The Athletics are hiring Mark Kotsay as their next manager, reports Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (Twitter link). The news comes as little surprise, as Heyman had reported over the weekend that Oakland was zeroing in on Kotsay for the position.
It’ll be the first managerial stint for the 46-year-old, who spent the 2021 campaign as the A’s third base coach. While he’d only served in that capacity for one season, the longtime MLB outfielder has been on the Oakland staff for a while. Kotsay originally signed on as bench coach over the 2015-16 offseason. After two years in that capacity, he bounced to quality control coach for a few seasons before taking over third base coaching duties last winter.
Now, Kotsay’s in position to oversee a dugout for the first time. His taking over the managerial chair in Oakland this winter would’ve seemed completely improbable just a few months ago. Longtime A’s skipper Bob Melvin — generally regarded as one of the better managers around the league — remained under contract after the team exercised a 2022 option on his services in June. Yet Oakland brass eventually granted Melvin permission to explore opportunities elsewhere, and the three-time Manager of the Year fielded inquiries from the Padres. San Diego and Melvin finalized a three-year deal in early November, leaving Oakland on the hunt for a new dugout leader for the first time in over a decade.
Melvin’s departure was nothing short of shocking. Once the dust was settled, however, it became clear that Kotsay was as strong a candidate as anyone to succeed him. Not only has the latter spent the past six seasons taking on various roles in Oakland, he spent the 2014 campaign as a special assistant in the Padres’ front office and logged the following year as the Friars’ hitting coach.
That’s a wide array of experience, particularly considering Kotsay’s not that far removed from hanging up his spikes. The ninth overall pick in 1996 coming out of Cal State Fullerton, Kotsay made his big league debut with the Marlins a little more than a year after his draft day. He’d appear in the majors in each of the next sixteen seasons, continuing his playing career all the way through 2013.
Kotsay appeared with seven different organizations during his MLB career, including two separate stints in San Diego and four years (2004-07) with the A’s. That stretch included a .314/.370/.459 showing in his first year in the Bay Area that stands out as one of the better seasons of his career. Oakland’s current top two front office decision-makers — executive vice president Billy Beane and general manager David Forst — were already in key positions with the A’s during that time, so Kotsay’s original stint in the organization likely laid the foundation for the key post-playing roles he’d eventually assume.
While Kotsay has yet to manage at any level professionally, he’s long been viewed as a viable candidate. By 2015, he’d been mentioned as a possibility to lead the Padres’ clubhouse on an interim basis after the firing of Bud Black, although that role eventually went to Pat Murphy. By the 2019-20 offseason, he was garnering consideration from clubs to land a managerial role on a permanent basis. He reportedly sat down with each of the Giants, Pirates, Astros and Red Sox that winter but didn’t ultimately land a gig. Last year, he interviewed with the Tigers for the position that eventually went to A.J. Hinch, but he’ll now get his opportunity with the franchise he arguably knows as well as any.
Aside from Kotsay, the A’s reportedly considered bullpen coach Marcus Jensen and hitting coach Darren Bush as possible internal options. Oakland also looked into Rays’ bench coach Matt Quatraro, Red Sox’s bench coach Will Venable and Astros’ bench coach Joe Espada. With the A’s the last team of the offseason to finalize their managerial situation, each of that group will have to wait at least one more year in the pursuit of their own first managerial nods.
Kotsay’s first order of business figures to be nailing down the coaching staff, which he and the front office can embark upon during the lockout. Once the transactions freeze is lifted, the A’s appear to be in for a rather significant roster overhaul. The front office is always operating under a tight budget due to payroll restraints, and reports have suggested for months that the A’s could trade key players (i.e. Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas) in an effort to reduce costs. Indeed, reports suggested Melvin’s $4MM salary may have been part of the reason the A’s allowed him to head to San Diego in the first place, although it’s likely the organization’s affinity for their longtime skipper was also a factor.
The specific form the restructure takes won’t be known until there’s a new CBA in place. Yet it’s likely Kotsay and his staff will be tasked with leading a club that looks very different, both from last year’s 86-win squad and the roster as currently constructed. That could make for a tough challenge for a first-year skipper, but the front office clearly believes in Kotsay’s ability to lead the franchise through that transition.
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