Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon was in Seattle on Sunday to interview a second time with Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik for the team’s vacant manager position, according to a source familiar with the Tigers’ own managerial search.
Zduriencik began conducting second interviews with a handful of finalists this weekend as Seattle zeroes in on a replacement for Eric Wedge, who stepped down at the end of September.
The other confirmed finalist so far is former Mariners second baseman Joey Cora, who was Ozzie Guillen’s bench coach for both the White Sox and Marlins.
UPDATE (1:45 p.m. PT): Now Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com is reporting that A’s bench coach Chip Hale has been asked to interview a second time as well, so that would make three confirmed finalists — Cora, McClendon and now Hale.
McClendon, 54, is the only candidate with previous Major League managing experience who has been publicly tied to the Mariners current opening, as he managed the Pirates from 2001-05.
McClendon had a 336-446 record in five years when Pittsburgh was in the midst of a 20-year run of losing seasons, then was immediately hired by Jim Leyland in Detroit and was regarded as a big part of the Tigers’ success as they reached the American League Championship Series four times and the World Series twice during his eight years.
McClendon previously interviewed with the Mariners in 2010 when they hired Wedge and was under consideration to replace Leyland this past week by the Tigers, who instead named former catcher Brad Ausmus as their new skipper on Sunday.
Ausmus’ hiring in Detroit leaves the Cubs and Mariners as the two remaining clubs with managerial openings, with the Reds having promoted pitching coach Bryan Price and the Nationals bringing in D-backs third base coach Matt Williams. None of the first three hires have any prior Major League managing experience.
Zduriencik initially interviewed about a dozen candidates in Phoenix over the past two weeks. The known candidates in the first round were Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach and former Mariners catcher and current broadcaster Dave Valle, along with McClendon, Cora, Ausmus and Hale.
McClendon hit .244 over an eight-year Major League career as an outfielder and first baseman with the Reds, Cubs and Pirates from 1987-94. He originally was drafted as a catcher out of Valparaiso University in the eighth round in 1980 by the Mets. After retiring as a player in 1994, the Indiana native was hired as hitting instructor by the Pirates and filled that job until becoming Pittsburgh’s manager in 2001.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has returned to Seattle on Saturday and is beginning the second round of interviews for a new manager this weekend, with former Mariners second baseman Joey Cora among a handful of finalists.
Cora, 48, is the latest name to be confirmed as a potential replacement for Erci Wedge, as first reported by Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN Seattle. Wedge stepped down at the end of last season after going 71-91 in his third year on the job.
Zduriencik talked with at least a dozen candidates over the past two weeks in Phoenix and now is zeroing in on a small group of leading contenders. There are now eight names who are known to have interviewed in the initial phase – Cora, A’s bench coach Chip Hale, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, Tigers hitting coach and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, former Mariners catcher and current broadcaster Dave Valle and former catcher Brad Ausmus.
Ausmus, who has been a special assistant in the Padres front office since retiring after an 18-year Major League career in 2010, was confirmed by a baseball source to have interviewed with the Mariners as well as the Tigers and Cubs, the other two teams still in the hiring process. Ausmus, 44, has never coached or managed in the Majors, but did manage Israel in last year’s World Baseball Classic.
Cora, who played for Seattle from 1995-98 as part of a 11-year Major League career, worked as Ozzie Guillen’s third base coach and bench coach with the White Sox and Marlins from 2004-12. He also spent three years managing in the Minor League systems of the Expos and Mets from 2001-03, managed a team in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2005 and ’06 and was the general manager of a Puerto Rican Winter league team from 1999-2001.
Cora was out of coaching this past season after Guillen and his staff were fired by the Marlins, but he has been working as an analyst for the MLB Network. The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Puerto Rican native had a career batting average of .277 while playing for the Padres, White Sox, Mariners and Indians from 1987-98.
Cora was part of the Mariners’ breakthrough season in 1995 when he hit .297 with 18 stolen bases in 120 games in his first year in Seattle, then earned his only All-Star berth in 1997 when he batted .300 with 11 home runs, 54 RBIs and 104 runs scored in 149 games.
Cora was a two-time All-American and two-time Academic All-American in three seasons at Vanderbilt before being drafted by the Padres in the first round (23rd overall) in 1985.
The Mariners, Cubs and Tigers are all expected to finish their hiring processes in the next week or so and then can begin filling out coaching staffs. All the Mariners coaches remain under contract through next season, but bench coach Robby Thompson was told last week that he wouldn’t be returning and former third base coach Jeff Datz was offered a job in scouting.
