By Jeff Louderback
Who will be the next manager of the Boston Red Sox? That remains to be seen, but what we do know is that it will not be the recently dismissed Bobby Valentine, former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona (who was just hired to manage the Cleveland Indians) or longtime Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek (who was recently named special assistant to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and has said that he is not interested in the managerial vacancy).
Toronto Blue Jays manager and former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell is considered the top candidate to replace Valentine, according to numerous media reports.
Farrell has a year remaining on his deal with the Blue Jays, and Toronto general manager Alex Anthopolous has said that the team will not permit lateral moves. Still, if Farrell expresses interest in leaving the Blue Jays and not signing an extension beyond 2013 – and/or if the Blue Jays prefer not not sign Farrell to an extension beyond next year – it is possible that he could wind up as the manager of the Red Sox for compensation.
Last off-season, when the Red Sox approached Toronto about hiring Farrell in the aftermath of Francona’s departure, the Blue Jays asked for right-handed starting pitcher Clay Buchholz. Boston passed and later hired Valentine, who guided the team to a 69-93 record and a last place finish in the American League East.
Cherington has indicated that the Red Sox will be looking to hire a manager quickly, unlike last off-season when Valentine was not brought aboard until December 1.
Considering the tension and drama in the dugout and clubhouse between Valentine and his players, and Valentine and his coaching staff, likely the Red Sox will hire the anti-Valentine as his replacement. The new manager must be someone who commands the respect of his players and coaches, and understands how to effectively communicate with and handle the Boston media. Farrell seems like the logical choice.
The Red Sox are in prime position to build a contender in 2013. Core players like Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury are returning, and the team will likely bring back David Ortiz and Cody Ross. Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks expects to be fully healed from the wrist injury that prematurely ended his 2012 season, and the catching tandem of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway is promising.
Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront give the Red Sox three quality starters who are under 30. They are best suited as complementary rotation pieces, though, so the club desperately needs to acquire a frontline starting pitcher. John Lackey expects to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery by spring training and could be an asset in 2013 since he has posted impressive numbers in his career when he has been healthy.
In addition, the Red Sox have just $46 million in payroll commitments for 2013 after the August trade that unloaded the salaries of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Boston also said goodbye to the salaries of Kevin Youkilis and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
“The team is in a different point than it was last year when we hired Bobby,” Cherington said. “The roster was fairly mature and we felt, mistakenly in retrospect, but we felt at the time that we had a chance to win and the team was ready to win and we’re now at a different point.”
If the Red Sox are unable to pry Farrell away from Toronto, other managerial candidates who could emerge include Blue Jays first base coach and former Pawtucket manager Torey Lovullo, Dodgers special assistant and former Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, Padres special assistant and former Major League catcher Brad Ausmus, Marlins bench coach Joey Cora and Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo.