Yankees promote Alan Cockrell to hitting coach, Marcus Thames to assistant hitting coach

Thames. (Blade/Julia Nagy)
Thames. (Blade/Julia Nagy)

6:34pm ET: The Yankees have officially announced the moves. Cockrell takes over as hitting coach and Thames is the assistant hitting coach.

5:23pm ET: According to George King, the Yankees are planning to promote assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell to the primary hitting coach position. Triple-A Scranton hitting coach Marcus Thames will be promoted to serve as Cockrell’s assistant. The Yankees have not yet confirmed or announced the moves.

Hitting coach Jeff Pentland was let go earlier this month, as was bullpen coach Gary Tuck. The Yankees hired Pentland and Cockrell last offseason after firing Kevin Long. Pentland always seemed like a stopgap coach, though I thought he would stick around longer than one year. I was wrong.

Cockrell, 52, was the Rockies hitting coach from 2006-08, the Mariners hitting coach from 2009-10, and a minor league hitting coordinator with the Diamondbacks from 2011-12. He served as a roving minor league hitting coordinator with the Yankees from 2013-14 before joining the big league staff.

Thames, 38, played for the Yankees in 2002 and 2010. They hired him as a coach prior to the 2013 season and he steadily climbed the minor league ladder — Thames was the hitting coach for High-A Tampa (2013), Double-A Trenton (2014), and Triple-A Scranton (2015) in recent years.

It has seemed as though the ultra-likable Thames was being groomed for the hitting coach job the last few seasons. King says the Yankees were impressed with his minor league work and notes other clubs were showing interest in Thames as a coach. The Yankees decided he was ready for a big league job. Neat.

With Cockrell and Thames promoted, the Yankees now only have to replace Tuck as bullpen coach. There have not been rumblings any yet, but I do think it’s worth noting ex-bullpen coach Mike Harkey was let go as D’Backs pitching coach a few weeks ago.

Front Office & Coaching Staff Notes: Hendry, Chavez, Mattingly, Magadan, Baylor, Tuck

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Both the Yankees’ front office and the coaching staff have been shaken up a bit in recent weeks. Assistant GM Billy Eppler left to take over as Angels GM, and trusted scout Tim Naehring was promoted to take his place. Hitting coach Jeff Pentland and bullpen coach Gary Tuck were let go as well. Here are some front office and coaching staff notes via Nick Cafardo, Joel Sherman, Jerry Crasnick, George King, Ryan Hatch, and Jon Heyman.

  • Special advisor Jim Hendry interviewed with the Phillies for their since filled GM position. They named Angels assistant GM Matt Klentak their new GM over the weekend. Although he didn’t get the GM job, it’s still possible Hendry will join the Phillies as an advisor.
  • Special assignment scout Eric Chavez has left the Yankees to join Eppler with the Angels. His contract was up, so he was free to leave on his own. The Yankees hired Chavez last offseason and he had input into the Didi Gregorius trade since he played with Gregorius with the D’Backs.
  • Don Mattingly is not currently interested in the Yankees hitting coach position. He’s been there, done that. Mattingly wants to continue managing and right now there are four open managerial jobs: Dodgers, Padres, Nationals, and Marlins. Obviously he’s not going back to the Dodgers after leaving last week. The Marlins’ job is reportedly Mattingly’s to lose.
  • Dave Magadan will not be a candidate for the hitting coach job, apparently. He was let go as Rangers hitting coach about a week ago. The Yankees interviewed Magadan for their hitting coach position last offseason before hiring Pentland.
  • Don Baylor could be a hitting coach candidate. He held the position with the Angels the last two seasons before Eppler let him go a few days ago. Baylor, a former Yankees player, managed Joe Girardi with both the Rockies and Cubs, so there’s a connection.
  • Gary Tuck was apparently let go as bullpen coach last week because he and the analytic heavy front office didn’t mesh too well. I’m not sure what a bullpen coach does that involves analytics, but whatever.
  • In case you missed it yesterday, the Yankees reached out to former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington about joining the front office, but he declined.

Sherman: Yankees reached out to Ben Cherington about joining front office

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)
(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees reached out to former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to see whether he had interest in joining the team’s front office a few weeks ago, but Cherington declined. “I reached out to him. I have a lot of respect for him, his integrity and how he did his job,” said Brian Cashman to Sherman.

Cherington, 41, stepped down as Red Sox GM in mid-August after the team named Dave Dombrowski their president of baseball operations. The BoSox gave Cherington an opportunity to remain with the team, but he decided to leave, feeling his authority within in the organization had been diminished.

A few weeks ago Cherington told reporters he planned to get away from the GM life for a while. He reportedly turned down opportunities to interview with Mariners and Angels about their since filled GM positions. Cherington signed on to teach a “leadership in sports” course at Columbia recently.

I’m not at all surprised Cashman reached out to Cherington. The Red Sox have kinda sucked the last few years, but Cherington’s been there a very long time and had a hand in building their 2004, 2007, and 2013 World Series title teams. As far as I’m concerned, the more smart people in the front office, the better.

The Yankees lost assistant GM Billy Eppler a few weeks ago when he left to take over as Angels GM. Trusted scout Tim Naehring was recently promoted to vice president of baseball operations to replace Eppler. Cherington would have helped fill the void created by Eppler’s departure, for sure.

Reports: Yankees tab Tim Naehring to replace Billy Eppler

Naehring back during his playing days. (Getty)
Naehring back during his playing days. (Getty)

Trusted scout Tim Naehring has received a “major promotion” and will replace departed assistant GM Billy Eppler, according to multiple reports. Eppler left the Yankees to take over as the Angels GM earlier this month. An official announcement is expected soon. Apparently the Yankees may also shuffle some other front office personnel into new roles as well.

