Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who has cycled through eight “permanent” managers and two interim managers since buying the team in 2002, on Thursday landed the man he targeted in his latest skipper search: former New York Yankees star Don Mattingly, sources said.
The Marlins haven’t announced Mattingly’s four-year deal, which hasn’t been signed.
But the Marlins did announce that they have parted ways with Dan Jennings, who will not return to the general manager position that he held before replacing Mike Redmond as manager in May.
Michael Hill, the team’s president/baseball operations, also will assume Jennings’ GM duties.
According to a source, Jennings’ once strong relationship with Loria soured in recent months, and the Marlins believed the front office dynamics would be better without him.
Marlins president David Samson said it was his decision to sever ties with Jennings, and Loria allowed it. The Marlins must still pay Jennings $5.6 million over the next three seasons.
“The conversations Michael and I had with Dan, both of us would probably agree this is the best decision to make,” Samson said. “As I was watching everything develop during October, I felt the way it was running since the middle of May was probably the way it should continue to run. The way Mike operates the baseball department and the people he has in place put us in better positions to win games. The ideas Michael has of how to turn this around I think are ideas that are right.”
Samson said Jennings, who did not return a phone call from the Miami Herald, “did not seem surprised” by his dismissal. “He understood. It was sad for me and Michael because when you’ve been working for people for a long time, it’s tough.”
Jennings, 55, was offered a job to return to his previous role as the team’s general manager and accepted that offer in early October. But days before he was set to return to work on Oct. 19, Jennings was told to remain in Alabama and not to return to the Marlins offices, a source said.
Jennings had questions about his level of authority and responsibilities, and Samson told Jennings that he needed to speak to Loria to answer those questions, before returning to work. But that conversation with Loria apparently never happened.
It’s a surprising conclusion to Jennings’ 13-year tenure with the organization. After serving as assistant GM, Jennings was promoted to GM in September 2013 and was second in command in the baseball front office hierarchy, behind Hill. He gave up GM duties to become manager in May and guided the team to a 55-69 record, with the Marlins closing 71-91.
Besides Hill, Loria also is listening to several others in his front office, including assistant general manager Mike Berger, vice president/player personnel Jeff McAvoy and Marc Delpiano, who was hired away from the Pittsburgh Pirates in August for a job essentially running the team’s farm system.
An announcement on Mattingly won’t be made until after the World Series. Mattingly, 54, and the Dodgers parted ways recently after he led the team to three consecutive National League West titles but no World Series appearances.
He won 55.1 percent of his regular season games in five years in Los Angeles (446-363) but was 8-11 in postseason.
Dodgers management wanted a new voice after again failing to make the World Series with baseball’s largest payroll last season ($272 million). In Miami, Mattingly will have a payroll closer to $80 million.
Larry Bowa, Manny Acta, Bo Porter, Alex Cora, Phil Nevin and Rick Renteria also interviewed for the job, but one of those candidates said it was always obvious that Loria wanted Mattingly if he became available.
A close Mattingly associate, who asked not to be identified because the deal has not been announced, said Mattingly is “excited” about the opportunity and likes the “mixture of kids” and veterans on the Marlins’ roster. He said Mattingly was impressed by Marlins management during Monday’s interview.
“The key thing is these guys want him,” the associate said. “He was someone else’s guy in Los Angeles [because the current Dodgers administration didn’t hire him]. The expectations there were that if he didn’t win the World Series, he would be out. How many people have that pressure?”
▪ The Marlins recently dismissed Sean Flynn, their senior vice president/marketing.
Jeff Torborg: 2002-03; 95-105/.475 winning percentage; fired
Jack McKeon: 2003-05; 286-257/ .538; Won World Series in 2003; resigned after 2005.
Joe Girardi: 2006 78-84/48.1; fired
Fredi Gonzalez: 2007-through June 2010; 276-279/49.7; fired
Edwin Rodriguez: 2010-11; 78-85/47.9; resigned
Brandon Hyde: 2011; 0-1; interim manager
McKeon again: 2011; 40-50/.444; interim manager
Ozzie Guillen: 2012; 69-93/ 42.6; fired
Mike Redmond: 2013-May of 2015; 155-207, 42.8; fired
Dan Jennings: 2015; 55-69; .443; fired by club Thursday after being reassigned to front office.