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A’s manager search includes six candidates so far

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Three in-house coaches, three external names

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Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics
Mark Kotsay and Darren Bush

The Oakland A’s need a new manager for the 2022 season, and the first reports have finally surfaced about what names they might have in mind.

There are six candidates who have either interviewed already or are expected to soon, per Britt Ghiroli and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic on Monday. The list, including their current teams and positions:

  • Mark Kotsay, OAK, third base coach
  • Darren Bush, OAK, hitting coach
  • Marcus Jensen, OAK, bullpen coach
  • Joe Espada, HOU, bench coach
  • Matt Quatraro, TBR, bench coach
  • Will Venable, BOS, bench coach

The job opened up at the end of October, when longtime skipper Bob Melvin left to go to the Padres. A few weeks later, bench coach Ryan Christenson joined Melvin in San Diego, eliminating one potential option from the rumor mill. The sport began a lockout last week, but the transaction freeze doesn’t extend to coaches, allowing the A’s to continue their manager search.

Now we have our first look at how it’s going. There are three in-house applicants and three external picks, so we haven’t learned anything about which direction the club might be leaning in that regard. However, one thing they all have in common is that none have ever managed in the majors before.

The obvious name at the top is Kotsay, who was fully expected to be part of this conversation. He’s been on Oakland’s staff for the past six seasons, including a stint as bench coach, and he’s clearly on the league’s overall future-manager radar having interviewed with at least five other teams in the past couple winters. His resume also includes a 17-year playing career, of which four were spent here wearing green-and-gold.

Bush has been in the A’s organization even longer than that, beginning as a minor league coach in 2005. He was a manager on the farm for six summers from 2007-12, winning a league championship in High-A, another one in Double-A, and a pair of division titles in Triple-A. In 2013 he moved up to the majors as the bullpen coach, then in 2015 shifted over to hitting coach, where his seven-year tenure is the longest in Oakland history.

Jensen joined the org in 2007 and spent five seasons managing in the Arizona Rookie League from 2009-13. He was eventually promoted to the majors in 2015 as the assistant hitting coach, and in 2018 he shifted to the role of bullpen coach. He was born in Oakland and attended Skyline High School, and as a player he was a catcher who appeared in 145 MLB games and won an Olympic gold medal in Sydney.

The other three names are from outside the organization. Each one is the bench coach of an AL team that reached the playoffs this year.

Espada was an A’s draft pick as a player in 1996, though he never reached the majors. He began coaching in the Marlins system in 2006 and became Miami’s third base coach from 2010-13, then returned to the field in the same role for the Yankees from 2015-17. Since 2018 he’s been the Astros bench coach, and he’s interviewed for at least three other manager jobs in past winters.

Quatraro spent a decade coaching in the Rays system from 2004-13, including four years as a manager. Cleveland hired him away for their MLB staff in 2014 as assistant hitting coach, then Tampa Bay brought him back in 2018 as their third base coach before moving him up to bench coach in 2019. His connection to Oakland’s job was first reported by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, who notes Quatraro is also interviewing with the Mets this winter.

Venable played nine seasons in the majors, and at age 39 he’s the youngest candidate on the list (the others are all between 46-48). He only began coaching in 2018, for the Cubs as their third base coach for two years and then their first base coach in 2020. He moved to Boston this past season and served as the Red Sox bench coach. He was born in Marin County, and his father Max played a dozen seasons in the majors.

Analysis

What can you say about six prospective rookies? They don’t have past MLB experience to look back on, so we can’t judge their track records nor consider how their tendencies might fit here. From our fan perspective, they’re six lotto tickets.

Initial reactions: Kotsay would be fun! He’s familiar but not a nondescript company man, and he’s in demand lately. Bush or Jensen would make sense as the bench coach alongside him. Among the external choices, Quatraro catches my eye for the longtime Rays connection (teach us your ways!), and it’s hard to ignore the quick rise of Venable the last few years. On the other hand, for what little it’s worth, it feels like Espada would be a tough sell for A’s fans, coming from villainous Houston.

How about Kotsay then? He’s both the safe predictable pick and perhaps the most exciting option, and you don’t often get that combo. Here’s a snippet from Alex Coffey of The Athletic two years ago:

Former San Diego Padres teammate Will Venable said that during their playing careers, Kotsay had “the emotional intelligence to understand what a guy was going through, and was able to follow up with an experience that showed he’s struggled the same way.” Pinder says that when Kotsay was working as the A’s bench coach, he’d approach him during games — both during times of exhilaration and times of frustration — and know exactly what to say and when to say it.

There hasn’t been any particular indication what the A’s are thinking about doing, so we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out. But whoever the pick ends up being, for now it appears Oakland will have a rookie manager in 2022.

Poll

Who would you pick as the A’s next manager?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Mark Kotsay
    (499 votes)
  • 3%
    Darren Bush
    (25 votes)
  • 1%
    Marcus Jensen
    (11 votes)
  • 2%
    Joe Espada
    (17 votes)
  • 13%
    Matt Quatraro
    (94 votes)
  • 6%
    Will Venable
    (43 votes)
689 votes total Vote Now