Those who believe Alex Cora will return as Red Sox manager found a crack of daylight on Monday afternoon when the Red Sox announced they would retain the majority of his coaching staff, but his future may rest elsewhere.
On Monday, two headlines brought Cora to the forefront. First, the Red Sox announced that they had retained their entire coaching staff except veteran bench coach Jerry Narron, who parachuted in for one year on Ron Roenicke's staff, and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson, a Cora holdover with ties to their days together in Houston.
Otherwise, everyone is back, including four coaches who served directly under Cora and three more who joined the organization before he was forced out in January because of his role in Houston's cheating scandal.
Huh? Could this be a sign that the Red Sox actually are considering bringing Cora back to oversee his old staff, despite convincing evidence that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has different plans?
Not so fast, because minutes later, the White Sox made the surprising announcement that they've parted ways with manager Rick Renteria, who oversaw a 35-25 season and wild card berth as Chicago's rebuild made the leap to reality.
Cora would seem to be a perfect fit for such an up-and-coming young roster, which includes former batting champ Tim Anderson, MVP candidate Jose Abreu, old friend Yoan Moncada, and young slugger Eloy Jimenez, not to mention All-Star right-hander Lucas Giolito and a deep farm system. The White Sox are a team on the rise that nonetheless collapsed down the stretch, dropping nine of their final 12 to lose what seemed like a firm grip on first place in the AL Central. If there's one thing Cora proved in 2018, it's that he can step into such a situation and put a team over the top.
But still, those returning Red Sox coaches seem like a red flag. The returnees are pitching coach Dave Bush, hitting coach Tim Hyers, third base coach Carlos Febles, first base coach Tom Goodwin, coach Ramon Vazquez, assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse, and assistant pitching coach Kevin Walker. The Red Sox also listed former catcher Jason Varitek as a special assistant/catching coach, codifying his role on the coaching staff.
Because the Red Sox are currently without a manager after parting ways with Roenicke on the final day of the season, it's certainly eye-opening to see them retain virtually their entire coaching staff. That will lead to increased speculation that they're simply greasing the skids for Cora to return once his suspension ends.
I'm standing by my belief that he's not coming back. Bloom was evasive when asked about Cora's future immediately after the season, referring instead to past comments that suggested the ex-manager needed to do some image rehabilitation.
CEO Sam Kennedy has made it clear that the managerial hire will be Bloom's decision without interference from ownership, which last flexed its muscles on the position in 2012, resulting in the disastrous hire of Bobby Valentine.
Perhaps the Red Sox have an internal candidate in mind who can work with the holdover staff. Or maybe they just plan to make it clear to whoever takes the job that he's inheriting a staff with only two openings.
In any event, I still expect them to look somewhere other than Cora to fill that opening, and I wouldn't be surprised if their former manager ends up trading his red socks for white ones sometime next month.