Girardi fits well with several clubs for various reasons, but the overarching and most important reason he chooses a team will be his family. Girardi has said continuously that his family will be the deciding factor, and it’s believed that his wife, Kim, and three children are happy living in the New York suburbs.
Let’s examine all the potential landing spots for Girardi to see which one is the best fit.
New York Yankees
The Yankees made a substantial offer to Girardi and his agent Steve Mandell, believed to be a three-year deal worth in the $12-15 million range. It was not presented as a take-it-or–leave-it proposal, so certainly there exists some room for negotiation. It would be surprising if the Yankees don’t eventually top the average annual value of the deal Mike Scioscia has with the Los Angeles Angels, which is a $5 million annual base salary.
Girardi, who turns 49 on Oct. 14, has spent the past six seasons with the Yankees, compiling a 564-408 record with three first-place finishes and a World Series championship in 2009. His predecessor, Joe Torre, spent 12 years at the helm, finishing in first place 10 different seasons and winning four world championships. Girardi will be hard-pressed to match that success because of the current shape of the team, but over time he certainly might have the opportunity to surpass Torre in longevity.
To be sure, Girardi might have done his best work as Yankees skipper this past season, perhaps even better than 2009. Amazingly, he pieced together a team with no-names and waiver claims and kept the Yankees in contention in the face of a multitude of injuries and a desperately shallow farm system.
We don’t know how much the state of the current big league club, farm system and team’s future ability to acquire talent will play into his decision, but it has to be a concern. After cutting his teeth under Torre, Girardi is acutely aware that losing in New York is never accepted even if it’s not the manager’s fault.
General manager Brian Cashman has stated repeatedly the Yankees will be under the $189 million luxury tax threshold after 2014. If that is the case, as the current roster is configured including arbitration awards, it precludes the Yankees from spending big dollars to improve. Teams will pay inflated prices for a weak free agent class this offseason, and the Yankees will try dutifully to avoid being among them. And they lack trade pieces at both the major league level and in their farm system.
While a fierce competitor, Girardi is not motivated primarily by winning. Again, his family’s comfort is paramount, and they are genuinely happy in New York. The weight of this factor cannot be overstated. Ultimately, returning to the Yankees seems like the best overall fit for Girardi.
About 250 miles south, the Nationals offer Girardi the best fit from a purely baseball perspective: If his top priority is winning -- and I've said I don't think it is -- this is the best job out there. Despite the Nats' underachieving 86-76 record and failure to qualify for the postseason in 2013, they have the best chance of getting to the World Series over the next three years of any of the current openings.
The Nationals’ rotation already is World Series caliber, led by Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. The lineup is long and formidable, with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth. Their scouting and player development departments are flourishing, and ownership is committed to keeping it that way. A leader such as Girardi would have a solid three-year run toward a world championship. That environment has to be enticing to any manager.
Nationals ownership wasn’t willing to spend the money the last time they interviewed Girardi (in 2006), but after several years of owning the team and going through a slew of managers, they clearly now understand the importance of an elite skipper. It’s hard to believe the wealthiest ownership group in baseball wouldn’t easily commit $20-25 million to Girardi, and they reportedly requested permission to speak with Girardi a few days ago.
If Girardi returns to the Yankees as expected, the Nationals will consider Matt Williams, Cal Ripken Jr. and Randy Knorr, with Williams being the clear front-runner and choice of GM Mike Rizzo.
The Yankees have made an offer to Girardi, and they will give him until Oct. 31 to make up his mind. This gives the Cubs a window during which they can make their best pitch. However, in my opinion, I doubt the Cubs will even get a chance to make Girardi an offer before he makes his decision for Cashman.
And while much has been made about Girardi’s Chicago roots, the fact is he no longer has immediate family ties there. And with the Cubs in a complete rebuilding mode, he certainly recognizes it will be two or three more years before the major league team will contend. On the other hand, he’s also aware that the Cubs are rebuilding correctly, stocking the farm system with impact players so when they are ready to win, it should be a nice five-to-seven year run.
The also-rans and other options
The Reds also have interest in Girardi, and like the the Nationals, they are built to win over the next few years. But considering they still owe Dusty Baker almost $4 million for 2014, will have to pay his replacement and have a lot of long-term exposure on the books, it’s unlikely they engage in a bidding war for Girardi.
The Mariners aren’t even in the conversation for either side.
That leaves television. Girardi would be a star with the microphone, although it would be a substantial pay cut. He could live wherever his family wants, without the pressure to win, and have considerably more time to spend with his family. It would offer an opportunity to take a few years off and recharge, then jump back in when the Yankees and/or Cubs are ready to win.
However, timing is everything, and Girardi’s star will never be brighter than it is right now. If he takes a couple of years, off, perhaps a new managerial star will emerge and the opportunities open to him now might not be available then.
It’s difficult to turn down nearly $5 million dollars per season. But it’s also hard to turn away from the honor and privilege to manage the Yankees despite what lean times are ahead. With his family’s full support, it’s only a matter of a few more negotiating sessions to complete the deal and keep him in New York.