The most immediate item on the Cleveland Guardians' offseason agenda is finding a replacement for Terry Francona as manager. We already know the Guardians' search is underway, and they've reportedly narrowed down their list of both internal and external candidates.
However, a favorite for the job has potentially emerged as the postseason rolls on.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports Texas Rangers associate manager Will Venable "is considered by several executives as the favorite" to succeed Francona. The fact it's not just one front office member around the majors who holds this belief could indicate there's significant buzz around this hiring happening.
Venable, a former seventh-round draft pick by the San Diego Padres, enjoyed a productive nine-year MLB career. After playing his last game in the majors in 2016, he quickly transitioned to the coaching ranks, earning an assistant role under then-Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein.
Venable then served as the Cubs' first base coach from 2018-19 and third base coach in 2020. He left for the Boston Red Sox's bench coach role in 2021, and even filled in as manager for seven games while Alex Cora was away from the team.
Venable's busy coaching journey has led him to his current role of associate manager under Bruce Bochy. The fact the three-time World Series winner and former Manager of the Year sought out Venable to fill out his staff certainly speaks to the respect the latter has commanded since hanging up his cleats.
Just shy of 41 years old, Venable presents a younger manager who could grow with the Guardians and enjoy a Francona-like run if he warrants it. His experience as a fairly recent former player should also help him connect with his clubhouse in a way a lot of the older candidates can't as well.
Tabbing a first-time manager always comes with risk, especially when considering they're following up an actual coaching legend in this case. But Venable's ascension up the ranks shows he's a legitimate talent any club could use on its bench. His fresh perspective from playing and coaching with different organizations may also be just what the Guardians need to take off in this new era.
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