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Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe examines Dan Duquette’s unusual journey to becoming the Orioles‘ GM. A Boston-area native, Duquette realized his dream at 36 years of age when he was named GM of the Red Sox, but that came to an abrupt end in 2002 when he was dismissed by new owners, only to see the Sox — anchored by a number of players he drafted or acquired — win the World Series two years later. Duquette spent 10 years away from the game, coaching his kids’ teams, founding a league in Isarael and running a college summer team, Abraham notes. Duquette revealed to Abraham that he was offered multiple jobs that he turned down — including a position with the Braves and an adviser role with the Red Sox — because he believed he’d get another crack at a GM role. Duquette feels the time away has made him friendlier and put things into perspective; his cousin, Jim Duquette (an analyst for MLB Network), says there are distinct differences between how Dan was with the Red Sox and how he is with the O’s. He isn’t bothered as much by “little things” and is less guarded. “Baltimore isn’t Boston. It isn’t New York. That aspect has been good for him. He doesn’t take himself so seriously,” said Jim.
More from the AL East…
- Mike Napoli has dealt with injuries to his finger, back and toe, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, but despite all of those issues he’ll be undergoing surgery for a different procedure on Nov. 4 . Napoli will undergo Bimaxillary Advancement surgery in an attempt to end a career-long battle with sleep apnea. “I’ve tried numerous things and none of them worked,” Napoli told Bradford via text. “Dental mouth piece, CPAP machine, medicines … It’s just gotten to the point where I have to get this done.”
- The Yankees have had serious dialogue about hiring Padres senior VP of baseball operations and former Mets GM Omar Minaya, multiple sources tell Newsday’s Erik Boland. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that the team would be interested in Minaya in a scouting or advisory role — not as a replacement for farm director Mark Newman. As Boland notes, GM Brian Cashman has brought former GMs into the fold before, hiring Kevin Towers as a special assignment scout in 2009 and hiring Jim Hendry to fill the same role since 2012.
- Recently fired Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long is generating quite a bit of interest from other clubs, reports Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter links). To this point, Long has already spoken with the Mets, Braves and Blue Jays, including a meeting with Mets GM Sandy Alderson. The D’Backs, Brewers and Pirates are all possibilities as well, per Feinsand.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that Jake Peavy has gone from a likely minimal contract in free agency to a possible three-year deal. The Giants are interested in re-signing him because they need him, and manager Bruce Bochy has gotten great work out of him. For his part, the 33-year-old appears to enjoy being back with Bochy, his manager during his glory years in San Diego. Here’s more from today’s column..
- A major league source tells Cafardo that Victor Martinez‘s preference is to stay with the Tigers and, therefore, Detroit will get the first crack at him. The interest is mutual and the Tigers would like to get something done sooner rather than later.
- If A’s GM Billy Beane listens to offers on Jeff Samardzija this offseason, you can count the Red Sox as one of the possible interested parties. The Sox inquired with the Cubs about him before the trade deadline, and they would not give up a package that included lefthanded pitching prospect Henry Owens.
- Orioles outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz enjoys Baltimore and wants to stay, but Cafardo expects the Yankees, Rangers, and Mariners to be in on the bidding. No matter what, the 34-year-old looks like he’ll make a bundle somewhere on a three- or four-year deal.
- First baseman Adam LaRoche likely won’t re-signed by the Nationals, who could move Ryan Zimmerman to first base. However, LaRoche lines up nicely as a target for the Brewers, who have toyed with the idea of Ryan Braun moving to first but will likely keep him in the outfield. He could draw interest from the Orioles if they lose Cruz.
- While there’s intrigue over Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, there’s still some pushback from scouts who have seen him play on whether he can translate well to MLB. Some are worried about the pronounced leg kick in his stance that lasts deep into his swing. There also has always been skepticism over his defensive ability, even though he won the Korean version of the Gold Glove.
