jobs.
While the 44-year-old did serve as Hinch’s bench coach the past two seasons, he did not join the franchise until after the 2017 season, so his name was not part of MLB’s sign-stealing findings.
The veteran skippers
Buck Showalter: An experienced manager might make the most sense for Houston in the wake of this scandal and Showalter, 63, certainly fits that description. The three-time AL Manager of the Year has managed the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers and most recently the Baltimore Orioles.
ESPN has confirmed that Showalter has interviewed for the Astros opening.
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John Gibbons: Gibbons is another former big league manager the Astros reportedly plan to bring in for an interview this week. Toronto’s manager from 2004 to 2008 and again from 2013 through the end of the 2018 season, he steered the Blue Jays to back-to-back ALCS appearances in 2015 and ’16.
Despite managing just 11 total seasons, Gibbons’ 52 times being ejected from a game ranks 15th all time.
Dusty Baker: Another veteran name the Astros have reportedly shown interest in during their search, the 70-year-old Baker has experience dealing with stars during his time with the Giants (Barry Bonds), Cubs (Sammy Sosa) and Nationals (Bryce Harper) and would likely be able to quickly establish his presence in an Astros clubhouse filled with MVP candidates.
The local connection
Jeff Banister: The 2015 AL Manager of the Year for the Rangers, Banister grew up in nearby La Marque and played college baseball at the University of Houston. He currently works in the Pirates’ front office as a special assistant.
The rising stars
Will Venable: Currently the Cubs’ third-base coach after two seasons as Chicago’s first-base coach, the former outfielder is a rising MLB managerial candidate at 37.
Raul Ibanez: Like Venable, Ibanez is a former big leaguer who has quickly become a hot name to watch for MLB managerial openings. While he hasn’t managed or coached at the major league level, he has front-office experience in his current role as a special adviser with the Dodgers that he has held since 2016.
It’s worth asking
Bruce Bochy: Bochy’s credentials as a three-time World Series champion manager speak for themselves. The biggest question is if the former Giants skipper would want to return to the dugout elsewhere in 2020 immediately following his long tenure in San Francisco.