Guardians hire former All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt as their new manager, gets 3-year contract

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Guardians replaced the winningest manager in club history with one who has never filled out a lineup card.

After an extensive search that began with over 45 candidates, Cleveland chose Stephen Vogt, a journeyman catcher with no managerial experience, to take over for Terry Francona, the team's beloved manager for 11 seasons who recently stepped down.

Vogt, who only retired as a player in 2022 before spending a season as Seattle’s bullpen coach, is getting a three-year contract with the Guardians.

Although the 39-year-old Vogt has never led a club, he's long aspired to be a manager. He checked every box for the Guardians, who were not only charmed by Vogt's outgoing personality but impressed by his varied baseball background.

The Guardians spoke to numerous qualified candidates, including Craig Counsell, who stunningly left Milwaukee to take over the Chicago Cubs on Monday. And while Cleveland didn't land the biggest free agent manager on the market, they believe Vogt will be a perfect fit.

It's not clear who will be on Vogt's staff, but the Guardians expect to have continuity and will bring back several coaches, including Sandy Alomar Jr.

A two-time All-Star, Vogt played for six teams in 10 seasons before retiring with Oakland in 2022. He homered in his final at-bat for the Athletics, a personal walk-off to a career that had numerous high and lows.

The Guardians will introduce Vogt at a press conference on Friday.

“Stephen earned a reputation as one of the best teammates in the game across his 16-year career as a player, and we’ve greatly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know him over the past several weeks," said Chris Antonetti, the Guardians' president of baseball operations.

"Stephen has thought critically about the type of leader and manager he wants to be. His deep care for others, his ability to build meaningful relationships with those around him, and his open-mindedness and curiosity make him an ideal fit to lead our club moving forward. We couldn’t be more excited to partner with Stephen.”

The Guardians are beginning a new era following the departure of Francona, who won 921 games with Cleveland and led the club to the playoffs six times and the World Series in 2016.

Vogt had an initial meeting in mid-October with the Guardians, who were so impressed that they immediately scheduled a second, in-person visit at Progressive Field.

One of the things that stood out about Vogt to Cleveland's front office was his breadth in the game. He lived it all as a player — making his big-league debut at 27, overcoming a major injury, getting cut and traded, waiting almost 15 months to get his first hit.

He was a beloved teammate in Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Arizona, Atlanta and during two stints with Oakland. Vogt's humility made him a clubhouse leader, and his knowledge of how to handle a pitching staff was another plus during the Guardians' search.

Cleveland's staff is loaded with young talent as Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams and Logan Allen all had promising rookie seasons and compliment proven veterans Triston McKenzie and Shane Bieber, who both came back late from injuries in 2023.

A father of three, Vogt loves talking baseball and has often credited many of his former managers, from Counsell to Bruce Bochy to Bob Melvin, Brian Snitker and Mark Kotsay, with being role models and mentors.

Melvin called Vogt “one of the most inspiring players I’ve ever managed” and ”one of my all-time favorites."

Bochy always viewed Vogt as a leader.

“He's a baseball guy,” the Texas Rangers manager said when he was with Vogt on the Giants. "I could see him managing. I love watching him play. He's a lot of fun to watch. Sometimes things don't look so easy. He got beat up one game against us blocking balls and he saw that we were having some fun with him.

“He's a guy who has really persevered and made himself into a nice player and had a nice career.”

Vogt began his playing career by going hitless in his first 32 at-bats.

He became a fan favorite on both sides of the San Francisco Bay while playing first for the A’s (2013) and later the Giants (2017). It was common for fans in both markets to chant “I believe in Stephen Vogt!”

While with Oakland in 2013, Vogt had his first career game-winning hit with a single off Detroit's Rick Porcello in the playoffs to give the A's a 1-0 win in Game 2 and even the AL Division Series.

Vogt has long wanted to become a manager, and his desire increased in 2018 while he recovered from a major shoulder injury with the Milwaukee Brewers.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb