Despite delays, Pirates still have pick of qualified managerial candidates
The Pittsburgh Pirates have had one of the more curious manager searches in recent baseball memory.
The Pirates fired Clint Hurdle on the last day of the season. General manager Neal Huntington then began interviews for Hurdle’s successor.
Yet after he talked with six candidates, Huntington was fired Oct. 28. Now, the manager search is on hold while the Pirates look for a new head of baseball operations.
All indications are the Pirates are getting to close to hiring Toronto Blue Jays vice president of scouting Ben Cherington or Milwaukee Brewers assistant general manager Matt Arnold.
The status of the six candidates who interviewed to become manager is uncertain, to say the least. Seemingly, the next head of baseball operations will want to talk to prospective skippers.
What is certain is those interviewed by Huntington remain on the open market: Pirates special assistant and former Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister, Oakland Athletics bench coach Ryan Christenson, Minnesota Twins bench coach Derek Shelton, St. Louis Cardinals first-base coach Stubby Clapp, Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro and Los Angeles Dodges first-base coach George Lombard.
Had Huntington not been fired, Banister or Shelton appeared to be the favorites.
Some new names are likely to emerge as candidates once the Pirates hire Huntington’s successor. A prominent one could be John Farrell if Cherington is the pick.
Farrell was the manager and Cherington was the GM in 2013 when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. The 57-year-old Farrell managed in the major leagues for seven years with the Blue Jays (2011-12) and Red Sox (2013-17), compiling a 586-548 record.
Should Arnold be hired, he most likely would want to interview Brewers bench coach Pat Murphy. In 2015, Murphy served as San Diego’s interim manager over the final 96 games, and the Padres went 42-54.
Murphy also was a college coach for 22 years, seven with Notre Dame (1988-94) and 15 at Arizona State (1995-2009).
Two other people who could enter the picture are Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Chicago Cubs first-base coach Will Venable.
Many people inside baseball believe Espada has a chance to be a managerial star. The Puerto Rico native was on the coaching staffs of the Miami Marlins (2010-13) and New York Yankees (2014-17) until joining the Astros in 2018 as bench coach when Alex Cora was hired as the Red Sox’s manager.
Venable has spent only one season as a coach, but he played in the major leagues for nine years as an outfielder from 2008-16 with three teams, most notably the Padres. He was touted for his baseball acumen as a player and could wind up eventually becoming a GM.
One longshot candidate with local ties is Astros first-base coach Don Kelly, a Mt. Lebanon graduate who spent three years at Point Park and was a former Pirates utility player.
Kelly spent his first season on the Astros staff this season after scouting for two years for the Detroit Tigers. He retired as a player at the end of 2016 season.
John Perrotto is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.