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In this morning’s Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that he feels a Josh Donaldson trade is likely for the Athletics this offseason. Billy Beane has shown a willingness to trade players at their peak value, Olney writes (citing the Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill trades, among others), and Donaldson’s salary will begin to rise quickly now that he’s hit arbitration. Olney looks at the rest of Oakland’s roster and notes that no other trade candidate has value as high as Donaldson’s, so while Jeff Samardzija would be an attractive chip, Donaldson could help Beane usher in his next roster reconstruction.
Some more news from the American League…
- The Red Sox won’t hold a private workout for Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The team did attend his showcase in the Dominican Republic and they’re intrigued by his power, but the team’s glut of outfielders and concerns over Tomas’ strikeout rate in Cuba have tempered their interest.
- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal points to the Pirates’ success in reviving the careers of Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett and points to some similar buy-low candidates that the Red Sox could try for on the free agent market. Of course, as he notes, the Sox are expected to pursue Jon Lester and James Shields, so his suggestions of Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana are intended to be secondary targets.
- Miguel Cabrera turned down his share of the team’s postseason bonus when the time came to sign the paperwork, reports Paul White of USA Today. Cabrera refused to sign, instead stating that he “just wants the ring.” As White points out, Cabrera could be turning down as much as $300K (though that figure pales in comparison to his salary), and that money could be reallocated to other players as well as Tigers staff such as clubhouse personnel, traveling secretaries, etc.
- Justin Smoak‘s contract to avoid arbitration last year contained a rare club option, and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that it’s a virtual lock that the Mariners will buy out his $3.65MM option for $150K and non-tender the first baseman. Smoak, the centerpiece of an ill-fated Cliff Lee trade with the Rangers, hit just .202/.275/.339 and has failed to establish himself as a regular in four seasons with Seattle.
- Also from Divish’s piece, GM Jack Zduriencik called the decision to pick up Hisashi Iwakuma‘s $7MM option a “no-brainer,” which certainly isn’t surprising.
After crunching a variety of payroll numbers, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier concludes that the Red Sox should have at least $50MM to $55MM in 2015 payroll still available. You’ll want to read the typically excellent piece to understand exactly how Speier reaches his conclusions, but the bottom line is that the team’s financial situation dovetails with an impressive stock of prospects to convey unmatched flexibility to GM Ben Cherington entering the offseason. Of course, as Cherington notes, that doesn’t mean that Boston can snap its fingers and return to contention. “I think we have a challenging offseason ahead of us that’s sort of, in a way, simple to see but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute,” he explained.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, recently of the Yankees, says he would welcome a chance to continue in pinstripes as he looks to rebound from a rough 2014. As George A. King III of the New York Post reports, Drew’s agent — Scott Boras — still believes his client has productive baseball ahead of him. “I would say clubs would spend a good deal of time focusing on his career offensive statistics as opposed to a couple hundred at-bats,” said Boras. “Defensively, he is still elite and a lot of teams will have interest in him as a shortstop.” Boras did seem to acknowledge that Drew needs to rebuild his stock one year after declining a qualifying offer and waiting to sign until after the draft. “If it’s a multi-year [deal], I don’t think it would be a long one,” said Boras. “I trust this player.”
- Meanwhile, Joel Sherman of the New York Post analyzes the possible Derek Jeter replacements for the Yankees. He ultimately rejects many names that have commonly been linked to New York, noting that many of the free agent shortstops come with questions about how long they can continue to play the position. Sherman lists Drew, Didi Gregorius, Jose Iglesias, Jimmy Rollins, and Alexei Ramirez as five possible candidates. (All but Drew, of course, would have to be acquired via trade.)
- 2012 Blue Jays third-round draftee Anthony Alford has agreed to a full-time baseball commitment. The Clarion-Ledger reported yesterday that Alford had decided to end his football career at Ole Miss to join the Jays. As John Lott of the National Post explains, Alford’s deal with Toronto — which came with a $750K bonus — allowed him to focus primarily on football. That risk was the only way to acquire Alford’s rights, said GM Alex Anthopoulos, who explained that the organization believes Alford to be an “outstanding prospect” who could move quickly in full-season baseball.
- Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette says his ballclub is better now than in 2012 due to its starting pitching, and credits pitching coach Dave Wallace for the improvement, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reports. Meanwhile, Duquette talked over some of the organization’s notable mid-season moves to fill gaps that had opened, acknowledging the hard work and remarkable performances of players like Steve Pearce and Caleb Joseph. Of course, as Ghiroli suggests, some portion of the credit for those fill-ins must go to Duquette and his front office.
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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If he hangs up his spikes, as he is said to be weighing, Red Sox catcher David Ross should have plenty of avenues for non-playing jobs in the game, tweets Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. A former GM tells Mastrodonato that he considers Ross a close friend and would be more than happy to find a position for him.
Here’s more from Boston and the rest of the AL East:
- As the offseason begins for the Red Sox, GM Ben Cherington reiterated that the team needs to add depth in the rotation and in the lineup, as MLB.com’s Ian Browne reports. In particular, the club will emphasize left-handed-hitting options around the diamond.