Several executives around baseball are starting to think James Shields will receive some five-year offers in free agency this winter, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. This would be a sizable commitment in a pitcher who will be 33 years old on Opening Day, and since the Red Sox don’t like guaranteeing that many years to pitchers in their 30’s, the team could offer Shields a four-year deal with a higher ($20MM) average annual value. If this isn’t enough to land Shields, however, Lauber feels by that point the Sox should just increase their offer to Jon Lester.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- In a radio interview on The Jeff Blair Show (Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith has the audio link and partial transcript) Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said the team had had “some conversations” with Melky Cabrera about a new contract though seemingly little progress has been made. “Clearly both sides right now can’t seem to get together for various reasons,” Anthopoulos said. “I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to assume that there hasn’t been dialogue. I wouldn’t assume that there haven’t been proposals exchanged.”
- Beyond just on-the-field upgrades, the Blue Jays also need to re-establish trust between the clubhouse and upper management, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi opines. Some Jays players were openly upset with the front office’s lack of major spending or acquisitions over the last year, and while Davidi doesn’t cite this lack of trust as the key reason why the Jays missed the playoffs, it obviously helps to have everyone in the organization on the same page.
- The Orioles‘ success over the last three seasons wouldn’t have been possible without former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes. While MacPhail’s departure following the 2011 season coincided with Baltimore’s return to contention, manager Buck Showalter and several of the O’s best players joined the organization on MacPhail’s watch.
- J.J. Hardy‘s extension with the Orioles only enhances Xander Bogaerts‘ value to the Red Sox, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. A young, controllable star at shortstop who can contribute both offensive and defensively is a major commodity, though Bogaerts obviously still work to do to establish himself on that level. “How much of a step forward Bogaerts can take at shortstop will have quite a bit to do with how much of a step forward the Red Sox can take in the American League East,” MacPherson writes.
- In other AL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, I collected a set of Yankees Notes and Jeff Todd featured Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus in a Free Agent Profile.
Dayton Moore is currently enjoying his first trip to the playoffs as the general manager of the Royals, but as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes, he was almost in a position to get there as Boston’s GM some nine years ago. Bradford spoke with president Larry Lucchino, who recalls that at the behest of then-special assistant Bill Lajoie, the team interviewed Moore back in 2005 when Theo Epstein was on a hiatus with the team due to a power dispute with ownership. “[Moore] seemed like a precise kind of guy, and you add that to his reputation as an evaluator, you see someone who is going to almost inevitably be a GM,” said Lucchino, who also noted that he’s pleased to see Moore succeeding, as it validates the interest they showed in him nearly a decade ago.
Some additional Red Sox links as we get ready for the weekend…
- Mookie Betts has seen his stock rise to the point where he is one of the most desirable trade targets in all of Major League Baseball, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. Betts hit .291/.368/.444 in 213 plate appearances this season, walking 21 times against just 31 strikeouts. Britton did some research and found that only a select few — and it’s an impressive list — have ever posted an OPS+ north of 120 with a K/BB ratio south of 1.75 as a 21-year-old. Betts says he’s not worrying about trade speculation; he’ll be happy to play any position he’s asked on any team he’s a part of, though he’s of course planning to help the Red Sox in 2015.
- In a second piece, Bradford runs down some prospects for Boston’s vacancy at hitting coach, reporting that the names he hears most frequently are A’s hitting coach Chili Davis, former Cubs hitting coach Bill Mueller and Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan (who previously filled the same role for Boston). Assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, who developed a strong rapport with Yoenis Cespedes, is another candidate. Magadan and Davis are still under contract with their teams, but Oakland’s offensive collapse created some frustration with him, and the Rangers are hiring a new manager, making Magadan’s future less than certain.
- The team isn’t expecting big changes to the coaching staff, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. Abraham does note that if Rodriguez isn’t chosen as the hitting coach, Boston may choose to pursue a new assistant hitting coach, as they’d like a rapport and shared philosophy between the new coach and his assistant. If a new assistant is hired, Rodriguez would be moved to another role in the organization.
- Though the Red Sox finished with one of the lowest run totals in the AL, general manager Ben Cherington isn’t planning on deviating from the team’s offensive philosophy of prioritizing hitters who see lots of pitches and post high OBPs, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Cherington recognized that his team got away from that plate discipline in 2012, MacPherson writes, and prioritized correcting it in 2013. However, though the same formula didn’t work in 2014, Cherington cautioned that he wouldn’t overreact: “We have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If we can see pitches and grind at-bats and get on base and still hit for power and hit with runners in scoring position, that’s a formula to score runs, and more runs than our competition.”
