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It was on this day in 1985 that the Blue Jays and Dave Stieb finalized one of the more unique contracts in baseball history — an 11-year deal worth a guaranteed $16.6MM and (with incentives) possibly worth as much as $25MM. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times looked back at the contract in 2010, noting that while the Jays absorbed some criticism for the deal at the time, they got a bargain in the long run when Stieb developed into one of the best pitchers of his era. In 1991, the Jays reworked three years of the contract to pay Stieb an extra $4.35MM as a gesture of gratitude for his performance.
Here's some news from all around the AL East…
- Yankees closer Mariano Rivera denied a New York Post report from yesterday that claimed he would announce his possible retirement plans before the All-Star Break. Rivera told Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York that "nothing's changed" about his future plans and that he will "tell everybody what my plans are at the same time after the season."
- Brian Roberts isn't sure when, or even if, he'll be able to return to the Orioles following a series of concussions, he tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Roberts says he has stopped trying to guess when he may be able to resume his career, though he notes that his recovery is "progressing" and he "has more good days than bad days."
- Rays southpaw Matt Moore tops Baseball America's preseason list of the top 20 rookies in the game. Moore is the only AL East representative on the list, though former Yankee prospect Jesus Montero (now with the Mariners) clocks in at the #3 position.
- "We need some guys to step up on our pitching staff," Red Sox GM Ben Cherington tells MLB.com's Ian Browne. The Sox will be looking at pitching or outfield depth as they conduct their usual scouting of other teams' Spring Training camps. Also in this in-depth interview, Cherington discusses his first winter as a general manager, the difficulty in parting with long-time Red Sox stars Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, and what he learned from Theo Epstein.
- The Blue Jays may be the only team that could be a fit for Derrek Lee, writes Fangraphs' Chris Cwik. Lee could be an alternative to Adam Lind at first if Lind struggles, or Lee could at least platoon if Lind again struggles to hit left-handed pitching. Though Cwik was pretty hesitant about Lee's chances of playing anywhere in the Majors in 2012, I'm not sure Toronto works as a landing spot either; the Jays have Edwin Encarnacion backing up at first, Travis Snider or Eric Thames as DH candidates, plus Ben Francisco and Rajai Davis as right-handed bench bats.
Wei-Ying Chen, Hiroki Kuroda and Carlos Pena obtained the biggest free agent contracts handed out by AL East teams this offseason, not counting the Yankees’ extended agreement with C.C. Sabathia. Here’s the latest on the division…
- Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette told Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe that he’s operating differently in Baltimore than he did as Boston’s GM. “I have a fresh start in Baltimore,’’ he said. “I believe I could do a better job in one-on-one communication in a couple of different areas of the job.
- Ian Browne of MLB.com checks in with Ben Cherington, who’s now wrapping up his first offseason as Boston’s GM. Though Cherington says he’s far from unflappable, his boss, Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino, says he’s off to a “flying start.”
- The Orioles haven’t ruled out Johnny Damon, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. The Orioles have switch-hitting DH Wilson Betemit in place, but they could shift him to third at times or play Damon in left if their interest in the free agent is serious.
- Yankees catcher Russell Martin told Heyman that he was pleased to see the Cardinals recognize the value of Yadier Molina’s all-around game with a $75MM deal (Twitter link). "He kind of set the bar," Martin said.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington appeared on MLB Network Radio's "Inside Pitch" with Jim Bowden this afternoon to speak about the club's offseason plans. Alex Speier of WEEI.com has a partial transcript of the interview and here are some highlights…
- Cherington said the Red Sox are looking for rotation depth. The team is satisfied with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz at the top of the rotation so the Sox "don’t feel like we’re backed into a place where we need to break the door in for a top-of-the-rotation starter," Cherington said. "If we can do that and it makes sense for us, then we’ll certainly do that. We’re always looking for ways to do that. But…we’re in good position there and can kind of let the market come to us a little bit."
- To this end, Cherington said "the timing wasn’t right" for the team to bid on Yu Darvish.
- Cherington said he had been in contact with Ryan Madson and Joe Saunders' representatives "as well as several other free agent options."
- The newly-acquired Mark Melancon projects as Boston's closer, at least for now. “As I told Mark on the phone when I talked to him, we believe he can close….If the season opened tomorrow, that’s what he’d be doing,” Cherington said. This, of course, could easily change should the Red Sox sign Madson or trade for Andrew Bailey.
- The Red Sox have interviewed Brad Arnsberg and Neil Allen about the vacant pitching coach job and also talked to "several" other candidates.
The Cubs and Red Sox introduced the new leaders of their respective baseball operations departments today. Theo Epstein met with the media in Chicago and Ben Cherington did the same in Boston. Here are some more notes from front offices around MLB…
- Epstein sounded extremely confident in Cherington’s ability to bring the Red Sox back to the playoffs. “He’s had such a well-rounded development,” Epstein said of Cherington. “He’s got so much integrity. He’s so bright. He’s got great management skills of people. This guy is going to do a fantastic job.” Alex Speier of WEEI.com has more quotes from Epstein.
