Cafardo’s Latest: Epstein, Nationals, Ethier, D. Lee

With October fast approaching, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe polled experts around the league on the relative strength of the potential playoff teams. As expected, the Phillies topped the list, but the experts' choice for the second-best team may surprise you. Check out Cafardo's piece for the full rankings, along with quotes on each club, as we run down the hot stove highlights from the rest of the column:

  • The "baseball community has not dropped" rumors that Theo Epstein could be in the mix for the Cubs' GM opening, says Cafardo. I'd be pretty shocked if Epstein ended up in the Windy City, but if he did, Boston's search for a replacement would probably have them considering many of the same candidates being linked to the Cubs.
  • League rules require the Nationals to conduct a managerial search that includes minority candidates this offseason. However, that process may be merely a formality; the team seems very likely to simply retain Davey Johnson for 2012, if he wants to return.
  • While GM Ned Colletti has said the Dodgers are prioritizing long-term deals for Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the Dodgers' financial situation isn't entirely clear, leading Cafardo to speculate that Ethier will be a trade candidate this winter.
  • As we heard last weekend, Clint Hurdle would like to see Derrek Lee in a Pirates uniform next season. Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has more on that possibility.