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With the Major League Baseball lockout underway, free agency is at a standstill. However, this doesn’t mean that the rumor mill has stopped spinning.
Free agents who didn’t sign before the work stoppage are still weighing their options, and teams are allowed to sign players to minor league contracts. The New York Mets and Oakland Athletics, meanwhile, are still searching for managers to carry into 2022.
While blockbuster deals like the three-year, $130 million contract Max Scherzer signed with the Mets aren’t on the immediate horizon, there’s plenty to follow as the MLB offseason continues. Let’s dive into some of the latest buzz.
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One noteworthy name does appear to be finding a new home during the work stoppage. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Washington Nationals have reached a minor league agreement with utility player Dee Strange-Gordon.
“Utility man Dee Strange-Gordon and the Washington Nationals are in agreement on a minor league contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN,” Passan tweeted. “Strange-Gordon was eligible to sign after not playing in big leagues last season.”
Strange-Gordon signed minor league deals with the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates this past season, but none of those stints led to major league playing time.
In 2020, Strange-Gordon appeared in 33 games with the Seattle Mariners, splitting time between second base, left field and shortstop. In his last full season with Seattle in 2019, Strange-Gordon batted .275 with three home runs, 34 RBI and 22 stolen bases.
Signing the 33-year-old gives Washington a veteran insurance option at multiple positions as it looks to continue its rebuild. Strange-Gordon hasn’t been an All-Star since the 2015 season, but he’s led the league in stolen bases three times, most recently in 2017 with 60.
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The Mets’ search for a team manager is still wide-open, but it could take a big step in the coming days. According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, New York has six candidates currently in the interviewing process.
“Brad Ausmus, Joe Espada, Bob Geren, Clayton McCullough, Matt Quatraro and Buck Showalter are all going through the interview process for the Mets’ open managerial job, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation, with several of those set to advance to a second round of the process as soon as next week,” he wrote.
According to DiComo, Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach Don Kelly was also under consideration but dropped out of the process.
A second round of interviews will likely trim the list of candidates, which is headlined by Showalter. The three-time AL Manager of the Year has coached the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, with his last season being in 2018.
According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, Mets officials were “impressed” with Showalter during the first round of interviews.
Ausmus is another candidate to keep an eye on. As DiComo pointed out, he joined the Los Angeles Angels under new general manager Billy Eppler and managed Scherzer for a year with the Detroit Tigers.
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Espada is also a candidate for the A’s opening, and the Houston Astros bench coach may be a step closer to landing that job instead of the one in New York.
According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Oakland has interviewed Espada.
This isn’t the first go-around for Espada in a managerial search. He interviewed for the Texas Rangers job after the 2018 season and for the Chicago Cubs gig after 2019. The 46-year-old previously coached with the Yankees and the Miami Marlins.
Though he never made it out of the minor leagues, the Puerto Rico native was a second-round draft pick of the A’s in 1996.
According to Britt Ghiroli and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Oakland is also expected to interview or has interviewed Mark Kotsay, Matt Quatraro, Will Venable, Marcus Jensen and Darren Bush for the manager’s job.
Kotsay currently serves as Oakland’s third base coach, while Bush and Jensen are the hitting coach and bullpen coach, respectively.