Guardians should cast wide net to find next manager | Jeff Schudel

Sep. 9—The clock marking the march to Terry Francona's final game managing the Guardians is beginning to tick louder. He began managing the Indians in 2013, and now has only two homestands left and then three games in Detroit to finish the season and end a successful and satisfying career.

President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti could easily name Sandy Alomar Jr. the next manager of the Guardians on Oct. 2, one day after the season ends. But that is highly unlikely. He and general manager Mike Chernoff should cast a wide net to find Francona's successor.

"Tito sharing what he shared has allowed us to think about things and think about what that plan will look like, what that process will look like, but in terms of actually earnestly beginning a process, that won't start until after our season ends," Antonetti said on Sept. 6. "Right now I think our focus is to try and find a way to win as many games as we can. There will be a time to look backwards and assess this season once we get to the end."

Here are the names of a few possible candidates to succeed Francona:

—Alomar — Alomar, 57, was the Indians' catcher from 1990-2000. He has been with the Indians/Guardians as a coach since 2009, spending most of that time at first base and as the catching instructor. He was interim manager for 46 games in 2020 when Francona was ill and went 27-19.

Fans would choose Alomar in a landslide if it were up to them. Alomar has interviewed for several manager's jobs over the years without being chosen.

—DeMarlo Hale — Hale is finishing his third season as the Guardians bench coach. He is 62, so his age might work against him if Antonetti doesn't want to search for another manager in a few years. He was 30-33 as the Indians interim manager in 2021.

—Mike Sarbaugh — Sarbaugh, 56, has been with the Guardians since 1990 as minor league player, coach and manager. He is in his 11th season as the team's third base coach. He worked his way up the manager's ladder from 2004-12, starting out at Mahoning Valley with stops at Lake County, Kinston, Akron and Columbus. His teams posted winning records each year. He could take over for Francona seamlessly.

—Carl Willis — Willis is 62. He has been Francona's pitching coach since Oct. 26, 2017 and had a stint as the Indians pitching coach previously.

Willis has said that once pitchers get to the Major League level, they know how to pitch. He said his job is to help them refine things and help them navigate choppy waters emotionally when things get dicey. He is well-respected by the pitching staff, and it wouldn't take long for the rest of the team to form the same opinion of him. But as with Hale, age might work against Willis.

—Rouglas Odor — Odor, 55, manages Double-A Akron. He has managed the RubberDucks since 2019, so he is familiar with many of the young players on the Guardians' roster. He is a native of Venezuela.

—Luke Carlin — Carlin, 42, is the Guardians catching coordinator and former manager of the Lake County Captains. He was a backup catcher in the Major Leagues for four years. He was a backup catcher for the Indians in 2010 and 2012 and played a total of 12 games for them.

Catchers make good managers. Bruce Bochy of the Rangers, Kevin Cash of the Rays, Brian Snitker of the Braves, A.J. Hinch of the Tigers and Bob Melvin of the Padres are all former catchers.

—Mike Napoli — Napoli, the first base coach for the Cubs, was a favorite of Francona when Napoli played for the Indians on the 2016 team that went to the World Series. Sometimes the term "locker room leader" is overblown, but it wasn't in Napoli's case. Antonetti knows him well. Napoli would be worth considering if the Guardians go outside the organization for their next leader. Napoli might be more likely to keep most of the current coaches on board because he is familiar with them.

—No manager has been fired in 2023, despite many teams underachieving. The ax could fall quickly on some of them, however, as soon as the season ends. Aaron Boone of the Yankees, Buck Showalter of the Mets, Phil Nevin of the Angels and Bob Melvin of the Padres could all be out of work.

All four of the teams listed above have owners willing to spend piles of money. The Mets, Yankees and Padres rank first, second and third in team payroll. The Angels rank eighth.

Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt could be in demand. He was 252-199 from 2018-21 with the Cardinals and took them to the playoffs three times. Shildt is presently the third base coach for the Padres and a natural to replace Melvin.

Joe Espada, bench coach of the Astros, could have his pick of openings, Espada, 47, was a candidate for the Mets' job in 2021 but was bypassed for Showalter. Espada could end up staying in Houston if Dusty Baker, 74, decides to retire.

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