The list of managerial openings in baseball shrunk to four Sunday, when the Reds hired David Bell and the Angels hired Brad Ausmus.
While Bell was one of four known finalists for the Blue Jays job, Ausmus never appeared to be a serious candidate in Toronto. Still, both hires shift the managerial landscape enough to impact the Blue Jays’ ongoing search.
Now that the Reds and Angels have new managers in place on three-year deals, the Orioles, Rangers, Twins and Blue Jays are the only teams without managers. In a sense, there’s less competition from other teams now, but the pool of options has shrunk, too.
On paper, Bell looked like an exceptionally strong candidate. Not only does he have experience playing in the majors and managing in the minors, he ran the Giants player development program last year, working to modernize a farm system that had fallen behind.
Considering that Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins wants to hire “an organizational leader and spokesperson, not just a leader of the 25-man clubhouse,” Bell’s big-picture perspective would have appealed to the Toronto front office. His openness to new ideas would have helped his candidacy, too; as the Cardinals bench coach he was an analytics-friendly link between the front office and the field.
Given that the Blue Jays want toughness from their manager, Bell’s reputation as a resilient player wouldn’t have hurt (the San Francisco Chronicle recently described him as “the archetype of grit”). Plus, as a third-generation big-leaguer he would have been an interesting fit on a team with so many baseball bloodlines.
It’s ultimately unclear where the 46-year-old ranked among the Blue Jays’ finalists, but it was the Reds who landed Bell, a Cincinnati native, whose grandfather, father and brother all played for the team.
That shortens the Blue Jays’ list of finalists to four, including Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde, Rays major-league field co-ordinator Rocco Baldelli and Astros bench coach Joe Espada. That’s where the Ausmus hire impacts the Blue Jays. Hyde, Baldelli and Espada were all reported candidates for the Angels job, but they now have one less opportunity available.
Still, the Blue Jays have competition from the Twins and Rangers, who appear to be prioritizing similar candidates in their respective searches. The Twins reportedly have interest in both Baldelli and Hyde, while Espada’s now believed to be out of the running in Minnesota, according to Fancred’s Jon Heyman. All three candidates still appear to be in the mix for the Rangers job, however.
As for the Orioles, they appear to be less of a threat given that they haven’t yet landed someone to run their baseball operations department. Until Baltimore hires a GM, a game of musical chairs could play out for the Blue Jays, Twins and Rangers along with Hyde, Baldelli and Espada.
Once the Blue Jays interview Espada in person, they’ll be better positioned to make moves of their own based on what they’ve heard so far. At that point, it’ll be on the rest of the league to react.