- Apart from Brett Gardner, the Yankees generally lack attractive veteran contracts that could be dealt in a rebuilding scenario, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. But while that makes little sense, neither would it be beneficial to spend top dollar on the high-end free agent market, argues Sherman. Instead, New York should continue to wield its financial muscle to make more incremental gains that maintain financial and roster flexibility — much as the team did on the trade deadline this year.
- One player who could meet that description is starter Brandon McCarthy. As Roger Rubin of the New York Daily news reports, the big righty is very open to a return to New York but is not exactly waiting with bated breath. “When the phone rings we’ll find out for sure,” said McCarthy, who added that he is willing to be aggressive in selling his services. “You don’t have to be the biggest name to be the first domino to fall,” he said. “You could be at the beginning or the end and at some slot in the middle. I’ve been focused on what I am doing, but soon it could be time to weigh what’s going on. I feel if I got the right offer, I’d be willing to sign early in the process.”
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi says that he needs to see how Alex Rodriguez looks on the field before determining his role next year, as George A. King III of the New York Post reports. But Girardi says that his expectation is that Rodriguez will take a regular role at third: “Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely. Do we expect him to play third base? Yes. In fairness you have to see where he is at. I can’t tell you what will happen, but we expect him to be our third baseman.”
- For the Rays, manager Joe Maddon hopes to stay on past 2015 but is in no rush to add onto his contract, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain reports. Meanwhile, both utilityman Ben Zobrist and reliever Joel Peralta hope the team will exercise its options over them for the coming year, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. That is a foregone conclusion for Zobrist, of course, but Peralta ($2.5MM option with no buyout) is a more difficult call as he enters his age-39 season. His 4.41 ERA over 63 1/3 frames does not look very appealing, but Peralta did post a 3.40 FIP, 3.11 xFIP, and 2.54 SIERA on the back of 10.5 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9.
The Twins shook up the organization earlier today by announcing that Ron Gardenhire would be replaced as manager. Gardenhire was one of the game’s longest-tenured managers (13 years), and perhaps more incredibly, his departure will ignite the Twins’ first managerial search since 1986. I’d expect both Paul Molitor and Terry Steinbach to be among the team’s internal candidates, though the search will of course feature some outside candidates as well.
Here are some reactions to the move…
- Brian Dozier tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he was “shocked” by the news of Gardenhire’s dismissal. “Everybody in that clubhouse had so much respect and love for Gardy,” said Dozier. “It’s pretty saddening.” Trevor Plouffe tweets that he has “nothing but the utmost respect” for Gardenhire and the rest of the staff.
- Berardino spoke to a source close to longtime American League Central rival Ozzie Guillen and was told that Guillen would have a great deal of interest in managing the Twins (Twitter links). The source described Guillen as “very interested” and “very hungry,” noting that he knows the AL Central and wants to get back into the game.
- Berardino also tweets that a person with direct knowledge of the situation tells him that Molitor would “possibly” have interest in the manager’s role if offered to him, but that isn’t a slam dunk.
- Ryan called the move the toughest decision he’s had to make in his tenure as a general manager at today’s press conference, noting that he considers Gardenhire to be his brother more than his manager. Ryan also noted that the contracts of the team’s coaching staff run through Dec. 31, so those contracts are in limbo until the new manager can make a decision. Gardenhire said at the conference that he isn’t burned out at all and would consider another managerial opportunity if he felt it were right for him and his family (All Twitter links to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger).
- In a full article, Neal writes that a source tells him Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo and White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing are both names to watch. Neal speculates that other names such as Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo and Rays bench coach Dave Martinez could surface as well. Neal also speculates, much like Berardino and others have recently, that Twins bench coach Terry Steinbach could be a fit in Arizona due to his ties to Tony La Russa and new GM Dave Stewart.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times opines that if and when the Cubs decide they want a “next level” manager for their rebuilding process, Gardenhire should be the first phone call placed by president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer (Twitter link).
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports feels that Gardenhire should’ve been given a chance to oversee the next wave of young talent in the Twins organization, but he’s not surprised to see the team seek a new voice following another 90-loss season. He notes that Gardenhire could immediately pursue another managerial job, with current openings with the D’Backs, Rangers and Astros. He also notes that it’s possible the Brewers will fire Ron Roenicke, so Gardenhire could fit there also.
Team chairman Tom Werner and COO Sam Kennedy have no regrets over how the Red Sox handled their extension talks with Jon Lester, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reports, even though the lack of progress led to Lester being traded to Oakland at the deadline. Kennedy felt that there wasn’t anything to regret since the negotiations were amicable on both sides, though Werner wished more talks had taken place. “I don’t want to go back too much, but let me just say that we expected a little more dialogue back and forth than happened. But I’ll take our share of responsibility in that,” Werner said. Both executives said the Sox would look to rebuild the rotation for 2015, and Kennedy hinted that the team’s alleged distaste for long-term deals for pitchers in their 30′s isn’t necessarily as rigid as believed.
Here’s some more from Fenway Park…
- Daniel Nava received some trade interest from the Giants at the July deadline, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. This is just my speculation, but I wonder if San Francisco could pursue Nava again this offseason if Mike Morse isn’t re-signed. The Tigers and Royals were also rumored to be in on Nava last summer.
