Even with player transactions frozen during the recently instituted MLB lockout, the Oakland A’s are still losing somebody from their dugout.
Bench coach Ryan Christenson is leaving the A’s to join the San Diego Padres coaching staff, reported Dennis Lin of The Athletic on Friday. Next week Christenson will be named as the Padres new bench coach, the same role he had in Oakland.
It’s the second time this winter that an A’s coach has headed south to the same destination. At the end of October, longtime A’s manager Bob Melvin left to become the Padres new skipper. Christenson was Melvin’s bench coach for the past four seasons in Oakland, so now the pair stay together with a new club.
The 47-year-old Christenson spent quite a while in the A’s organization. He played four seasons as an outfielder for Oakland from 1998-2001, and then he came back as a coach for nearly a decade. He managed in the minors for five summers from Low-A up through Triple-A, winning two league championships in Double-A, and then moved up to the MLB bench in 2018.
His climb up the coaching ladder caught the attention of other clubs, and at least once in the past he interviewed for a manager position. On Nov. 23, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that Christenson had been granted permission to interview with the Padres for the bench coach job that he’s now accepting.
In the days since that Rosenthal report, the league went on a lockout that bars negotiations between teams and MLB players. However, coaches aren’t part of the players union, so they aren’t locked out and can still negotiate and sign contracts.
For the A’s, their own offseason now adds one more task. They already needed to rebuild the roster of players, and they already needed to find a new manager. Now one of their internal candidates for manager is gone, and they need to find a new bench coach too.
There was always a chance Christenson could leave this winter, as logically he was probably moving up or moving out. When a successful skipper like Melvin gets poached away, the bench coach doesn’t usually stay put under the next administration. He was either going to become Oakland’s new manager, or get a better offer elsewhere, and it turns out it’s the latter.
It’s not necessarily a surprise, but it’s a bummer. For a decade it appeared the A’s were grooming him to be a future manager, and now the job is open, but it’s not going to him. Maybe they decided he’s not their guy, or maybe he decided he didn’t want to stick around, or maybe our perception of their intentions for him was wrong all these years, but one way or other the seeming heir apparent turned out not to be. That’s disappointing.
The fact that it’s a lateral move also drives home how unappealing of a destination Oakland is right now. He didn’t get a promotion to manage a different club. He’s doing the same bench coach job under the same boss as before, he just moves to a more stable franchise with a better chance of competing for a ring the next few years. It’s not unusual for a coach to follow a manager to new team like this, but in this case it’s humbling to see a popular young upcoming name jump ship without even moving up.
What’s more, the one nice thing about the lockout was going to be that it delayed the painful rebuild for a couple weeks or months. But nope, barely more than 24 hours after the freeze began, the exodus found a way to continue. The timing added an extra kick in the shin — the emotional blow of the sport shutting down for the first time in three decades, followed immediately by somebody else leaving the A’s.
Anyway, with Christenson out of the picture, the top in-house candidate for manager is third base coach Mark Kotsay, though there hasn’t been any indication what direction the team might go. They could also choose to bring in an external pick. The only thing we learned with this news is that it definitely won’t be Christenson.