What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that Jose Oquendo will return as third base coach for the Cardinals this season. In addition to those moves, the Cardinals have named Mike Shildt the Bench Coach and Willie McGee will join the Major League coaching staff.
The story. Following the departure of David Bell last week to take a front office job with the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals moved quickly to sort out the newly opened position. It was widely expected that Shildt would be the top internal pick for Bench Coach, but who would fill the opening at third base was unknown.
The numbers. Since a knee surgery took him off the Major League staff after the 2015 season, Jose Oquendo, 54, has worked in Florida with the minor league infielders. He had previously spent 16 seasons as the Cardinals’ third base coach following a stint at the team’s bench coach in 1999. Many have attributed his departure as one of the key reasons for the club’s lack of defensive fundamentals over the past two seasons.
Mike Shildt, 48, joined the Cardinals in 2004 as a scout and became a manager in 2009, winning three minor league championships along the way. He joined the big league staff before the 2017 season as Quality Control Coach before being assigned as Third Base Coach following the reassignment of Chris Maloney.
Willie McGee, 58, joins a Major League coaching staff for the first time. He has most recently served in the front office as a roving instructor. McGee played 13 seasons with the Cardinals as a player, hitting .294/.329/.400 in 1,661 games. He won the 1982 World Series with the franchise and won the 1985 Most Valuable Player Award. He won a pair of batting titles with the Cardinals and led the league in triples in 1985 as well.
The impact. 8/10. The return of Jose Oquendo to the big league coaching staff is a big development, as I did not expect him to return to the staff since he was suggested to have long desired a post in Florida working with the organization’s young players. But his willingness to return shows that the rumored divide between he and Mike Matheny may not be as wide as has been suggested.
The move of Shildt to become the bench coach was expected. It’s been suggested that Shildt has been positioned on the Major League staff to be the guy who would step in as interim manager should a decision to relieve Matheny of his duties be made. Shildt has won one of the Cardinals’ George Kissell Awards in player development and is viewed as perhaps the strongest “Kissell disciple” in the organization.
It would seem to be the hope that with Shildt running spring training and the return of Oquendo that the tools are all there and available for the players to improve their fundamentals.
The addition of McGee to the coaching staff is only the second biggest surprise of the day. It is still not confirmed what role he will play on the coaching staff. McGee is one of the two players that the organization has had as a roving base running instructor in the minor leagues, and I suggested in January that the Cardinals should consider investing in a base running coach. It’s possible we could see that fall under his list of responsibilities.
The organization still needs to sort out the pitching and bullpen coaches. It was reported that John Mozeliak went to meet with former Rays’ pitching coach Jim Hickey about the job last week, however the Cubs are also in the market for a pitching coach and they are also planning to interview Hickey for the job which would reunite him with Joe Maddon. In my opinion, Hickey is the right guy for the job and it would be a shame if he ended up in Chicago, but I almost expect it at this point.