KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals hired Tampa Bay Rays coach Matt Quatraro as manager Sunday night, handing the young core of the franchise’s rebuild to a forward-thinking manager with experience winning in a small market.
Quatraro replaces Mike Matheny, who was fired in a sweeping Royals shakeup after they finished 65-97 for a sixth straight losing season. Quatraro was selected by Royals general manager JJ Picollo, who took over the club’s baseball operations following the firing of longtime front-runner Dayton Moore.
“We are extremely excited to have Matt lead our club and core of talent,” Picollo said in a statement. “Matt has had great experiences throughout his career that have prepared him for this. He impressed us all during our interview and is clearly respected throughout the industry.”
The Royals interviewed their own bench coach, Pedro Grifolo, along with third base coach Vance Wilson and Triple-A Omaha manager Scott Thorman. They also expressed interest in Los Angeles Dodgers first base coach Clayton McCullough and Boston Red Sox bench coach Will Venable, who have been linked to managerial positions elsewhere.
One of the priorities owner John Sherman had in rebuilding the front office was to lean more heavily on advanced analytics. And the 48-year-old Quatraro reflects the same emphasis on the manager; The Rays have excelled at using analytics to guide their decision-making, allowing them to compete consistently despite a modest payroll.
“I think the managerial position has changed,” Picollo said. “You talk to players around the league, to managers — there are things teams are doing that are pretty advanced. Our goal is to find out what those are and implement them here.”
Tampa Bay has five winning seasons while playing in the tough AL East.
Quatraro, who interviewed for the Mets and A’s manager last season, will take over one of the youngest teams in baseball, loaded with new talent such as AL Rookie of the Year candidate Bobby Witt Jr., catcher MJ Melendez and first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino. However, there is a dearth of pitching prospects throughout the organization.
“I’m grateful to Mr. Sherman and the ownership group, JJ and the front office and everyone else with the Royals for this opportunity,” Quatraro said. “I already knew the talent on the roster and how great the fans were in Kansas City, and the interview process convinced me that the wonderful things I had heard about the organization’s culture were true. I can’t wait to get started and for my family to get to Kansas City and be a part of this community.”
Quatraro played as a college catcher at Old Dominion before the Rays selected him in the eighth round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. And though he eventually reached the Triple-A level, Quatraro never appeared in a major league game.
After retiring as a player, Quatraro began working as an instructor in the Rays’ minor league system. He started out as the hitting coach for Class A Hudson Valley, but eventually became the franchise’s minor league hitting coordinator.
He was hired by Cleveland as its assistant hitting coach in 2010 and worked alongside manager Terry Francon in the 2017 season — a period when Sherman was a minority owner of the franchise.
Quatraro eventually returned to the Rays as their third base coach, and when Charlie Montoyo was hired as the Blue Jays’ manager after the 2018 season, he was promoted to bench coach. Since then, he has served as a sounding board for Rays manager Kevin Cash, helping the club win two division titles and make four straight playoff appearances.
The Rays were swept by the Guardians earlier this month in their AL wild-card series.
“JJ and his staff designed and executed a rigorous process that identified Matt as the best leader for our club,” Sherman said. “Matt is widely respected throughout baseball with a proven track record and tangible contributions to two organizations that have built winning cultures through creativity and innovation. We are thrilled to welcome Matt, his wife Chris, and sons George and Leo to the Kansas City community.”