Pitching coach Carl Willis was given permission to interview for the same position with the Orioles, but that job instead went to Braves’ Minor League pitching instructor Dave Wallace.
As expected, the Mariners declined 2014 contract options for outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and starting pitcher Joe Saunders on Friday, making both veteran players free agents.
The club turned down a $7.5 million option to retain Gutierrez, who instead will receive a $500,000 buyout. The 30-year-old Venezuelan completed a four-year, $20.25 million contract this past season, but would have received a fifth year on that deal if the Mariners had exercised the option.
Saunders, 32, signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with Seattle just prior to Spring Training that included a potential second year at $8.3 million. Instead, the Mariners initiated a $900,000 buyout to void that second season after the left-hander went 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA in 32 starts.
The two players will be free to negotiate new deals with any of the 30 Major League teams, including Seattle, as of this coming Tuesday. The Mariners had five other players become free agents on Thursday — Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, Humberto Quintero, Oliver Perez and Endy Chavez.
Teams have until 9 p.m. PT on Monday to exclusively negotiate with their own free agents, after which they’re able to sign with any team.
The Mariners’ 40-man roster is now at 34 players, with reliever Stephen Pryor moved from the 60-day disabled list to the 40-man roster on Friday.
Gutierrez won an American League Gold Glove Award in 2009 when he hit .283 with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs in 152 games in his second season after being acquired from the Indians. But after signing his four-year deal with the Mariners in 2010, Gutierrez ran into a lengthy series of health issues that resulted in his playing just 173 of the team’s 486 games over the last three seasons.
Gutierrez played 92 games in 2011 after two disabled list stints with a stomach ailment and a strained oblique muscle. He appeared in just 40 games in 2012 after opening the year on the DL with a torn pectoral muscle, then missing two months with a concussion in midseason after getting hit in the head on a pickoff throw to first base.
Gutierrez then played just 41 games again this past season after a series of hamstring issues. He rejoined the team in late August after a lengthy stint in Triple-A Tacoma and said he’d been diagnosed with an inflammatory condition called ankylosing spondylitis, which he believes contributed to his host of ailments over the previous two years as well.
Gutierrez said medication was helping him control that condition and he hit .235 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in 23 games after returning for the final five weeks. For the season, he hit .248 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs in 145 at-bats.
Gutierrez had a slash line of .255/.305/.383 with 45 home runs and 194 RBIs in 478 games over five seasons in Seattle and was regarded as one of the premier defensive center fielders in the game when healthy, though manager Eric Wedge moved him to right field upon his return this past season in order to reduce the strain on his body.
Saunders had a shorter history with Seattle, working as the No. 3 starter behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma this year after signing as a free agent. He ranked 10th among left-handed starters in the American League with 183 innings, but gave up the second-most hits in the Majors with 232 and opposing hitters batted .311 against him with a 1.60 WHIP.
Saunders is 89-81 with a 4.30 ERA over a nine-year MLB career that has included stints with the Angels, D-backs, Orioles and Mariners.
General manager Jack Zduriencik has concluded his initial round of talks in Phoenix with prospective managerial candidates for the Mariners and will return to Seattle this weekend and then begin bringing in several finalists for second interviews in the coming days.
Zduriencik is believed to have talked to at least a dozen candidates to replace Eric Wedge, who stepped down at the end of last season. The fifth-year GM is keeping the process as confidential as possible, given that two other teams – the Tigers and Cubs – are still pursuing many of the same names for their own vacancies.
The Reds and Nationals have both filled their openings, with Cincinnati promoting pitching coach Bryan Price prior to the World Series and the Nats finalizing their deal with D-backs third base coach Matt Williams on Thursday.
Zduriencik is known to have talked with A’s bench coach Chip Hale, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, Tigers hitting coach and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon and Giants bench coach Ron Wotus.
An interesting sixth name emerged Thursday as a SportsIllustrated.com report came out that former Mariners catcher and current broadcaster Dave Valle (pictured) had interviewed for the job this week. A source familiar with the talks confirmed that story, though indicated the interview actually took place last week.
Though Valle has no prior managing experience, Zduriencik met with him after the former catcher expressed interest. It’s not known if any other internal candidates have interviewed, though assistant GM Ted Simmons and two of Wedge’s coaches — Daren Brown and Robby Thompson — are all potential candidates.
Valle, 53, was a 13-year Major League veteran who played for Seattle from 1984-93 and then had short stints with the Red Sox, Brewers and Rangers before retiring in 1996. He has worked as a broadcaster for the Rangers and Mariners since his retirement and also has done analysis for the MLB Network.
