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And then there were five! The latest Blue Jays manager candidate bracket

The brass at 1 Blue Jays Way haven’t wasted any time in their pursuit of the 16th manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. Ross Atkins and company have already whittled down their candidates to a handful of suitors to take over the reigns for John Michael Gibbons.

What started as a sweet 16 bracket of names has narrowed down to a select few as Atkins begins his in-person interviews with the remaining managerial candidates. Like any bracket, favourites got knocked off their pedestals and dark horses emerged as front-runners.

Plenty has changed since the initial bracket from a few weeks ago. Here’s an updated look at who’s out and who’s still in the running to become the next Blue Jays manager.

Who’s Out

Some candidates barely had a chance to get out of the gate before their unceremonious elimination. I’ve arbitrarily scratched a few from the bracket; that doesn’t mean they’re officially disqualified, but somebody has to go home and somebody has to advance to win the “Gibby Cup”.

Eric Wedge was the initial odds-on favourite to succeed Gibbons, but last year he told Mop Up Duty there was “no chance” he would manage again. So, scratch him from the list.

Apparently, former Tampa Bay Ray Sam Fuld interviewed for the gig? Evidently, it wasn’t meant to be … Fuld removed himself from consideration, according to Jerry Crasnick. Interestingly enough, Gregor Chisholm listed Fuld on his short list of suitors shortly before Crasnick’s report.

Sandy Alomar Jr. would be a natural fit to manage the Jays, but he’s one name who hasn’t received very much attention. He seems like a strong candidate, but Stephen Brunt told Prime Time Sports speculates that Alomar Jr. took himself out the running as well.

Again, Stubby Clapp was a sexy pick due to his success in the minor leagues as the St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A manager. His Canadian citizenship certainly didn’t hurt, but at last check, Clapp told Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi

It’s looking like Chris Woodward never advanced beyond the first round in the Blue Jays managerial search. Via Sportsnet’s Arash Madani, Woodward also waited by the phone all night but never got a call, text or so much as a response to his witty GIFS from Atkins.

Who’s Still In

The latest from Davidi has the field narrowed down to five-ish finalists to take over as manager of Toronto Blue Jays. With five other manager vacancies across Major League Baseball, it looks like everybody’s pulling from the same pool of highly sought-after candidates.

The guy who’s getting the most press as of late is Astros bench coach Joe Espada. Of those five names, in my estimation, he’s the favourite to land the job here. He’s fairly young in terms of “manager age”, he’s reportedly well-versed in analytics, he speaks Spanish and he’s part of the coveted Astros organization.

Coming in a very close second is Rocco Baldelli. Much like Espada, Baldelli’s interviewed for several of the vacant manager positions across MLB. If the Blue Jays can’t poach somebody from the Astros organization and pick their brain, the next best thing might be to grab somebody from the Rays organization.

Then there’s Brandon Hyde, currently the bench coach of the Chicago Cubs. He has a solid player development background, which is a selling point for a Blue Jays front office who’s looking to hire a manager who has their eyes on the entire farm system. For the last five seasons, Hyde has served as part of Joe Maddon and Rick Renteria’s coaching staff.

David (not Derek) Bell hasn’t managed at the Major League level, but he’s held practically every other title at the big league and minor league level. He’s managed at Double-A and Triple-A with the Cardinals, been a third base and hitting coach in MLB and recently transitioned to the player development side by taking a gig with the Giants.

Someone to keep a close eye on is Rob Thomson. His name hasn’t officially been eliminated from consideration, but he was mentioned in Davidi’s initial crop of manager candidates. Thomson is Canadian, and interestingly enough, Atkins told TSN 1050 in early October, “we would see some value to having someone from Canada represent our leadership”.