Farrell still looms in Sox manager search

DeMarlo Hale, shown here with then-Boston manager Terry Francona in 2011, is next up to interview for Sox skipper. Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

BOSTON -- Thursday marks two weeks since the Boston Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine as manager. By the end of the day, they will have completed interviews with four candidates to replace him, with former Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale getting an opportunity Thursday that was denied him last season when Terry Francona was fired.

No other candidates have been announced, although -- in a marked departure from other managerial searches conducted since John W. Henry became owner -- the Sox have opted for much less transparency this go-round, doing away with the media sessions that had served a dual purpose in the past. The media were given access to the candidates, and the ballclub evaluated the candidates on the way they interacted with the media.

But the question hanging over the process is whether the Red Sox will proceed with a plan to pursue Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell. The Sox would be required to obtain the Blue Jays' permission to interview the former Red Sox pitching coach and most likely would have to negotiate a compensation package to hire him.

According to an industry source with knowledge of the team's search, Sox majority owner John W. Henry reached out last Friday to Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston, although no officials from either club, including Henry, would confirm that conversations have taken place. A baseball source said that Farrell, who is entering the final season of a three-year deal with the Blue Jays, has not been told by the Jays that there have been discussions with the Sox.

The interviews already held may merely represent a contingency plan in the event negotiations for Farrell fail. The other possibility, however, holds out much greater hope for the candidates already in play, that the Sox are trying to determine whether there is another candidate who might trump Farrell in their esteem.

The Sox would appear to have reached the point in their search in which a decision must be made on Farrell. The GM meetings are scheduled to begin in three weeks, and it would seem that both the Sox and Jays would want some clarity by then on who their managers will be next season.

None of the four candidates interviewed by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and his baseball operations staff -- Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach, Yankees bench coach Tony Pena, Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus, and Orioles third-base coach Hale -- were brought in during the team's managerial search last winter.

Only Pena has managed in the big leagues before, and in his case, that may not be a clear-cut advantage, given the way his three-year run with the Kansas City Royals went: He won AL Manager of the Year his first season, lost 104 games the second, then quit in early May of the third.

All have interviewed previously for big league jobs. Hale has the deepest resume, with multiple stints as minor league manager and big league coach. Wallach has also managed on the minor league level and coached on the big league level. Ausmus has neither managed nor coached.

Wallach and Pena, both 55, are the oldest of the four candidates (Pena is a couple of months older). Hale is 51. Ausmus, at 43, is the youngest.

Wallach, Pena and Ausmus all enjoyed long playing careers in the big leagues. Wallach, who retired at age 38, played in 2,212 games and was a five-time All-Star. Pena, who retired at age 40, played in 1,988 games and also was a five-time All-Star. Ausmus, who retired at age 41, played in 1,971 games and was named an All-Star once. Hale never played in the big leagues.

Three of the candidates have ties to the Red Sox or club officials. Hale played, managed and coached in the Red Sox system. Pena played four seasons for the Sox, and his son played for Triple-A Pawtucket. Ausmus, a native of New Haven, Conn., with a degree in government from Dartmouth, broke into the big leagues with the San Diego Padres, when Sox chairman Tom Werner owned the club, and continued while Sox CEO Larry Lucchino held the same position with the Padres.

Only Wallach has no obvious ties to the Red Sox or the team's current management, although he was a former teammate of Francona when they played together in Montreal.

All four candidates appear to offer a stark contrast in style to Valentine, certainly in terms of personality, temperament and ways in which they interact with players. Whether that translates into greater success remains to be seen, although in dismissing Valentine after just one season, the Sox are betting heavily that is the case.