What the Pirates' GM Search Means for the Manager Candidates

Jared Martin

The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the midst of an overhaul of their management team from top to bottom. The first order of business was to replace former team President, Frank Coonelly. That's been done. Travis Williams is the guy, and he is tasked with executing a GM search after Neal Huntington's firing. Then the on-field manager search will continue once again. With a Pirates' GM likely to be named within a week, I thought it prudent to look at the list of manager candidates to see how their likelihood to get the job shifts with each of the general manager options.

It is widely believed that the Pirates' next general manager will be either Matt Arnold or Ben Cherington. However, there have been reports that Kevan Graves, the Pirates' current interim GM, and Pete Putila, Astros farm director, are in the mix as well. So, let's assume they all are.

I'm not sure that the next GM will for sure pick from the list of candidates Neal Huntington left him with, but it wouldn't be a terrible idea, and the Pirates are the lone manager-needy team out there. So the current list may very well be the only one. So we will use it.

Joe Espada

Joe Espada was my initial preference immediately after Hurdle was fired, and from a purely baseball perspective, he still is. Clapp has some charisma I really like, but Espada has the better experience and is a much safer choice.

The obvious connection here is the one to Pete Putila. Both are currently serving in the Astros organization. So, if the Pirates do go with Putila as GM, I'd say Espada is almost a lock. The Astros may not like the Pirates taking two members of their organization, but it might be a refreshing to have a team steal something from them for a change.

There are no other direct connections for Espada to any of the other GM candidates, but I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing for him. In my opinion, Espada is the biggest fish left on the manager market, and I could see a new general manager feeling the need to make a hire that will be widely applauded in Pittsburgh. To me, Espada would be that hire.

Change in likelihood to get hired

  • Ben Cherington - slight increase
  • Matt Arnold - slight increase
  • Kevan Graves - slight increase
  • Pete Putila - significant increase

Stubby Clapp

Stubby Clapp is currently my favorite. Of all the candidates, I believe he has the most potential to be a fan favorite and eventual Pittsburgh hero. Not saying he will, but he has an "it factor" that the other candidates don't really have. He also is a baseball lifer who knows the game and has some managerial experience.

In terms of his connections to the current list of GM candidates, he doesn't really have any. He might have crossed paths with Ben Cherington in 2016 when he was the hitting coach for the Blue Jays' AA affiliate and Cherington was the new VP of baseball operations, but that's pretty unlikely. They were only in the Jays' organization together for a month and Clapp was a low-level hitting coach.

Change in likelihood to get hired

  • Ben Cherington - no change
  • Matt Arnold - no change
  • Kevan Graves - no change
  • Pete Putila - moderate decrease

Jeff Banister

Jeff Banister was the favorite for the job while Neal Huntington was running the show. Many felt that the manager search was mostly going through the motions and that Banister was the guy all along. That all changes now. Banister is probably still a candidate, but certainly not a shoe-in anymore, and probably more of an underdog at this point.

Banister would benefit the most from the hiring of Kevan Graves. Graves was in the Huntington front office and may share the same affinity for Banister as his former boss.

The other candidate, and this is a bit of a stretch, that could boost Banister's chances would be Pete Putila. Putila grew up in the Pittsburgh area and maybe he would be more apt to hire the Pittsburgh guy.

Outside of those two, I don't see either of the front-runner candidates giving Banister much of a look. I imagine there is going to be a conscious effort to distance themselves from the previous front office, and hiring an internal guy to manage the team would only undermine that.

Change in likelihood to get hired

  • Ben Cherington - significant decrease
  • Matt Arnold - significant decrease
  • Kevan Graves - slight decrease
  • Pete Putila - moderate decrease

Derek Shelton

Derek Shelton is currently the bench coach for the Minnesota Twins. His background is as a hitting coach, a role he was in for the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays.

It was while he was with the Rays that he would have likely been exposed to Matt Arnold. Arnold was with the Rays from 2006 - 2015 (Shelton from 2009 - 2016). So, it is likely that, for the six years they worked in the same building, they got at least some familiarity with one another. The fact that Shelton was fired from his position in Tampa may complicate that connection. Arnold almost definitely did not have anything to do with Shelton's removal, but, depending on how long the move was mulled over in the organization, the negative sentiment could have made it's way into the front office and influenced Arnold's view of Shelton.

Coincidentally, Shelton's next job was with the Blue Jays as quality control coach. There he and Cherington had the opportunity to work in the same building. It was only for one year as Shelton took what should be viewed as a promotion to be the Twins bench coach, but the fact that Shelton left for a better opportunity rather than being fired looks better for his chances should Cherington get the job.

Change in likelihood to get hired

  • Ben Cherington - moderate increase
  • Matt Arnold - slight increase
  • Kevan Graves - no change
  • Pete Putila - moderate decrease

Matt Quatraro

Matt Quatraro has spent the majority of his non-playing career with the Tampa Bay Rays - first as the minor league hitting coordinator, then, after a brief stint with the Indians, the third base coach. This past season Quatraro served as the Rays' bench coach.

For the three years Quatraro spent as the minor league hitting coordinator for the Rays, he was helping to develop the players Matt Arnold's team had previously scouted. Quatraro has only been promoted since becoming a coach. So, I like the connection with Arnold.

Change in likelihood to get hired

  • Ben Cherington - slight decrease
  • Matt Arnold - moderate increase
  • Kevan Graves - no change
  • Pete Putila - moderate decrease

There could be some new candidates added to the mix that we have not yet considered. In fact, we should almost count on it. But with the group we have, here are my manager predictions for each GM hire:

  • Cherington - Derek Shelton
  • Arnold - Matt Quatraro
  • Kevan Graves - Jeff Banister
  • Pete Putila - Joe Espada

Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife

Comments (2)
No. 1-1

I didn't get the sense that Quatraro was a likely choice before. Almost seems like the front-runner now?