Skip to main content

Eight MLB teams have new managers this season; which are the best fits and which are the worst jobs

Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

While the MLB world waits for more Scott Boras clients to sign, here’s another impactful storyline to follow this spring and into the regular season.

Eight teams – more than a quarter of the league – have new managers. That means eight organizations will be adjusting to a new style this spring. Sometimes, that’s refreshing; other times, it’s frustrating.

Ultimately, managers can only do so much. Their primary responsibility is to keep 26 individuals from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences focused on one goal. In-game strategy and utilization of personnel are secondary.

A manager’s success is directly connected to how talented his team is. The best manager in the world can’t turn a wholly inferior roster into a winner.

So, today I thought we’d look at the eight managerial changes and rank them – from one to eight – not just based on the hire, but the chances that hire can succeed in the current atmosphere of his new team.

Craig Counsell, Chicago Cubs

Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 53

MLB Managerial Record: 707-625 (.531) in nine seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers

The fit: It’s an excellent one. Counsell led the small-market Brewers to five postseasons in nine years. He is respected throughout the league and was one of the hottest free agents this offseason. He signed with the Cubs, who appear to be on the upswing and had a productive offseason, landing Japanese lefty Shota Imanaga for the rotation and Hector Neris for the bullpen and re-signed center fielder Cody Bellinger.

With Counsell’s steady hand, the return of Bellinger and the weakening of the Brewers, the Cubs appear to be the favorites in the NL Central. We may look back at this as the best move of the 2023-24 offseason.

Bob Melvin, San Francisco Giants

Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 62

MLB Managerial Record: 1517-1425 (.516) in 20 seasons with Seattle, Arizona, Oakland and San Diego

The fit: It’s a homecoming. Melvin is from Northern California, played three seasons for the Giants in the 1980s and spent 11 seasons managing in the Bay Area with Oakland. He has won Manager of the Year three times and currently has a personal streak of six consecutive winning seasons. He was allowed to leave San Diego this offseason due to the old standby, “philosophical differences,” with general manager A.J. Preller.

The Giants got lucky here. In one stroke, they picked up one of the game’s best managerial technicians and weakened a division rival. Since winning 107 games in 2021, the Giants have been a disappointment, finishing fourth in the NL West last year. The roster is solid, not great, but Melvin has exceeded expectations with a lot worse. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the Manager of the Year discussion again.

Joe Espada, Houston Astros

Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 48

MLB Managerial Record: First year.

The fit: I love this hire for several reasons. Espada is a baseball lifer. He’s a former second-round pick out of Puerto Rico but never made it to the majors as a player. He went into coaching and worked his way up, debuting on the Florida/Miami Marlins staff and then coaching third base for the New York Yankees before becoming Astros bench coach in 2018. He seemingly was on everyone’s interview list but never secured a managing job.

His first shot is arguably the best spot in baseball. The Astros have made it at least to the American League Championship Series in seven consecutive seasons and they are one of the AL favorites this year. Normally, that might be too much for a first-year manager, but Espada has spent six seasons with this club, working under A.J. Hinch and Dusty Baker. He has an established relationship with the players and a deep knowledge of the Astros’ system.

Pat Murphy, Milwaukee Brewers

Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 65

MLB Managerial Record: 42-54 with the 2015 San Diego Padres

The fit: Here’s another baseball lifer, a long-rime college head coach, getting his first full chance to manage a MLB team. Murphy was the Padres’ interim skipper in 2015 after Bud Black was fired, but he was let go at the end of that season. Murphy immediately was hired by Counsell to be the Brewers bench coach – Murphy was Counsell’s college coach at the University of Notre Dame – and now he is replacing his protégé.

It’s the right hire for continuity, and Muphy certainly won’t be overwhelmed by the big-league job. The question is who are the Brewers now? Trading ace Corbin Burnes lessened a formidable rotation that is also without injured Brandon Woodruff for 2024. The Brewers won the NL Central by nine games in 2023 and made the playoffs in five of the past six seasons. But they look like they are about to take a couple steps backwards this year and next. And that’s not a good situation for any new manager, even one as experienced as Murphy.   

