The Nationals’ search for their next manager continues, but they’ve already ruled out one internal option.
The Nats announced on Friday that Dusty Baker, who’s contract was expiring, would not return as manager in 2018. The club was crushed publicly for its decision to move on from Baker, who led Washington to 192 and consecutive division titles.
Internally, Randy Knorr moves to manage the Syracuse Chiefs, Washington’s Class-AAA affiliate, next season.
Knorr, 48, has spent the past several seasons in a senior advisory role to the organization, a uniformed position requiring him to travel among Washington’s seven affiliates. The Nationals maintain control of Syracuse for one more year before turning it over to the Mets.
Knorr is a longtime Nationals employee, serving his most recent big-league stint as Washington’s bench coach under Davey Johnson and Matt Williams. He is frequently considered for the manager position, when it becomes available every two years or so.
Knorr is beloved by some of the more tenured Nationals players. Ryan Zimmerman once publicly endorsed him for manager in 2013.
The list of qualified managerial candidates is dwindling quickly, though the Nationals have reportedly reached out to Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, an up-and-comer in manager searches, about interviewing him for their managerial opening.
The Red Sox have officially hired Astros bench coach Alex Cora, a name linked to the Nationals over the weekend. Cora played for the Nats in 2011, and came highly recommended by Nats GM Mike Rizzo. Cora interviewed for their opening in 2015.
“I think it comes natural to him to be a teacher,” Rizzo once said of Cora. “Alex still has a lot left in his tank as a player. But he has my number, and when he’s done playing, he can make a call. It will be well-received
Cora’s Astros are World Series bound. Major League Baseball frowns upon clubs breaking major news — about hirings/firings and the like — during the fall classic. Game 1 of the World Series between the Dodgers and Astros is on Tuesday.
The Nationals and Phillies are the only remaining big league clubs yet to fill their managerial vacancies. The Mets officially named Terry Collins’ replacement, former Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, on Monday.
There are still several candidates on the market with big league managing experience, namely John Farrell (Red Sox, Blue Jays) and Brad Ausmus (Tigers). Farrell won a World Series managing the Red Sox in 2013, his first season with the club. The year prior, he managed Toronto to a 73-89 record, his second season managing. He was fired by Boston two weeks ago, after failing to advance past the divisional round of the postseason.
Giants third base coach Phil Nevin is another candidate getting exposure this manager cycle. He has interviewed for the Phillies position. Gabe Kapler (Dodgers, player development) and Chip Hale (Athletics, third base coach), have also been linked in searches.
Hale has also managed previously. He was fired by the Diamondbacks after two seasons in 2016, compiling a 148-176 record.
Mike Maddux, whose contract just expired along with the rest of Baker’s staff, is also viewed as a candidate for the Nats position. He is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the league, and just spent two seasons in that same role for the Nats.
Outside of manager searches, Maddux is a top candidate to fill several pitching coach vacancies. Cubs manager Joe Maddon, in a surprise move, fired Chris Bosio over the weekend. Maddon’s expected to pursue Jim Hickey, his longtime pitching coach in Tampa Bay, for the Cubs vacancy.
Ironically, one of the last experienced managers available is former Nats skipper Manny Acta. Acta has interviewed for several managerial openings, and served in that role for the Nationals from 2007 to 2009, accruing a 158-252 record.
He was fired midway through the 2009 season. He later managed the Indians for three seasons (2010-2012), and was fired with six games left in the the 2012 season. He finished with a 214-266 record.
The Nats have reportedly sought permission to speak with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long. Long has been with the Mets for three seasons, and is credited with rebuilding Daniel Murphy’s swing.
The Nationals second baseman was a career .290 hitter in the six years prior to his 2015 walk year, but exploded in the postseason that year, helping lead the Mets to the World Series with seven home runs and 11 RBI in the 2015 NLDS and NLCS.
In two seasons since, Murphy is a two-time All-Star and MVP candidate with the Nats, slashing a combined .334/.387/.569 with 48 home runs, 197 RBI and 87 walks. Murphy finished second in MVP voting in 2016, when he hit .347 with 47 doubles, 25 homers, 104 RBI and a .985 OPS.