Pool of managerial candidates gets a little smaller

Well, I guess Joe Girardi won’t be going anywhere after all.

Girardi was thought to be a main target of the Cubs. The Nationals had expressed interest in discussing their managerial job with him. Other teams surely would have wanted to interview the former big league catcher who won the 2009 World Series as the skipper of the Yankees and has posted a .566 career winning percentage as a big league manager.

Instead, Girardi will forego his other managerial options and remain in New York.

Yesterday’s news that Girardi has signed a four-year contract extension with the Yankees (worth $16 million, according to CBSsports.com) takes arguably the most sought-after managerial candidate off the market before he even really got a chance to explore other opportunities.

That, of course, is just how the Yankees wanted it. Girardi’s previous contract ran through the month of October, and so when the Cubs and Nationals expressed interest in discussing their managerial openings with Girardi, the Yankees declined, effectively using this month as an exclusive negotiating window.

They had no interest in getting into a bidding war with other teams, so they made sure that they were the only team that could talk to Girardi for the time being. And by making Girardi the second-highest paid manager in Major League Baseball behind the Angels’ Mike Scioscia, they got their guy.

Girardi reportedly had explored the option of taking a year away from the dugout and spending more time with his family. He also was a very intriguing candidate for the Cubs opening because he’s an Illinois native, Northwestern alum, and former Cubs draft pick and catcher.

Even had they gotten a chance to interview him, the Nationals might not have had much of a chance to lure Girardi to D.C. given the other attractive options in front of him. But now all of that is a moot point.

Girardi is staying in the Bronx, leaving the Nats to look elsewhere.

So where does that leave general manager Mike Rizzo and company?

Well, they likely knew that landing Girardi was a longshot, and it’s unclear how heavily they would have pursued him anyway. There surely will be no shortage of candidates that have legitimate interest in the Nationals job given the talent already on the roster, and Rizzo will have his pick of talented options in the end.

Rizzo has been incredibly hush-hush when it comes to the Nationals’ managerial search, declining to comment on what qualifications he’s looking for in his next skipper. Randy Knorr, who has served as the Nats’ bench coach for the last two seasons, remains the top internal candidate for the job. Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams, who has ties to Rizzo from their time together in Arizona, is certainly an option. Former Reds manager Dusty Baker, who was fired by Cincinnati last week and brings two decades worth of experience as a big league manager, could wind up working his way into the mix and has said he would like to be considered by the Nationals. Then there’s Cal Ripken Jr., who has expressed an interest in getting back into the game and has been discussed as potentially a good fit in D.C.

The Nationals wanted Girardi as their manager after the 2006 season, but ended up hiring Manny Acta after being rebuffed by Girardi. Their interest in him wasn’t as intense this time around, but nonetheless, one candidate is now off the market as the managerial carousel begins to turn.

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