As the A's and Tigers battle to see who will face off against the Red Sox for the American League crown, let's check in around the league …
- The Mariners went to former manager Lou Piniella in hopes that he would come out of retirement and take over the club, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The longtime skipper declined, however, leaving the M's with a long list of remaining possibilities to work through. Now 70, Piniella was on board for the franchise's best years in the mid-90's and early-aughts. As Rosenthal notes, he is the only Seattle manager to have stayed at the helm for more than four seasons, or to have drawn up a lineup card for a post-season game.
- Meanwhile, the Rangers are all set at the top but are working through a series of internal shifts in the lower levels of the field staff and front office. In the dugout, manager Ron Washington and GM Jon Daniels are preparing to hire a bench coach and first base coach, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Candidates for the former include former managers Eric Wedge and Jim Tracy. Among those wearing dress socks rather than stirrups, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports, a broader restructuring is underway.
- Those expecting a full-blown Yankees collapse may be somewhat naive, writes ESPN.com's Buster Olney (subscription required). The club still has real talent on its roster and will, as ever, be able to exercise its unmatched financial muscle. Indeed, as I recently noted, the Yanks' current payroll commitments are still well short of the club's historical levels, or even the $189MM luxury tax threshold. At present, the Bombers are obligated for $89MM next year (only seventh-highest league-wide), just under $70MM for 2015 and 2016, and $26MM in 2017.
- For the AL East-rival Orioles, Manny Machado's just-announced surgery could provide additional impetus for an extension of shortstop J.J. Hardy. The Orioles should do just that, says Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. Another three-year extension is not out of line, in Dubroff's opinion. Hardy, 31, is entering the final season of a three-year, $21MM deal he inked with the O's in July 2011. He had yet another strong campaign in 2013, putting up a .263/.306/.433 line with 25 home runs and receiving excellent defensive reviews.
- One possible temporary fill-in for Machado, utilityman Ryan Flaherty, was a rare Rule 5 draftee to make it in the bigs, Dubroff writes. The 27-year-old was a valuable contributor this year for Baltimore, netting 1.0 bWAR and 1.4 fWAR in 271 plate appearances while logging time all over the diamond. He will play for the league minimum again in 2014.