In a lengthy and interesting piece, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times looks at the potentially fractured relationship between the Mariners and Michael Saunders following some comments made by GM Jack Zduriencik at an end-of-season press conference. Asked at the time what he felt about Saunders’ future with the team, Zduriencik said, “…It’s up to Michael. … He was playing well, got hurt, came back, got sick, came back again and did some nice things. But I think what Michael has to do and has to answer this to himself, is ‘how do I prepare myself to play as many games through the course of 162 that I can possibly play without being setback by injury.’ … some of these things need to be handled from a maintenance standpoint where he put himself in a position where he’s able to compete through the course of the season.”
Divish spoke to Saunders himself, who declined to comment on the situation. Saunders’ agent, Michael McCann, said it was both “shocking” and “very disappointing.” Said McCann: “These comments don’t reflect Michael Saunders’ work habits. They imply that that he’s lackadaisical.” Part of the trouble, Divish writes, is that Saunders had never before had his work ethic or preparation questioned by the Mariners, and to have that done in a public forum was hurtful. Zduriencik clarified that the comments he made could be applied to any player, and he was adamant to Divish that the organization is not planning on moving on from Saunders. However, he has previously identified corner outfield as a potential area to add some offense. Divish speculates on an offseason trade, though he also notes that even if Saunders is pushed to the role of fourth outfielder, his low salary (he should earn less than $3MM via arbitration) would be an acceptable price for that role, especially given his upside. Over the past three seasons, the former top prospect has batted .248/.320/.423 with 39 homers and 38 steals. I should note that Divish’s entire piece is well worth the read, as this brief write-up doesn’t capture nearly all of the quotes and information he compiled.
Here’s more from baseball’s Western divisions…
- The Diamondbacks should give strong consideration to moving one of their young shortstops if it can bolster the rotation, writes the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro. The Snakes finished the season with Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed all on the roster, but no room to play all three of them with Aaron Hill being owed $24MM through 2016 and prospects Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury both looking like third base options in the near future. (Lamb already received a taste of the Majors in 2014.) The team seems to view Owings as the best of the bunch, given his greater offensive ceiling, but both Gregorius and Ahmed have value to other clubs. Piecoro spoke to rival executives about each shortstop, with one stating that while Gregorius might not bring back “a Matt Harvey or a Jacob deGrom,” he could be worth someone such as Rafael Montero of the Mets. Another evaluator told Piecoro that his club actually prefers Ahmed to Gregorius, so both could seemingly have good trade value.
- Though he’s been a popular managerial candidate this year, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo will not be interviewed by the D’Backs for their own managerial vacancy, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Lovullo interviewed with the Astros prior to their hiring of A.J. Hinch, he’s already interviewed with the Rangers and will reportedly interview with the Twins as well.
- Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune that they have “definitely expanded our international focus under [new GM] A.J. [Preller].” Lin examines whether or not that could mean a legitimate run at Yasmany Tomas, though as he notes, that would be an unprecedented move for the Friars. In fact, last season’s signing of Joaquin Benoit to a two-year, $15.5MM contract was the largest free agent expenditure in franchise history, Lin points out. The largest contract in franchise history, he adds, is Jake Peavy‘s old three-year, $52MM deal. Tomas could cost double that amount, but the Padres have just $40.5MM committed to next year’s payroll, and the $90MM Opening Day figure from 2014 could rise, ownership has said.
- After losing hitting coach John Mallee to the Cubs, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow spoke highly about Mallee’s work to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Drellich points out that Mallee deserves some credit for the success of Jose Altuve and Chris Carter in 2014, although skeptics could also point to the strikeout problems some of the other team’s young hitters had. Luhnow said he hopes to have a finalized coaching staff in place by month’s end, and as Drellich notes, only pitching coach Brent Strom is a guarantee to return at this point.
