Houston Astros cheating scandal: Five candidates to replace Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch

On Monday, Major League Baseball released commissioner Rob Manfred’s report on the Houston Astros‘ sign-stealing scandal. Manfred’s punishments were included in the report, and entailed season-long suspensions for general manager Jeff Luhnow and skipper A.J. Hinch, as well as a $5 million fine and stripped draft picks. Luhnow and Hinch were subsequently dismissed by the organization, with bench coach Joe Espada expected to take over as manager on an interim basis, and assistant GM Pete Putila surfacing as the favorite to run baseball operations.

Seeing as how camps across the league will open in about a month’s time, it’s possible the Astros will wait until after the season to make permanent hires at both positions. 

Nevertheless, we are a messy and speculative bunch, so we decided to highlight five individuals who could be in the running for each position if and when the Astros get serious about filling their posts. Remember that this is for entertainment purposes only, and we’re not suggesting any or all of these individuals will be considered by the Astros for these roles.

Five general manager candidates

1. Pete Putila, Astros assistant GM: We may as well begin with the favorite to fill in on an interim basis, right? Putila was promoted to assistant GM only recently despite being with the organization since 2011. He’s held a variety of roles and is held in fair regard around the league. The Astros might want a clean break from the Luhnow era, however, making an extended Putila reign unlikely.

2. Matt Arnold, Brewers assistant GM: Arnold is the most obvious GM candidate out there. He’s currently with the Milwaukee Brewers, but has done stints in the past with the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers, among other organizations. That means he’s worked alongside David Stearns, Andrew Friedman, and Jon Daniels — a quality group of executives. Arnold is going to land one of those jobs someday. Until then, he’s going to remain a fixture on these lists anytime a job opens up.

3. Josh Byrnes, Dodgers senior vice president of baseball operations: It feels like Josh Byrnes has been around forever, but he won’t turn 50 until June. He’s the only person on this list who has actual GM experiencing, having overseen business with the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres. Now with the Dodgers, Byrnes probably doesn’t have the fondest of feelings for the previous regime.

4. Jared Porter/Amiel Sawdaye, Diamondbacks assistant general managers: We’re combining Porter and Sawdaye because both are high-ranking executives in Mike Hazen’s front office who joined him when he left the Red Sox. Both also feel like future GM candidates, with Porter seemingly having a more direct path to a gig, according to league sources. The Diamondbacks don’t get the same recognition for savvy maneuvering that some other clubs do, but Porter and Sawdaye are legit and will eventually get their due.

5. Peter Bendix, Rays vice president: With Chaim Bloom now installed in Boston, we’re throwing Bendix on here as the honorary Rays inclusion. (James Click has been in Tampa Bay longer, but isn’t believed to have the people skills necessary to front an organization.) Bendix, like Bloom, started off as a sabermetrically inclined internet writer. 

Five manager candidates

1. Joe Espada, Astros bench coach: Again, may as well start with the interim candidate. Previously the bench coach, Espada has garnered interest from other teams in recent offseasons, so it’s not out of pocket to suggest he could take the job as his own. At minimum, Espada could position himself to land a different managerial job with a strong showing this season. 

2. Brad Ausmus, former Angels manager: Filling the obligatory “former Astros” role is Ausmus, who was canned after a season at the helm with the Los Angeles Angels so they could hire Joe Maddon. Ausmus is indeed a former Astros player who has ample managerial experience. He’s never been known as a strong tactical manager, however, and the Astros — even under new guidance — might prefer a modern pick.

3. Matt Quatraro, Rays bench coach: Like, say, Quatraro, who is benefitting from the Rays’ recent success. Quatraro worked with Cleveland beforehand as well, giving him legitimate quant cred. He was in the running for a position or two this winter, and his name also figures to come up with regards to the Red Sox opening if and when they move on from Alex Cora.

4. Andy Green, Cubs bench coach: Green was fired by the San Diego Padres late last season after a disappointing three-plus year run. He’s since landed with the Chicago Cubs, and he figures to eventually get another shot down the road. Who knows, maybe he’s the next Terry Francona — someone who failed in their first job, but made the most of their second (and later third) opportunities. 

5. Hensley Meulens, Mets bench coach: We’ll end with Meulens, who left the San Francisco Giants over the winter to join the New York Mets. Meulens nearly landed the New York Yankees gig the offseason before last, and has ample experience on the bench in a variety of roles. You might know him best for his nickname (“Bam Bam”) or his ability to speak five languages. 

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