Though Valle has no managing experience, all five teams with Major League openings this offseason seem more open to non-traditional candidates after the success of Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny, a former catcher who reached the World Series in his second year on the job after never managing prior to his hiring.
Robin Ventura of the White Sox is another former player who worked only as a special advisor to the club before getting his shot at managing the past two years. Don Mattingly never had any managerial experience before being hired by the Dodgers in 2011, but did work as a Major League hitting coach for several seasons.
Of this offseason’s two hires, neither Price nor Williams has previously managed, though Price was a long-time pitching coach and Williams worked as the D-backs third base coach the past four seasons.
The Tigers interviewed Renteria — who managed in the Minors before moving onto the Padres coaching staff in 2008 — on Thursday as they continue searching for a replacement for Jim Leyland. Detroit is also known to have interviewed Wallach, McClendon and Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus, another former player with no coaching or managing experience.
The Cubs interviewed Wedge on Tuesday and have also spoken with Renteria as well as former D-backs manager A.J. Hinch, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and former Indians and Nats skipper Manny Acta.
Both the Cubs and Tigers are believed to be interested in Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, who hasn’t been available until now because he was coaching in the World Series. It’s not known if the Mariners have any intention of pursuing Lovullo.
With the Red Sox clinching the World Series last night, MLB’s offseason offiicially begins today. And there is no time to be wasted on the MLB calendar as that means free agency is already underway for players not under contract.
For the Mariners, five veterans became free agents today — outfielders Raul Ibanez and Endy Chavez, designated hitter Kendrys Morales (pictured), catcher Humberto Quintero and lefty reliever Oliver Perez.
Two other players — lefty Joe Saunders and outfielder Franklin Gutierrez — could become free agents if the Mariners don’t agree to options in their contracts that would bring them back in 2014.
The Mariners’ 40-man roster is now at 35 players with reliever Stephen Pryor still on the 60-day disabled list. Pryor will need to be put back on the 40-man by Monday.
I posted this story today on Mariners.com that outlines the Mariners’ offseason agenda with free agency and what positions are of greatest need and how much money figures to be available.
I also recommend this story by my MLB.com colleague Doug Miller as a good overview of the whole free-agent process and what to look for at different points this offseason.
Teams now have five days to exclusively negotiate and sign their own free agents. Then on the sixth day after the World Series — which will be next Tuesday – free-agent players can sign with any of the 30 Major League teams, including re-signing with their own team if they choose.
The other option is for teams to make a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to any of their own free agents. If the player turns that down, the team will receive a compensatory pick at the end of the first round of next June’s draft. Obviously such offers are only made to players who the team would be willing to pay that much money to if accepted, so it’s a pretty elite group that receivers offers.
Nine players around MLB got qualifying offers last year and all nine turned them down and later worked out longer-term deals either with their own teams or elsewhere. The Mariners are expected to make Morales a qualifying offer and he is expected to turn it down. Which, again, doesn’t mean he won’t return to Seattle. It just means he won’t return for a one-year, $14.1 million deal, but instead will look to see how much he can get on the open market.
The deadline for teams to make qualifying offers to their own free agents is 2 p.m. PT on the fifth day following the conclusion of the World Series (or this coming Monday). A player has until 2 p.m. PT on the seventh day after receiving the offer to accept it, which in this case makes Nov. 11 the latest date of acceptance.
Tim Wallach is the newest name to emerge on the Mariners’ managerial search list, as the Dodgers third base coach confirmed to MLB.com on Tuesday that he will be meeting with Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik this week.
Wallach, who is expected to interview on Thursday, becomes the fifth confirmed candidate for the opening created by Eric Wedge’s departure. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com was the first to report Wallach would be talking with Zduriencik. The 56-year-old already has interviewed for the Tigers’ vacancy as well.
Zduriencik is conducting preliminary interviews in Phoenix with a large group of candidates, possibly as many as 10-12, and will likely finish up that process this week and then bring several finalists to Seattle as early as next week.
The other candidates that are known to have talked with Zduriencik already are A’s bench coach Chip Hale, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, Tigers hitting coach and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon and Giants bench coach Ron Wotus.
Wallach was a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner as a third baseman for the Montreal Expos during a 17-year-playing career from 1980-96 that included stops with the Dodgers and Angels.
He has been the Dodgers third base coach the past three seasons after managing the club’s Triple-A team in Albuquerque to a 152-135 record in 2009-10. Wallach was the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2009, when he also was named Baseball America’s “Best Manager Prospect.”
