Searching for a new manager isn’t all the Mariners have been doing the past few weeks.
While attention has been focused on managerial candidates for 2014, the Mariners have continued quietly cleaning house when it comes to the coaching staff that served under Eric Wedge this year. Sources confirmed Friday that bench coach Robby Thompson was fired early last week while third-base coach Jeff Datz was reassigned to a scouting position within the team’s ranks.
Datz has yet to inform the Mariners whether he’ll accept the position.
The remaining coaches, all under contract through 2014, have been told it’s up to the new manager whether they remain in Seattle. Pitching coach Carl Willis was given permission to interview for that same role with the Baltimore Orioles, but lost out to Dave Wallace and is now awaiting word on his fate in Seattle.
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On Friday, the Mariners also declined 2014 options on outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and pitcher Joe Saunders, allowing both to become free agents. The Mariners could try to re-sign Gutierrez to a much-smaller deal in a lesser outfield role, but they had no interest in picking up the $7.5 million option he was given as part of a four-year, $20.25 million deal signed late in 2009.
Gutierrez was either ill or injured for most of the four seasons of that deal, blowing out his hamstring in April of this season and playing just 41 games. He was limited to just 295 at-bats the past two seasons and only 617 – roughly a season’s worth – since the start of 2011, so the team paid $500,000 to buy his option out.
On the managerial front, former Seattle catcher and current broadcaster Dave Valle was the latest name to surface among those the team has had preliminary talks with. The Mariners plan to pare their candidates down and invite finalists to Seattle for a more formal round of interviews next week.
If all goes well, the new manager could be named in time for the general managers and owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. , Nov. 11-13.
Besides Valle, others being looked at include bench coaches Ron Wotus of the Giants, Chip Hale of the Athletics, Rick Rivera of the Padres, Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach and Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. Despite rumors, current Mariners assistant GM Ted Simmons never applied for the managerial vacancy, nor did Thompson or current third-base coach Daren Brown.
Thompson served as interim Mariners manager for a month after Wedge suffered a stroke in late July. At the time, he expressed an interest in managing full-time someday, and it was widely assumed he’d be considered in Seattle once Wedge informed the team he wasn’t coming back for 2014.
But Thompson and Wedge had a close relationship. Given the tense relations between Wedge and the front office – which boiled to the surface the final weekend of the season – it was never a given that Thompson would ask to take over his friend’s role working for the same people.
Brown is still awaiting word on whether he’ll be brought back as a coach in 2014, while Simmons is expected to remain in the same assistant GM role next season. Unlike Wedge, all of the coaches had their contracts extended through the end of 2014 before the 2013 season.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @gbakermariners