The athletics team is appointing Mark Kotsai as their next manager, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). The news comes as little surprise, as Heyman reported over the weekend that Oakland was focusing on Kotsai for the position.
It will be the first managerial assignment for the 46-year-old, who spent the 2021 campaign as the third head coach of Team A. While he only served in that capacity for one season, the longtime MLB player was on the Oakland staff for some time. Kutsai was originally signed as a coach on the bench in the 2015-16 season. After two years in this capacity, he transitioned to a QC coach for a few seasons before taking on third base coaching duties last winter.
Now, Kotsay is in position to oversee the bunker for the first time. His assumption of the management chair in Oakland this winter would have seemed completely improbable just a few months ago. Longtime A captain Bob Melvin – generally seen as one of the best coaches in the league – remained under contract after the team exercised a 2022 option for his services in June. However, Oakland Copper eventually granted permission for Melvin to explore opportunities elsewhere, and the General Manager three times sent inquiries from Padres. San Diego and Melvin finished a Three-year deal In early November, he leaves Oakland in search of a new dugout leader for the first time in more than a decade.
Melvin’s departure was nothing short of shocking. But once the dust settled, it became clear that Kutsai was as strong a candidate as anyone else to succeed him. Not only has the latter spent the past six seasons in various roles in Oakland, but he has spent the 2014 campaign as a special assistant in Padres’ front office and scored the following year as Frears’ batting coach.
This is a wide range of experience, especially considering that Kotsay is not far from hanging nails. It was the ninth overall pick in 1996 from Cal State Fullerton, with Kotsay making his league debut with the Marlins just over a year after his draft day. He appeared in the majors in each of the following 16 seasons, and continued his football career throughout 2013.
Kotsay has appeared with seven different organizations during his MLB career, including two separate stints in San Diego and four years (2004-2007) with the A’s. This extension included .314 / .370 / .459 appearing in his first year in the Bay Area which stands out as one of the best seasons of his career. Two of the current front-office decision makers in Auckland – Executive Vice President Billy Bean and General Manager David Forrest – were already in key positions with A during that time, so it’s possible that Kotsay’s original mission in the organization laid the foundation for the post-Play. The main roles he was going to assume in the end.
While Kotsay has not yet managed at any professional level, he has long been seen as a viable candidate. By 2015, he was mentioned as a possibility to lead the Padres Club on a temporary basis following the release of Bud Black, although that role eventually went to Pat Murphy. By the 2019-20 season, he was garnering attention from clubs for a management role on a permanent basis. He reportedly sat with both the Giants, Pirates, Astros and Red Sox that winter, but didn’t land in the end. Last year he interviewed the Tigers for the position which eventually moved to AJ Hinch, but now he’s getting his chance with the franchise he arguably knows as well as any other position.
Aside from Kotsay, the A’s reportedly considered Bullpen coach Marcus Jensen and hit coach Darren Bush as potential insider options. Oakland also looked into Rice coach Matt Quattaro, Red Sox coach Will Venable and Astros coach Joe Espada. With the first team being the last off-season team to finish their managerial status, each group will have to wait at least another year in pursuit of their first managerial gestures.
Kotsay’s first request from the business is to hire training staff, which he and the front office can initiate during the lockdown. Once the transaction freeze is lifted, A appears to be on a rather important list of fixes. The front office has always been operating on a tight budget due to salary constraints, and reports over months have suggested that friends can trade with major players (ie. Matt OlsonAnd Matt ChapmanAnd Chris BassettAnd Shawn MindAnd Frankie Montas) in an effort to cut costs. In fact, reports suggested Melvin’s $4 million salary may have been part of the reason the A’s allowed him to fly to San Diego in the first place, although it’s possible that the organization’s affinity with their longtime leader was a factor as well.
The specific form that restructuring takes will not be known until there is a new CBA in place. However, it is likely that Kutsai and his staff will be tasked with leading a club that looks very different, both from the team that racked up 86 wins last year and the roster that is currently being built. This might pose a tough challenge for a first-year skipper, but the front office clearly believes in Kotsay’s ability to lead the franchise through this transition.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
“Prone to fits of apathy. Introvert. Award-winning internet evangelist. Extreme beer expert.”