CLEVELAND —The search is on for the next manager of the Cleveland Indians.
General manager Mark Shapiro said Wednesday that after compiling an initial list of around 30 candidates to replace Eric Wedge, who was fired with six days left in the regular season following a seven-year tenure, the team was close to narrowing the field to 8-10 names.
“Since the announcement that Eric would not be back, we have spent a lot of time on the phone with players, coaches, former players and coaches and even some media members, to try and get a comprehensive list of candidates,” said Shapiro, who would not discuss by name any of the potential candidates.
The GM said that after phone calls to each of the 8-10 candidates next week, the team would then narrow its list to 3-5 names, bringing each of them to Cleveland for a more extensive interview. Shapiro said an official announcement on the 40th Indians manager would not come until after the World Series.
Though Shapiro wouldn’t name names, he did shed light into the identity of some of the candidates, saying that at least one was from the organization (possibly Triple-A Columbus manager Torey Lovullo or Single-A Mahoning Valley manager Travis Fryman).
He also said there “are certainly some candidates that are still in the playoffs,” which points to at least Boston pitching coach John Farrell, a former pitcher and director of player personnel for the Indians. ESPN.com reported that Farrell took his name out of the running to focus on Boston’s postseason run but the Indians could still be in touch when that ends.
“We’ll either go to them or we’ll work around it some way,” Shapiro said when asked how he would deal with interviewing prospective managers among playoff participants. “We’ll adjust to them.”
The Indians would have to receive permission from any team to discuss jobs with current managers and coaches, even those that did not qualify for the postseason.
Some of the names besides Farrell, Lovullo and Fryman that have surfaced as possibilities to become the next Indians manager include former major league manager and current ESPN analyst Buck Showalter, who was senior advisor to baseball operations for Cleveland in 2007 – the only time the Indians made the postseason under Wedge.
A name from the past, Mike Hargrove, who managed the Indians to five Central Division titles and two American League championships from 1991-99, has also been mentioned.
It’s likely that former Mets managers Willie Randolph and Bobby Valentine, as well as Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly would also be considerations.
According to Shapiro, who hired Wedge out of the minors, big league managerial experience is not required, but it is welcome.
“While I think that that would be helpful, I don’t think it’s a necessity,” said Shapiro, whose club hasn’t hired a manager with big league experience since John McNamara (1990-91). “We’ll look to hire the best guy. There are advantages to managing before but it’s not a necessity.”
Shapiro then added, “It’s going to take a very special guy to be considered without major league experience.”
Managers with big league experience come at a higher price, and the budget-conscious Indians are under obligation to pay Wedge around $1.3 million for one more season. Still, Shapiro said money would not be an issue in the hiring.
“I can’t foresee that,” he said. “I can’t foresee a scenario that we wouldn’t have the resources to get our guy.”
Once a manager is in place, Shapiro said the hiring of the coaching staff would be a collaborative effort between the manager and the front office.
Fan displeasure was at a high this season as the Indians struggled to a 65-97 record and last-place finish (tied with Kansas City) after entering the year with playoff aspirations. Low attendance coincided with the disappointment, and the Indians could make friends with fans by hiring someone such as Hargrove and former Cleveland third baseman Travis Fryman.
“We’re not looking for short-term popularity,” he said. “We’re looking for a guy that can maximize our potential and come in here and win ballgames. We’re not looking to win a popularity contest. We’re looking to hire the right guy to lead our organization going forward.”
The right guy is, according to Shapiro: “Someone that’s going to understand the uniqueness of our situation, someone that has the ability to build a diverse staff, and then use that staff to insure the development of our young players. We feel like we’ve got a lot of resources as an organization to offer, both off and on the field.”
The new manager will inherit a young mid-market club with ownership that has been hesitant to spend in the past, but saved $16 million when it chose not to exercise the options of Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, instead trading the players along with a host of others after the All-Star break.
“I do think we’ll have some money to spend in the free-agent market,” said Shapiro, who tabbed starting pitching as the team’s biggest off-season need. “I wouldn’t expect us to jump right into that. We’ll look to find the biggest impact for the dollars allowed.”
And the best fit at manager.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.