As the MLB Playoffs come to a conclusion over the next two weeks, we can reasonably assume the Guardians will be getting their managerial hire in place. Let’s take a look at the names who have been publicly rumored as getting an interview and see which of them would seem to be the best options.
Obligatory caveat: None of us know which person is going to be a good manager, for sure. All we can hope is that Cleveland’s hiring team can figure that out. But, we can take a look at what we know about each candidate and look at what each offers.
Cleveland dot com’s Guardians’ Beat Reporter, Paul Hoynes, recently compiled a list of candidates who are believed to have been interviewed by the Guardians, which provides the backbone of the list below. Will Venable was rumored, early on, to be a target of the Guardians’ front office. While Venable has, reportedly, removed himself from consideration, I think it’s fair to still evaluate him in case his mind would change after the Rangers are eliminated or after they win a title. Twitter has been ablaze with rumors of Troy Snitker getting interviewed, so I’ve included him as well.
Stephen Vogt emerged as a “serious candidate” as I was finishing this article...
Longtime major league catcher Stephen Vogt is emerging as a serious candidate for the Cleveland Guardians managerial job, sources tell ESPN. Vogt, 38, is a coach with Seattle and previously interviewed for San Francisco’s job, where Bob Melvin is the leading candidate.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 23, 2023
...so I have included some thoughts on his potential to begin our list. Usually, when Passan tweets a Cleveland rumor, it means things are close, so we will see:
Stephen Vogt, Bullpen and Quality Control Coach for the Seattle Mariners
MLB Career: Vogt, Will Venable and John McDonald have the best major league careers of anyone on this list, as Vogt put up 7.1 bWAR and 3.2 fWAR in 10 major league seasons.
Coaching Resume: Vogt was hired by the Mariners this season to be their bullpen and quality control coach.
Interviews: Stephen Vogt was a beloved player. He has done a lot of fun interviews, including this one with Eno Sarris. Former Cleveland Indian Duane Kuiper raved about Vogt’s potential as a manager recently, specifically citing his great sense of humor. He also has an insanely detailed Wikipedia page.
League-Wide Interest: Vogt was recently rumored to be a candidate to interview with the Giants, who seem to be pivoting to Bob Melvin instead (who coached and mentored Vogt, not coincidentally).
Stealing Talent from a Successful Org? Maybe? Seattle has been generally good but not great.
Summary: It’s clear from listening to Vogt that he is a very analytically-inclined player and coach. It’s also clear that he is very personable and has a great sense of humor. In some ways, that sounds like a great combination of things the Guardians front office wants to add to the managerial role and the skills that Terry Francona had in abundance. I think the exciting thing about the idea of Vogt being the choice would be his quick accession from player to manager means there is something special about him that teams really appreciate. The ability to connect with players as a recent MLB player himself may also be particularly valuable to a team of young, growing talent like the Guardians. So, while hiring a person like Venable or Carlos Mendoza is exciting because they’ve proven their value on a major league staff for a while, hiring Vogt would be exciting because it means the Guardians’ front office has seen something they really, really believe in.
Will Venable, Assistant Manager and Bench Coach with Texas Rangers
MLB Career: A nine-year career from 2008-2016, he spent big league Spring Training with the Guardians in 2016. He also was college baseball teammates at Princeton with Mike Chernoff.
Coaching Resume: First and Third Base Coach for the Cubs 2018-2020, Bench coach for the Red Sox 2021-2022, Assistant Manager and Bench Coach for the Rangers 2023.
Interviews: I fell in love with Venable by reading this interview from Dennis Lin, in the Athletic, talking about Venable’s kindness and attentiveness. You can also read about how much Tony Gwynn admired Venable, and, hey, that’s a definite plus.
League-Wide Interest? Yes, Venable has interviewed for recent ML managerial jobs
Stealing Talent from a Successful Org? Yes.
Summary: The most likely scenario is that Venable has an understanding with the Rangers and Bruce Bochy that he is going to replace Bochy in the near future. But, I wouldn’t completely rule out that he put managerial interview rumors to rest simply to avoid distractions during Texas’s playoff run. If that was the reason he extinguished the rumor fires, then I hope the Guardians wait it out to see if he’d be willing to come to Cleveland whenever the Rangers’ 2023 run comes to a conclusion.
Clayton McCullough, First Base Coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers
MLB Career: Played minor-league baseball for the Cleveland Indians from 2002-2005.
Coaching Resume: Minor League Manager for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2007-2014 with a record of 629-559. Hired by the Dodgers as Minor-League Field Coordinator in 2015 and moved to ML First Base Coach for LA in 2021.
Interviews: An older interview in 2013 shows McCullough’s awareness and embrace of analytics. You can get a sense of McCullough’s personality in this All-Star game interview.
