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Former Rangers cornerstone Michael Young has joined the team’s front office, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link), although Heyman does not include specifics on Young’s role with the club. While he was once speculated as a candidate to fill the team’s managerial vacancy, he’s now helping with the search, Heyman adds.
More from the AL West…
- Rival executives don’t expect Athletics GM Billy Beane to stand pat following the team’s late collapse and elimination in last night’s one-game playoff, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. One executive speculated that Jeff Samardzija could be an offseason trade candidate, while a second threw out the possibility of trading Josh Donaldson. While I can personally envision the Samardzija scenario — he’s a free agent after 2015 and could $10MM+ via arbitration — the Donaldson suggestion is tough to picture. As Rosenthal notes, he’s arb-eligible for the first time this offseason and controlled through 2018, so there’s no reason to think Oakland would feel pressure to trade him.
- Among the players whom the A’s could potentially lose to free agency is Jed Lowrie, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with Lowrie about the situation (All Twitter links). Slusser notes that Lowrie is one of the few players who was honest about his free agency by admitting that money will be a driving factor behind his decision. Lowrie adds that he’s looking for a good fit for him and his family, and he says he’s be willing to play second base on a full-time basis. Asked about the possibility of receiving a qualifying offer, Lowrie said he’d have to give consideration to accepting. A qualifying offer to Lowrie seems unlikely, in my view.
- MLB.com’s Richard Justice calls the Astros‘ hiring of A.J. Hinch a bold move and revisits former Diamondbacks/Padres GM Josh Byrnes’ decision to give Hinch his first managerial gig back in 2009. The move was controversial, to say the least, as Byrnes had to dismiss the popular Bob Melvin to bring the 34-year-old Hinch into the picture. Hinch had never coached or managed, but as Byrnes explains to Justice, Hinch brings a number of desirable qualities to the table.
- Justice’s colleague, Brian McTaggart, writes that Astros players appear to be on board with the move. Chad Qualls spoke highly of Hinch, who was his manager with the D’Backs in 2010, and Gregorio Petit called him “a real honest guy” after getting to know him a bit while in the Padres organization. Dallas Keuchel is excited after meeting Hinch and hinted that there were communication problems not only between previous manager Bo Porter and the front office, but also between Porter and the players. “I think we need to have better communication than we’ve had in the past couple of years,” said Keuchel.
With the regular season in the books, it’s worth assessing how things ultimately shook out from last winter’s Rule 5 draft. Only nine players were taken in this year’s draft. Here’s where things stand:
Remember, players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they aren’t on the 40-man roster four or five years after signing, depending on the age at which they signed. If a team makes a selection, it pays the former team $50K and must keep that player on the Major League roster all season or offer him back to his original team for $25K. (Note that Rule 5 selections can change hands like any other player, with an acquiring team stepping into the shoes of the original selecting club. Click here for more details.)
- Patrick Schuster, LHP (taken first overall by the Astros from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. But not before a somewhat eventful tour. He was first dealt to the Padres, then placed on waivers and claimed by the Royals before finally being sent back. He never ended up throwing a big league inning, and ultimately struggled to 4.50 ERA in 18 frames at Triple-A once back with the D’backs.
- Adrian Nieto, C (taken third overall by the White Sox from the Nationals): Retained by Chicago. The switch-hitting, 24-year-old backstop hung on all year, posting a .236/.296/.340 line in his first 118 MLB plate appearances. He is now White Sox property.
- Kevin Munson, RHP (taken fourth overall by the Phillies from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. Munson never made it onto the active roster, and was sent back in mid-March. Though he never saw MLB action this year, he did post a rather dominant campaign at Triple-A: 2.60 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9.
- Tommy Kahnle, RHP (taken eighth overall by the Rockies from the Yankees): Retained by Colorado. The 25-year-old was an oft-used bullpen piece for the Rockies, posting a 4.19 ERA in 68 2/3 frames with 8.3 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Colorado owns his rights moving forward.
- Brian Moran, LHP (taken ninth overall by the Blue Jays from the Mariners): Still in limbo after season-ending surgery. Moran was dealt by Toronto to the Angels on the day of the draft, and opened the season DL’ed on the active roster. But his left elbow ultimately required Tommy John surgery, meaning that he ended up on the 60-day DL. The Halos do not yet own Moran’s rights permanently: to keep him, the club will need to carry him on the active roster without a DL stay for at least 90 days.