26-year-old Kenta Maeda of Japan’s Hiroshima Carp is expected to become available through the posting system, making him an intriguing potential addition to the upcoming free agent market. Ben Badler of Baseball America has a report on Maeda’s last outing in the Nippon League, writing that he “flash[ed] three average or better pitches with good fastball command.” Though slight in build, Maeda steadily worked in the 90-94 mph range. Ultimately, Badler indicates that, while the righty is not viewed as a top-of-the-rotation arm at the MLB level, he should draw plenty of interest if he is made available.
Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:
- The Yankees may be interested in re-signing mid-season acquisition Chase Headley, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. A move to bring back the third baseman would appear to be a strong indication that Alex Rodriguez is not expected to be an option there, Heyman explains.
- The Tigers thought they were going to acquire then-Red Sox lefty Andrew Miller at the trade deadline after meeting Boston’s asking price, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. But the Sox gave the Orioles one last chance, resulting in Eduardo Rodriguez heading north to a division rival. As Sherman notes, the eleven outs that Miller recorded in the ALDS for the O’s, rather than the Tigers, had an undeniable impact on Baltimore’s three-game sweep.
- Looking ahead to Miller’s free agency, one executive tells Sherman that three years and $21MM is probably just the starting point for the southpaw’s market. The ability to deploy Miller in the way that the Yankees used Dellin Betances in his breakout year — often throwing multiple innings in winnable games — greatly increases his value, says Sherman.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says “there’s nothing that’s really off the table” for the team as it enters the offseason, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Though he said he does not believe “this organization needs a philosophical overhaul as far as how we evaluate players,” Amaro said the team needs to get younger and more athletic while “looking for more long-term solutions” in the player market. Ultimately, the organization could put added emphasis on “speed and contact” given the lack of power bats available.
The Red Sox got an early start on their rebuilding for 2015, and their offseason efforts will focus on sorting through their outfield surplus and adding arms to both the rotation and the bullpen.
- Dustin Pedroia, 2B: $96.5MM through 2021
- Rusney Castillo, OF: $67MM through 2020 (Castillo can opt out after 2019 season)
- Allen Craig, OF/1B: $25.5MM through 2017 ($13MM club option for 2018)
- David Ortiz, 1B: $16MM through 2015 (club/vesting options for 2016 and 2017 worth at least $10MM)
- Mike Napoli, 1B: $16MM through 2015
- Shane Victorino, OF: $13MM through 2015
- Clay Buchholz, RHP: $12MM through 2015 ($13MM club option for 2016; $13.5MM club option for 2017)
- Yoenis Cespedes, OF: $10.5MM through 2015
- Edward Mujica, RHP: $4.75MM through 2015
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)
- Junichi Tazawa, RHP (4.086): $2MM
- Daniel Nava, OF/1B (3.044): $1.9MM
- Jonathan Herrera, 2B/3B (4.100): $1.4MM
- Non-tender candidates: Herrera
- Craig Breslow, LHP: $4MM club option with $100K buyout
Other Payroll Obligations
- $3.9MM to Dodgers, as part of nine-player trade in August 2012
With a sub-.500 record and virtually no hope of a late-season run, the Red Sox decided to become July deadline sellers. Most teams usually trade established players for prospects at the deadline, and the Sox didn’t shy away from this strategy themselves, adding young arms Edwin Escobar, Heath Hembree and Eduardo Rodriguez in separate deals for Jake Peavy and Andrew Miller, respectively. Boston’s biggest moves, however, saw the team pick up pieces who can help them in 2015 — Yoenis Cespedes came from Oakland in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, while the deal of John Lackey to St. Louis brought back Joe Kelly and Allen Craig. It was a nice return on two pending free agents (Lester and Peavy) and Lackey, who was contracted through 2015.
Kelly, who is controllable through the 2018 season, pitched decently in 10 starts after the trade and will join Clay Buchholz as the only locks for the 2015 rotation. The Sox will hope that at least one of their young starters (Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman or Anthony Ranaudo) can win a rotation spot and provide solid innings next year, though given how this quartet struggled last season, Boston isn’t counting on anything. Other prospects like Rodriguez, Henry Owens or Matt Barnes could be in the mix as well with a big Spring Training.
