Manager/Coaching Staff Search Updates: Woodward, Beltran, Rothschild, Ausmus, Flaherty, Ibanez

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Woodward. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

It has been two weeks and six days since the Yankees parted ways with Joe Girardi, and so far they have interviewed two managerial candidates (Rob Thomson, Eric Wedge) and have two more interviews scheduled (Aaron Boone, Hensley Meulens). Hal Steinbrenner told Bryan Hoch today that once the list of candidates is cut down, they’ll be brought to Tampa to meet the Steinbrenners for a second round of interviews. Here’s the latest on the manager and coaching staff searches.

Woodward a managerial candidate

Dodgers third base coach and former big league utility man Chris Woodward is a candidate for the manager’s job, report Mark Feinsand and Joel Sherman. An interview is not scheduled yet but is likely to happen. Sherman says the Yankees intend to cap their interviews at five or six candidates. Thomson, Wedge, Boone, and Muelens are four. Woodward would make it five.

Woodward, 41, was in camp with the Yankees as a non-roster player in 2008. He jumped right into coaching after his playing career ended in 2012. Woodward went from Mariners minor league infield coordinator in 2013 to Mariners infield coach in 2014 to Mariners infield and first base coach in 2015 to Dodgers third base coach from 2016-17. He’s said to be highly regarded within baseball and has been considered a future manager for a few years now. John Lott wrote a feature on Woodward last year.

Beltran wants to manage one day

Soon after announcing his retirement earlier this week, Carlos Beltran told Feinsand he would love to manage one day. “With the experience that I have in the game of baseball … I would love that opportunity, for sure,” he said. Feinsand asked Beltran specifically about managing the Yankees. His response:

“I would not discount anything; you’re talking about the New York Yankees. You’re not just talking about any team in baseball. Not taking anything away from any other organization, but the Yankees are a team that anyone would love to put on that uniform and manage that ballclub.”

Sherman says Beltran reached out to Brian Cashman to let him know he wants to manage — Cashman danced around the question when asked about Beltran as a managerial candidate the other day, telling Andrew Marchand, “I am aware of his interest in managing in the future. I’ll leave it at that for right now” — though it doesn’t sound like he’ll get an interview. I think Beltran would benefit from spending a few years as a coach just to see how the other half lives before diving into managing. He’ll manage one day though. For sure.

Rothschild will return in 2018

According to multiple reports, pitching coach Larry Rothschild will return next season no matter who the Yankees hire to be the next manager. A few weeks ago we heard the new manager will have a say in the coaching staff, but apparently that doesn’t apply to the pitching coach. This isn’t that unusual. Both Joe Torre (Willie Randolph, Tony Cloninger) and Girardi (Kevin Long, Tony Pena) inherited coaches when they joined the Yankees. Pitching coaches Don Cooper and Rick Honeycutt have been through multiple managers with the White Sox and Dodgers, respectively.

Rothschild, 63, has been New York’s pitching coach since 2011, and during that time Yankees pitchers rank third in ERA- (94), third in FIP- (93), and second in fWAR (+139.6). Sherman says the Yankees like Rothschild’s “ability to blend analytics with hands-on work with the staff,” plus he is widely respected around the game, so that’s why they’re keeping him. I’ve said this before and I’ll said it again: I think the impact of coaches is overstated. They’re important! But they’re not miracle workers. Rothschild has a great reputation within baseball and that’s enough for me.

Quick Notes

Got a couple quick notes on managerial and coaching candidates. Here’s a roundup:

  • The Yankees reached out to Brad Ausmus. Like every other team that reached out this offseason, they were told Ausmus is going to take a year off to spend time with his family. [Jon Heyman]
  • John Flaherty, who threw his hat into the managerial ring last week, has not heard back from the Yankees yet. Not even a callback? Ouch. [Anthony Rieber]
  • The Yankees did reach out to Raul Ibanez about managing, but he’s not ready for that big of a commitment and will remain with the Dodgers as a special advisor. [Ken Davidoff]
  • Jim Leyritz reached out to the Yankees about a coaching position. Cashman told him he didn’t have enough experience. [Rieber]
  • The Yankees have not reached out to Omar Vizquel. He was the Tigers’ first base coach under Ausmus the last few years. [Brendan Kuty]

