The Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse will have a different look going into Spring Training next season. On Thursday, the Minnesota Twins announced that Rocco Baldelli will replace former manager Paul Molitor, while bench coach Charlie Montoyo will take over as the Blue Jays new skipper. The Rays are also reportedly close to signing a $2.61-million deal with 17-year-old Cuban right-hander Sandy Gaston.
Rocco Baldelli announced as the Twins new manager
Baldelli had previously been in consideration for several managerial vacancies, with the Blue Jays and Rangers having been top candidates. Former Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton was also said to be a finalist, while Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde was Minnesota’s other top choice. It is plausible that Shelton, who also served on the Twins’ coaching staff last season, could remain on hand as the bench coach, given his familiarity with Baldelli.
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Baldelli, 37, is best known for his promising, but injury-shortened, big league career, slashing a combined .285 BA/.326 OBP/.425 SLG/.751 OPS with 27 home runs and 44 steals through across 292 big league games. Baldelli, however, suffered an ACL tear in his right elbow during the 2004-05 offseason which required Tommy John surgery before he could return to the field.
Baldelli rejoined the Rays in 2006 and batted .302 BA/.339 OBP/.533 SLG/.872 OBP in 92 games. Sadly his career took a mysterious downturn the following season, as he was diagnosed with a rare condition called channelopathy, rendering his body metabolically incapable of recovering from the rigors of playing baseball at a professional level. After amassing a total of 429 career plate appearances in 2008, Baldelli played his final game at just 29 years of age.
The former Ray spent three seasons as first base coach from 2015-17 and was also tasked with outfield instruction. The organization created the new role, Major League field coordinator, for Baldelli last season — a role in which he assisted manager Kevin Cash and bench coach Charlie Montoyo with a heavy focus on player development at the big league level.
As with Cash, who was just four years removed from serving as a player before being hired as manager, Baldelli will be touted as someone who is more capable of connecting with younger players.
Charlie Montoyo announced as the Blue Jays new manager
The Blue Jays announced the hiring of Charlie Montoyo, who received a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth season in 2022.
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Montoyo, 53, spent 18 seasons managing within the Rays’ organization before he joined the big league coaching staff in December 2014. He initially served as Tampa Bay’s third base coach before being named bench coach last offseason, replacing Tom Foley. Montoyo’s experience and positive reputation helped to make him a popular managerial candidate this offseason — he also interviewed with Cincinnati and was linked to other ball-clubs too.
Montoyo was a sixth-round draft pick with the Brewers in 1987 and had a 10-year playing career in the minors, receiving a brief big league promotion in with the 1993 Expos — appearing in four games and tallying just five plate appearances. When his playing career ended in 1996, he almost immediately joined the Rays organization.
Montoyo is only three years younger than the man he’ll replace, John Gibbons, but he comes from a different background, having spent more than two decades with an organization that has often spearheaded experimental tactics and strategies. He’ll give the Blue Jays a bilingual skipper with considerable experience running a clubhouse (albeit at the minor league level) and a deep understanding of the increasing role that data plays not only in informing roster construction but also in the day-to-day performances and training regimens of a big league roster, writes Steve Adams (MLB Trade Rumors).
Rays close to signing Sandy Gaston
The Rays are reportedly close to signing a deal with Cuban right-hander Sandy Gaston that will pay him a $2.61-million bonus. The deal is pending a physical.
Gaston is slated to absorb the bulk of the Rays’ remaining international spending pool, which previously stood at $3.5-million.
The right-hander was ranked the 24th overall international prospect by Baseball America, and is known for his big velocity, which he showed off in a recent showcase for MLB clubs at Marlins Park in Miami. He, however, lacks polish — his off speed pitches and fastball command remain in question. In any case, at just 17 years of age, Gaston clearly has plenty of time to iron things out.
In July, the Rays landed 13th overall prospect, shortstop Alejando Pie, for $1.4-million.