League-Wide Interest? Yes, McCullough has interviewed for recent ML managerial jobs
Stealing Talent from a Successful Org? Yes.
Summary: I’m a fan of stealing from other successful organizations in the Guardians’ managerial role, and the Dodgers certainly qualify in that respect. He obviously has worked to help players understand and apply the insights of analytics in his role for the Dodgers. McCullough would be an exciting choice in my humble opinion.
Charlie Montoyo, Bench Coach for the Chicago White Sox
MLB Career: Montoyo had a 10-year minor league career and cup of coffee in the bigs.
Coaching Resume: Montoyo managed for the Rays minor league teams from 1997-2014, where he was very successful. He became the bench coach for the Rays’ major league team in 2015 until he was hired by the Blue Jays as their manager in 2018. He was bench coach for the White Sox in 2023.
Interviews: There is a very thorough evaluation of Montoyo as a manager piece by Andrew Stoeten in which you can see his strengths and weaknesses. He was universally thought of as a great choice for manager when hired. He is a humble, positive person who cares about others. He also was too blunt with the media and seemed stuck between an old school and new school approach. Things didn’t end well in Toronto, where while Montoyo had some player support, there were also players willing to come out with their belief that new voices of leadership were needed when he was fired.
League-Wide Interest? I can’t find any evidence of Montoyo getting interviews for other managerial roles, at the moment.
Stealing Talent from a Successful Org? Not really, although the Rays were fairly successful while Montoyo was there.
Summary: I think Montoyo is probably the easiest potential managerial hiring option to dislike. You don’t necessarily want someone whose time with a major league team ended badly. He’s older, so there are always questions of how stuck in old school baseball mindsets he might be. The 2023 White Sox aren’t exactly a team I’d like to steal a coach from, as far as vibes and performance go. However, as a Puerto Rican born person, Montoyo offers bilingual skills which are helpful, lengthy experience as a manager to help offset the loss of a voice like Francona’s, and a reputation of being a kind person. He certainly wouldn’t be my top choice, but I also am not completely opposed to the idea.
John McDonald, On-field and Defense Coordinator for the Cleveland Guardians
MLB Career: Played 15 major league seasons from 1999-2014 for the Indians, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels and Pirates.
Coaching Resume: McDonald has been the minor-league on-field coordinator for Cleveland since 2020.
Interviews: The Athletic has a nice interview with McDonald from his time with the Blue Jays. In this clip, he speaks with a local Canton reporter about his love for Cleveland.
League-Wide Interest? I am not aware of any other team interviewing McDonald for a major league managerial role.
Stealing Talent from a Successful Org? No, because he’s already here.
Summary: I can say that John McDonald seems like a Cleveland lifer, an incredibly hard worker and the kind of person fans have always found it easy to root for. I would personally prefer to see the Guardians’ hire someone from another organization to bring in a fresh voice, but McDonald certainly seems like the kind of person who may someday interview for other major league manager jobs. Maybe he won’t need to because he’ll find his opportunity here and now.
Chris Valaika, Hitting Coach for the Cleveland Guardians
MLB Career: He had about 270 plate appearances in the bigs in 4 seasons amid parts of 10 seasons in the minors.
Coaching Resume: Valaika was a minor-league hitting coordinator and a major league assistant hitting coach for the Chicago Cubs before becoming the hitting coach for the Guardians in 2022.
Interviews: Valaika has had some interesting public interviews, including this one with FanGraphs on the hiring process and this one last year with Guardians’ reporters when the team was struggling.
League-Wide Interest? I’m not aware of Valaika being interviewed for other managerial jobs.
Stealing Talent from a Successful Org: No, because he’s already here.
Summary: While I’m not a #FireValaika guy, I think it would be difficult sell to promote a hitting coach who oversaw a terrible offensive production year to manager the next season.
Rob Cerfolio, Director of Player Development for the Cleveland Guardians
MLB Career: Played college baseball at Yale.
Coaching Resume: Has not managed a baseball team, but has been coaching and helping develop Guardians players since he graduated Yale in 2015. He was promoted to director of player development in January of 2022.
Interviews: Cerfolio is an interesting one, because while there is little information about him in a simple google search, you can hear a bunch of interviews he has done with Jim Rosenhaus talking about Guardians’ prospects, from which you can view some recent examples here, here, and here. It was a weekly segment, so there are a lot of episodes to listen to there, if you feel so inclined.
League-Wide Interest? None that has been reported.
Stealing Talent from a Succesful Org? No, because he’s already here.
Summary: If Cerfolio got an interview, they must really love him. Being named director of player development before he turned 30 is insane. I guess I can’t say I’m a huge fan of hiring an Ivy Leaguer who never played a major league game to follow Tito because it seems to run the risk of creating disconnects. But, again, I have never met Rob Cerfolio, so I don’t know if he is some kind of player whisperer who would excel as a ML manager or not.