It remains to be seen if the Red Sox will pursue two new starters to fill the other two rotation spots, or if they’ll rely on internal options for one spot and then go for an ace. It seems likely the Sox will bid on Kenta Maeda if the Japanese right-hander is posted, so he could account for one slot. If the Red Sox look for a more proven ace, the biggest names on the free agent market are Max Scherzer, James Shields and ex-Boston playoff hero Lester; all will command big salaries, but team chairman Tom Werner recently said that the Sox are more than able to spend this offseason.
It still seems remarkable that Lester and the Sox couldn’t negotiate an extension, given that both sides were eager to work something out and Lester even indicated last January that he’d be open to taking a discount to remain in Boston. He didn’t quite mean a discount in the form of a four-year, $70MM contract akin to the initial offer made the Sox during offseason negotiations, and it seems talks never quite recovered from that below-market offer. It’s very possible that $70MM won’t even end up being half of what Lester receives in free agency.
While Lester could still re-sign with the Red Sox, it’s almost unheard of for a top-tier free agent to be dealt by his team at midseason and then rejoin them in the offseason. Second of all, Boston’s uneasiness about guaranteeing long-term deals to pitchers in their 30s informed their initial offer to Lester in the first place, so it would be odd to see them reverse course now that they’re competing against others for Lester’s services.
One possible alternative could be Shields, who will be 33 years old on Opening Day (two years older than Lester) but more of a fit for the Sox since he could be open to a four-year deal, whereas Lester would want a six- or seven-year commitment. The Red Sox have been scouting Shields already and seem like one of many teams who will be in the mix for “Big Game James.” With a top-ten (seventh overall) protected pick in the 2015 draft, Boston will be free to pursue qualifying offer free agents while still hanging onto their first-rounder. (They would still, of course, need to forfeit their second-round selection.)
There’s also the possibility that the Sox could trade for an ace and move some of their prospect depth. The Red Sox still have one of baseball’s most well-regarded farm systems, though the club will be a lot more careful about giving their prospects everyday roles in 2015. Boston went into last season counting on Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley and Will Middlebrooks to step up as lineup regulars, and yet all three badly struggled at the plate, with Bradley and Middlebrooks losing their everyday jobs by season’s end.
Middlebrooks in particular could be on the outs given that he declined to play winter ball, leading to some “disappointment” within the organization according to team president Larry Lucchino. Whether Middlebrooks stays or goes, the Sox will be looking for a left-handed hitting third baseman (as Lucchino noted), and Brock Holt could be an internal fit, though he’s a middle infielder by trade. The team could afford to use the versatile Holt mostly at third (or in a platoon with Middlebrooks) as Mookie Betts could take over the utility role.
For external options, a top-tier free agent third baseman like Pablo Sandoval would be a huge upgrade, or the Sox could pursue a trade for someone like the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez, as the Boston Herald’s John Tomase recently speculated. I’d also toss the Cubs’ Luis Valbuena into the mix as a trade candidate; Valbuena is coming off a quietly impressive season and has two years of control left, though he doesn’t have a long-term spot in Chicago thanks to all of the Cubs’ blue chip infield prospects.
Boston will be looking for left-handed bats in general, as improved lineup balance is a stated winter goal of GM Ben Cherington. David Ortiz is the only left-handed hitter in an everyday role for the projected 2015 lineup, as Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez and all the outfielders (save Bradley and switch-hitting Daniel Nava) swing from the right side. A new lefty bat could be slotted at third base, or in a platoon with Vazquez, or the Sox could explore trading two of their right-handed hitting outfielders for one left-handed hitting outfielder.
However it breaks down, the Sox certainly have to do something to finalize their outfield alignment. The only outfielder seemingly guaranteed of a starting job next season is the one with the least Major League experience; Rusney Castillo posted an impressive .928 OPS in 40 PA in September, and Boston certainly expects him to see regular work given his seven-year, $72.5MM contract. Castillo’s best position is center field, however, so now Betts could be blocked in both center field and by Pedroia at his natural position of second base. There’s also Bradley, who entered the year as one of the game’s top prospects and delivered Glove Glove-caliber defense in center, despite looking completely overmatched swinging the bat.