Naehring, 48, will hold the title of Vice President of Baseball Operations — not Assistant GM like Eppler — and assume all of Eppler’s responsibilities. That essentially means he will take over as Brian Cashman‘s right hand man. Cashman indicated he would look outside the organization for Eppler’s replacement but preferred to promote from within.

The Yankees hired Naehring back in 2007 after he spent time working for the Reds. He has had a trusted voice in the organization for a few years now — Naehring was the first to recommend Didi Gregorius, for example — but reportedly turned down promotions in the past so he could remain close to his family in Cincinnati. I guess this promotion was too good to pass up.

Naehring, a former Red Sox infielder, was one of three internal candidates to replace Eppler. Scout Jay Darnell and player personnel head Kevin Reese were also in the mix, reportedly. I don’t know anything about Naehring’s front office skills, so I have nothing to offer. Sorry. All I know is Cashman trusts him enough to make him his top lieutenant.

Yankees fire hitting coach Jeff Pentland and bullpen coach Gary Tuck

Pentland. (NY Daily News)
Pentland. (NY Daily News)

According to George King, the Yankees have fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland and bullpen coach Gary Tuck. Apparently the rest of the coaching staff will remain in place, including assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell. Cockrell could be considered for the main hitting coach job.

“I am not coming back,’’ said Pentland to King. “When I signed, I was told it was probably a one-year deal. That was always in the back of my mind, but we didn’t look too good the last month. It’s the Yankees, that’s the best way to describe it. I have no regrets.’’

The Yankees went from 20th in runs scored to second this season, though most of their players struggled down the stretch and late in the season. After firing Kevin Long last offseason, the Yankees will be on their third different hitting coach in three years next season.

It’s a bit more surprising the Yankees let go of Tuck, to be honest. He worked well with the team’s catchers and Brian McCann has credited Tuck for improving his throwing. McCann has thrown out 36% of base-stealers as a Yankees after throwing out only 24% with the Braves. It’s worth noting former bullpen coach Mike Harkey was let go by the Diamondbacks a few weeks ago. I suppose he could be in the mix to replace Tuck.

As for the hitting coach, the Yankees could look at Cockrell and other internal candidates like Triple-A Scranton hitting coach Marcus Thames and minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson. Both interviewed for the job last year. I’m curious to see if the two hitting coach system, which is so common in baseball nowadays, will remain in place.

Reports: Kevin Reese, Tim Naehring, Jay Darnell among candidates to replace Billy Eppler

Generic photo is generic. (Presswire)
Generic photo is generic. (Presswire)

Soon after the Yankees were eliminated from the postseason last week, assistant GM Billy Eppler headed back home to Southern California to take over as Angels GM, leaving a void in the front office. Eppler has been Cashman’s right hand man for a few years now. For a while it appeared he was being groomed to one take over as GM.

After Eppler took the job from the Angels, Cashman said he prefers to replace him from within, though an outside hire is always possible. “I will look outside, too. But you always want to promote from within if you can. I believe in our system and depth of our personnel,” he said to Joel Sherman.

According to George King and Nick Cafardo, among the internal candidates to replace Eppler are player personnel head Kevin Reese (the former outfielder!) and trusted scouts Tim Naehring and Jay Darnell. Naehring reportedly had a big hand in acquiring Didi Gregorius while Darnell was the scout who recommended Yangervis Solarte.

Cafardo says Naehring has turned down promotions in the past because he is based in Cincinnati and wants to remain close to his family. There was some talk Naehring and Darnell would join Eppler in Anaheim, but Cashman shot that down. “That’s not true. They’re under contract,” the GM said.

The Yankees still have two assistant GMs even with Eppler gone: Jean Afterman and Michael Fishman. Afterman is the contract and legal guru from what I understand. Fishman heads the team’s statistical analysis department. Jon Heyman says special advisor Jim Hendry now has a “big voice in the organization,” though apparently he isn’t a candidate to take over as assistant GM.

I don’t know anything about Reese, Naehring, and Darnell as far as their front office skills, but they’re reportedly candidates to replace Eppler, so they must be highly regarded within the organization. I have to think replacing Eppler is something the Yankees want to do soon, before the offseason really gets underway.

Manager Dave Miley will not return to Triple-A Scranton in 2016

(Times Leader)
(Times Leader)

Longtime manager Dave Miley will not return to Triple-A Scranton next season, according to multiple reports. “Dave was great for the Yankees and did a lot of great stuff,” said Brian Cashman to George King. “Obviously, Gary (Denbo) is running (the farm system now) and is trying to put people in places. With new people changes occur with new regimes.”

Miley, 53, has managed New York’s top minor league club since 2006, when they were still affiliated with the Columbus Clippers. He remained with the organization when the Yankees left Columbus for Scranton in 2007. Miley played in the minors from 1980-87 without reaching MLB. He coached in the Reds’ farm system from 1988-2002 before serving as their big league manager from 2003-05.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise has been around since 1989 and Miley is the all-time leader in wins (714). He led them to their only International League championship in 2008 as well as five division titles (2007-10, 2015). Miley was in charge when Triple-A Scranton spent the entire 2012 season on the road due to extensive renovations at PNC Field, and he’s managed every one of the Yankees’ recent top prospects, including Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Jesus Montero, and Luis Severino. It’s a long list.

It’s unclear who will replace Miley and it’s too early for that anyway. Minor league coaching staffs usually aren’t announced until December or January. Denbo replaced Mark Newman last year and rearranged the coaching staffs extensively. Some coaches were moved around — longtime Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin was moved to the new Rookie Pulaski affiliate, for example — and some were replaced with outside hires. Miley was one of the very few who remained in place.