Players, staff to be consulted in Rays manager search

The Rays seek input into a new manager.
Published October 25 2014
Updated October 26 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — Before Matt Silverman comes up with a list of candidates to talk with about replacing Joe Maddon as Rays manager, he has to decide what type of person he is looking for.

Not expecting to be immersed in a manager search less than two weeks after taking over for departed Andrew Friedman as head of the Rays' baseball operations, Silverman is starting by talking with staff and players to determine the proper characteristics.

"The first step is identifying the type of manager that we want,'' Silverman said Saturday. "And from that we will begin generating names we think might match that description.''

Silverman has told players he wants to "keep a lot of things the same," which would indicate someone with at least some of Maddon's traits, sort of a best-of. One priority will be the ability to maintain the positive clubhouse atmosphere. Openness to incorporating analytics and advanced statistics will be important, as may be similar ideology in roster construction. Relishing the small-market challenge will be a boost philosophically.

Bench coach Dave Martinez, who has been at Maddon's side for seven seasons, seems to be the one certain candidate. He already has the support of some players, such as Ben Zobrist, who said "he might be our best option."

Martinez has declined comment since Maddon's stunning Friday departure, though agent Alan Nero — yes, the same agent who represents Maddon — said, "He should be the No. 1 candidate. I don't know why he wouldn't be."

Former Rays player Gabe Kapler, currently doing TV work for Fox and declining comment until after the World Series, is another likely candidate on a list that could include obvious coaching names such as Tim Bogar, Torey Lovullo and/or Joe McEwing to currently-on-TV guys such as Manny Acta and Eduardo Perez to outside-the-boxers such as former Rays catcher John Flaherty.

Since Silverman is giving voice to the players, what do they want?

"Most important thing for me is a manager that the players can relate to and feel comfortable," third baseman Evan Longoria texted Saturday. "Don't think that the environment in the clubhouse needs a complete overhaul. I welcome a new manager's enthusiasm. Joe was pretty tough to rival on that front, so we will see what the new plans are."

Top starter Alex Cobb said personality and leadership skills — preferably as a "players' manager" who "truly has your back" — are more important than strategic ability.

"Sometimes over-managing can be almost overevaluated and thought of too highly," Cobb said. "What I would look for is someone that can really bring guys together and truly have the ultimate goal just by winning games."

And Cobb, for one anyway, said the Rays don't necessarily need to focus on finding a Maddon clone.

"You're not going to be able to replicate what we had here," Cobb said. "I think going in a different direction might be the way to go. I don't think being narrow-minded and envisioning one particular way of success will be the answer here."

In noting Martinez "knows the systems and how things work," Zobrist — who is also represented by Nero's agency and has a $7.5 million option that is expected to be picked up — expressed a preference for continuity, in theory if not also in practice.

"It would be really weird if somebody completely at the opposite end of where Joe was at came in and everything changed," Zobrist said.

Starter Chris Archer also said he would prefer less change: "The person I want to see get the job is somebody who's going to help us make a seamless transition from new upper management, which isn't really new to new management in the clubhouse."

Meanwhile, Nero said Saturday that he received "a lot of, lot of phone calls" on Maddon, who opted out of the final year of his contract that paid an average of $2 million.

Some were for broadcast and front-office adviser-type roles, some from teams he wouldn't disclose requesting they not make any decisions until hearing back, suggesting the teams would dump their current manager to hire Maddon. The Cubs have been most speculated upon, the Angels and Braves could be among others. The Phillies joined the Mets and Dodgers in indicating they plan to stick with their manager.

"Nothing concrete, nothing to report," Nero said. "We're going to take it slow. I think things will start to develop (this) week."

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.