For the first time in seven years, the Marlins are in need of a new major league manager following Don Mattingly’s departure. Fish Stripes will dedicate articles to each of the candidates who interview for the position.
You won’t find any other realistic managerial candidate who is as popular among Marlins fans—and alumni—than Joe Espada. At age 47, he is one of the youngest people in the mix to be Miami’s new skipper.
The Puerto Rican middle infielder was the second-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in the 1996 MLB Draft. He lacked over-the-fence power, but otherwise possessed a well-rounded skill set. Espada got his first taste of Triple-A in 1999 and would later play there with the Marlins, Rockies and Cardinals organizations as well. However, none of them gave him the opportunity to prove himself at the highest level.
Espada returned to the Marlins as a 30-year-old to begin his post-playing career. From 2006 through 2013, he held the positions of Low-A hitting coach, High-A hitting coach, minor league infield coordinator and major league third base coach.
During his final years with the Fish, Espada was responsible for outfield defense. In his most recent gig as Astros bench coach, he turned his focus back to the infield. When Carlos Correa won the 2021 American League Gold Glove at shortstop and the AL Platinum Glove, Correa credited Espada’s coaching for his mid-career improvement, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart detailed. In between Miami and Houston, Espada was with the Yankees as a third base coach and special assistant to the general manager.
Espada’s Astros teams have perennially been among the MLB leaders in infield shifting frequency. In 2022, they shifted in more than half of all plate appearances, and the results have been terrific. I’d be curious to hear his theories about how defenses can still find an edge as we enter a new world of shift restrictions.
Outside of MLB/MiLB work, Espada has managed in the Puerto Rican Winter League and coached the P.R. team in the World Baseball Classic.
Espada has pursued major league managerial vacancies many times before. He interviewed with the Marlins in 2011, the Rangers in 2018, the Astros, the Cubs, the Angels and the Giants in 2019 and the Mets in 2021, teams that ultimately hired Ozzie Guillen, Chris Woodward, Dusty Baker, David Ross, Joe Maddon, Gabe Kapler and Buck Showalter, respectively. During this current hiring cycle, he has also spoken to the White Sox.
This past season, Baker missed five games from August 5-10 after testing positive for COVID. Espada assuming his duties throughout that period.
Why would the Marlins want Joe Espada?
The Astros just clinched their sixth straight American League Championship Series appearance. Wanna throw away the 2017 title run when they benefited from improper sign stealing? Go ahead. Over Houston’s last five ALCS trips—those without blatant cheating—Joe Espada has been one of the few constants. It would seemingly be impossible to contribute to so much winning without picking up valuable lessons that could be applied to other teams.
The onboarding process would be effortless in Espada’s case. He knows his way around LoanDepot Park and has even more intimate familiarity with their spring training complex—his family makes their offseason home in Jupiter.
Being bilingual is another plus.
Why would Joe Espada want the Marlins job?
What I wrote about Pedro Grifol applies to Espada regarding the personal convenience of working driving distance away from his loved ones and the professional pride that comes with earning more money and holding greater influence than he ever has before.
Would Joe Espada be a good hire for the Marlins?
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Not sure/no opinion