With the firing of Manny Acta and Scott Radinsky earlier in the season, the Indians are set for a complete overhaul in the coaching staff. With the hiring of Terry Francona the Indians have already started making some changes. Interim manager and bench coach for the last few years, Sandy Alomar has been retained for an undisclosed position while third base coach Steve Smith and batting coach Bruce Fields have been let go. The Indians have yet to announce any formal changes outside of Francona, so it is yet to be known whether or not they will exchange pitching coach Ruben Niebla or bullpen coach Dave Miller for coaches chosen by Francona himself. Former Columbus Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh finished the year as the team’s interim bench coach, but will almost certainly go back to 2013. He didn’t take over the job until long after the end of the AAA season, so he was already spending each game in the Indians dugout.
There have already been some rumors and speculation about possible replacement coaches, the strongest being about former Houston Astros manager Brad Mills. The Indians have had interest in Mills for awhile now, as the looked at him as a possible manager before hiring Acta in the first place. Now that the Astros are cleaning house before their move to the American League, Mills is available again and has a lot of close ties to new manager Francona. Mills spent six years under Francona as the bench coach for the Boston Red Sox. The most likely job for Mills would be bench coach, but that position has been tentatively filled by Alomar. Alomar is unlikely to accept a demotion to base coach and the same is true of Mills. One position that is open is that of batting coach, which Mills could possibly take over, although that is unlikely.
An unorthodox move that could work out is the transition of Alomar to pitching coach. After catching Major League pitching for more than 20 years, there are few people around baseball more capable of taking over the Tribe’s staff. He could be given the bullpen coach job or the full time pitching coach job where he would be able to stay in Cleveland and still work with Carlos Santana while having his main focus on helping out the Indians young relievers. This would allow Mills to become the bench coach with holes at the base coaches and hitting coach.
While Francona may want to bring the whole bunch back together in Cleveland, he will be unable to bring his old hitting coach from Boston, Dave Magadan, as he was recently signed by Texas to be their new hitting coach. Hitting coach will probably be the most important decision for the Tribe as the team is mostly filled with young players who would benefit greatly from a good teacher.
If Sarbaugh does not go back to AAA, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be instated as the new third base coach. It is not the most important position on the staff, but is a good introductory job for a potential future manager. It would be a step up from his current position in Columbus and help he see how things are done at the Major League level on a day to day basis. If he is promoted, Aeros manager Chris Tremie should get a shot in Columbus after the fantastic things he did with a fluctuating roster in Akron this year. Akron was the most successful part of the entire Cleveland Indians organization, winning the Eastern League title by beating the Trenton Thunder.
Whoever the Indians decide to hire, they are expected to make their decisions soon, so the entire coaching staff can get some input on the make-up on the roster. Hiring Terry Francona was the most important move and retaining Sandy was the second. Now the most important thing is to get a group of people together that can work as a team and bring the Indians back to excellence.