As the Mets conduct their second managerial search this offseason, one veteran skipper’s potential candidacy has gained steam since the last time.
An industry source told The Post on Friday that Dusty Baker, who wasn’t seriously considered for the job before Carlos Beltran got hired, is now part of the discussion among team officials, who are forced to move swiftly in filling the position.
Beltran became the latest casualty in the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme on Thursday, when he parted ways with the Mets after only 77 days on the job. Earlier in the week, A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora were ousted as managers in Houston and Boston, respectively, following an MLB investigation that concluded the Astros used electronic surveillance to steal catchers’ signals in 2017, when they won the World Series. Beltran, a player on that team, was named in the report, leading to his departure from the Mets after team COO Jeff Wilpon and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen met with commissioner Rob Manfred in recent days.
Baker, 70, was considered a possibility last May, when Van Wagenen flirted with the idea of firing manager Mickey Callaway in-season, following a slow start. Callaway survived the season, but was dismissed in October with one year remaining on his contract, leading to a wide-ranging search. Candidates besides Beltran in that search included Eduardo Perez, Derek Shelton, Tim Bogar, Joe Girardi, Luis Rojas, Pat Murphy and Tony DeFrancesco. Baker, who last managed with the Nationals in 2017, wasn’t interviewed for the position. Now, the Mets could shift, with the idea of bringing a calming influence to the organization in the aftermath of Beltran’s abrupt departure.
Girardi was the most accomplished candidate interviewed by the Mets, but he was hired by the Phillies (who also spoke to Baker and Buck Showalter about the job) as Van Wagenen and his staff never felt comfortable with the former Yankees manager.
Baker, who has managed the Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals — reaching the postseason with each team — is known as a strong presence and communicator, and would bring instant credibility to a team that expects to compete for the NL East title.
With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to spring training within the next 3½ weeks, the Mets, Astros and Red Sox are racing to fill managerial vacancies. Baker’s name had previously surfaced in conjunction with the Astros’ opening.
Though Van Wagenen could have reservations about ceding control to a proven manager such as Baker, the GM isn’t shy about trying to create a splash. And after an offseason in which the Mets were relatively quiet, hiring Baker could be trumpeted as that big maneuver.
But Van Wagenen and his lieutenants, which include special assistant Omar Minaya and assistant GM Allard Baird, are also high on Rojas, the team’s quality control coach. In addition, the Mets could circle back toward Perez, an ESPN analyst who was a runner-up to Beltran the last time.
Internally, bench coach Hensley Meulens could be considered, along with the first base coach DeFrancesco, whose experience includes an interim stint as manager with the Astros in 2012. An industry source said it was doubtful the Mets would consider Terry Collins for the position. Collins, who served as the longest-tenured manager in franchise history, has spent the past two seasons as a special assistant within the organization.