ST. LOUIS — What we’ve learned from multiple major league sources in the last 24 hours is that there are discussions going on between the Blue Jays and Red Sox concerning a deal for Toronto manager John Farrell.
Since this time last year, Farrell has been Boston’s No. 1 choice to manage. Nothing has changed. As the Red Sox concluded their fallback interviews Thursday — with former Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale receiving the call — they are now in position to move forward on the compensation issue with Toronto, if that is an obstacle.
From what we’ve been able to piece together, the discussions have begun at the ownership level, but the compensation names will have to be resolved by the general managers, Ben Cherington and Alex Anthopoulos. No indication whether it has reached that stage.
If you’re the Red Sox, you’re trying to use the White Sox-Marlins deal for Ozzie Guillen as a parameter for compensation. The Marlins gave up a couple of mid-level prospects for the White Sox to release Guillen from his contract. At the time, the White Sox were considering a change anyway, so they got what they could and moved on to Robin Ventura.
Anthopoulos has a different set of issues. The Red Sox are divisional rivals, so he has to receive something that would appease the masses in Toronto, where the team seems perennially on the cusp but never able to get over the hump.
The argument against holding out for something so significant that it impedes a deal is that if the manager doesn’t want to be there, what do you do? As a rival American League East GM said, “I don’t think it’s a great practice to deal for managers. I’m surprised the league allows it.
“If the guy doesn’t want to be there, you just let him go. What’s the big deal? You get someone else who does want to be there and who you feel will do a good job.
“Whenever you hire a manager, you usually have two or three other people you’ve interviewed that you could easily have given the job to. I’m sure Toronto has other people they considered.”
One of them was Hale, who was the runner-up to Farrell two years ago.
The fact that the Red Sox and Jays are discussing compensation seems to indicate the Jays are willing to let Farrell loose. Now, if they’re asking for Clay Buchholz, as they did last year, that’s probably not a serious attempt to get something done.
Would the Jays offer Farrell an extension to call the whole thing off? And if Farrell says no, would the Jays allow him to go into the final year of his contract as a lame duck?
Some teams don’t care that their manager is in the final year. They reason that he’s under contract, therefore he should do his best.
As of Thursday afternoon, Farrell had not been involved in this process, according to a source close to the manager.
The Jays could be of two minds. Maybe they really don’t care if Farrell wants to go to Boston but will still ask for a good player.
They also have to ask themselves whether Farrell will help the Red Sox, whether his presence there will be an advantage for Toronto, or whether he is inconsequential. If Anthopoulos doesn’t think Farrell can make a significant difference, he will let Farrell go for a reasonable return.
Whether there is a timetable on all of this is anyone’s guess. The Sox would like to have a manager in place by the end of the World Series. That way, he can be involved in the offseason work on the roster and will have time to piece together a coaching staff.
Most of Farrell’s coaches in Toronto have one-year deals. So if Farrell wanted to take Brian Butterfield or Luis Rivera with him, it could happen.
The important hire will be the pitching coach, whether it’s Farrell or another manager. The feeling is that Farrell could straighten out Jon Lester and Buchholz, though the manager doesn’t always have time to work individually with players — as was the case for Farrell in Toronto.
The big name being mentioned is Rick Peterson, currently director of pitching for the Orioles. When Farrell was in the minor leagues, Peterson was his pitching coach.
If the Sox don’t land Farrell, they feel they have a good reserve this time around. The remaining four candidates — Tim Wallach, Tony Pena, Brad Ausmus, and Hale — could all be very good managers.
Another part of Farrell’s value is his familiarity and good working relationship with Cherington. That’s a big factor after the terrible interaction Cherington and Bobby Valentine had all season.
Ausmus could emerge as the leading candidate if Farrell isn’t happening. Ausmus interviewed Wednesday, and while he would not get into specifics with reporters about how things went, it would be tough to imagine it didn’t go well.
Ausmus is a well-spoken, passionate baseball man who understands the Red Sox Nation culture, having grown up in Cheshire, Conn., and graduated from Dartmouth. He is like a top prospect you know will be a successful major leaguer.
Wallach also has wide appeal; he is described by one baseball official as “a lot like Terry Francona but without the humor.” He’s a former hitting coach and a former Gold Glove third baseman. He has handled some of the Dodgers’ top prospects, including the ones recently obtained by the Red Sox.
Pena had only a .410 winning percentage in parts of four seasons in Kansas City, but he was AL Manager of the Year in 2003, the only winning season the Royals have had since 1994. He has worked under Joe Torre and Joe Girardi with the Yankees and obviously has a great understanding of pitching, the AL East, and Boston.
Hale, a great teacher, was once a prominent minor league manager in the Red Sox organization under Dan Duquette, who hired him in Baltimore to be third base coach this season.
“He has all the qualifications,” said Duquette, now the Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations. “He’s been a minor league manager, a major league coach under some pretty impressive managers like Tito Francona and Buck Showalter. He’s been very valuable to our success this season.”