In the past 15 years Cardinals fans have been spoiled a bit in terms of coaching changes at the big league level, in that there haven't been very many. Tony LaRussa retired, Dave Duncan went with him, and Mike Matheny took over with just a few small changes to the overall staff. There just hasn't been a lot of movement in an out of the organization in the coaching ranks.
The one big coaching change over that time was Mark McGwire's return to baseball in 2010 and all the steroid admitting and accusations that went along with it. The assistant hitting coach for the Cardinals at that time? Mike Aldrete. When McGwire left in 2013, the Cardinals replaced him with John Mabry, allowing Aldrete to continue in his role as bench coach and assistant hitting instructor.
Much like McGwire's move to Los Angeles, this is a move that is ostensibly to be closer to home. Aldrete lives in the Bay Area in the offseason, played a good chunk of his major league career with the two MLB franchises there, and was a four year letter winner at Stanford. He's also got a longstanding friendship with Athletics manager Bob Melvin, so when A's bench coach Chip Hale was hired by Tony La Russa to fill Arizona's open managing position, Aldrete's name was on a short list to fill that role -- in fact, he may have been the only name on a one man list to take that job.
This is much more about Mike Aldrete than it is about the Cardinals, but to say that this isn't a loss for the club is inaccurate: Aldrete is a well-respected hitting instructor around the game and while he wasn't the normal "manager-in-training" or former manager generally associated with bench coaches (a role Don Zimmer had multiple times in his career), Aldrete provided a sounding board for Matheny in his first few seasons as manager.
Nonetheless, the Cardinals have a coaching spot to fill, and will likely fill it from inside the organization as they have with most coaching positions with the notable exception of McGwire. So who are the likely candidates to be the Cardinals bench coach in 2015?
- Chris Maloney: He's currently on the major league staff, he's been a manager in the organization before, and moving into the dugout would likely be the easiest move for the Cardinals to make. They would also have Maloney's role to fill which would leave me with another one of these coaching search articles to write.
- Pop Warner: Warner would likely only take the job if he thought that it would give him a better shot at managing in the big leagues. A career Cardinal, both playing and coaching, Warner has compiled a 655-666 record managing in the minor leagues at various levels for the Cardinals for most of the last eleven seasons, the last three spent with the AAA affiliate in Memphis.
- Mike Shildt: If I were a betting man, Shildt would be my favorite horse in this race. Formerly the roving Cardinals hitting instructor in the minor leagues, Shildt has managed the AA affiliate for the Cardinals the past couple of seasons and would fill Aldrete's role as assistant hitting coach about as well as anyone currently in the organization. Like Warner, he's also very familiar with the players on the current roster having been their coach or hitting instructor in the minor leagues for most of them as they came up through the farm system. His resume is similar to Mike Aldrete's when Aldrete took the bench coach job in 2009 as well.
- HAL 9000: Perhaps they'll just fill the role with a computer that spits out all the best tactical information for Matheny so we're absolutely certain he knows the best tactical decision to be made at any time.