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Magic Johnson's candor about the Dodgers likely not pursuing Robinson Cano this offseason has led Major League Baseball to look into Johnson's comments, ESPN's Buster Olney reports. Officials on other teams aren't allowed to publicly discuss players who haven't officially become free agents yet, especially in cases where a player's market value could be affected. General managers around the league told Olney that "their comments were watched more closely over the last year than in any time in recent memory," so Johnson could face some type of penalty for his remarks.
Here are some news items as we end another exciting day of four playoff games…
- Joe Girardi "apparently remains torn" if he's going to accept the Yankees' extension offer or explore other manager jobs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The Yankees "have made it clear" that they could pull back their offer if Girardi talks to other clubs, something he's not allowed to do until the end of the month since the Yankees aren't granting other teams permission to negotiate with their manager. One such team, the Cubs, expect to learn by tomorrow if Girardi is staying in New York, a source tells Wittenmyer.
- The Pirates want to keep Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez over the long term, team president Frank Coonelly tells MLB.com's Tom Singer. Coonelly also discusses the Francisco Liriano signing, the farm system and other topics during the interview.
- "It wouldn't be shocking" if the Reds traded Homer Bailey to create some payroll space, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon opines. Bailey earned $5.3MM last season and MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects that he could earn $9.3MM in arbitration. Though Bailey has been one of the Reds' best pitchers over the last two years, he "has shown little interest in signing" a multiyear deal with the team, Sheldon writes, so the Reds could move him now before possibly losing him in free agency after next season.
- Major League Baseball has filed a motion requesting that Alex Rodriguez's lawsuit against the league be moved to a federal court, and if the move is granted, MLB will likely file a motion to dismiss the suit, Newsday's Steven Marcus reports.
- The Indians have a number of things to do before Opening Day 2014, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Hoynes' list includes adding an impact bat, adding at least one quality starter, bolstering the relief corps and locking up Justin Masterson to a long-term deal.
- It once seemed unusual, but now its the norm for playoff teams to turn to inexperienced pre-arbitration eligible players, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. Among the 24 pre-arb hurlers in this year's postseason are Michael Wacha, Jarrod Parker and Alex Cobb, all of whom started today for their respective teams.
MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post
The Yankees have made a substantial offer to keep manager Joe Girardi, Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reports. A source tells Marchand that Girardi could think about the offer through the weekend. "We are going to give him a real good reason to stay," says GM Brian Cashman. Rumors have connected Girardi to the Cubs' managerial job, which might be a possibility if he chooses to leave. The Nationals and Reds also have managerial openings that Girardi might find attractive. Girardi is currently under contract with the Yankees through the end of October. Here are more notes from the AL East.
- Last offseason, the Red Sox and Royals discussed a possible trade involving Jon Lester and Wil Myers, Lester tells WEEI.com's Alex Speier. "[Royals manager Ned Yost] is actually a pretty good friend of mine. I flat-out called him one day and was like, 'Hey, what do you got on this?' He said, ‘Yeah, we’re trying to make it work,'" Lester says. One reason the trade ultimately didn't happen is that the Royals finally traded Myers and three other players to the Rays, the Red Sox's current ALDS opponent, for a package headlined by James Shields.
- One assistant GM proposes that the Rays could trade David Price to the Dodgers for Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias and Chris Withrow, Peter Gammons writes. That would give the Rays two very good hitting prospects in Seager and Pederson, a very young arm in Urias, and a big-league reliever in Withrow. MLB.com ranks Pederson and Seager the top two prospects in the Dodgers system, with Urias at No. 4.
- The Blue Jays are "sure" to pick up their $4MM option on closer Casey Janssen, writes Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca. Janssen is coming off a strong season, so the decision would seem to be an easy one. Davidi notes that Janssen would likely make twice as much on the open market, and win a multi-year deal to boot.
As regular season finales are being played out across MLB today, rumors have already started to swirl about the fate of several managers. Here's the latest news and notes on that front:
- Joe Girardi met with reporters today (Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger provides a partial transcript) and admitted he has yet to make up his mind about returning to the Yankees next season. "It comes down to family. They are first," said Girardi. "Whatever is best for the group of us, not one individual, not me or just my wife, or just one of my children, whatever is best for us as a group, that’s what we’ll decide to do. And that’s something I put some thought into, and I’m going to have to think about a lot over the next few days, obviously." Girardi added money will not play a factor in his decision.
- Many have speculated Girardi could be the next Cubs manager, if Dale Sveum is fired. Girardi, however, downplayed the connection to his hometown. "I haven’t lived there since 2006. I have a brother still there, a couple brothers there, actually. But my father’s gone. My mother’s gone. So there’s not as much there as there used to be."
- Davey Johnson told reporters, including MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko, he will not manage in 2014. "I wouldn't know the talent level, wouldn't know the organization," Johnson said. "I wouldn't be a good fit. I never say 'Never' to anything. I'm always open for new challenges. But I don't see that as being a challenge that would get my motor really revved up."
