Eventually, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost is going to have to stop being the Royals manager, whether it’s on his own terms or not. The 2015 World Series Champion is the longest-tenured manager in the American League but is coaching his team under the uncertainty of a one-year contract.
I’m not saying Yost should leave anytime soon. He’s the owner of a World Series ring and it seems like he’s graciously agreed to take the Royals through their rebuild and into the future. He also says he’s having more fun than ever.
“I don’t have any pressure on me,” Yost told The Kansas City Star at Spring Training this year. “When I sit back and look at where I am in my life, I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted. Everything. My farm’s paid off, my houses are paid off. I don’t owe anyone a penny. I’ve got money in the bank. I don’t need anything.”
The point: Every storybook has to come to an end.
- Yost is 63 years old, and at some point, he’ll have to hang it up.
- There is no clear heir apparent in Kansas City, though Yost said in 2017 that his successor would likely come from within the organization.
- Someone has to replace Yost eventually, so let’s take a look at who might.
The field: Five candidates with the potential to fill Yost’s shoes in Kansas City
- Candidates within the organization have a clear edge. Yost himself was a special advisor with the Royals before taking over the team.
- With guys like Alex Cora and Gabe Kapler, the manager position is getting younger every year. This gives younger candidates an edge, too.
Raúl Ibañez: The outside man
- Ibañez is the relative outsider here. He played for the Royals in two separate stints as a player, wrapping up his career in Kansas City as an American League Champion in 2014.
- Ibañez is still in baseball, too. He’s currently serving as a special adviser to Andrew Freidman in the Los Angeles Dodgers front office.
- One issue here might be a lack of interest. Ibañez was one of the top candidates for the Tamba Bay Rays manager opening in 2014 before he withdrew from consideration.
Jason Kendall: An in-house version of Ibañez.
- Kendall’s path to becoming the Royals skipper would be similar to that of Ibañez. The former big league catcher finished his career with Kansas City in 2012.
- Since his 2012 retirement, Kendall has stayed with the club, serving as a “Special Assignment Coach” for the last seven years.
- Kendall’s continuance with the Royals and the fact that he works closely with Quality Control Coach could give him the edge over a guy like Ibañez.
Pedro Grifol: The next man up
- Grifol is one of the only candidates listed here that’s logged some serious time in the Royals’ dugout every day, having served as a catching coach and quality control coach for Ned Yost since 2014.
- Unlike Kendall or Ibañez, Grifol’s got manager experience at the minor league level. He most recently served as the manager at High-A Desert ball in 2012, where he led the Royals affiliate Mavericks to an 83-57 record.
- Grifol has received interest from other clubs at the major league level, too. His name was in the hat for the Detroit Tigers manager opening after they fired Brad Ausmus in 2017.
Mitch Maier: Whose on first?
- Similar to Kendall, Maier is another former-journeyman-player-turned-Royals-coach. The former outfielder was a two-time Royal, playing for Kansas City in 2006 and from 2008-2012.
- Since his playing days ended, Maier has returned to the club in a coaching role, learning from and taking over for baserunning guru and fan favorite Rusty Kuntz as Kansas City’s first base coach before the 2018 season.
- It’s unclear whether or not Maier is being groomed for a managerial opening or if he’s more-so preparing for a career on the player development side of the game, but his rapid ascension in the organization thus far is promising, to say the least.
Mike Matheny: The seasoned vet
- Matheny is the only guy on this list with previous expirience at the major league level, having served as the skipper in St. Louis from 2012-2018.
- Matheny’s time with St. Louis was rather successful on the surface. The Cardinals posted a 591-474 record with Matheny on the helm, but his turbulent last few months in St. Louis that ended with his midseason firing tell a more critical story.
- After his departure from St. Louis, Matheny was quickly hired to Kansas City’s front office in an advisory role, similar to the one Yost himself served in before he took over as manager. Since Matheny’s role was the club was announced, many have wondered if the hiring makes him the heir apparent to Yost as the club’s skipper.
The decision: Our best guess on who will take the reigns when Yost steps away.
- Every candidate mentioned has their apparent strengths and weaknesses, but the way in which the game appears to be going says a younger candidate not long removed from their player days is the way to go.
- Matheny’s last season in St. Louis was too toxic to ignore. Grifol is the oldest guy in the field, and picking him seems a little too safe. Maier seems focused on player development more than day-to-day managerial duties, and Ibañez is the only one not with the franchise today.
That leaves Jason Kendall as the go-to guy to replace Yost. We’re not entirely sure what he does as a “special assignment coach,” but, he seems as likely and as fitting as anyone to take over for Yost.