The sun is quickly setting on the 2017 MLB regular season, and with it speculation is growing about which managers will be in jeopardy of losing their jobs come season’s end. While front office and roster changes are often at the root of a turnaround, sometimes a managerial change can provide the spark a team needs to change its fortunes, and several teams will surely opt to go that route this winter.
If every manager makes it through the rest of September, this will be the first season since 2006 that no team has fired its manager during the season. That remarkable display of stability could mean that we’re in for an offseason full of turnover, especially since there are six managers with expiring contracts or options for next year that still have yet to be picked up.
Here are 10 managers who could be on the hot seat at the conclusion of the 2017 season:
10. Buck Showalter, Orioles — Showalter is widely regarded as one of the league’s best strategists, and he’s done a solid job with this year’s Orioles club, as they’re over .500 and in playoff contention during the season’s final month. But a report earlier this season from FOX’s Ken Rosenthal suggested tension between Showalter and GM Dan Duquette, so if that relationship becomes toxic enough, it’s possible that one of them could depart. Even if Duquette stays, Rosenthal reported that the 61-year-old Showalter could prefer to become the GM himself rather than continuing to manage. Any possible changes are unlikely to occur until Duquette and Showalter’s contracts expire next fall, but on the off chance that the Angelos family wants to resolve the situation after this season, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
9. Joe Girardi, Yankees — There’s no logical reason for the Yankees to get rid of Girardi after this season. Under his watch, the Yankees have overachieved and put themselves in playoff position a couple years before their rebuilding process was supposed to be complete. They’ve also managed to get throughout 2017 without any major controversies — a near-impossible accomplishment considering that they play in what’s historically been baseball’s most aggressive media market. Girardi has never had a losing season in New York, winning at least 84 games in each of his nine previous seasons. With all of that said, he still doesn’t have a contract for next season, and the Yankees haven’t won a playoff game since 2012. The Yankees’ management practices and spending habits have changed drastically since the death of George Steinbrenner in 2010, but they’ve certainly been irrational with firing managers in the past, so Girardi shouldn’t feel totally safe until he puts pen to paper — especially if New York loses in the Wild Card game next month.
8. Dusty Baker, Nationals — Even though the Nationals have been struck with a seemingly endless string of injuries this season, Baker has managed them to the second-best record in the National League and has a solid shot to win the NL Manager of the Year award. Even so, he doesn’t have a contract for next season, and the Nationals haven’t made it a priority to give him one. In all likelihood, Baker is going to be back in the Nats’ dugout in 2018, but if Washington falls to 0-4 all-time in the NLDS this October, perhaps the 68-year-old could be vulnerable.
7. Paul Molitor, Twins — Despite the fact that Molitor’s Twins have bounced back this season after losing 103 games a year ago, possessing the second AL Wild Card spot entering play on Friday, Molitor still doesn’t have a contract for next season. Considering that the Hall of Famer was hired by since-departed GM Terry Ryan and had no previous ties to the Twins’ new baseball ops powers-that-be, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, it’d be hard to fault him for being concerned about his future. If Molitor leads Minnesota to its first postseason appearance since 2010, it’d be very difficult for Falvey and Levine to justify firing him—really, it’d be difficult even if they miss out by a game or two—but if they want their own guy in the dugout, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see them make a change.
6. Brian Snitker, Braves — The fact that the Braves are in third place during the middle of a rebuilding process is an accomplishment, but it’s worth noting that while they were relatively competitive prior to the All-Star break, going 42-45 over the first half, they’ve been a miserable 20-32 during the second half. That regression is unsurprising given the Braves’ youth and the fact that they dealt veterans Jaime Garcia, Sean Rodriguez, and Brandon Phillips, but it’s still somewhat disconcerting for a team that (perhaps overoptimistically) hopes to contend in the NL East as soon as next season. Snitker only received a one-year contract with an option for 2018, so the Braves could easily go after a more experienced manager this offseason if they so desire, but Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last month that Snitker is “almost certain to return” next season.
