Not long after Mike Elias’ addition to head up Orioles baseball operations is made official, one of his first big moves will be choosing which manager he hires to succeed Buck Showalter. Would Elias consider someone from Houston?
If he does, he could look to Astros bench coach Joe Espada, who has interviewed for multiple managing openings this year, including in Toronto. He’s been a hot candidate after serving just one season as Houston bench coach. He joined the staff in 2018, replacing Alex Cora, who left to take the managing job in Boston.
The 43-year-old Espada knows the American League East after four seasons (2014-2017) with the New York Yankees. He served as a pro scout for New York in 2014 and was third base coach from 2015-2017. Before that, he was Miami’s third-base coach from 2010-2013). He was with the Marlins starting in 2006 and also spent time in their minor league system as a hitting and infield coach.
Espada played for 10 seasons in the minors, appearing in 644 games from 1996-2005. An infielder, he was drafted in the second round by Oakland in 1996.
Espada is a native of Puerto Rico and has managed in the Puerto Rican winter league. He drew some recent praise from Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow.
“(Espada) has a lot of the same aspects Alex did,” Luhnow told reporters. “Experience playing the game, experience in the trenches, coaching in an organization with a good manager. Bilingual, bicultural, really good understanding of traditional aspects of the game as well as the new aspects of the game. A good package overall.”
Former Oriole Ken Singleton provided an endorsement for Espada in Baltimore on Wednesday night. Singleton spoke before the “Evening with the 1983 Orioles” at the downtown Renaissance hotel.
Singleton saw Espada’s work up close as a Yankees broadcaster for the YES Network.
“A very sharp guy,” he said. “If he becomes the next Oriole manager, you’ll have a good solid guy here. He’s a lot like the managers they are hiring now - like the Boones and the Coras. Guys who are willing to work with the analytics, but have a sharp eye on what’s going on in the field. I think you have to combine both.
“Espada is bilingual, and that really helps. That means you can get your point across to players in two languages in no uncertain terms. Which, in this day and age, is important. They know exactly where they stand.”
And Singleton saw Espada relate well to players in New York.
“He was also the infield coach and he did an excellent job,” Singleton said. “When I talked to him, I realized this guy was going places. I didn’t realize it was to Houston as bench coach, but that was a step up. And now he has a chance to be a manager. He’s paid his dues and I think if Elias does bring him, you’ll be getting a couple of solid guys.”
Now about those analytics: As the Orioles look to upgrade and enhance their use of analytics with a new front office, former Oriole Rich Dauer said they are turning to the right place in bringing in people from the Houston organization.
Dauer was first base coach for Houston from 2015-2017.
“The Astros organization is the most analytical and smart group of guys that I’ve ever been around in my life,” said Dauer. “And they always stay ahead of the game. They know that everyone is trying to copy them, so they have to go to new levels in order to be smarter. I learned so much there. But then you have to take the human element and put it in with the computer element.”
And Dauer said the Astros indeed did that and did it well.
“The front office guys would meet with the coaching staff and the coaching staff would meet with the players. We had all the information on the bench. It’s just staying ahead of the game,” he said.
Sig Mejdal, who could join Elias in Baltimore, headed up the Astros’ analytics.
“Sig is top shelf. I love that guy,” said Dauer.
“But you know what? Everyone forgets that Earl Weaver started this analytic stuff way back in the day. I hated him for it at one point. I remember the first game of the World Series in 1979, I had played a lot of games that year and then I wasn’t playing. Because I was 0-for-2 off of Bruce Kison and Billy Smith was 1-for-2 with a homer. So take that, analytics,” he said with a laugh.
Meanwhile, the Orioles could officially have their new head of baseball operations soon.