The Yost family farm in Georgia has been rather busy this offseason, so frequented by visitors that Ned Yost told his wife he isn’t sure they’ve had the house to themselves back-to-back days. Kids. Grandkids. Friends. It’s made for one of Yost’s most enjoyable winters, he says, and that’s undoubtedly relative to the previous one, when he was immobilized for weeks after a fall from a tree stand built for hunting.
So as he walked into the winter meetings in Las Vegas on Tuesday, the evident contentment derived partially from that. But also from this: his baseball future.
A young Royals team reminded him of the perks of the managerial job over the final six weeks of 2018. It’s similarly supported Yost’s desire to prolong his tenure in Kansas City.
Speaking with the media at the winter meetings in Las Vegas, Yost said Tuesday he isn’t viewing 2019 as his final season.
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“To do my job, it takes a lot of energy and a lot of passion and a lot of commitment. I still have all that,” he said. “I’m still very enthused. I still have a lot of energy. I’m still very excited to go to spring training and watch these young players continue to develop. “As long as I have that, we’re going to be all right.”
On the final day of the 2018 season, the Royals announced Yost, 64, would return on another one-year contract. That’s the way he and general manager Dayton Moore prefer to operate. Year by year.
But the short-term contract isn’t meant to be read as a swan song. Yost said he envisions a scenario in which he’s managing beyond 2019. The concept of building remains a desirable part of the job.
“As long as your players continue to respond to your message, you’re in good shape,” said Yost, who was hired in May 2010. “The minute they stop responding to your message, it’s time to change the messenger. But our guys, they continue to work hard; they continue to respect the game; they continue to play hard. They respond to the message.”
When he does decide to leave — and Moore says the timeline will be Yost’s decision to make — the Royals will have no shortage of candidates to succeed him. In fact, even Yost listed coaches on his staff Tuesday that he believes are ready to manage now.
One might soon get the opportunity. Pedro Grifol, the club’s quality control coach, is reportedly a candidate for the Baltimore Orioles’ manager opening. Yost added that bench coach Dale Sveum and bullpen coach Vance Wilson are also capable.
And then there’s another internal name added to the club last month: former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
As Moore prepared to hire the newest member of his front office, he first talked to a few members of his staff about the potential response. Because he knew the speculation that would follow. And true to form, as the team announced Matheny would join the Royals in an advisory role, the presumption was that he could be Yost’s eventual successor.
Not so fast. That hypothesis is far ahead of any talks within the Royals organization. And it’s not the purpose behind Matheny’s hire, Moore stressed.
“We knew that would probably be something that somebody would bring up or talk about, (but) it’s just a matter of us wanting to hire a really good baseball guy,” Moore said, adding, “There’s nothing other than just hiring him to do a role.”
More specifically, Matheny will join the leadership development department in Kansas City, along with former players Reggie Sanders and Mike Sweeney. He will roam the Royals’ minor league system, often working directly alongside players.
Matheny was 591-474 in his stint in St. Louis, assuming his first managerial job in 2012. He was fired in July after the Cardinals’ record dropped to 47-46.
“We want to do it better than we did the previous 10 years, so we want to be really good going forward for a long time. To do that, we’re going to have to attract the best baseball people we can — people with new ideas,” Moore said. “You always have to be looking for those people that can come alongside of you and make you better. I believe Mike Matheny can do that. ...
“He’s in a process as well. He’s learning. He’s growing. He’s trying to get better. He doesn’t have it all figured out (and) doesn’t think he’s got it all figured out. But we’re going to have to continue to be aggressive in trying to hire and get good people.”