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Author Archives: Brad Johnson
Here’s the latest off-the-field notes from around the league, as the Royals nurse a misbegotten 4-1 lead.
- The Astros have added former Cardinals scout Charlie Gonzalez as a special assistant, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Gonzalez is not the first Cardinals employee to follow GM Jeff Luhnow to Houston. Drellich lists pitching coach Brent Strom, amateur scouting director Mike Elias and pitching coordinator Dyar Miller as others who moved south with Luhnow. Gonzalez may help to fill recently vacated positions left by Dave Post (now with the Padres) and Marc Russo (with the Braves).
- Assistant hitting coach is the final coaching position the Astros must fill, writes Drellich in a separate article. One name to watch is incumbent Ralph Dickenson. He’s expected to remain with the organization if he is not chosen for the job.
- Bruce Bochy and Kevin Towers are long time friends, but don’t expect a reunion in San Francisco, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Understandably, the club is happy with the current management team.
As we begin to digest Joe Maddon’s departure from the Rays, interest will begin to focus on what’s next for the now-former manager. We at MLBTR have diligently collected quite a volume of information and reactions to Maddon’s decision. If you’re lacking any detail from yesterday’s surprise announcement, you’ll probably find it there.
We know that Maddon reportedly seeks a five-year, $25MM contract. And as we learned earlier tonight, the move may have been mutually beneficial for Maddon and the Rays. Maddon would have been a lame duck manager with his contract set to expire after the season and little hope for an extension. Now the Rays can get a head start on finding their next manager.
The Twins are the only club with a current opening at manager, and they appear to have narrowed the search to their three finalists. Minnesota GM Terry Ryan will reportedly do his due diligence, but it’s worth noting they have never paid a manager an annual rate above $2MM.
The Cubs are a much rumored destination due to supposed similarities between Maddon and Cubs president Theo Epstein. However, second year manager Rick Renteria led the club to 73 wins while overseeing a few breakout performances. He also handled a potentially fractious bullpen with aplomb. Low expectations helped Renteria form a good impression, but Chicago already appears to be in excellent hands.
Other managers on the hot seat like Ryne Sandberg, Terry Collins, and Fredi Gonzalez have all received votes of confidence since Maddon hit the open market. While that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, it would be a bold move to fire a manager who was considered secure (for now) as of just a few days ago. Another NL East club that might make sense – the Nationals – just reached the playoffs in Matt Williams first season with the club.
Of course, the question as posed does not exclude a mid-season job offer for Maddon, so let’s make that a separate option.
The Rays operate on one of the tightest budgets in baseball, but relief could be within sight, writes Cork Gaines of RaysIndex.com. The team’s television contract is set to expire following the 2016 season. While Tampa Bay has a reputation for poor fan investment, they actually draw a strong viewership. Based on recent television deals, Gaines finds a roughly linear relationship between viewership and annual payment. That would put the Rays in line to earn about $80MM to $100MM per season, a large increase over their current $20MM payment. One cautionary outlier is the Twins, who earn just $29MM per season despite a viewer base that would suggest a $80MM yearly return. Gaines noted that ownership stakes were not factored into the analysis.
- Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon might not be the only Rays stakeholders ready to abandon Tampa Bay, reports Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Despite the impending television deal, owner Stuart Sternberg has discussed a possible relocation to Montreal with potential Wall Street investors. Montreal drew over two million fans four times during the Expos tenure. Tampa Bay has not reached that milestone since their inaugural season. To me, it seems like Sternberg is attempting to improve his leverage in stalemated talks with St. Petersburg, but there is some question about the Tampa area’s ability to support a major league franchise.
- As we prepare for Game 4 of the World Series, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com notes starter Jason Vargas almost didn’t end up with the Royals. Vargas was expected to return to the Angels who coveted a stable veteran presence in their rotation. However, Kansas City was willing to guarantee a fourth year, which was a sticking point for the Angels. Vargas is quoted as having made the decision for his family, although I’m sure he’s quite pleased with how the first year of his contract turned out. Good luck to him in tonight’s contest.
In his latest mailbag piece, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com looks at various facets of the Indians roster. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t predict any sweeping changes for the Cleveland roster. Here’s more from Bastian and around the AL.
- The Indians bullpen seems set behind closer Cody Allen. The club may wish to bring in a few depth pieces to supplement the middle and long relief components. Nick Hagadone, who is out of options, is a likely candidate as the second lefty. Similarly, the rotation will probably to be filled internally. Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin can provide above average depth for a rotation fronted by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and T.J. House.
- Had the Indians possessed a better defense, they might have reached the postseason instead of the Royals. However, the club may have solved its woes in-season by promoting Jose Ramirez and moving Carlos Santana to first base. If third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall continues to struggle defensively, Bastian mentions prospect Giovanny Urshela as an alternative.