- Seth Rosin, RHP (taken tenth overall by the Mets from the Phillies): Returned to Philadelphia. Dealt immediately after the draft to the Dodgers, Rosin was claimed by the Rangers late in the spring and made three appearances before his roster spot was needed and he was returned. Back at Triple-A with the Phillies, he worked to a 3.86 ERA over 58 1/3 rames.
- Wei-Chung Wang, LHP (taken eleventh overall by the Brewers from the Pirates): Retained by Milwaukee. It took some doing, but a contending Brewers club was able to hold onto Wang for the entirety of the season. Though he did miss 45 games with a DL stint, Wang ultimately made only 14 appearances for the club. The 22-year-old will presumably be stretched out as a starter again as he returns to his development track in the lower minors.
- Marcos Mateo, RHP (taken fifteenth overall by the Diamondbacks from the Cubs): Returned to Chicago. Mateo was the first player to be returned, heading back in mid-March. The 30-year-old threw to a 3.86 ERA in 37 1/3 innings upon his return to Triple-A with his original team.
- Michael Almanzar, 3B (taken sixteenth overall by the Orioles from the Red Sox): Returned to Boston … but ultimately traded back to Baltimore. Shelved with injury for much of the year, Almanzar was returned to the Red Sox in the middle of the summer after a rehab stint. But the O’s obviously wanted him back, and added him as part of the Kelly Johnson deal. Over 233 minor league plate appearances on the year, Almanzar posted a .245/.322/.389 slash.
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Here’s the latest from out west:
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says that he expects to be aggressive in adding offense to the ballclub while also adding some rotation depth, as Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN reports. “Offense is something we think we need,” said GM Jack Zduriencik. “We will explore every opportunity out there. I think we will be reasonably aggressive to try to add an offensive piece or two and you never have enough pitching.”
- Zduriencik added that he believes he’ll have additional cash to work with. “I think the payroll is going to rise,” he said. “What the exact number is I don’t know yet because we haven’t had that meeting, but I am encouraged that number will increase.” Seattle entered the year with about $90MM on its books. Looking forward, the club has nearly $62MM committed next year before accounting for several costly arbitration bumps (especially for Austin Jackson and Kyle Seager).
- The Diamondbacks have started interviewing managerial candidates with in-house options, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Double-A skipper Andy Green had the first chance to make his pitch. Other D’backs staffers who will interiew are hitting coach Turner Ward and Triple-A manager Phil Nevin.
- Meanwhile, the Rangers have announced that they sat down with Mike Maddux and Steve Buechele today as part of their own managerial search, as expected. As with Arizona’s initial batch of candidates, Maddux and Buechele come from within the Texas ranks.
The Diamondbacks more or less kicked off their offseason last week when they announced the hiring of Dave Stewart as general manager and De Jon Watson as vice president of baseball operations. That duo, along with chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, will be tasked with righting the ship for a team that lost an MLB-worst 98 games in 2014. Both Nick Piecoro and Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic have authored highly informative columns about how things will shake out this offseason after talking with that group. Here are some highlights from the Republic’s scribes, but each piece is full of lengthier quotes and is well worth reading in its entirety…
- It’s tough to get a read on Stewart at this point, Piecoro writes, as the new GM expressed a desire to add a front-of-the-rotation arm but expressed hesitancy toward the free agent market and toward the trade market. Stewart appears to be more conservative than predecessor Kevin Towers on the trade front, according to Piecoro, and as for free agency, both Stewart and Watson doubted the team would have the resources to pursue Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields.
- A trade of minor league talent to acquire an established pitcher doesn’t seem likely either, Piecoro writes. He quotes Stewart: “We’re going to try to maintain our minor-league system. We’ve got to start putting players back in our system. So the trade market, we’ll look at it if it makes sense, but it’s not likely.”
- La Russa tells Piecoro that when it comes to a manager, the team is looking for a candidate that can “lead and inspire.” Previous managerial experience sounded important to La Russa, who stated, “…when you start managing the game, the more that you’ve pulled the trigger as a manager somewhere, there is an art to that.” Asked specifically about recently dismissed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, La Russa said he is “sure” that Gardenhire’s name will come up during their search.
- La Russa also touched on payroll, though his answer when asked for a specific figure was nebulous; payroll could fall anywhere between $80-110MM, he stated, depending on whether or not there is value to be found, per Piecoro.
