After firing John Farrell almost immediately after being eliminated for the ALDS for the second straight year, the Red Sox didn’t waste too much time in hiring his replacement. That, of course, is Alex Cora, a guy who will have some high expectations immediately upon taking his first major-league managing job. All signs point to him being capable of delivering expectations — largely due to the fact that the Red Sox have a very talented roster — but he won’t be able to do it alone. He’s concentrating on the World Series for now, but once that is over and he is officially introduced to the Red Sox, it will be time for his first task as manager. That is: Hire a staff.
At this point, it’s still unclear what is going to happen to some coaches that are already on the staff. They have been told they are free to seek other employment, but ultimately, if they want to stay, it will be up to Cora and Dave Dombrowski to make that decision. It’s hard enough to evaluate managers and it’s even harder to evaluate other coaches on staff. Still, they play big roles and will be important pieces for an inexperienced manager like Cora. With that in mind, let’s look at some candidates to fill the major coaching roles on his staff.
It’s weird to start with bullpen coach, I know. But this decision has already been made so let’s just get it out of the way. Dana LeVangie will be returning as the team’s bullpen coach, according to Evan Drellich. Boston’s bullpen was outstanding in 2017, so bringing LeVangie back is a strong move.
Now, we get to the unfilled positions. Bench coach figures to be an important one for Cora, as they will be his right-hand man. With the fact that Cora has yet to manage a major-league game, many are assuming that he will find a veteran coach to serve as his bench coach. That puts to rest the dream of him using Jason Varitek as a bench coach. Ideally, I think, he’d find a former manager to serve as his bench coach and give him a voice that has been there before. It’s not clear that someone like Dusty Baker (who is not nearly as bad as his reputation, in my opinion) would want that job, but perhaps he’d be open to it for a year before looking for a new manager gig in 2018. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a former manager, though. Chili Davis, the current Red Sox hitting coach, has been a hot managing name for a few years. It doesn’t look like he’ll get a job this time around, but it could be time for a promotion within Boston’s coaching staff. He’s never managed a club, but he’s been around as a coach for year and would provide some experience to Cora’s right hand. Obviously, Gary DiScarcina is another option, and if he’d be willing to stick around he’s probably the best option available. It should be noted that he’s a candidate for Philadelphia’s open manager gig.
After a disappointing year for the offense, it may make sense for the Red Sox to look in a different direction at hitting coach. However, as mentioned above, Chili Davis is a well-respected coach and he led an outstanding offense just one year earlier. It seems that he should be retained if it’s something he wants to do. Looking for a new assistant hitting coach, though, could be on the table. As far as other candidates go, there are a lot of different directions they can go in. Someone like Alonzo Powell could be someone they look into, as he just served as Houston’s assistant hitting coach and they were one of the best offenses many of us have ever seen. There’s also Bill Mueller, who is currently coaching in St. Louis but could be amenable to a move back to Boston, the place where his career peaked. Mueller also played with Cora with the Red Sox in 2005.
The Red Sox were outstanding on the mound in 2017, which would point towards them wanting to bring Carl Willis back for next year. While I certainly wouldn’t be angry if they decided to go in that direction, this is the perfect offseason to look for a new pitching coach. There have been a lot of experienced and well-respected pitching coaches let go this winter and the Red Sox would be foolish to not at least do their due diligence. Guys like Mike Maddux, Dave Righetti, Jim Hickey and Chris Bosio are all intriguing options. Hickey in particular could be interesting given his ties to David Price. You can also be sure you’ll hear some people once again pining for Varitek to get this gig, because he is apparently a candidate for every job opening on the team.