Wallach also served as the Dodgers hitting coach from 2004-05 and previously coached and managed at the Class-A level with two different Dodgers’ clubs, as well as spending a year coaching at his alma mater, Cal State Fullerton in 2000.
Wallach was a career .257 hitter in the Major Leagues and racked up 2,085 hits, 260 home runs and 1,125 RBIs. He led the Majors in doubles in 1987 with 42 and won two Silver Slugger Awards before retiring in 1996.
The Dodgers drafted each of his three sons. One remains a catcher in the Dodgers organization, another is pitching in the Cubs system and the third is currently a catcher at Cal State Fullerton.
Ron Wotus is the latest name to emerge as a candidate for the Mariners managerial vacancy, as Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik interviewed the long-time Giants bench coach on Friday, according to a baseball source.
Wotus, 52, has been in the Giants organization the past 25 years, including the last 15 on their Major League coaching staff.
The Connecticut native managed in the Giants’ Minor League system from 1991-97 and earned two Manager of the Year awards while compiling a 554-412 record. He joined the Giants staff in 1998 as Dusty Baker’s third-base coach and then became the bench coach in 1999, a position he’s held ever since on a team that won World Series titles in 2010 and ’12.
Wotus is the longest-tenured coach in Giants history, having worked with three different managers. He stayed with the club when Felipe Alou replaced Baker and again when Bruce Bochy took over in 2007.
Wotus was an infielder who played professionally for 11 years, including parts of 1983 and ’84 with the Pirates in his only Major League action. He finished up his playing career in the Giants organization before they hired him as a coach.
Wotus is the fourth name to emerge from Zduriencik’s search to replace Eric Wedge, who stepped down after his third season at the helm. A’s bench coach Chip Hale and Padres bench coach Rick Renteria are known to be among those who also interviewed last week and Tigers hitting coach and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon told MLB.com he’ll interview this week.
Zduriencik was in Seattle over the weekend, but flew back to Arizona on Sunday night and is continuing the interview process in Phoenix this week. He’s believed to be having preliminary talks with a large group of candidates before narrowing the search.
The Mariners are one of three teams still looking for a manager, along with the Tigers and Cubs, with the Reds having already promoted pitching coach Bryan Price and the Nationals reportedly having reached agreement with D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams.
Teams are discouraged from announcing managerial hires during the World Series, so no further announcements are expected until the Red Sox and Cardinals conclude play this week.
Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon can be added to the list of candidates interviewing for the Mariners managerial opening, as the former Pirates skipper confirmed to MLB.com on Saturday that he’ll be talking to Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik next week.
Zduriencik began preliminary interviews with a number of people this past week in Arizona, with the other confirmed talks being with A’s bench coach Chip Hale and Padres bench coach Rick Renteria.
Zduriencik was in Seattle on Saturday to speak at an American Legion Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, then was scheduled to return to Arizona for more interviews. Among the inductees Saturday night were Mariners groundskeeper Bob Christofferson and former Mariners pitchers Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Campbell.
McClendon was the first candidate interviewed by the Tigers on Thursday and is regarded by some a leading contender for that post after Jim Leyland stepped down last week. He worked on Leyland’s staff the past eight seasons after managing the Pirates from 2001-05.
The Tigers have also interviewed Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, who is also believed to have interest in Seattle’s opening.
McClendon also interviewed with the Mariners in 2010 when they instead hired Eric Wedge, who just resigned following his third-straight losing season due to a disagreement with management.
McClendon had a 336–446 record in five years with the Pirates when Pittsburgh was in the midst of a 20-year run of losing seasons, then was immediately hired by Detroit and has been regarded as a big part of the Tigers success as they’ve reached the American League Championship Series four times and the World Series twice during his eight years with Leyland.
The Mariners are one of three teams still looking for a manager along with the Tigers and Cubs, with the Reds already having promoted pitching coach Bryan Price and the Nationals reportedly having reached agreement with D-backs third base coach Matt Williams.
Teams are discouraged from announcing managerial hires during the World Series, so no further announcements are expected until the Red Sox and Cardinals conclude the Fall Classic.
All three remaining teams could also be waiting to interview candidates from those teams, with Red Sox third base coach Torey Lovullo regarded as one of the top available prospects.
Tim Lincecum officially signed his two-year, $35 million contract extension with the Giants on Friday, as reported here by MLB.com’s Cash Kruth.