- Shifting to Buchanan’s piece, La Russa said that there may not be many changes to the team’s coaching staff beyond the firings of Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell. La Russa offered particularly high praise for first base coach Dave McKay, pitching coach Mike Harkey and bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. — the latter two of whom he feels handled Arizona’s slew of injuries well. Roving pitching instructor Dave Duncan, La Russa’s former pitching coach, will take on a bigger role in the organization but will not return to a coaching position.
- Buchanan spoke with Stewart on the team’s outfield situation. While Towers had expressed the desire to add an outfield bat, Stewart sounds much less inclined to do so. “I think that A.J. (Pollock) in center, (David) Peralta played well, (Mark) Trumbo will probably be in the outfield mix with (Paul) Goldschmidt being at first base and being healthy again,” the GM explained to Buchanan. “It’s a pretty solid outfield, in my opinion.” La Russa spoke on the outfield as well, adding praise for Ender Inciarte.
- The D’Backs have yet to address their desire to incorporate analytics into their front office, but Stewart again repeated that it is a priority for the team. “…We’ve got to go through the process of trying to get the right person in to take over that department for us,” he said.
The Astros are without a permanent manager at the moment, having dismissed Bo Porter after some philosophical disagreement with the club’s front office. Tom Lawless is filling in on an interim basis, and reports have indicated that former big league managers Manny Acta, A.J. Hinch and Don Wakamatsu could be candidates, as could Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo and Angels bench coach Dino Ebel, among many others.
Here’s the latest on the team’s search …
- Another potential candidate could be Steve Buechele, the manager for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Drellich notes that Buechele has spoken to the Astros about the job. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram tweets that Buechele had a phone interview with the Astros.
- Astros third base coach Pat Listach will interview today, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com tweets. Prior to joining the Astros, Listach had served as a bench coach and third base coach for the Cubs and a third base coach for the Nationals. He also has four seasons of experience managing in the high minors in the Cubs system.
- The Astros have contacted Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets that the Astros have already interviewed Banister twice for the job. Banister has spent his entire 29-year career in affiliated baseball with the Pirates, briefly playing for them in 1991 and then working his way up through their minor league system as a coach and manager. He has also managed in the Arizona Fall League. As Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel points out (via Twitter), Banister had a cameo in Ben Lindbergh of Grantland’s recent article about the strong bond between the Pirates’ field staff and their statistical analysts. Banister’s ability to work in such a system would surely interest the Astros.
- Nevin expressed keen interest in the position, saying that Houston is a special place for him as his first MLB organization, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
- The Astros met with Lovullo face-to-face on Boston’s off-day this week (Monday), according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). This is the first report of an in-person meeting with a managerial candidate. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently profiled Lovullo, breaking down his background and managerial philosophies
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Astros have spoken with five candidates via phone: Ebel, Hinch, Lovullo, Wakamatsu and Rays bench coach Dave Martinez (Twitter link). Martinez has previously stated that he would be very interested in the position after having a good experience when he interviewed the last time Houston was looking for a manager.
- Ebel, however, tells MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez that he has not spoken to the Astros about their managerial vacancy at this point (Twitter link).
- Lawless will interview for the position on a permanent basis this Saturday, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Lawless, who has 35 years of experience in baseball (10 as a minor league manager), has been received favorably by the current Astros’ players, McTaggart adds. Houston is 10-10 under Lawless, but McTaggart notes that the team’s September results won’t factor much into the equation. He’ll be asked the same questions as other candidates. Lawless looks forward to the opportunity, he says: “I’m just going to be myself and just talk honestly about what baseball means to me and the passion I have for baseball. [General manager Jeff Luhnow] has a tough decision, and the organization is going in the right direction. I think we can make this thing better.”
- The Astros have receive permission to interview former big league slugger Phil Nevin, who is currently managing the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Nightengale adds that Nevin will also be a candidate for the D’Backs if they decide to part with manager Kirk Gibson.
The Angels have cut off talks with the city of Anaheim regarding a new ballpark lease arrangement, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. Owner Arte Moreno says that the club can afford to build a new ballpark, and indeed the team is exploring its options in other Los Angeles-area locations. After agreeing upon a “deal framework” a year ago, the parties have been unable to finalize a new contract.
Here’s more out of the west:
- Astros slugger Chris Carter will be shopping for a new agent after losing former adviser Dave Stewart, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports on Twitter. The decision is a particularly important one for Carter, 27, given that he will qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player in the coming offseason. His 37 home runs make for a nice arb case, of course, but his raise will be well-deserved. Carter’s bottom-line production over the last three years: .228/.322/.480 (121 OPS+) over 1,409 plate appearances with 82 long balls.
