TORONTO — A little more than 24 hours after Chaim Bloom’s firing, Red Sox manager Alex Cora sat in the dugout in Toronto on Friday afternoon answering more questions about his own future with the organization.
It’s the natural next inquiry with a team fighting to stay out of last place, a freshly fired chief baseball officer and the search for a new head of baseball operations underway.
Yet Cora has had a knack for sticking around Boston.
When Dave Dombrowski — who initially hired Cora at the end of 2017 — was fired in September 2019, ownership gave Cora a vote of confidence and retained him rather than letting Bloom fully conduct his own manager search when he was hired.
Four months later, Cora was fired for his part in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, but once he’d completed his MLB suspension, ownership wanted him back, convincing (perhaps demanding) Bloom re-hire Cora ahead of the 2021 season.
Now Bloom is gone too and Cora remains the constant.
Speculation has swirled that Cora might be interested in an elevated role, one overseeing baseball operations rather than serving as manager. He’s mentioned in the past a desire to join a front office. He previously served as general manager of Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic in 2017 and served as GM for five seasons of his hometown Puerto Rican Winter Ball team, Caguas. In 2014 and 2015, he was a hybrid manager and GM of Caguas.
Winter ball and the WBC are undoubtedly different in a variety of ways from the year-round operations of running a major league team, and yet both Cora and CEO Sam Kennedy did not rule out a possibility of a different role for Cora at some point.
When asked how he felt about the speculation before Friday’s 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays, Cora suggested he’d prefer to remain manager for now, but his answer certainly had an open-ended element.
“That’s something that intrigues me,” Cora said on Friday of a GM role. “I’ve done it before on a lower scale, WBC, and winter ball. But it’s something that I think right now, where I’m at, where we’re at as a family, it’s too soon to start talking about it.
“Honestly, I’m here to manage the team, right?” said Cora, who’s under contract for one more season as manager. “I’m 48 next month and I feel very comfortable with what I’m doing. I haven’t talked to Tom (Werner) and John (Henry) at length about what is going to happen here. I think this is a place that is a special place and we’re going to do some special things in the future and I just want to be part of that.”
Still, it doesn’t feel like Cora will be staying on “just” as manager.
Maybe he doesn’t want a full-time role in the front office yet, but without explicitly saying it, he appears to want more influence in how the roster is constructed. That’s not to say Cora hasn’t been consulted on trades, signings and all moves within the organization, but Cora has remained with the club for a reason and the next head of the Red Sox front office likely will have to work in greater tandem with Cora.
Even with the search in it’s infancy, that already creates an interesting dynamic for a new front office hire entering the fray with a manager in place. But Cora clearly has leverage in Boston at this point. Ownership values him so much, he’ll now be working under his third head of baseball operations, something few managers can say.
Kennedy didn’t hesitate on Thursday when asked if he thinks Cora would be back next year.
“I do, yeah. I do,” he said before quickly noting, “but again, today is about a change in the front office.”
At the same time, Kennedy was careful to not undermine the role of the new hire.
“There’s a lot that has to improve and that includes our on-field staff,” he said. “So the baseball operations leadership will come in with a mandate to run the department — all aspects of the department.”
That leader, however, likely won’t be choosing their own manager.
Despite the chaos of Thursday, Cora called Friday in Toronto ‘a normal day’. Assistant general manager Eddie Romero joined the team and the club carried on with two weeks of baseball remaining.
“You’ve got to keep going,” Cora said. “That’s the brutal nature of this business, right? Tough day (Thursday), but we got a game here today.”
As the search for a new leader gets underway, there will be an interesting dynamic to monitor as the Red Sox pursue a person who is comfortable with accepting that some decisions have already been made.
(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)