Earlier this week we saw a number of managerial changes take place with Craig Counsell leaving the Milwaukee Brewers, which wasn’t totally unexpected. But what shocked the baseball world was that he ended up staying in the NL Central and signing on with the Chicago Cubs. Counsell had been rumored as a fit with the New York Mets, but they instead hired Carlos Mendoza, who had been serving as the New York Yankees’ bench coach.
The Cleveland Guardians also made their own managerial hiring, giving the job to former catcher Stephen Vogt. He’ll have some big, legendary shoes to fill as he attempts to replace Terry Francona in his first gig as manager. Though, if there is anyone that would have a shot at doing so, it’s Vogt.
The first managerial hiring of the offseason was made by the San Francisco Giants when they hired Bob Melvin away from the division-rival San Diego Padres. The Friars have yet to find a replacement for Melvin, joining the Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros, and Milwaukee Brewers as teams currently without a manager.
Most recently, the Los Angeles Angeles named former Texas Rangers manager and longtime MLB coach Ron Washington as their replacement for Phil Nevin.
With the coaching carousel in full swing, lets take a look at which teams nailed their new hires.
1. Chicago Cubs blow Craig Counsell away
The winner of the off-season is going to be whichever team lands Shohei Ohtani. But by hiring Counsell, the Cubs have started their winter off with a bang. Not only did they take away a well respected manager from a division foe, but he also has the track record of just pumping out winning teams, finishing first or second in the NL Central in six of the last seven seasons with the lone exception being the shortened 2020 campaign.
Of course, in order to hire Counsell, Chicago also had to fire David Ross. According to the Cubs’ Pythagorean record, the club underperformed by seven games in 2023 after over-performing for Ross’ first three seasons. The Cubs missed the postseason by one game.
There were reports that Counsell was looking to reset the market for managerial salaries, and signing a five year, $40 million deal did just that. He is now the highest-paid manager in baseball. Half of the managers in the game make less than $1.75 million per year, and Counsell may have helped change that moving forward.
You also have to wonder what else the Cubs could be up to this off-season. You don’t spend $8 million a year on a manager, effectively resetting the market, and call it an offseason. Chicago could be ready to spend some serious cash in order to reach the postseason for the first time since 2020.
With Ohtani un-signed three days into the official offseason, the Cubs are currently leading the way this winter.
2. San Francisco Giants hit homer with Bob Melvin
Don’t let it surprise you when the San Francisco Giants start dropping serious cash and making big money moves this offseason. By firing manager Gabe Kapler and bringing in a veteran manager like Bob Melvin to lead the way, this club is saying they’re tired of the way things have been going. The first move was making a change at manager. The next step will getting someone to take their money in free agency.
Of course, the Giants haven’t had much luck when it comes to big-name free agents signing with them the past few years, but this winter feels different. If Ohtani won’t take their offer, then they’ll have to swing a big deal in order to appease their fan base, which is getting restless with the product on the field of late. A big addition or two would also help Farhan Zaidi’s job security long-term.
Bob Melvin will receive the credit for the expected turnaround, but he also has a pretty long track record of success as a manager. He’s an excellent communicator, and for the players that goes a long way since they will know what their roles are and when they’ll be used.
People seem to forget that in his first year as manager in San Diego, he led that team to the NLCS. The 2023 season didn’t go quite as well as the club missed the playoffs, but it appears as though there is more afoot organizationally than just Melvin all of a sudden losing his mojo.
3. Ron Washington gets his wings
Back in 2010 and 2011 the Texas Rangers, led by manager Ron Washington, lost in the World Series. The second of which was a haunting affair, with the franchise’s first championship within the fingertips of Nelson Cruz. Ultimately, that opportunity did not come to fruition, and Washington’s time with the team ended in 2014.
Flash forward to this November and the Rangers are World Series champions, finally grasping that first title, and Washington is back in the saddle as a manager, this time with the Los Angeles Angels.
While the prevailing thought is that Shohei Ohtani will not be returning to the Angels, Washington does seem to offer a decent upgrade over Phil Nevin on the bench. Now it will be up to Perry Minasian to construct a team that Washington may be able to surprise some people with.
4. Stephen Vogt replaces a legend in Cleveland
Some people know Cleveland Guardians new manager Stephen Vogt because of his memorable home run in the final at-bat of his career in 2022. Others remember him dressing up like a referee on Intentional Talk back in 2014.
What people may forget about Vogt is that he debuted at the age of 27, and then played 10 seasons in the big leagues. It’s not easy to be a big leaguer for that long, and it’s not likely to have a 10-year career when you debut at 27.
After retiring following the 2022 season, Vogt took a job as the Seattle Mariners bullpen coach. When he was linked to the Guardians’ job, that sounded like a perfect match. They operate similarly to how his former team, the Oakland A’s have tended to operate, and the franchise’s calling card has been the number of arms they can throw at you. As a former catcher, Vogt has an eye for the game and in his final season with Oakland he gave Cole Irvin a tip from his time with the Diamondbacks that led to a string of successful outings for the left-hander.
If you’re on the fence about Vogt as a first-time manager, this quote about his mindset transitioning from player to coach back in May should put those worries to rest. “The biggest difference coaching is that there’s nothing about your day that’s about you. When you’re a player, everything is about you preparing yourself to go out and do your job for the game. Now your job is to prepare to help the 26 guys go out and do their job. It’s really not about you anymore. Not one aspect of it. When you’re a player, it’s a lot about you.”
It wouldn’t be shocking to see a Vogt-led Guardians team in contention for the AL Central in 2024.
5. Carlos Mendoza and the New York Mets
It’s unclear if the Mets managerial decision came down to money, but the contract that New York handed Mendoza sure makes it seem like it might have. Mendoza signed on with the Mets for three seasons and $4.5 million…total. Counsell wanted to set the bar for managers, and he was able to do just that. Granted, he went to the Cubs to set that mark.
As for Mendoza, he’s 43, and last served as a manager at any level back in 2012 when he was at the helm for the Yankees Single-A affiliate in Charleston. For the last four years he has been the bench coach for the Yankees.
The Mets are going from a seasoned veteran on the bench in Buck Showalter, who has 22 years of managerial experience, to a first-time manager in Mendoza. That doesn’t mean that this is bound to be a disaster.
Mendoza has experience in the New York market which could prove invaluable as he gets his feet under him. He also has David Stearns as his president of baseball operations, which is an added bonus. Stearns is still just 38 years old and is one of the better minds in any front office.
The 2024 season in Queens is going to be about Stearns and Mendoza getting on the same page, getting into a rhythm, and turning things around for 2025 and beyond.