The Kansas City Royals hired Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro as manager Sunday night, handing over the young core of a rebuilding franchise to a forward-thinking manager with experience of winning in a small market.
Quatraro replaces Mike Matheny, who was fired for a sixth straight season after a 65-97 finish as part of a widespread reshuffle within the Royals. Quatraro was selected by Royals general manager JJ Picollo, who took charge of the club’s baseball operations after firing longtime front office manager Dayton Moore.
“We are delighted to have Matt leading our club and core of talent,” Picollo said in a statement. “Matt has had great experiences throughout his career that have prepared him for this. He really impressed us all during our application process and clearly commands respect throughout the industry.”
The Royals interviewed their own bench coach, Pedro Grifol, along with third base coach Vance Wilson and Triple-A Omaha manager Scott Thorman. They have also expressed interest in Los Angeles Dodgers first base coach Clayton McCullough and Boston Red Sox bench coach Will Venable, who have been linked to managerial openings elsewhere.
One of the priorities owner John Sherman had when revamping the front office was that it rely more heavily on advanced analytics. And the 48-year-old Quatraro reflects the same emphasis in the manager; The Rays have excelled at using analytics to guide their decision-making, allowing them to consistently compete despite modest payrolls.
“I think the leadership position has changed,” said Picollo. “You talk to players across the league, executives – there are things that teams are doing that are quite advanced. Our goal is to find out what those things are and implement them here.”
Tampa Bay has won five straight seasons while playing in the rough AL East.
Quatraro, who was interviewed for the Mets and A’s managerial jobs last season, will take on one of baseball’s youngest teams, filled with emerging talent like AL rookie-of-the-year nominee Bobby Witt Jr., catcher MJ Melendez and first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino. However, there is a lack of pitching prospects across the organization.
“I’m grateful to Mr. Sherman and the ownership group, JJ and the front office, and everyone else at the royals for this opportunity,” Quatraro said. “I already knew the talent on the roster and how great the fans are in Kansas City, and the interview process convinced me that the great things I’ve heard about the culture of the organization are true. I can’t wait to get started and for my family to come to Kansas City and be a part of this community.”
Quatraro played as a college catcher at Old Dominion before the Rays selected him in the eighth round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. And though he eventually reached Triple-A level, Quatraro never appeared in a major league game.
After retiring as a player, Quatraro began working as an instructor in the Rays’ minor league system. He started out as a hitting coach for Class A Hudson Valley but eventually rose to become the franchise’s minor league hitting coordinator.
He was hired by Cleveland as an assistant coach in 2010 and worked with manager Terry Francona during the 2017 season — a time when Sherman was a minority owner of the franchise.
Quatraro eventually returned to the Rays as the third base coach, and when Charlie Montoyo was hired as the Blue Jays’ manager after the 2018 season, he was promoted to bench coach. He had since served as a sounding board for Ray’s manager Kevin Cash, helping the club win two division titles and make four straight playoff games.
The Rays were swept by the Guardians in their AL wildcard streak earlier this month.
“JJ and his staff designed and implemented a rigorous process that identified Matt as the best leader for our club,” Sherman said. “Matt is widely respected in baseball, with a proven track record and tangible contributions in two organizations that have built thriving cultures through creativity and innovation. We are very excited to welcome Matt, his wife Chris and sons George and Leo to the Kansas City community.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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