With Castillo, Betts and Bradley in center, Cespedes and Nava in left, and Craig and Shane Victorino in right, at least one move is sorely needed to clear some room. The other issue is that several of these players could be hard to trade since they’re coming off down years — Bradley, Nava and Craig all struggled while Victorino spent most of the season on the DL. While Cespedes seems to be a great fit for Fenway Park, he isn’t yet sure if he wants to sign an extension in Boston, which could make him a trade candidate to be moved for pitching.
This is just my speculation, but Cincinnati and Philadelphia stand out as teams that could be natural trade partners for the Red Sox this winter. The Reds have a hole in left field and seem destined to trade at least one of four starting pitchers entering their walk years. Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos would provide a nice front-of-the-rotation boost for the Sox, though it’ll take more than prospects to acquire either pitcher (especially Cueto) since the Reds plan to contend in 2015. Cincinnati could ask for an experienced, controllable youngster like Bogaerts or Betts in any negotiation, along with perhaps another MLB-ready piece like Nava (who has the on-base skills that the Reds are looking for — at least against right-handers) and/or a young pitcher.
The Phillies, meanwhile, would go in the opposite direction and ask for multiple top prospects in exchange for Cole Hamels as they attempt to rebuild their farm system. Boston has the financial resources to pay the $96MM owed to Hamels through 2018 and they’d only be committed to Hamels through his age-34 season. It might take both fully absorbing Hamels’ contract and giving up a heavy prospect load to convince the Phils to make a trade, however, so the Sox might prefer to just spend on a free agent ace and keep their minor leaguers.
The bullpen also stands out as an area of great uncertainty for the Red Sox, starting with Koji Uehara‘s free agency. Up until mid-August, Uehara was pitching so well that there was talk of extending him a qualifying offer (a one-year deal in the $15MM range), yet those discussions vanished after Uehara posted an 11.74 ERA over his final 7 2/3 IP of the season. This doesn’t suddenly mean Uehara is finished, of course, as some regression was probably inevitable given the otherworldly numbers he posted in 2013 and in the first three-quarters of the 2014 season. The Sox still have an interest in re-signing Uehara, and it’ll be intriguing to see how his market develops as teams weigh his late struggles and age against his pre-August superstar numbers.
As for the rest of the bullpen, it’s possible the young starters that don’t make the rotation could be used in relief roles, which would shorten Boston’s offseason shopping list. Manager John Farrell would like to see free agent Burke Badenhop return, while Craig Breslow‘s $4MM team option seems likely to be bought out given his struggles in 2014. Veterans Junichi Tazawa and Edward Mujica are still in the fold and rookie knuckleballer Steven Wright pitched well in limited action. I’d expect the Red Sox to add at least one more experienced relief arm to the mix. If Uehara departs, that experienced arm could well be a closer, either in a trade or as a free agent signing.
Miller has openly discussed how much he and his wife enjoyed their time in Boston, so it’s quite possible the Red Sox could look to bring back the southpaw. His terrific season is only raising his price tag, though, and Boston may not want to pay the rumored rate of three years/$21MM for a setup man, even as one as dominant as Miller. One potential solution could be for the Sox to sign Miller and then use him as a closer; while he’s never served as a ninth-inning man before, Miller has the classic high-strikeout rate and power arm that traditionally fits the closer mold.
The 2012-14 Red Sox became the first franchise to ever go from last place to a World Series championship to last again over a three-season stretch. It’s been quite a roller coaster stretch for Boston fans, though they can take heart in the fact that recent history has shown their team could be back in contention very quickly. Cherington and company have a lot of work to do this winter in sorting through both the young and veteran options on the roster, but with at least $50MM (hat tip to WEEI.com’s Alex Speier) in available payroll space to work with this offseason, the Sox are willing to spend to enable another quick rise up the AL East standings.
A number of impressive postseason achievements have occurred on October 6th over the years, yet perhaps the most notable was Babe Ruth slugging three home runs in Game Four of the 1926 World Series. The Bambino’s huge day helped the Yankees to a win and (according to legend) fulfilled his promise that he would homer in honor of a hospitalized young fan on that day.
Could another incredible playoff moment take place tonight? While we wait for today’s NLDS Game 3 action, here are some notes from around the majors…
- The Cubs could be interested in outfielder Jonny Gomes, league sources tell ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers. The Cubs are known to be looking for both veteran leadership in the clubhouse and depth in the outfield, and Gomes could check both boxes as a platoon partner with Chris Coghlan.