5. John Farrell, Red Sox — While the Red Sox have finished in first place twice under Farrell and are in position to do so again this year, they’ve also finished in last place twice under his watch and haven’t won a playoff game since he led them to a World Series victory in 2013. He’s a holdover from the previous administration, so president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski would have an easy excuse to get rid of him if he wants to do so, and his dismissal might not be exceptionally controversial because of the struggles he endured earlier in his tenure. It will be difficult to justify letting Farrell go if Boston wins a playoff series, but otherwise David Price’s exploits and the team’s recent sign-stealing controversy could serve as evidence of Farrell’s inability to provide effective leadership and put his job at stake this offseason.
4. Mike Matheny, Cardinals — On paper, it looks like Matheny should be one of the safest managers in the league. He’s never had a losing season, and the Cardinals advanced to the postseason in each of his first four seasons at the helm, reaching the NLCS in the first three and the World Series in 2013. But the Cardinals have been rather unstable in 2017, as they shook up their coaching staff in June and have often had to put their Triple-A coaching staff in the position of fixing slumping players, sending three Opening Day starters—Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, and Aledmys Diaz—to the minors this year while designating another, Jhonny Peralta, for assignment. Matheny’s handling of his veteran players has caused both Kolten Wong and Yadier Molina to speak out publicly about their playing time this season, which certainly isn’t ideal considering that both players are under contract through 2020.
If the Cardinals’ current surge vaults them into the playoffs, Matheny would certainly be safe heading into 2018. That’d certainly be ownership’s preferred course of action since Matheny’s current deal runs through 2020. He’ll likely stay even if they miss out on the postseason, but there is an expectation of consistent success in St. Louis, so the Cardinals’ continued regression could make his job less safe than it’s ever been.
3. Don Mattingly, Marlins — Mattingly’s status looked very uncertain during the early part of this season as the Marlins floundered and the team was up for sale. But with an ownership group that includes Derek Jeter—whom Mattingly played with in 1995 and coached from 2004-07—it seems much more likely that he’ll return in 2018. That’s perfectly acceptable, as Mattingly has made the best of a bad situation after the tragic death of his best pitcher, Jose Fernandez, last September. Despite the fact that they lost two of their best relievers, David Phelps and AJ Ramos, prior to the trading deadline, Mattingly’s Marlins are a solid 26-27 since the All-Star break.
With that said, the new ownership group is reportedly hoping to cut payroll down to about $50 million, which would surely make the team wholly uncompetitive, so if they do that it might make more sense for them to find a younger manager who is more comfortable dealing with a rebuilding process. But with the financial uncertainty surrounding the Jeter group causing the sale to be dragged out, it’s possible that the lame duck ownership situation could force the Marlins to retain Mattingly at least through the start of next season.
2. Brad Ausmus, Tigers — Ausmus has been rumored to be on the hot seat for several years now, but with the Tigers having stumbled to a disappointing 59-80 record and his contract expiring after this season, this may finally be the offseason where the 48-year-old manager gets the boot. Ausmus is one of a few recent former players who have been hired with little to no managerial experience and subsequently failed to impress. While Detroit’s front office has handcuffed him by consistently failing to provide him with reliable relievers, the club has gotten worse under his watch, even as expensive stars like Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton were added to help push the Tigers over the top. With Detroit going into a rebuild following the death of owner Mike Ilitch, now would be the most logical time for them to start over in the dugout.
1. Terry Collins, Mets — Despite the fact that Collins is the longest-tenured manager in Mets history and led them to their first World Series appearance in 15 years back in 2015, he’s never quite developed a “warm and fuzzy” reputation. Whether it’s been his abrasiveness with the media, his mockery of longtime Mets PR exec Jay Horwitz last year, his poor handling of Asdrubal Cabrera’s position change earlier this season, or his constant inability to efficiently manage Matt Harvey, Collins has almost constantly been the subject of controversy. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, and with the Mets in the midst of an extremely disappointing season, he doesn’t have a lot of momentum if he’s looking for an extension. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported last month that there’s virtually no way Collins will be retained in 2018.