Can’t say I blame Leyritz for trying, but yeah, that was never going to happen.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

I’m going to come out and say it right here, even though you probably already know this: Derek Jeter is a terrible defensive shortstop. I don’t care how many Gold Gloves he wins. I don’t care how many times he falls into the stands and cuts his face. I don’t care how many times he ends up between first base and home plate to cut off a terrible throw and backhand it to the catcher. While these plays were stellar, they don’t say anything about his everyday fielding ability. The fact is, his range has gone from mediocre to bad to worse. Since 2002 (when UZR was first recorded), he has had two seasons in the positive: 6.4 in 2009, and 0.9 in 2002. Every other year was in the negatives, the worst being a whopping -17.9 in 2007. That means that in that year, merely having Jeter at shortstop gave up nearly 18 runs to opposing teams.

But that’s all right. You know why? Because he can hit, and that’s not a very common trait among shortstops. Through 2000-2009, Jeter put up the best batting average of all shortstops with 500 plate appearances (.317), ranked second in WAR (47.5), and ranked third in wOBA and OPS behind Alex Rodriguez and Hanley Ramirez. Impressively enough, he managed to do all of this while posting a hideous -37.8 UZR. That’s even worse than Yuniesky Betancourt’s -32.4. Once you’re worse than Betancourt, you’re pretty bad. Maybe it’s even worth trading in that bat for someone who can actually move.

So, let’s swap out our relatively hard-hitting shortstop for one who deserves those Gold Gloves and see if there’s any team improvement. In the same time span, Omar Vizquel was the leading shortstop according UZR, posting an impressive 49.0 on the nose. He committed only 58 errors, a little over a third of Jeter’s total, 158. If Vizquel was the Yankees shortstop through the 00’s, he single-handedly would have stopped opponents from scoring 67 runs. Sounds pretty nice, don’t you think? In 2008, the Bombers lost 18 games by one run. Vizquel could have helped turn those games to wins, catapulted the team into the playoffs, and helped them win the World Series. Even better, the Yankees would still have 31 runs to put towards games in other years. It’s too bad you can’t just pick up runs and stick them wherever you need them.

It sounds nice so far, but now we have to take out Jeter’s offense – can’t have your cake and eat it too. Vizquel batted .270/.339/.370 and managed a wOBA of only .312, way under Jeter’s .374. Jeter also hit three home runs for every one of Vizquel’s, 161 to 44. Even if every one of those dingers was a solo shot, Jeter would still create more than enough runs to make up for the 67 he’s giving up out in the field. In the end, Vizquel racked up only 18.8 WAR, 28.7 less than Jeter. Even with his awesome glove, there’s just no way for Vizquel to make up for the hitting prowess he lacks. Despite Vizquel’s higher defensive capabilities, Jeter’s offense leads to far more wins. Even in Jeter’s rough 2010 season, he still managed to out-wOBA and out-WAR Vizquel while putting up a significantly worse UZR, though Vizquel spent most of his time at third base.

The captain isn’t the only player who’s shown that an above-average offense can make up for a subpar defense: Jorge Posada threw out only 28% of base runners in 100 games in 2009, but he also hit 22 home runs and managed to post a 125 OPS+ and 3.7 WAR. Not bad for a 37-year-old catcher, really. Gerald Laird, on the other hand, threw out an impressive 42% of base runners in 138 games, but only managed to post a 1.5 WAR due to his amazing noodle bat: .225/.306/.320, with a meager four homers and 65 OPS+.

The Yankees have never been interested in stocking up on great defenders (the team posted an abysmal -137 UZR in 2005), and they’ve proved before that it’s a perfectly fine strategy to use.  It’s predicted that Montero will follow in Posada’s footsteps as all-hit-no-catch backstop, and quite frankly, I’m perfectly fine with that. Players like Montero, Jeter and Posada show that the Yankees prefer to outfit the lineup with capable bats up and down, even from fielders you don’t expect to see offense from. It’s definitely worth the few extra bags that may be taken, because the result is the best run differential in baseball for two years in a row, and if all those extra runs means a dribbler gets by Jeter every so often, I’ll live with it just fine.