Houston Astros: Top 5 Candidates to Replace Dusty Baker

With the season winding down, the Houston Astros might spend October at home for the first time in six seasons. What does that mean for Astros manager Dusty Baker? It might mean that Astros owner Jim Crane might be ready to make a change at manager; if so, who would be the likely candidates to replace Dusty Baker?

Joe Espada, Houston Astros

HOUSTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 23: Bench coach Joe Espada #19 of the Houston Astros hits ground balls during batting practice before a game with the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park on August 23, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Current Houston Astros bench coach and right-hand man to Baker, Joe Espada, would be the fan favorite and likely candidate to replace Baker if owner Jim Crane decides to make the change. Espada has been the go-to guy for Baker and former Astros and current Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch since 2018. Since Espada has been with the Astros for the last five seasons, he has forged a bond with the players that speaks volumes, especially amongst the Latin players since Espada is from Puerto Rico.

Espada as the next Astros manager makes all too much sense. Given that the hire would be an internal hire, the Astros would not have to source out an agency to pick their next manager. There have been times, not only this season but in previous seasons, we have seen Espada come out of the dugout to argue for players instead of Baker. A manager should always be ready to fight their players, and yes, Baker has done that as well, but lately, we have seen more from Espada than Baker.

Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 19: Craig Counsell #30 of the Milwaukee Brewers walks off the field in the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on August 19, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

With his current contract set to expire after this season, current Milwaukee Brewers managers could be on the move if the Brewers chose not to renew Counsell’s contract. Since taking over for the Brewers in 2015, Counsell is the winningest manager in Brewers history with a record of 703-624. A two-time World Series Champion as a player, Counsell would be coming to an organization with an opportunity to get his first World Series Championship as a manager. The only caveat is the contract. It has been rumored that Counsell may want to be the highest-paid manager with a yearly salary of around $6 million. Will Jim Crane pay that much for a manager?

Walt Weiss, Atlanta Braves

In a recent article from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Astros might key in on Walt Weiss, current bench coach for the Atlanta Braves. Given the connection between Astros general manager Dana Brown and the Atlanta Braves, Brown may try to lure Weiss from the Braves to take over as manager. Given the Braves success over the last few seasons under Brian Snitker, Weiss would be an exciting hire for the Astros moving forward. If hired as the Astros new manager, this would be Weiss’ second stint as a manager. He last managed the Colorado Rockies in 2016.

Will Venable, Texas Rangers

Every offseason, Will Venable‘s name is at the top of every projection board to become the next big league manager. This season, Venable has gained some valuable knowledge sitting next to future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy as the Texas Rangers “assistant manager.” Having spent time with the Chicago Cubs and then President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein, in 2017, and then bench coach with the Boston Red Sox from 2021-2022, Venable would make an ideal candidate for the Houston Astros.

A.J. Hinch, Detroit Tigers

BALTIMORE, MD – APRIL 22: Manager A.J. Hinch #14 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 22, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Astros fans have longed to see a return of A.J. Hinch back in the Astros dugout. The beloved manager, who was let go by owner Jim Crane in 2020, has been rebuilding with the Detroit Tigers since being hired after the 2020 World Series. In three seasons with the Tigers, Hinch has a record of 217-264 (as of 9/26) and has the Tigers back near the top of the AL Central (second place) for the first time since they won the division in 2014. Hinch would be a long shot to return to the Astros, but if Alex Cora can return to the Boston Red Sox, then Hinch should be able to return to the Astros.

While there are still five games left for the Astros this season, and depending on whether or not they make the postseason, a change at the manager position is needed. Dusty Baker brought stability to an Astros organization during its darkest times. He guided the Astros to a World Series title in 2022 and his rightful place in Cooperstown as a Hall of Fame manager.

Whoever the Astros hire will be tasked with keeping this core group of players together and making sure to field the best lineup because this lineup still has the potential to be the best in the American League for years to come.

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About Rip Griffin

Jeff "Rip" Griffin is the founder and managing editor of the Texas Baseball Report. In his spare time, Rip covers the Sugar Land Space Cowboys and Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliates of the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. Rip is also the host of The Texas Baseball Report Podcast. The podcast can be found on all the major podcast platforms. Rip holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, focusing in Sports Management from the University of Houston - Victoria.

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