- Torii Hunter is leaning towards playing in 2015 and would like to return to the Tigers, reports Chris Iott of MLive.com. Hunter labels himself as one of the most consistent hitters in the game. That’s not a bad characterization. Over the past nine seasons, he’s ranged from 13 to 31 percent above average per an advanced stat called wRC+. If you prefer traditional stats, he has always contributed in batting average, power, and run production. The 39-year-old’s defense has declined in recent years. Hunter is prioritizing a World Series championship, however he is unsure if he can accept a reduced role.
- The Orioles have a tough decision regarding Chris Davis, writes Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. Davis may cost upwards of $12MM in his final year of arbitration according to Dubroff, but the Orioles may not want to pay so much for his no-average, all power profile. They do have an internal alternative in Steve Pearce, but he could be needed in the outfield with Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz potentially departing via free agency. There is seemingly no pathway to return value for Davis short of tendering him and hoping for the best.
We already learned today that hitting coach Dave Magadan would meet with Rangers manager Jeff Banister to discuss his future with the franchise. Here’s what new in Arlington, Texas.
- Banister, GM Jon Daniels, and key Rangers personnel sequestered themselves for 12 hours yesterday to discuss the state of the roster, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The Rangers will have to make a number of moves in the upcoming days due to a bloated roster. With nine players on the 60 day disabled list, Texas has 47 players on the 40 man roster. They’ll need to trim down to 40 soon while also giving consideration to prospects they want to protect from the Rule 5 draft.
- Banister spoke with Maddux on Monday and is expected to huddle up again before a decision is made regarding his future. Per a tweet from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Banister said “I like Mike.” For his part, Maddux has said he would like to stay.
- Banister met with Steve Buechele this morning, tweets Wilson. The Rangers have need of a bench coach after the dismissal of Tim Bogar earlier in the week and Buechele could be under consideration. As Grant noted a few days ago, removing Bogar was more about preventing an uncomfortable situation than any displeasure with the former interim manager.
- An ex-manager might be the best fit for the bench coach job, opines T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. This is Banister’s first season as a major league manager, so experience could be helpful. Sullivan mentions Eric Wedge, Kirk Gibson, and Manny Acta as examples.
Palm Beach County has approved $108MM in public funding for a $135MM spring training complex to be shared by the Nationals and Astros, writes James Wagner of The Washington Post. The clubs must still agree to a site for their new spring home. The move to Florida’s east coast also has implications for the Cardinals and Marlins. They are now more likely to remain in their shared complex, which included an opt out based on number of teams in the area.
- Phil Plantier has been relieved of his duties as hitting coach for the Padres, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. The Padres featured the worst offense by many measures in 2014, although much of that can be pinned on sub-par personnel. Assistant hitting coach Alonzo Powell is expected to remain with the club.
- Jose Bautista spoke about Melky Cabrera‘s upcoming free agency on Sportsnet 590 the FAN and handicapped a return at about 50-50, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. According to Bautista, Cabrera will see what’s out there, but he’s “had a good experience in Toronto.” With Colby Rasmus expected to leave via free agency, the Blue Jays outfield could be in a state of flux is Cabrera also departs.
- Newly hired Astros bench coach Trey Hillman has worn a lot of different hats in his career. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle profiles Hillman in his latest piece. He was let go from on-field positions with the Royals (manager) and Dodgers (bench coach) before latching on with the Yankees as a special assistant. Per Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News, Yankees GM Brian Cashman approached Hillman about the opening left by former head of minor league operations Mark Newman. Hillman reportedly declined the position because he preferred an on-field role.
Who will catch for the Braves in 2015? It’s liable to be a question of interest all offseason long as several roster moves could depend on the outcome. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explores the conundrum. We’ve previously seen speculation that the Braves will deal Evan Gattis to an AL club so defense-first prospect Christian Bethancourt can start. Alternatively, the club could deal an outfielder and move Gattis to left field. While there are a lot moving parts to consider, it’s hard to ignore both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton are set to become free agents following the season and will be expensive to re-sign. Meanwhile, Gattis will earn around $600k next season and is club controlled through 2018.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. cited changes in Jerome Williams‘ approach and rotation depth as reasons for yesterday’s contract extension, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Depth is certainly an issue for the Phillies rotation. Cliff Lee ended the season on the disabled list, Kyle Kendrick is a free agent, and only Cole Hamels and David Buchanan finished the season healthy. Another possible factor, A.J. Burnett, is weighing a mutual option. When asked about Burnett, Amaro said, “my inclination is that he’s going to want to pitch. He’s a competitive guy.”