- Stewart, of course, made the rounds today after being announced as the Diamondbacks‘ new general manager. One burning question has been how Arizona will incorporate statistical analysis into its decisionmaking, and Stewart told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link) that the organization must “get on board with it” after having not done so to present. That does not mean that the club will turn its back entirely on its scouting and culture-heavy focus; to the contrary, Stewart made clear that he hopes former GM Kevin Towers will stay on and discussed the importance of developing an organizational culture in several interviews.
- One element of the D’backs decisionmaking structure that has become clear is that De Jon Watson will play an important role in developing and disseminating information. In an appearance on the team’s television broadcast, Watson said that he will have wide-ranging responsibilities in the arenas of amateur scouting, player development, and MLB roster construction. He indicated that he likes the idea of being able to have such a broad role. That being said, Watson said the club intends to keep scouting director Ray Montgomery and player development director Mike Bell in their present roles.
- Turning to the actual ballclub, Stewart said in an appearance on 98.7’s Burns & Gambo show that Arizona has no intention of dealing away young talent. Calling the team’s farm system “pretty much depleted,” Stewart said that rebuilding depth — rotation candidates, especially — was a key focus. That being said, Stewart indicated that he hopes to put a winning club on the field quickly and will look to the free agent market for a “front end guy.”
3:55pm: In a curious decision, the D’Backs have announced that Trammell will manage the final three games of the season.
3:22pm: The Diamondbacks announced that they have fired manager Kirk Gibson and bench coach Alan Trammell. The team will immediately begin seeking a new manager, according to the press release.
“Kirk has done an admirable job under difficult circumstances and we are grateful for his professionalism and his dedicated service to the organization over the past eight years,” said chief baseball officer Tony La Russa in a statement. “We feel like it is time for a fresh start and with our recent restructuring in Baseball Operations, we want to get started immediately moving in a new direction. We are also appreciative of Alan Trammell for all that he has done for the D-backs and have great respect for what both men have accomplished in the game of baseball.”
Gibson took over as the D’Backs manager midway through the 2010 season and has since compiled a 353-375 win-loss record. His 2011 Diamondbacks won the NL West with a 94-68 record — a season which earned him NL Manager of the Year honors. However, since that time Arizona has a pair of 81-81 finishes and is now set to pick first overall in next year’s draft, as the team is a virtual lock to finish with baseball’s worst record.
Gibson has at times drawn ire from media outlets for his old-school tactics, including an incident this season in which it’s widely believed that Randall Delgado threw at NL MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen on purpose for “retaliation” against the Pirates, who had seemingly inadvertently hit Paul Goldschmidt the night before, sending him to the DL and ending his season.
It was a big day for the Diamondbacks: after announcing major front office changes, the club has all but clinched the league’s worst record, as Steve Gilbert of MLB.com notes (Twitter links). The only way they’d fall to the second pick would be if they were to sweep the Cardinals this weekend, with the Rockies in turn being swept by the Dodgers. It’s highly likely that Arizona will hold the first overall pick in next year’s amateur draft, providing an early test for chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and newly-minted GM Dave Stewart.
Here’s more from the west:
- Padres manager Bud Black indicated that he expects changes to the club’s array of position players, as MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell reports. “We were pretty set, and I think that’s definitely changed this year,” said Black. “I don’t know whether uncertain is the word. But I do think there will be some roster construction more so than last year.” It will be interesting to see how newly-minted GM A.J. Preller attacks his first offseason. If this season’s results are any indication, while the rotation is in solid shape, improving the offensive output may require new acquisitions.
- The Astros intend to be quiet, careful, and thorough in their managerial hunt, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. GM Jeff Luhnow is not necessarily seeking someone more malleable or numbers-focused than deposed skipper Bo Porter, according to Drellich, but rather someone more “relatable.” One of the possible candidates, Diamondbacks Triple-A manager Phil Nevin, is set for an interview after receiving clearance from the Arizona organization, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
- Angels owner Arte Moreno covered a lot of ground in an interesting interview with Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Moreno said that he is committed to winning a championship, emphasizing the financial health of the organization and how that has supported the team’s significant spending. Saying that the team carries no debt and operates at a profit, Moreno indicated that he has no intentions of selling his valuable ownership stake — though he said that he would take an objective, businesslike approach if contacted by an interested buyer.