Donnie Ecker, Hitting Coach for the Texas Rangers
MLB Career: He had a two-year minor league career before retiring from pro-baseball in 2011.
Coaching Resume: Minor-league hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2015-2017, for the Dodgers in the minors in 2018, for the Reds in the majors from 2019, for the Giants in the majors in 2020-2021, and the Rangers since 2022.
Interviews: Ecker had a great interview with FanGraphs regarding his approach to coaching hitters. and also did a podcast with them on the same theme. You can also view a lengthy interview with him on YouTube from earlier this year.
League-Wide Interest? He has been rumored in connection to the Giants’ managerial role as well.
Stealing Talent from a Succesful Org? Yes, although the success is quite recent.
Summary: I think Ecker seems like a rising star in the managerial coaching ranks. Cleveland’s interest in him would certainly seem to indicate they want to be active in fixing their hitting issues and think a manager who understands some of those challenges would be helpful.
Carlos Mendoza, Bench Coach for the New York Yankees
MLB Career: Mendoza played in the minors for 13 years.
Coaching Resume: Mendoza has been a minor league coach and manager and a major league instructor and bench coach for the Yankees since 2009.
Interviews: Mendoza is definitely a baseball lifer and there are a lot of interviews with him available. He is generally beloved by Yankees players and fans.
League-Wide Interest? Yes, Mendoza has interviewed for recent ML managerial jobs.
Stealing Talent from a Successful Org? Yes.
Summary: I feel confident that Carlos Mendoza will be a major league manager at some point. I don’t know that it will be in Cleveland, but his love of his players and his bilingual cultural skills make him a desirable asset for a lot of teams. As a Yankee lifer, we’d also have to assume he embraces analytics. I would think Mendoza would be up there with Venable and Troy Snitker as among the most desirable candidates on paper.
Craig Albernaz, Bullpen Coach and Catching Coordinator for the San Francisco Giants
MLB Career: He played nine years in the minors for the Rays and Tigers.
Coaching Resume: From 2015-2019 he was a coach and manager in the Rays’ minor league systems. From 2020-today, he has been a bullpen and catching coach for the San Francisco Giants.
Interviews: Albernaz did a lengthy interview with Eric Cressey about his approach to developing catchers, which showed off his unique Boston accent and his friendly and approachable manner. Albernaz seems to be a clubhouse favorite in San Francisco, with players using his aforementioned accent as their PitchCom voice.
League-Wide Interest? Albernaz has been rumored in connection with the Giants’ open manager position.
Stealing Talent from a Successful Org? Yes.
Summary: When I first heard of Albernaz being associated with Cleveland, it felt like a managerial hire to capitalize on the arrival of Bo Naylor. But, overall, Albernaz seems like a good dude who is beloved by the players he coaches. I can see why he would get interviews around MLB, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is an effective manager somewhere someday. I can’t say that he stands out for me among the crowd, but I find him likable and interesting.
Troy Snitker, Hitting Coach for the Houston Astros
MLB Career: Played three minor-league seasons before retiring due to concussion issues.
Coaching Resume: He has been a hitting coach with the Houston Astros since 2018
Interviews: There are a few nice interviews with Snitker, including this one with Out of Bounds Sports. His dad is the manager of the Atlanta Braves, but it’s hard for me to see nepotism as the reason for his rise to being a hitting coach with the wildly successful Astros. His players seem to really enjoy him.
League-Wide Interest? I haven’t found rumors of Snitker getting interviews for other managerial roles, yet, but he is young for that kind of attention.
Stealing Talent from a Succesful Org? Yes. Absolutely yes.
Summary: I love the idea of Snitker because I see how successful the Houston Astros are and I want to steal someone from their coaching ranks to share some of their secrets with us. Snitker seems like a good baseball guy who helps his guys play their best. If the Guardians went this direction, I’d be very excited.
Bottom-line: As I noted, it’s hard not to see a Jeff Passan tweet about the Guardians as a done-deal given his Cleveland connections. So, I expect we’ll hear that Stephen Vogt was hired possibly as soon as the championship series wrap-up. But, if for some reason, that rumor proves less substantial, I think there are a lot of names to be excited about on this list. For me, Snitker, Venable, Mendoza and McCullough top my list.
But, I would be very excited if the team indeed believes in Vogt and what he brings to the table and eventually welcome him as Tito’s replacement. His sense of humor being so strong particularly strikes me as something that would make him a good choice to follow Francona in Cleveland. His experience as a major league catcher would also certainly be a bonus for Cleveland’s young star, Bo Naylor. Sign me up.