And while most of Friday’s press conference in San Francisco was naturally focused on Lincecum and his decision to remain with the same club he’s played with for all seven of his Major League seasons, a question was asked about whether the Northwest native had thought about being courted by the Mariners in free agency and if he pondered playing for his hometown team.
“I did, I did,” LIncecum said. “Home is always going to be home to me and maybe I’ll look at that route later on in life as a professional place, but personally I wasn’t ready for that kind of jump.
“I always kind of looked at the Mariners as an opportunity to go home and play for a hometown team. Obviously, I went to UW and grew up in Renton, but [that's a possibility] later on in the career. Right now I’m just focused on being as good as I can be and I feel like I’m at the age where I make those decisions and act upon them.”
While there was some early speculation that the Mariners might be interested this offseason in the pitcher they passed over in the first round of the 2006 Draft, they never had a chance to pursue Lincecum as he re-upped with the Giants before the free agency period even began.
Unsigned veterans become free agents immediately after the final game of the World Series and their own teams then have five days of exclusive negotating rights before other teams can sign them.
The Washington Nationals are on the verge of naming D-backs third base coach Matt Williams as their new manager, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, which continues an interesting early trend among the five managerial openings.
Of the two hires so far — the Reds promoting pitching coach Bryan Price and now the Nats closing in on Williams (pictured at right) – neither involves a man with previous Major League managerial experience even though those are two contending teams with high expectations.
Maybe it’s the available crop, or the realization that an untested skipper like Mike Matheny — who spent two years as a roving Minor League instructor with the Cardinals before getting his shot — has done just fine in getting the Cardinals to the World Series.
For whatever reason, there doesn’t seem to be a big push for any of the remaining teams — the Mariners, Cubs or Tigers — to chase even after Dusty Baker, the biggest-named available skipper after he was fired by the Reds.
The Tigers have interviewed Lloyd McClendon, who previously managed the Pirates, but has been Jim Leyland’s hitting coach in Detroit since 2006. They appear in the likeliest position to pursue a proven skipper, given their playoff success and position to continue challenging in the American League in the immediate future, but among the names brought up as potential Tigers candidates is former catcher Brad Ausmus.
Ausmus has never managed or coached at any level, but has been in the Padres front office since retiring in 2010. There appears to be mutual interest between the Mariners and Ausmus as well, but these things are hard to gauge and GM Jack Zduriencik has been talking to numerous people this week in Arizona.
Zduriencik is returning to Seattle this weekend and will be the keynote speaker on Saturday night at an American Legion Hall of Fame Induction event at the SeaTac Marriott, then will return to Arizona to continue interviews and watch the Mariners’ Arizona Fall League club.
Among the people Zduriencik has interviewed this week are A’s bench coach Chip Hale and Padres bench coach Rick Renteria. Those are just the names that have come out so far, but both are well respected in baseball circles as bright coaches with good leadership and communication skills and knowledge of the game.
Renteria is regarded by many as the top contender for the Cubs opening and he has a past relationship with Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, who was previously in San Diego.
But the Cubs are keeping things open as well and word emerged Friday that Eric Wedge will interview with them next week, as reported here by my colleague Carrie Muskat from MLB.com. Wedge is one of the most-experienced names being tossed around, given his 10 years as skipper of the Indians and Mariners. It will be interesting to see how he’s perceived as a candidate, coming off his abrupt departure following three losing seasons in Seattle.
My sense is the Mariners will join the Nats and Reds in hiring a fresh face, someone with some coaching background at the Major League level who can grow with a young club. Hale and Renteria fit that mold. So might Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach or Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo. Or a number of other smart baseball men who are just waiting for their chance after working in the background for a few years.
These kind of candidates don’t appease fans who want a proven commodity. But it’s worth remembering that proven commodities don’t always win. In fact, they’re only available because they got fired elsewhere. As much as fans clamor for a proven guy like Lou Piniella, even Piniella was 519-578 in seven seasons with the Rays and Cubs after leaving Seattle.
Piniella won in Seattle with the right combination of players. A good manager can make a difference, but the biggest key for any club is the talent level of its athletes. Finding the right leader to put those players in positions to succeed, develop and get the most out of their abilities is part of the equation.
But as Matheny has shown in St. Louis, there isn’t one right or wrong type of manager. The key isn’t finding the biggest available name. It’s finding the right man for the job. The Reds, after winning 90 games last year, are turning the ship over to Price for his first run at anything more than pitching coach. The Nats, after winning 86 games, are turning to Williams, who has four years as a base coach with the D-backs and six weeks of Arizona Fall League managerial duty on his resume.
We’ll see in the next week or two if Zduriencik follows a similar path.