Rays tales: Why Rocco Baldelli is a hot candidate for manager openings

Rocco Baldelli is moving from first-base coach to field coordinator. [WILL VRAGOVIC / Tampa Bay Times]
Rocco Baldelli is moving from first-base coach to field coordinator. [WILL VRAGOVIC / Tampa Bay Times]
Published October 20 2018
Updated October 22 2018

(Updated Monday morning)

ST. PETERSBURG — Rocco Baldelli has sure been popular this off-season.

And busy.

The current Rays coach and former outfielder interviewed with five of the six teams looking to hire a manager — the Angels, Blue Jays, Rangers, Reds and Twins. And he appears very much in the running for the three remaining jobs. (The Reds on Sunday hired David Bell and the Angels Brad Ausmus.)

That Baldelli, 37, emerged as a managerial candidate was not unexpected.

He is young, bright, sharp, communicative, confident, humble, versed in analytics — all characteristics that fit well with what teams seem to be looking for now in managers. Plus, he has the perspective of four years in a front/office scouting role. There were some whispers last winter of interest by the Yankees, and chatter going back years that he could someday manage.

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That the Rays are coming off a successful season, and were innovative in doing so, helped boost his appeal as well. Teams often want to copy others and will seek to emulate what Kevin Cash and Co. did well.

That Baldelli, with four years' experience as a coach and none managing, wound up a person of interest to so many teams was surprising. And probably flattering to Baldelli, who has declined comment on all aspects of the situation. Based on what's been reported publicly, he may have been the only candidate to interview with five teams. (The Orioles are reportedly looking to hire a GM first then a manager.)

Will Baldelli get one of the jobs?

There appears to be three good chances.

The Rangers seem high on Baldelli, with some chatter that after picking tough-guy Jeff Banister over Cash going into 2015 they now want to go the other way for a leader, and see Baldelli in that culture-building/positive-thinking mold.

Baldelli also would seem a good fit with the analytic-driven execs running the Jays and Twins, who came from the Indians, where, for what it's worth, Cash coached for two years before getting the Rays' job. (In Minnesota, Baldelli is competing against former Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton, who spent 2018 as the Twins bench coach).

The Reds passed, hiring Bell after also giving second interviews to Brad Ausmus and Joe Girardi, who withdrew. (Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo was also one of their original 12 candidates.)

The Angels were a bit of a wild card, having been the hardest to read as they transition from strong-willed and old-school Mike Scioscia. Eric Chavez had also been rumored there before Ausmus was hired.

Also relevant to this process:

How "ready" — beyond the lack of game-running experience, which no longer seems to matter — do teams deem Baldelli to be. Whether Baldelli is sure he wants to make the commitment to manage, rather than pursuing the GM-type track others have predicted for him. And, should there be multiple offers, where the Rhode Island raised Baldelli sees the best situation, chance to win and lifestyle.

With the Reds and Angels deciding, the other teams may be aiming for post-World Series/pre-GM meeting announcements.

Job fair

The Rays plan to keep their coaching staff as is if no one gets hired elsewhere. If they lose Baldlelli, whose title is major-league field coordinator, they could reorganize, given his broad duties working with outfielders, coordinating development and serving as sort of an assistant bench coach. For example, assistant hitting coach Ozzie Timmons could move off first base and they could hire there. … Senior VP Chaim Bloom's opportunity for the Mets GM job should be further defined this week when finalists will have second interviews and be made available to the media. He is reportedly also a candidate for the Giants' GM job.

Rays rumblings

LHP Vidal Nuno will be part of the MLB team playing exhibitions in Japan Nov. 8-15. Visiting clubhouse manager Guy Gallagher is on tour staff. … Sports Illustrated tabbed the Rays 2018's "most consequential team" based on advent and implementation of the opener pitching strategy, and its May 19 debut in Anaheim the season's "most important game.'' … What will come out first, the price the Rays paid for the Rowdies or their increased revenues from a new TV deal? Or neither until after a stadium deal is made? … The Rays delivered 125,000 pounds of food, water and sports drinks in four truckloads to those affected by Hurricane Michael, and provided funding to Feeding Tampa Bay to also help. … Tampa-bred pitching coach Chuck Hernandez sure looked to be scapegoated in Atlanta as the rest of the staff got new two-year deals. With all the staffs being assembled maybe he'll get a sixth big-league job, having led the Angels, Devil Rays, Tigers, Marlins and Braves. … Less than 75 days until the deadline to let St. Petersburg officials know if the Rays  leave the Trop early for the Ybor City stadium they hope to open in 2023. … Chris Archer is definitely a worthy nominee for the players union's Marvin Miller Man of the Year humanitarian award, but it seems weird the mid-September voting was based on opening day rosters and included traded players. …  Finalists for the union's AL and NL comeback player of the year awards didn't include Jonny Venters, who really should win for both leagues. … Ahead of the official BBWAA awards announced in November, The Sporting News released its honorees based on polls of participants: Cash was third with Oakland's Bob Melvin voted top manager; Joey Wendle third with New York's Miguel Andujar the top rookie; Boston's Chris Sale the starter on the post-season All-Star team with Blake Snell among the runners-up. …. While the Rays maintain radio silence on the TV situation, the Royals are talking about looking for their next contract, seeking a big bump from the $25 million they'll get in the 2019 finale of their current pact.

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

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