And should they stay in-house or bring in somebody new?
The Oakland A’s need a new manager.
This week, before the offseason has even officially begun, longtime skipper Bob Melvin jumped to the San Diego Padres. That leaves a big hole to fill in the A’s dugout.
Melvin had been here for 11 seasons and he was popular and successful throughout, so it’s been a while since we’ve had to think about the topic of a new manager. What’s more, he had another year remaining on his contract, so while the end of an era had seemed increasingly imminent lately, this particular move is happening sooner than expected.
But here we are. Let’s begin the search.
The first question to consider is whether Oakland should choose an in-house candidate or bring in somebody new from outside the organization. Promoting from within might seem like the natural A’s thing to do, and indeed that’s how they settled on Ken Macha and Bob Geren in the past. Such a decision might also come cheaper in terms of salary, which is always a factor with this club.
However, Melvin himself is a counterexample to all of that. When Geren turned out to be a total flop, the A’s did reach outside their ranks to bring in Melvin, who was working in the D’Backs front office at the time. And they paid him handsomely, with his salary growing to one of the highest in the majors for a manager — he was set for $3.5 million next year (now bumping up to $4 million with the Padres).
So far, making an external hire for manager and paying top dollar has yielded the best success for Oakland. It would make sense to do that again, especially since the difference between a high and low manager salary is a pittance compared with the spectrum of player payrolls. If you like value, then this is an area you can maximize without breaking the bank — $3.5 million is middle reliever money these days.
That said, finances seem to be especially tight for John Fisher’s team right now, and there are a couple of particularly interesting and legitimately qualified candidates in the organization already. Filling the spot from within would be a perfectly reasonable option this time around, and it might even be the best choice.
With all that in mind, here are three names to consider.
The A’s have been grooming Christenson for this spot for years.
He managed a team at every full-season level of their minor league system, from Low-A Beloit in 2013, to High-A Stockton in 2014, to Double-A Midland in 2015-16, and Triple-A Nashville in 2017. In four of those five years he led his clubs to the playoffs, and both years in Double-A they won the Texas League championship — featuring stars including Sean Manaea, Matt Olson, and Matt Chapman. In 2018 he moved up to the majors and became Oakland’s bench coach, a role he’s held for four years.
That’s a direct path to the manager’s job. It doesn’t get more clear-cut than that. Until we hear anything specific about the club’s plans, you’ve gotta think Christenson is the default choice. At age 47 he’d be one of the younger skippers in the majors, hungry for his first opportunity to prove himself, leading a presumably rebuilding squad of players doing the same.
Extra note: In 2019, the Pirates interviewed Christenson for manager but didn’t choose him.
While Kotsay doesn’t have any managerial experience yet, the 45-year-old has been an MLB coach for a while now. He spent a summer as the Padres hitting coach in 2015, then six seasons on the A’s staff in various roles including bench coach, third base coach, and something called Quality Control coach. Toss in a 17-year career as a highly respected player in the majors, and he knows his way around a dugout.
That resume has drawn the attention of the rest of the league, and Kotsay has been on the national radar for a couple years. In the past two winters he interviewed for manager spots with the Giants, Astros, and Tigers, and he was considered by the Pirates alongside Christenson.
He also has some history in Oakland. He spent four seasons here as an outfielder from 2004-07, starring for most of that time. In 2004 he got the only MVP votes of his career, and in 2006 he made his first trip to the playoffs, hitting a go-ahead inside-the-park homer to help win Game 2 of the ALDS. (Christenson played for the A’s too, as an outfielder from 1998-2001.)
Time for a curveball! Let’s dream up a fun name to represent the idea of an external hire.
David O’Brien, who covers the Atlanta Braves for the The Athletic, has a suggestion:
With Bob Melvin leaving Oakland, gotta think Ron Washington will be high on the list of candidates for A’s managerial job. They loved him in Oakland — just as players and everyone else does in Atlanta — during his 13 years on the A’s coaching staff in two different stints.
That’s not any kind of rumor, just speculation from an insider. But wouldn’t it be something? The idea of him leaving his current gig with the possible-champion Braves isn’t a fantasy, as he was believed to be interested in the Padres job that went to Melvin. On Tuesday he was straightforward about whether he’d like to manage again, via Zach Klein of ABC Atlanta:
“No doubt about it. If you have experienced it, that’s the place to be. That way you can mold the type of baseball you want to see.”
Everybody loves Wash. He’s already well-known here in Oakland. He has managerial experience from his time with the Texas Rangers, where he spent eight seasons and led the way to a pair of World Series appearances. And with his 70th birthday approaching he wants to manage again, which won’t happen anytime soon in Atlanta given how well their skipper is doing. That’s a lot of dots lining up.
On Ron Washington’s candidacy for Oakland manager, Freddie Freeman said, “He deserves it.” @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) October 29, 2021
It’s only a fun idea for now, and there are question marks. Does he want to start a new rebuild, as opposed to the instant contender that interested him in San Diego? Would his old-school style mesh with the analytic-minded A’s? But if you want to go outside the org for a big name, this would be a good place to start.
It remains to be seen what the A’s want to do with their manager vacancy, but there’s no shortage of quality options to choose from. Christenson and Kotsay have both earned a chance somewhere, and you have to wonder if the one(s) who get passed over for this opening might bolt for the next chance elsewhere. If Wash is available then he has the benefit of experience, having overseen a successful rebuild once before in Texas. Or there could be other external candidates too.
Who are you hoping to see, Athletics Nation? Vote in the poll below!