The Diamondbacks announced today that they have hired Dave Stewart as their new senior vice president and general manager, thereby filling the void that was created when Kevin Towers was removed from the role earlier this month. Additionally, De Jon Watson has been hired away from the Dodgers to serve as senior VP of baseball operations. Both men will report directly to chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, according to the press release.
Stewart, 57, is quite familiar with La Russa, as he was the ace of several of pitching staffs with the A’s that were managed by La Russa in the late 1980s. Stewart has plenty of experience around the game, however, as he’s served as a pitching coach for the Brewers, an assistant general manager with the Blue Jays and a player agent, representing (up until this point) well-known big leaguers such as Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley and Chris Carter. Of course, Stewart will have to give that business up, and he’s already explained to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he will transfer that business to former teammate Dave Henderson.
It’s been quite some time since Stewart was in a front office, but he was once considered a hot GM candidate and was thought to have a chance to take over the post in Toronto and succeed Gord Ash following the 2001 season. (J.P. Ricciardi was instead named the next Blue Jays GM.) Baseball America ranked Stewart sixth among a list of its top 10 general manager “prospects” back in 2000.
This will be Stewart’s first test as a general manager, a position which he told Shea is exciting to him: “As an agent, I’m not challenged every day,” said Stewart. “But this job is 24 hours every day, and I’m looking forward to that.” He will have his work cut out for him, as the D’Backs are wrapping up a season in which they will narrowly miss 100 losses and are on pace to finish with baseball’s worst record. Of course, that fate would also provide Stewart with the opportunity to have the first overall pick in what will be his first draft as a GM.
In Watson, the D’Backs have secured a high-profile front office acquisition. The 48-year-old Watson had been serving as Los Angeles’ vice president of player development and was in his seventh year with the organization. In that role, Watson was responsible for developing and evaluating each minor league player in the system as well as appointing minor league managers, coaches and instructors. He also served as an advisor to GM Ned Colletti on all 40-man roster decisions. Prior to his time with the Dodgers, Watson served as the Indians’ director of professional scouting and the Reds’ scouting director. Prior to those roles, he served as an area scout for the Marlins.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
7:44pm: Stewart and the Diamondbacks are closing in on a multi-year agreement to make Stewart the new GM in Arizona, Nightengale tweets. An official announcement could come on Friday now, rather than Thursday, as had previously been reported.
6:01pm: Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports now hear that Watson is likely to leave the Dodgers and accept an assistant GM position with the Diamondbacks (Twitter link).
4:26pm: Nightengale writes that the D’Backs are still hoping to hire Watson as an assistant GM, but he is expected to remain with the Dodgers.
2:52pm: Stewart says he is transferring his agency business to former teammate Dave Henderson, reports John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. That would presumably clear the way for Stewart to take the D’Backs job.
Though Stewart did not comment as to whether he had been offered the position, his comments certainly left the impression that he was preparing to take the reigns in Arizona. “As an agent, I’m not challenged every day,” he said. “But this job is 24 hours every day, and I’m looking forward to that.”
12:12pm: The job has “officially” been offered to Stewart, though discussions are still ongoing, tweets Nightengale.
12:01pm: Stewart tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he has yet to be told that he has been chosen for the position, but hopes that he is. “My name, Allard [Baird] and De Jon [Watson] are three names that are, as far as I know, are the last names that are left,” said Stewart. “I do know that by my last conversation with Tony [La Russa], he planned to let us know within the course of today. That does not mean it’s going to happen today but I know it was their plan to give us an indication. We’re sitting on pins and needles, too.”
11:29am: The team is “deep in negotiations” with Stewart on a contractual arrangement, but the sides have yet to reach agreement, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
10:29am: The Diamondbacks are set to offer the club’s open GM position to Dave Stewart, sources tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Stewart, 57, has long been said to be the top candidate for the post.
The former big league pitcher, coach, and assistant GM is currently a player agent. Stewart’s broad experience carries obvious appeal, and it surely does not hurt that he has a strong history with D’backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, his former manager with the Athletics.
It is not yet known whether an offer has formally been made, Heyman adds, let alone whether a deal has been worked out. This employment situation could be trickier than usual since Stewart would need to figure out what to do with his agency business. Of course, he has now had plenty of time to consider that question, and Stewart has indicated that he would be strongly inclined to take the job if offered.