- Speier hears from an insider who won't be surprised if the Red Sox and Cubs need the help of the commissioner's office to resolve the issue of compensation for Epstein.
- Former Mets and Expos GM Omar Minaya is one of top candidates for the Angels’ GM job, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
- The Yankees expect to have a new deal with GM Brian Cashman by Monday, according to Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
- Newsday's Ken Davidoff explains that Rangers executive A.J. Preller rooted for the Yankees before getting his first job in professional baseball. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes spoke to Preller earlier this month for our GM Candidates series.
- The Diamondbacks announced that they promoted Junior Noboa to VP of Latin Operations. Noboa, Arizona's first ever international hire, enters his 18th season with the organization. He has overseen the acquisition of players such as Miguel Montero and Gerardo Parra.
- For the latest on the Orioles’ GM search, click here, for notes on MLB managers click here and for more front office rumors click here.
The Red Sox introduced Ben Cherington as their executive VP and general manager this afternoon. Cherington says the Red Sox will have a very good team in 2012 and discussed Boston's managerial search and other offseason plans. He also announced that John Lackey will undergo Tommy John surgery. Here are the details:
- Cherington wants a new manager with a strong voice who cares about players and can collaborate with the front office. He says the team will start interviewing candidates soon. The Red Sox have several candidates in mind for first round interviews, but they haven't asked permission to interview any of them yet. Previous managerial experience would be a plus, but it's not necessary.
- Boston's success in terms of free agent signings has "not [been] good enough," according to Cherington.
- Despite Boston's disappointing 2011 season, Cherington says the Red Sox have enough on and off of the field to succeed. "What I'm left with is a conviction that the Red Sox will be the best organization in baseball going forward," he said.
- The Red Sox would like to have David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon back, according to Cherington. They have had some initial dialogue with each player and they expect to continue discussions.
- The Red Sox will look to build pitching depth and could go for buy-low acquisitions.
- Cherington believes Marco Scutaro would be "very coveted" this offseason if he got onto the market. The Red Sox have a $6MM option for Scutaro that they'll likely pick up this offseason ($3MM player option, $1.5MM buyout).
- Cherington says he pushed hard to sign Carl Crawford and believes in him.
- The new GM discussed the importance of having top talent evaluators and vowed that the Red Sox will employ some of the top scouts in the game.
- Boston's farm system is "stronger and deeper than ever" at Double-A and below, Cherington said.
- Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino says the Red Sox hired a team player who is hungry for more success. "There is no one more prepared to take on the role of General Manager of the Red Sox than Ben,” he said. “He will hit the ground running, in full stride, and no one will outwork him.”
- "I've always believed in hybrid baseball executives and Ben is a hybrid baseball executive," Lucchino said.
- The Red Sox will soon announce promotions within their front office. Epstein has not asked Cherington about taking front office members with him to Chicago.
- Cherington is the first person from our list of GM Candidates to land a GM job. Here's my piece on Cherington from August 2011.
- Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein discussed the Cubs and Red Sox at his introductory press conference in Chicago earlier today.
We've heard a lot from new Cubs president Theo Epstein today, as the team held a press conference this morning.
- "It truly feels great to be a Cub today," said Epstein at the introductory press conference. He considers his new job "the ultimate challenge."
- "Our goal will be to build the best scouting department in the game," explained Epstein. He stressed "sustained success" and noted that the Cubs' 2011 draft marked a "clear philosophical change" in his eyes. Epstein will also be able to grow the Cubs' baseball operations staff.
- As a first step with the Cubs managerial situation, Epstein intends to meet with Mike Quade in person over the next week. Epstein also intends to "take a creative look at the big league team."
- A third party may ultimately be required to determine the compensation Boston receives, but Epstein considers the teams' relations to be amicable.
- Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said today in a welcome statement, "In his new role, Theo will be given the resources and opportunity to build a strong foundation and the winning culture that our organization and fans deserve." At the process conference Ricketts added, "I simply cannot imagine a better person for this job than Theo Epstein."
- The following bullet points are highlights from an op-ed piece Epstein wrote for the Boston Globe. Epstein writes, "The reason I am leaving has nothing to do with power, pressure, money, or relationships. It has nothing to do with September, either." Instead, he points to a Bill Walsh suggestion that coaches and executives should seek change after ten years with a team, to create a new challenge for the individual and a fresh perspective for the team. Initially, the plan was for assistant GM Ben Cherington to take over the Red Sox after the 2012 season, and those discussions with ownership began this summer while the team was thriving.
- The combination of the Red Sox needing a new manager for the long-term and the challenge presented by the Cubs prompted Epstein to leave earlier than he initially planned. Epstein has complete confidence in Cherington to address Boston's clubhouse issues. Epstein admits, "Things did indeed happen in the clubhouse that do not have a place at the Red Sox or anywhere in sports. But the reports about team-wide apathy and indulgence are exaggerated."
- Epstein feels that Cherington is more prepared for the GM job than Epstein was nine years ago, and the Red Sox "remain one of the preeminent organizations in baseball, with an extremely bright future."