CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – There was nothing good to take away from the Cleveland Indians’ ALDS collapse against the New York Yankees, and now the team’s front office is tasked with stopping the bleeding before it gets worse.
With many decisions to be made on player personnel, the Indians roster could look massively different come Opening Day 2018. Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Craig Breslow, Austin Jackson and Jay Bruce are free agents. Michael Brantley, Boone Logan and Josh Tomlin all have team options. Money will most likely need to be cleared to secure a lucrative contract extension for Francisco Lindor.
Yet none of those issues should be their first priority.
Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway will be a hot commodity, if not the hottest, among managerial openings in Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit, the New York Mets, and any other that could come open in the coming days.
If it is Callaway’s desire to become a manager immediately, then there should be no stopping him. The 42-year old has emerged as an elite coach in baseball and should be given an opportunity somewhere. He probably will have that choice.
Of the five teams with openings currently, the Mets make the most sense given their talented pitching staff, but like Boston, would a large market want to tread water with a first time manager? The other three are rebuilding situations that may not provide the stability Callaway may want, though ESPN’s Buster Olney reports the Phillies are very interested.
Even if Callaway is sold on any of the situations and the money he is offered, Indians President Chris Antonetti should consider looking to match an offer at all costs.
Manager and coach salaries are generally not made public like player salaries. It is known Terry Francona is signed with team options through 2018 with team options in 2019 in 2020, but his salary is undisclosed. As far as coach salaries go, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan was given $850K in 2010, and one could assume a million dollar coach exists somewhere in baseball today.
In the same way that NFL teams have begun to pay elite coordinators in a similar sense as head coaches, some coaches could prove to be worth a similar wage to managers. The argument could be made that Callaway brings a value well above that of other pitching coaches, and that the salary of an elite position coach would be equal to a first-time manager.
Since Callaway took over his post in 2013, the Indians are top-3 in baseball in FIP (3rd, 3.60), xFIP (2nd, 3.57), K% (1st, 24.0), and K-BB% (T-1, 16.4). His first rotation consisted of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber with 12 starts under his belt.
Since then, Callaway has overseen the growth of Kluber into a two-time Cy Young winner (most likely), the reinvention of Carlos Carrasco, and the establishment of Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar. All but 27 outings of Cody Allen’s career have come under Callaway, as well.
It goes without saying that Callaway aspires to be a manager someday, it is just a matter of when.
There is no guarantee that Francona will see through his contract all the way to 2020, and there is not necessarily a guarantee he would want to leave after that point.
With a salary match, it would be fairly easy to guarantee that Callaway becomes the next Indians manager when Francona moves on. That is just a matter of semantics, but ones that the team could not put a timetable on.
Regardless of whether or not it winds up being doable, the Indians should make every effort to retain Callaway.