Stephen Vogt, Cleveland Guardians

Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 39

MLB Managerial Record: First year.

The fit: This is a risky hire. The Guardians are replacing a Hall-of-Fame caliber manager in Terry Francona with a guy who just retired from playing in 2022, has zero managing experience and only one season as a bullpen/quality control coach for the Seattle Mariners. Yet, ask people in the game, and they rave about this decision.

Vogt is both a baseball grinder and a baseball student. He was a 12th round pick and had a lifetime slashline of .239/.301/.406 but managed to stay in the majors for 10 seasons. He was primarily a reserve catcher, which is often fertile proving ground for managing. As the second youngest skipper in the big leagues, he should be able to connect with today’s players. And the Guardians have a solid roster that could surprise if their pitching takes another step forward under Vogt. It’s not a conventional move, but I like it.

Ron Washington, Los Angeles Angels

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 71

MLB Managerial Record: 664-611 (.521) in eight seasons with the Texas Rangers

The fit: There was rejoicing throughout the sport when this hire was announced. Washington is among the greatest instructors the game has known and he had been waiting far too long for another managing job since he was fired by Texas in 2014. At the end of the 2016 season, Washington was a finalist for the Atlanta Braves’ managerial position but lost out to Brian Snitker. Still, the Braves were intrigued enough by Washington’s acumen and demeanor that they hired him as third base coach. He had been with the Braves since then.

The Angels made a smart move here in bringing in a figure with widespread respect to an organization that has become a bit of a laughingstock. The Angels haven’t made the postseason since 2014 despite having a hefty payroll and two of the game’s best players in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani’s now with the Dodgers and Trout is 32; the prospects of competing in a difficult AL West this year and in the near future with a no-name rotation is daunting. This looks like a post to avoid, but you can’t blame Washington for wanting another shot at managing.

Mike Shildt, San Diego Padres

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 55

MLB Managerial Record: 252-199 (.559) in four seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The fit: Sensing a trend here? A manager with big-league success gets dumped for “philosophical differences” or because a scapegoat is needed. Then he finally gets rehired in the winter of 2023. Shildt led the St. Louis Cardinals to the postseason in three straight years (2019-21) but was then fired after a 90-win season in 2019. He ended up as a coach for the Padres and was promoted this winter when Melvin left for San Francisco.

The good news is Shildt – like Washington – gets a well-deserved second chance. The bad new is it is in San Diego, which from the outside seems like a mess of an organization. Shildt will have to deal with a bloated payroll, a talented offense with enigmatic superstars and a rotation that has lost three starters from 2023 – NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell as well as Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha. The NL West is no picnic and Shildt will have to quickly gain the confidence of a group that spun its wheels last year with Melvin in charge.

Carlos Mendoza, New York Mets

Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 49

MLB Managerial Record: First year.

The fit: Placing Mendoza last here has little to do with how the former New York Yankees bench coach will do in his first job in the big leagues. He’s ranked last because his first job in the big leagues is in New York. He’s taken over from well-respected skipper Buck Showalter and joins a Mets team that doesn’t seem to have much of a direction. With an exorbitant, veteran payroll comes major expectations, but this roster is flawed in a division that has two behemoths in the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies and also includes the plucky Miami Marlins.

You can’t call it a rebuild in New York City, and the Mets organization isn’t. They’ve added Luis Severino, Sean Manaea and Adrian Houser to improve the rotation and Harrison Bader and Joey Wendle for the offense/defense. But it seems like this could be a long year in Queens, especially if the Yankees are as good as most expect. Perhaps it’s unfair, but Mendoza will be scrutinized starting on Opening Day in the largest media market in the country. That’s a rough first job.

Dan Connolly is an MLB Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: