Spring training may be looming, but the Red Sox don't seem in a rush to find their next manager. They'd like to wait until MLB completes its investigation into sign stealing during the 2018 season, because the nightmare scenario would be promoting an internal candidate to replace Alex Cora, only to have that coach implicated in the scandal.
WEEI.com reported that the league's findings should be released during the first week of February, and the Red Sox sound confident they will be exonerated.
So where does that leave the managerial search? Team president Sam Kennedy said over the weekend that the initial focus is on internal candidates, which makes sense from a continuity standpoint. Importing a new manager this late in the offseason is basically asking for disruption.
So how would we rank the contenders? If the Red Sox hope to remain in-house, there are basically three candidates: bench coach Ron Roenicke, third base coach Carlos Febles, and special assistant Jason Varitek.
Here's how we'd rank them.
1. RON ROENICKE
The safe choice, as we laid out on Saturday. Roenicke represents a calming, steadying presence, and he'd be a reassuring face of contrition as the Red Sox begin the task of repairing their image.
Roenicke projected calm and composure during his comments to reporters on Saturday at the winter weekend in Springfield, and the 63-year-old baseball lifer has a reputation for doing things the right way.
"It's obviously a tough time," he said. "And I know things over the years, maybe some little things have happened before. But when something like this comes out, it obviously damages the game. I think you try to get past it. You try to do things the right way."
Roenicke isn't the perfect choice, especially from a sabermetric standpoint as the Red Sox look to incorporate more analytics into their game-day preparation. But they're not going to find a perfect manager at this stage of the winter, and at least he's experienced, after four years at the helm in Milwaukee that included 96 wins and an NLCS berth in 2011.
"Ron is a great candidate," said DH J.D. Martinez. "He knows our team. I wouldn't be surprised if it's Ron or something."
2. CARLOS FEBLES
The Red Sox valued the bilingual Cora's ability to communicate with both English- and Spanish-speakers. Febles would fill a similar role, with the added benefit that he managed a number of the team's young standouts in the lower minors, including Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, and Michael Chavis.
While Roenicke wouldn't directly say he wants the job, Febles felt no such qualms.
"I mean, I would definitely welcome it," he said. "If you want to manage in the big leagues, this is the team that you want to do it, the Boston Red Sox, not just because of the talent we have, but the organization, the fanbase, and you putting all the perspective together, this is the perfect scenario for any manager to come into this organization. This is a real special organization and an organization that wants to win every year, year in and year out."
The 43-year-old Febles was particularly close to Cora and was one of his most trusted lieutenants. Whether he's ready to take on the task of helping rebuild the team's image is another matter, but he hopes the hire is internal.
"Definitely," he said. "It's their decision, but it will make it easier for all of us, coaches and players, because it's going to be hard if whoever comes in tries to build relationships at this point, this late. Spring training is only two weeks away. You guys know how long it takes for any manager to build relationships throughout the offseason. You can imagine how difficult it is going to be to do it in two weeks.
"I think internal will be a lot easier for all of us than having somebody come from the outside. But at the end, it's a front office decision."
3. JASON VARITEK
The X-factor. There's little doubt the Red Sox have been grooming the former All-Star and team captain for a larger role in the organization, but it's hard to see how throwing him into such a chaotic situation would aid his development.
It's also not even clear that he wants the job, at least right now.
But talk about intriguing. Renowned for his preparation as a player, Varitek may have only caught the very start of the advanced analytics era before retiring in 2011, but he certainly never shied away from information when game-planning.
The issue is timing. Even if Varitek represents the best long-term choice in the organization, it would be a shame to place the 47-year-old in a position to fail before he's ready. While the chance of him winning the job can't be completely dismissed, it makes more sense to get him some on-field experience before thrusting him into such a pressure-packed job.
One possible solution? Name Roenicke the (interim?) manager, and install Varitek as his bench coach, with an eye towards handing him the reins as soon as 2021.