The recent successes of the Cubs and Astros might ensure the team-building strategy of “tanking” (that is, intentionally fielding a series of non-competitive teams) will continue to remain popular in the near future, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes in a long feature story. The Braves, for example, appear to be employing a variation of the Astros’ rebuilding approach, the Phillies are doing something somewhat similar, and the Brewers could conceivably do the same. But “tanking” isn’t without its downfalls. “[Y]ou risk losing the fan base and alienating a fan base and in some cases they come back and in some cases they don’t come back,” says Pirates GM Neal Huntington, who traded many of his team’s key players beginning in 2008, after he had been on the job for about a year. “I don’t know, I mean, we’re a copycat society, let alone industry, so I think it’s worked remarkably well on a couple of fronts. I think once it doesn’t work well, then it probably won’t be a thing to do anymore.”
Part of the “tanking” strategy simply involves trading assets to acquire, and clear playing time for, younger talent, but another part of it is potentially more controversial — losing teams receive higher draft picks, so in some cases, it might be sound strategy for a franchise to structure itself so that it doesn’t play well. The results can be hard to watch, as the Astros frequently were before this season. And for some markets, tanking might be difficult or impossible. The Astros and Cubs “were losing for a long time and a lot of markets can’t do that,” says Reds president Walt Jocketty. “We can’t do that in our market.” Here’s more from around the game.
- The Rangers have a void to fill at catcher, and it’s unclear how they’ll do it, Evan Grant of Dallas Morning News writes. Matt Wieters might have been one possibility, but he disappeared from the market when he accepted the Orioles’ qualifying offer. The Brewers could deal Jonathan Lucroy, and might even be more likely to with new GM David Stearns in place, but the market for Lucroy could be strong this winter given the lack of strong catching options available via free agency. The Rangers got solid performances from Robinson Chirinos and journeyman Chris Gimenez last season, but they have little depth behind them, particularly with Jorge Alfaro sent to Philadelphia in the Cole Hamels deal. They also traded Tomas Telis to the Marlins when they dealt for Sam Dyson. “We understood that it was going to leave a void in the system,” says GM Jon Daniels. “But we look back on those trades we made and don’t have any regrets.”
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart says he’s continued to monitor Japanese righty Kenta Maeda, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes (Twitter links). Assuming Maeda is posted (which seems likely), it probably won’t be for at least another week or two, after Team Japan’s run in the WBSC Premier 12 international tournament comes to an end. The Diamondbacks’ interest in Maeda has never been a secret, and it still sounds strong now. Crasnick also notes that the D-backs could pursue Yovani Gallardo. They might not be able to afford a higher-tier pitcher like Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmermann.