With the MLB offseason in full swing, league executives and agents are heavily engaged in negotiations, and some teams are emptying out their bank accounts for some of the league's biggest stars. Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, one member of the Boston Red Sox is already drawing interest from other teams, and it's not a player.
Manager Alex Cora's contract expires after the 2024 season, and potential suitors have already begun circling to acquire his services if he is not extended by the Red Sox.
In November, Craig Counsell sent shockwaves through baseball when he completely reset the market for managers, as the Chicago Cubs poached him from the Milwaukee Brewers. Counsell signed a five-year contract worth $40 million, becoming the highest-paid MLB manager of all time.
In August, half of the MLB managers were making $1.75 million per year or less. Counsell will earn $8 million annually.
If Cora plays out the season without a contract extension, it is a very real possibility that might be his decision, and not the team's, to do so. If you're Cora, it would be hard to look at Counsell's contract and not be intrigued by exploring managerial free agency. Publicly, Cora has stated that he is comfortable with his contract situation, and that could well be attributed to the situation being at least partly his decision.
Following the firing of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom in September, it was revealed that Cora was not supportive of Bloom, a relationship dynamic that was evident by many of the manager's quotes during Bloom's tenure. Cora appeared to disagree with Bloom's philosophical approach to roster building, and if Cora isn't in lockstep with new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow, he definitely might be more inclined to match himself with a more agreeable front office.
It is true that Cora has been at the helm of the team's first consecutive losing seasons since 2014-2015, but most Red Sox fans would point at the roster construction rather than Cora's managing. He is still the same manager that led Boston to a 2018 World Series title, and is one of the more well respected managers in baseball.
Red Sox ownership is "firmly behind" Cora, but ownership has also been reluctant to spend on premier free agents in recent years, so will they suddenly spend out of their nose (as far as manager contracts go) to retain Cora?
If Alex Cora doesn't return to the Red Sox, here are three teams that could hire him away from Fenway.
3. New York Yankees
Sorry Red Sox fans, close your eyes. Aaron Boone will enter his seventh season as Yankees' manager in 2024, but barring a postseason run, it could very well be his last. After missing the playoffs last season (for the first time since 2016) and a fourth-place finish in the American League East, there were questions if Boone would even be retained for 2024.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner confirmed that Boone will return for 2024, but Boone's leash cannot be long. Steinbrenner has shown borderline unjustifiable patience with general manager Brian Cashman, but the franchise has demonstrated some urgency this offseason with a trade for superstar outfielder Juan Soto and Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo. Alex Cora might not be too thrilled to reunite with Verdugo if he hangs around the Yankees after this season, but everyone has their price.
The Yankees shook up much of their assistant coaching staff for this season as well, so Boone and Cashman are going to have to bear the brunt of any failure. If Boone is out the door (either during or after 2024), it wouldn't be shocking if it is in tandem with Cashman.
If indeed Cashman and Steinbrenner part ways, this could draw Cora's attention even more. There were rumors this offseason that Cora desired more personnel control or say in the front office, and Cashman's farewell could open that door in the Bronx.
The Yankees have the money to match or better what Chicago gave Counsell, and Cora might be enticed by the possibility of more personnel control. It could be a long shot, but it just makes sense.