MLB

Five candidates to replace A.J. Hinch as Houston Astros manager

The Houston Astros' firing of manager A.J. Hinch created a new job vacancy, one that is currently complicated – to say the least – but could be appealing to a number of potential suitors.

However, finding a new manager isn't going to be that easy. Since GM Jeff Luhnow was also fired, there's a power vacuum beneath owner Jim Crane and at this point it's unclear if the organization will just be looking for a stop-gap until anew regime is in place, or someone they envision want for the long haul long-term.

Crane said Monday they'll be looking inside and outside the organization for replacements and hopes to have someone in place by spring training, which begins in less than a month. The Astros would have to get permission to speak with coaches who are currently employed elsewhere – a tall task considering the scorn the organization is facing.

That said, here are some of the best options on the market:

Joe Espada (currently Astros bench coach): The 44-year-old is considered a rising star and had multiple interviews for a managerial job this winter. Espada didn't join the organization until after the 2017 season – so his hands are technically clean – but Crane (and the league) may feel more comfortable with an outside hire, particularly since MLB's report was such an indictment on the club's culture.

– Dusty Baker: Hiring a baseball man like Baker would give the organization some desperately-needed credibility right now. Baker, 70, is one of the game's most accomplished managers and though his teams have repeatedly come up short in the postseason, his experience dealing with big egos might be exactly what the Astros need.

Dusty Baker last managed in 2017. (Photo: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports)

– Buck Showalter: Another skipper with plenty of experience, Showalter could be a stabilizing force at this junction for Houston. He's just one season removed from his last stint and was said to be a candidate for a few jobs this offseason.

– John Gibbons: The former Blue Jays manager is eager to get back in the game and is one of the few free agents with managerial experience. He's a real players' manager and oversaw some very good Toronto teams. Gibbons was raised and resides in San Antonio so the local roots are there and may be more willing to take the nearby job on a whim than some other candidates.

– Bruce Bochy: This one is unlikely considering Bochy is barely three months into "retired life," but he hasn't officially ruled out a return to the bench at some point. “I just hope I made the right decision,” Bochy told USA TODAY Sports in September. “I don’t want to be sitting around next summer wishing I was still managing. I want to be sure this is right.”

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