Archive for Front Office
The Yankees fired hitting coach Kevin Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher late last week. Brian Cashman confirmed the rest of the staff will be retained — “If we choose to make any other changes we’ll let you know, otherwise everything is status quo until then,” he said — though there has been speculation bullpen coach Gary Tuck, third base coach Robbie Thomson, and bench coach Tony Pena could be moved into different roles. We’ll see. Here are a bunch of coaching and front office staff updates courtesy of Bob Klapisch, Erik Boland, Sweeny Murti, Chad Jennings, Susan Slusser, Bob Nightengale, Donnie Collins, Andrew Marchand, and George King.
- Interesting comment from Cashman after the firings were announced (emphasis mine): “There are some individuals, I think, as we move forward (who) will bring more for the global perspective of the coaching staff … There are some more things that I want to add to the staff with Joe Girardi. And in my dialogue with Joe, we look forward to interviewing some personnel that can bring those things to the table.” Hmmm.
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters he is “assuming” he will return to the team next year after they were eliminated from the postseason last week, though nothing has been decided yet. If Mattingly does get canned, I have to think the Yankees will consider bringing him back as hitting coach, the role he held from 2004-06 before taking over as Joe Torre’s bench coach.
- Tino Martinez is not a hitting coach candidate and Paul O’Neill gave a simple “no” when asked if he was interested in the job. Tino was the Marlins hitting coach in 2013 but resigned that July after word got out that he verbally abused players in the clubhouse and literally choked one player. So yeah, forget that.
- Former Yankees DH and current Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis is “getting mentioned” as a hitting coach candidate. Davis has been Oakland’s hitting coach since the 2012 season and before that was a minor league coach with the Red Sox and Dodgers. There’s also speculation Dante Bichette could be a candidate for the job. He was the Rockies hitting coach in 2013 and is close with Girardi.
- There’s also speculation current Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Harkey could return as bullpen coach — Harkey was the Yankees bullpen coach from 2008-13 — with Tuck taking over as bench coach and Pena taking over as first base coach. (Tuck was Girardi’s bench coach with the Marlins in 2006.) The D’Backs just hired new GM Dave Stewart and fired manager Kirk Gibson, so other coaching staff changes are expected.
- Triple-A Scranton hitting coach Butch Wynegar was let go after the season and third base coach Luis Sojo won’t return to the team next year. That doesn’t mean Sojo’s leaving the organization, it just means won’t be with the RailRiders in 2015. Double-A Trenton hitting coach Marcus Thames is well-regarded within the organization but is not a candidate for the MLB hitting coach job right now.
- The Dodgers are reportedly mulling over the future of GM Ned Colletti, and Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler is already getting consideration as a possible replacement. Eppler interviewed for the Padres GM job earlier this year.
- Special assistant Trey Hillman may leave the Yankees to become new Astros manager A.J. Hinch’s bench coach. Hillman is considered a candidate to replace retiring VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman as head of the farm system. He’s also a candidate to join the MLB coaching staff in some capacity.
And finally, I can’t help but wonder if the Yankees will adopt the two-hitting coach system many teams use nowadays. (Seventeen teams employ two hitting coaches right now.) They were reportedly considering hiring an assistant hitting coach two years ago but never did, and that “globe perspective” talk from Cashman makes me think Hideki Matsui will be considered for the staff. He’s always working with the team’s minor leaguers at the various parks. Anyway, that’s just me thinking out loud. If the Yankees were going to add an assistant hitting coach, now is the perfect time.
Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees will not retain first base coach Mick Kelleher. He also served as the team’s infield instructor. I’m pretty sure Kelleher’s contract was up, so they technically aren’t firing him. They just aren’t bringing him back. Kelleher had been the team’s first base coach since 2009.
Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees have fired hitting coach Kevin Long. GM Brian Cashman signed a new three-year extension today and it seems they waited until that was complete to announce any coaching changes. First base coach Mick Kelleher was also let go. Joe Girardi said Long and the rest of the staff were going to be evaluated soon after the end of the season, though that’s no different than every other season.
Long, 47, is essentially being scapegoated for the team’s underperforming offense. He took over as hitting coach in 2007 and the Yankees led baseball with a 113 wRC+ from 2007-12 before falling apart these last two years, when, not coincidentally, the quality of the players on the roster went down. Brian McCann was the only regular this year to perform well below reasonable expectations. No word on who will replace Long, but I’m sure that’s something the Yankees want to address sooner rather than later. Double-A Trenton hitting coach Marcus Thames is someone to keep in mind.
The Yankees have re-signed GM Brian Cashman to a new three-year contract, the team officially announced. The two sides had reportedly been talking about a new deal for a few weeks now. This is Cashman’s fifth straight three-year contract. No word on the value, but his last deal was worth $9M total and I’m sure he got some sort of raise.
Cashman, 47, has been the team’s GM since 1998 and the Yankees are literally the only employer he’s had in his adult life. He started with the team as an intern way back in the mid-1980s. I don’t really mind that Cashman is coming back, he seems to consistently come out ahead in trades, but the strategy of throwing money at free agents to plug every hole has to change. Free agency isn’t what it once was and that approach just isn’t as effective as it used to be.
Via George King: Long-time pro scout Gordon Blakeley has left the Yankees for a position with the Braves. He will be a special assistant to their new GM whenever they hire a permanent replacement for the recently fired Frank Wren. King says Blakeley’s contract was up later this month. “I was with the Yankees a long time. But this is a new challenge, and I am looking forward to it,” he said.
