When Dusty Baker decided to retire at the conclusion of the 2023 season, it certainly put the Houston Astros in a precarious position. Not only did it mean that they needed to find a new manager, but they needed to do so at a time when there were multiple other teams across MLB that were aggressively searching for new skippers of their own.
The news that the Cubs swooped in out of nowhere to steal Craig Counsell away from the Brewers shook things up further as the Cubs weren't even supposed to be in the market for a manager. In terms of offseason manager intrigue, it has been pretty wild the last couple of weeks.
Nevertheless, there are still a lot of qualified candidates for the Astros to choose from. However, the most prominent name that keeps coming up is Houston bench coach Joe Espada who interviewed for the position recently.
Joe Espada appears to be the favorite in the Astros' manager search
Espada has been a fixture in the Astros' dugout for the past six seasons as their bench coach and he isn't new to manager interview process as he has been a candidate for multiple openings over the last few years. Houston seems to love having him around and rumor has it that general manager Dana Brown seems to be really behind his candidacy during this whole process.
Again, none of this should be surprising. While Espada doesn't have big league managerial experience, bench coach positions are viewed by the industry as natural stepping stones for new managers and Espada is among the best in the business. For those worried that he would be too much like Baker as an internal option, Espada has been around from the AJ Hinch days and appears to a well-rounded and well-liked candidate.
The Astros do need to make a decision soon, though, as other teams could come calling for Espada's services. The Brewers just lost their manager and seem to be targeting him while both the Angels and Padres are still in the market for a new manager themselves. If Houston doesn't act relatively quickly, they could lose out on their preferred guy.