- The Cardinals received some criticism when they signed Matt Holliday to a seven-year, $120MM free agent deal in January 2010, yet as MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby writes, both the team and the player are very happy with how everything worked out five years into the contract. Holliday has averaged .295/.383/.496 with 24 homers and 92 runs scored from 2010-14, and while he posted career lows in average (.272) and slugging (.441) this season, it could be argued that the deal has already been worth it for St. Louis.
- The Marlins are looking to add a starting pitcher this winter, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. A new arm plus the return of Jose Fernandez could lead to some rotation shuffling, and Frisaro cites Tom Koehler and Nathan Eovaldi as possible candidates to move to the bullpen. Also in the piece, Frisaro examines some other Miami position changes that could occur depending on how the Marlins’ offseason shopping plans develop.
- On paper, Yoenis Cespedes fits as a long-term power bat for the Red Sox, though Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald notes that Cespedes’ free-swinging, low-OBP style doesn’t fit into the Red Sox organizational philosophy of taking pitches and grinding down opposing pitchers. Silverman thinks Cespedes could potentially better help the Sox as a trade piece, perhaps as part of a major package to pry Giancarlo Stanton away from Miami.
- Hunter Strickland‘s rise from being an unheralded Red Sox draft pick to a flame-throwing postseason reliever for the Giants is chronicled by WEEI.com’s Alex Speier.
- Stephen Drew, Jed Lowrie, Jason Hammel, Rafael Soriano and Alfonso Soriano stand out as potential bargains on the free agent market, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post opines.
Previous experience is no longer the most important criterion for teams deciding on new managers, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. “There are managers who are in the postseason right now who didn’t have one game of experience as manager,” says Twins GM Terry Ryan. A number of recent hirees have had little or no previous managerial experience, including Mike Matheny of the Cardinals and Brad Ausmus of the Tigers. It sounds like the Twins might not prioritize experience in their search for a manager, either. The Twins have recently interviewed Paul Molitor and Doug Mientkiewicz, neither of whom have been big-league managers, although Mientkiewicz has managed in the minors. Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Red Sox might end up regretting trading John Lackey to the Cardinals, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. Lackey had an option for 2015 at the league minimum salary due to an elbow injury, and that made him very valuable. But Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, who the Red Sox received in return, have been disappointing, or at least questionable. Craig hit just .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances in Boston. Kelly had a respectable 4.11 ERA in 61 1/3 innings, but with 6.0 K/9 and a very high 4.7 BB/9.
- The Tigers, who were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, are now “expensive, star-laden and old,” Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Tigers have gone to the playoffs the last four seasons, but they’ve fallen short of a World Series victory each time, and now they have Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera signed to long and potentially onerous contracts.
The AL East champion Orioles are looking for their first playoff sweep since they eliminated the A’s in the 1971 ALCS as they face the Tigers in Game Three of their ALDS. The NL East champion Nationals, meanwhile, will look to avoid being swept by the Giants tomorrow in their NLDS.
Here’s the latest from baseball’s East divisions:
- Pablo Sandoval, with his personality and left-handed bat, would be a good fit for the Red Sox, opines the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Despite Sandoval’s weight issues and a declining OPS over the past four seasons, Cafardo hears the third baseman will command a five-year, $100MM pact with the Yankees and Dodgers joining Boston in the bidding.
- A.J. Burnett‘s decision whether to exercise his $12.75MM player option will dictate how the Phillies‘ offseason unfolds, according to CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman. If Burnett declines the option, the Phillies will have the financial flexibility required to make impactful free agent signings and begin the necessary roster overhaul, Seidman writes.
- The James Shields-Wil Myers trade between the Rays and Royals is still under evaluation, notes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. At this point, who “won” the trade depends on whom you ask.
- The Mets don’t need a spending spree to improve for 2015, posits Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Of course, it would be nice if they could spend the necessary money to sign free agent catcher Russell Martin, but there are cheaper ways they can upgrade their offense. One idea Sherman has is calling the Red Sox to inquire on a Bartolo Colon for Shane Victorino deal.
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