Blakeley held a few different positions during his 21 years with the Yankees, including VP of Baseball Ops and head of pro and international scouting. Blakeley had been working in the pro scouting department since 2004, focusing mostly on Latin American prospects. He was the scout who originally signed Robinson Cano, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras, and Phil Hughes, among others. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman is retiring and some other player development folks are said to be on the chopping block, so there will be a lot of turnover among the head farm system honchos this winter.
Via Buster Olney: The Yankees have started the process of putting together a new contract for GM Brian Cashman. His current deal expires at the end of the October but this is something they have to take of sooner rather than later so they can begin mapping out the offseason. A few weeks ago we heard the Steinbrenners wanted to bring Cashman back despite their second straight postseason-less year.
“My stuff’s not really resolved, so there have been no discussions just yet,” said Cashman to Chad Jennings when asked about offseason plans over the weekend. “That will all wait for another day. I don’t want to talk about game-planning or focus, what should or shouldn’t be looked at. I’ll wait until we all sit down with ownership, they can map out their strategy and who’s going to be a part of that, and we can go from there.”
Cashman has been the GM since 1998 and that’s an eternity in GM years. There are plenty of strong arguments for both keeping him and finding a new GM, but, either way, the Yankees need to make some changes to their team-building approach because the whole “throw money at free agents” strategy doesn’t work like it once did. The game has changed and the Yankees have yet to keep pace.
Via Ken Rosenthal: Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler will not interview for the vacant Diamondbacks GM position. Arizona confirmed he was on their list of candidates soon after firing GM Kevin Towers last week. Eppler interviewed for the Padres GM job earlier this summer and was reportedly the runner-up to the since-hired A.J. Preller. He was also the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels GM position a few years ago.
I think it’s only a coincidence we’re hearing Eppler will not interview for the D’Backs gig the day after reports surfaced that VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman is retiring and a “complete overhaul” of the player development staff may be coming. Based on the typical power structure throughout baseball, going from assistant GM to some sort of top player development position would be, at best, a lateral move for Eppler. His decision not to interview may simply have to do with the uncomfortable situation in Arizona, where Tony La Russa appears to be calling the shots and will be looking over the new GMs shoulder constantly.
The Yankees will likely have a new voice running the farm system next year. Vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman is believed to be retiring after the season, reports George King. The team has not made an official announcement and both Newman and Brian Cashman declined to comment on the matter, so this isn’t final just yet.
Newman has been with the Yankees since 1988 and has been running the farm system for the last 15 years. He came under some scrutiny last season when Hal Steinbrenner was unhappy with the team’s player development system. King says there is some belief the Yankees would decline to renew Newman’s contract after the season even if he doesn’t decide to retire. Sounds like he’s a goner either way.
The Yankees tend to promote from within, so it’s no surprise that King says special assistant Trey Hillman is expected to replace Newman. Hillman, who managed the Royals from 2008-10, rejoined the Yankees this past offseason. He managed in the team’s farm system from 1990-2001 and has also spent time managing in Japan. Hillman spent this season working with minor leaguers, I believe.
In addition to Newman, the Yankees are also likely to cut ties with director of player development Pat Roessler after the season, according to King. He has been in that role for quite a while now. King says former Yankees hitting coach Gary Denbo will likely replace Roessler. Denbo has been with the team as a scouting and player development consultant since 2009.
The Yankees only made what they called “procedural” changes late last year after reviewing their farm system, and many fans (myself included) weren’t thrilled about that. Procedural changes are boring because we can’t actually see them at work. Replacing Newman and Roessler would be substantial changes to the player development system though. I have no idea how qualified Hillman and Denbo are for those positions, but they will bring new voices, and hopefully that leads to some production from the system. The Yankees definitely need it.
Update: Newman has already informed Hal Steinbrenner that he intends to retire, according to Mark Feinsand. Steinbrenner plans to conduct a “total evaluation” of the player development system that could result in a “complete overhaul” after the season. Feinsand says Denbo, Roessler, amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, and player development staffer Jody Reed could all be replaced. Furthermore, Feinsand hears any replacements are expected to come from outside the organization “as the Yankee brass believes that new ideas and a new direction are needed.”
Yesterday morning, the Diamondbacks officially fired GM Kevin Towers in the wake of their massively disappointing season. (Towers spent 2010 working as a special advisor with the Yankees, so I suppose there’s a chance he could return to the team in some capacity. He and Brian Cashman are very close.) During a conference call with Nick Piecoro, D’Backs exec Tony La Russa named Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler as someone on their list of GM candidates.
Eppler was reportedly a finalist for the Padres GM job earlier this summer, though San Diego eventually went in a different direction. He was also the runner up to Jerry Dipoto for the Angels GM gig a few years ago. The Yankees gave Eppler permission to interview with the Padres and I have no reason to think they won’t allow him to speak with Arizona. He’s been with the Yankees since 2004 and was the director of pro scouting from 2005-11 before being promoted to assistant GM. It’s only a matter of time before Eppler becomes a GM, and with the Yankees likely to re-sign Cashman after the season, chances are that opportunity will come with another team.
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees intend to offer Brian Cashman a new contract once his current deal expires after the season. Hal Steinbrenner was non-committal when asked about the future of his GM last month, but Heyman says ownership does not blame Cashman for what is likely to be back-to-back years without the postseason.
Now, just because ownership wants Cashman back doesn’t mean he will come back. He could always move on to another team if he wants a new challenge or something like that, or he could be burnt out after such a long tenure. Cashman has always been extremely loyal to the Yankees though — they are literally the only employer he’s had in his adult life — and I would be surprised if he left for another club. Either way, Cashman or no Cashman, the Yankees have a lot of work to do to get the team back to perennial contender status. I don’t think they’re one or two more free agents away at this point.