Mark Kotsay's ties to the A's run deep. They eyed him in the 1996 draft and later traded for him. Kotsay played four seasons for Oakland, during which his three children were born, and said he considers the A's organization home. He spent the past six years on their coaching staff.
Tuesday, Kotsay was officially named the A's new manager.
To replace Bob Melvin, who left to manage the Padres after 10-plus seasons with Oakland, the A's turn to a first-time manager who team officials said has been readying for the job since his playing days.
Kotsay, 46, and the A's agreed to a three-year contract with a club option for 2025, the team said. He is their 19th manager of the Oakland era and the second — joining Jeff Newman, an interim manager for 10 games in 1986 — to take on the job without previous managing experience.
"This does feel like it's been a little over 18 years in the making," general manager David Forst said on a video call Tuesday. "From the day (Kotsay) got here, it was clear what his passion was. I think we knew he was going to be a major league manager. We weren't sure if it would be here or somewhere else, but I think we're thrilled with the way this worked out."
After his 17-year playing career ended in 2013, Kotsay took a job as a special assistant in the Padres' front office, a move A's vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said indicated "the passion Mark has had to do what he's getting ready to embark on now."
Forst said Kotsay, whom the A's acquired from the Marlins in 2003 and traded to Atlanta after the 2007 campaign, was among the few players he stayed in touch with after they departed. After Kotsay served as the Padres' hitting coach in 2015, the A's hired him as bench coach. Kotsay later became Oakland's quality-control coach (2018-20) and third-base coach (2021).
"I really see myself as someone that comes across as transparent, someone who cares," Kotsay said. "I want the players to know that I care about them, first and foremost, and I think that comes across.
"I'm an open book — I may have some emotion that comes across at times, good and bad, but I think the players understand that I'm there for them."
Kotsay, who wore a home white A's jersey and green cap for Tuesday's video call, said he felt "humbled" and "blessed" to be selected to "lead this organization going forward into our new era."
The A's offseason brings levels of uncertainty. Melvin exited in November as the A's winningest Oakland-era manager, with six playoff appearances in his 10 full seasons. The A's posted winning records the last four years but could be headed for a roster overhaul — Forst has said none of their players are off-limits for possible trades, though such moves are on hold amid baseball's lockout.
Kotsay's hire lends some continuity, though it's expected he'll bring elements of his own managing style.
"Bob laid the foundation of the culture here the last 10 1/2 years, and in that culture it's about winning, so ultimately we're going to carry that forward," Kotsay said. "Bob had a level of expectation of how the game was played, and I will continue to have that level of expectation. ... I do have some differences, and those differences will probably show themselves throughout my tenure."
Said Beane: "Mark is going to do some things like Bob and some things probably different from Bob. ... And that's a good thing. I think we'd like to use this as an opportunity for growth, and I think Mark represents that."
It was not certain that Kotsay's first shot at managing would be in Oakland. Kotsay interviewed for five other openings in recent years — including for the Giants, Pirates and Tigers. He said that for his A's interview, despite being an in-house candidate, "I knew not to take anything for granted."
The A's six candidates included three in-house — Kotsay, hitting coach Darren Bush and bullpen coach Marcus Jensen — and three outside names in Joe Espada, Matt Quatraro and Will Venable, the bench coaches in Houston, Tampa Bay and Boston, respectively. Beane said the candidates were "all outstanding" and the A's "felt all of them could manage a major-league team."
"What impressed us with Mark is he came into the interview as if he never knew us," Beane said. "He came in so prepared that it really impressed us. ... It was a very difficult decision, but we all felt like Mark was the right guy to lead us forward."
Kotsay said of his approach: "I took the same mentality that day in and day out I'm going to lead with: It's the grind, the grit, the determination to put your best foot forward everyday and come out on top."
Amid the lockout, Kotsay is not permitted to contact the players he will manage next season. He can address his coaching staff and said the A's have talked about possibly carrying a larger one next year. He will need a new bench coach with Ryan Christenson leaving Oakland to take on that role under Melvin in San Diego. So Kotsay can begin some preparations for the spring.
"We'll continue to build, and when the time comes to step onto the field and prepare for a season, my staff and baseball (operations) will be prepared and ready to hit the ground running," Kotsay said.
Matt Kawahara covers the A's for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @matthewkawahara
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