ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays don't have to look far for the most obvious candidate to replace Joe Maddon as manager.
Dave Martinez stood at Maddon's side for most of the past seven seasons, serving as his bench coach, managing along with him — and, sometimes, in place of him — while offering strategic suggestions, handling substitutions and position changes and operating as the primary clubhouse conduit, with good and bad news, to many of the players.
In what so far has been a jarring offseason, with the unexpected departures of executive vice president Andrew Friedman then Maddon, hiring Martinez, 50, would provide the least additional disruption and allow for the most continuity.
What Rays officials have to decide is whether that is a good thing.
With a list of up to a dozen candidates — set to be revealed as soon as today — the Rays are obviously going to consider a variety of alternatives to Martinez. But given plans to retain the coaching staff, they don't seem intent on a clean break.
Martinez, who has declined comment since Maddon's Oct. 24 departure, is definitely interested in the job and has felt, for several years, that he is ready for the task.
"Every year that I have under my belt, I'm a lot more confident and a lot more prepared for the challenges of being a manager," he said last season.
At least five other teams felt Martinez was ready enough over the past few years to interview him for their managerial opening — the Indians, Blue Jays, Astros, Cubs and Nationals — but none, obviously, was convinced enough to hire him, which raises some questions.
"Davey did a great job in the interview process. We really enjoyed him," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said after passing over Martinez last winter for Rick Renteria, who — ironically — was fired last week to make room for Maddon.
"I think on his own, he's very bright, very hard-working, very well respected. And then from the interview process, it sounds like he's learned a ton being with Joe Maddon. He'll be a manager really soon in the big leagues."
Obviously if the Rays were that sure, they could have just named him Maddon's successor already, as they did when Matt Silverman immediately replaced Friedman as president of baseball operations.
Though Martinez doesn't have Maddon's outgoing, eccentric personality, he is likely to perpetuate some of his philosophies, which Rays officials will have to weigh. Their biggest concern could be his lack of experience as a manager, limited basically to the 30 games, and 110 or so innings, he finished after Maddon ejections (going 13-17).
Communication skills (with bosses, players, media), maintaining the clubhouse culture and an embrace of analytics are likely to be topics with any candidate. A seemingly petty issue could be that Martinez is also represented by Alan Nero, the agent who orchestrated Maddon's departure, in which the Rays have alleged some impropriety.
Several Rays — position players and pitchers — have already spoken out in support of Martinez, who played 16 seasons in the majors as an outfielder — including 2½ as an original Devil Ray — before retiring after 2001 and settling permanently into the Tampa Bay area with his wife and four kids. Maddon has previously endorsed Martinez as being ready to manage as well.
"I'm really hoping they sign Davey and give him a shot," reliever Joel Peralta said. "Not only did he learn a lot from Joe, he knows the Rays organization, he knows the Rays way. Everybody knows him, everybody's comfortable around him. He's a great guy, and I believe he can be a great manager.
"Joe let everyone do his own thing and play hard, and I think Davey would be the same way. I know every player is going to want to play hard for him."
So, too, has third-base coach Tom Foley, a former big-league teammate and longtime friend.
"I think he's ready," Foley said. "He sat next to Joe, and I know how he operated. He made sure to tell Joe what was on his mind, and if Joe agreed, fine, and if not, he would do what he wanted. They communicated great together. Davey is a strong presence in the clubhouse, well-respected by the staff and players. … He's a good fit."
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.