- Cafardo’s piece breaks down the Red Sox roster and examines who the team should consider trading. Mookie Betts, for instance, seems to be “the Red Sox prospect teams want most in a deal” according to conversations with rival scouts, yet Cafardo feels Betts’ talent and versatility makes him too valuable a piece to move.
- David Ross isn’t sure if he’ll be back in Boston next season or even if his career could be over, the veteran catcher told reporters (including John Tomase of the Boston Herald) yesterday. Ross will be 38 on Opening Day 2015 and he’s been a non-factor at the plate for the last two seasons, though his defense and ability to mentor pitchers and young players in general is greatly respected. John Farrell said Ross is under consideration to return to the Sox next year, and Ross could make sense as a veteran backup to Christian Vazquez.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman believes the 2014 season to have been a worst-case scenario, reports John Harper of the New York Daily News. When asked about the club’s poor performance, Cashman said, “I honestly believe if you repeated this season 100 times, you would not get this result.” Here’s more from New York and the AL East.
- Also from Harper, injuries were the biggest surprise for the Yankees. While some losses must be expected from an aging roster, the Yankees did lose most of their top veterans for some stretch of time. Growing fan apathy could affect New York’s offseason plans, especially with Derek Jeter‘s imminent retirement. Harper suggests the club re-sign David Robertson and Brandon McCarthy. Rather than target a shortstop like J.J. Hardy, the Yankees could look at Victor Martinez to provide punch in the lineup.
- It’s widely accepted that the Red Sox failure this season can be traced to an over reliance on prospects. John Tomase of the Boston Herald discussed a few other warning signs in his latest column. With the exception of a couple veterans, the club was complacent in spring training. Boston lacked the depth to deal with injuries and underpeformance. Poor leadership left youngsters like Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts under intense media scrutiny during their slumps, which likely exacerbated the problem.
- Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is ready to manage in the majors, writes Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. Lovullo is on the Astros list of potential managerial candidates, although it’s unclear if he fits their analytical approach. He’s interviewed for three separate posts in the past and could be busy this offseason. Lovullo’s resume includes playing in parts of eight major league seasons for seven teams, managing for nine years in the minors, and coaching for the Blue Jays and Red Sox.
Derek Jeter left today’s game with a hamstring injury, but the Yankees outgoing icon will play tomorrow in his final professional game. As the Jeter era comes to a close, New York will have to re-adjust to a familiar dilemma – what to do with Alex Rodriguez. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that Rodriguez is a symbol of “expense, uncertainty, and awkwardness” for the Yankees.
- Also per Sherman, Rodriguez is not interested in playing winter ball, which will make it hard for the Yankees to project his role in 2015. The former star is owed $61MM for his age 39 through 41 seasons. His presence, along with other expensive, injury prone players like Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira, will make GM Brian Cashman’s job difficult (assuming Cashman is extended, his contract is up on October 31). Retaining Chase Headley while also addressing rotation, bullpen, and outfield depth could be difficult due to Rodriguez’s contract.
- Joe Girardi believes Dellin Betances is ready to take over as the Yankees closer, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. David Robertson, the current ninth inning man, is a free agent at the end of the season. It’s thought the Yankees could extend a qualifying offer to Robertson and may pursue re-signing him to a multi-year deal. If those plans fall through the cracks, Betances represents an attractive alternative.
- Yoenis Cespedes is unsure if he wants to pursue a contract extension with the Red Sox, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. Boston is dealing with a lot of fluidity with their future. Deciding the role of Cespedes will likely influence many of their offseason decisions.
Compared to the problems the Yankees face this offseason, the Red Sox‘ issues aren’t so bad, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. With a huge number of ugly contracts on the books (including those of C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran), they’ll be limited in their ability to upgrade. They will, however, get a modest boost in that Derek Jeter‘s $12MM salary will come off the books. The Red Sox don’t have as many onerous commitments as the Yankees, and they also have more interesting young players, so if they were to trade a veteran, they would be able to replace him with a young player like Mookie Betts. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Being traded from the Red Sox to the Athletics helped reduce the amount of speculation surrounding Jon Lester as he approached free agency, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. “Everybody knows it’s two months and then probably not sign a contract with the Oakland A’s. We’re going to go our separate ways and go into free agency,” Lester says. In Boston, Lester faced months of questions about his impending free agency and whether he would re-sign with the Red Sox, but there are no such questions with Oakland. Now he’s about to enter free agency as one of the market’s top pitchers — MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently rated Lester the second overall free agent, behind Max Scherzer.
- Jonathan Papelbon‘s age and contract give the Phillies reasons to try to trade him this offseason, but Papelbon says he would not mind staying in Philadelphia, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “I’ve said the perfect ending to this equation would be me on this team righting this ship and possibly closing out a World Series or getting in the playoffs and making a nice run and seeing what happens from there,” says Papelbon. “I think that would be a fairy tale ending if there is one.” Papelbon had previously said he wanted to play for a contender and was willing to waive his limited no-trade clause to do so.
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.