- Yasmany Tomas makes a lot of sense for a number of teams, but insiders are pointing to the Phillies as the current front runners, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino spoke with a rival executive who noted the Phillies have the money to reach a deal with Tomas – which could possibly reach nine figures. More to the point, they have a thin farm system and a desire to turn around quickly. That could make the Cuban market more attractive for the club. Another source said to Martino, “don’t count out the Tigers.”
Prior to last night’s three inning, five run meltdown, Mike Petriello of FanGraphs examined why Royals ace James Shields has failed to live up to his “Big Game” moniker. In a detailed analysis, Petriello discovered Shields’ pitch selection has changed in the postseason and his cutter has been less effective. However, and as Petriello notes repeatedly, it’s hard to draw conclusions from such a small sample of innings.
- Shields is a popular subject today. WEEI.com’s Alex Speier wonders if Shields’ postseason non-performance will result in a lower free agent price tag. His reputation for October excellence is undeserved – he has the third highest ERA among 65 starters with 10 or more postseason starts. Speier does note that Barry Zito and Edwin Jackson signed rich free agent contracts following lousy postseason performances. The limited market for starters should keep Shields in demand, even if teams are wary of his late season contributions. If anything, this improves the positions of Max Scherzer and Jon Lester.
- The status of Rangers hitting instructor Dave Magadan and pitching coach Mike Maddux should be determined within the week, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Per comments from GM Jon Daniels, the future of Magadan and Maddux depends on comfort. New manager Jeff Banister will need to be “confident in how they see the game, in how they communicate with players and who he feels he can lean on.” Magadan is expected to meet with Banister today.
- After viewing MLBTR’s arbitration estimates for the Yankees, NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty takes a look at who might be tendered. Francisco Cervelli ($2.5MM projected salary), Ivan Nova ($3.3MM), Shawn Kelley ($2.5MM), David Phelps ($1.3MM), and Michael Pineda ($2.1MM) are the five he believes will return. Kuty believes David Huff ($700K) and Esmil Rogers ($1.9MM) may be non-tendered. My own opinion: while the Yankees may seek to replace Huff, there isn’t an urgent need to cut his near-league minimum salary. However, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues notes that Huff could be the odd man out if New York needs a 40 man roster spot. Rogers does seem to be an easy non-tender choice.
Here’s the latest from the NL West.
- Rumors that the Dodgers are interested in Josh Byrnes for a front office role are gaining steam, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. The former Diamondbacks and Padres GM was seen taking in an AFL game with Dodgers president Stan Kasten and special adviser Pat Corrales. Interestingly, Los Angeles has openings at GM and farm director – both positions that fit Byrnes’ resume. He began his front office career as a scout in the Indians organization, eventually moving up to scouting director before leaving with Dan O’Dowd for an assistant GM post in Colorado. If Byrnes does latch on with the Dodgers, it will be his fourth NL West organization.
- New Diamondbacks catching prospect Peter O’Brien is known for his power but comes with questions about his defense, reports Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic. When the Diamondbacks acquired O’Brien from the Yankees for Martin Prado, they knew he might not stick behind the dish. For what it’s worth, O’Brien says all the right things about his dedication to catching. Arizona farm director Mike Bell also sounds positive, saying “he just needs to catch more.” Including the AFL, O’Brien has blasted 37 home runs in 444 plate appearances across four levels this season.
- Giants swingman Yusmeiro Petit journeyed an unlikely road from the majors to Mexico and back again, reports the Associated Press in The New York Times. The right-hander reinvented himself in Mexico and Venezuela during the 2011 campaign. Ultimately, Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens and minor league instructor Jose Alguacil rediscovered Petit and recommended him to the organization. The rest, as they say, is history. Petit has contributed to two critical postseason wins as part of an excellent October.
As we wait for the playoffs to return on Tuesday, here’s the latest from the AL.
- Mariners starter Chris Young would like to return to Seattle next season, writes Greg John of MLB.com. The 35-year-old had his best season since 2007, throwing 165 innings with a 3.65 ERA, 5.89 K/9, 3.27 BB/9, and a league low 22.3% ground ball rate. The towering fly ball specialist – he’s 6’10” – is often cited as exceptionally deceptive despite an 85 mph fastball. Advanced ERA estimators expected an ERA over 5.00. His unusual size and approach could make him a special case who can reliably outperform his FIP and SIERA. Young faded down the stretch, but it was his healthiest season in seven years. He earned $1.25MM in 2014 and could be in line for a modest raise.
- The Indians need help in right field, reports Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. While the free agent class isn’t bad, it’s top heavy. Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis are beyond the Indians means. Unfortunately, David Murphy and Ryan Raburn will tie up $8.5MM at the position. Murphy could rebound – he had a decent season before injuring his oblique in August. Raburn was a complete loss this season and may not have a role next season. The Indians previously had interest in Norichika Aoki before he signed with Milwaukee. Hoynes also mentions Michael Cuddyer as a possible buy-low candidate.