- Mike Scioscia told reporters, including Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, he has not been informed whether he will return as Angels manager. "I'm sure that at some point they're going to let us know," said Scioscia. "It's not an issue. It really isn't. It's going to be addressed at some point. I'm sure it's going to be addressed before February."
- Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com expects the Twins to sign Ron Gardenhire to a two-year contract and presumes a decision on his fate will be made either tonight or tomorrow (Twitter links).
- If not retained by the Twins, Gardenhire could be a possibility to replace Eric Wedge in Seattle, tweets FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. In a separate tweet, Rosenthal reports the Mariners will also consider Reds pitching coach Bryan Price and former White Sox bench coach Joey Cora, who played in Seattle from 1995 to 1998.
- The Mets have issued a press release announcing an 11am (CT) news conference tomorrow featuring GM Sandy Alderson. It is expected the topic will be a new deal for manager Terry Collins. People with direct knowledge of the negotiations tell Andy Martino of the New York Daily News the contract is for two years and about $2MM, with a club option for 2016.
Inspired by the O.co Coliseum's sewage problems, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports introduced the "Toilet Scale" to rate some postseason contenders "based on just how badly they're flushing their season." Within the colorful piece, Passan also shared a few hot stove rumors…
- Marlins team president David Samson, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and GM Michael Hill could all be fired in the club's latest shakeup. Assistant GM Dan Jennings would take over as Miami's new general manager, and sources tell Passan that Jennings already has permission to begin assembling a staff. Beinfest has been rumored to be danger, though Samson's job was previously thought to be safe. As Passan notes, however, owner Jeffrey Loria was prepared to fire Beinfest and Hill last year before changing his mind. Given how much influence Loria has over the team's decisions, "Who the hell would want to work there?" one Passan source rhetorically asked.
- The Rangers front office was "pressured by ownership" into making the midseason deal for Matt Garza that hasn't worked out for the club. Garza has a 4.56 ERA in 12 starts for Texas and can depart as a free agent this winter without any compensation coming back to the Rangers in return. Of the prospects Texas sent to the Cubs in the Garza deal, "evaluators absolutely love" right-hander C.J. Edwards, who just recently turned 22 years old and posted a 1.86 ERA over 24 starts at both levels of A-ball this season.
- It's been a tumultuous season for Joe Girardi, who Passan praises for keeping the Yankees in contention despite multiple major injuries, declining veterans and the Alex Rodriguez controversy. This is the final year of Girardi's contract with the Yankees and one executive suggested to Passan that Girardi could find a lot less stress managing elsewhere in 2014. We heard over the weekend that one Yankees official pegs Girardi's chances of staying in the Bronx at 70 percent.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner commented on contract talks with second baseman Robinson Cano to David Lennon of Newsday on his way out of the MLB owners meetings today in Manhattan, saying, "We've had several conversations with [agent] Brodie [Van Wagenen], just as we did with [former agent] Scott [Boras] and a lot of it is procedural. But we're going to continue in the weeks to come to work through things and try to come to an agreement." Steinbrenner later added, "We want him to end his career here." Cano has sat atop our 2014 Free Agents Power Rankings since the beginning. More on the Yankees:
- Can a team with a $228MM payroll earn the designation "scrappy?" Steinbrenner used that adjective, expressing admiration for the Yankees' young players and cheap veterans that have allowed them to successfully weather injuries to key players so far. As for getting below the $189MM luxury tax threshold next year, Steinbrenner said, "The math works to me if the young kids do their job. It has to happen. And I've been saying that for over a year now — that's the goal we're going to push for. But again, I'll reiterate what I always reiterate, which is we're always going to field a championship-caliber team. That's what the fans expect. That's what we expect. It's going to happen. Not going to win every year. Nobody ever does. But we're going to do what we can to field the best team we can."
- "We're going to sit down and figure out what to do when this season ends, hopefully the beginning of November," said Steinbrenner in regard to manager Joe Girardi and his expiring contract.
- Yankees outfielder Brennan Boesch says he left his agent, Scott Boras, and returned to his old agent, Van Wagenen of CAA, according to David Waldstein of the New York Times on May 1st. Boesch will be arbitration eligible for the first time after this season and can hit the open market after the 2015 season. Stay on top of the representation for over 1,000 players with MLBTR's agency database.
- "He’s a good guy and I think he can be a really good player, too. He’ll be back. I just wanted to let him know that it’s up to him," Yankees infielder Jayson Nix told Waldstein, recounting a conversation with the recently-designated Chris Nelson.
- The shift from center to left field shouldn't damage Curtis Granderson's free agent value much, opined multiple executives in speaking with Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Granderson isn't concerned, saying, "Not an issue for me at all. Just want to help this team in any way I can. If they need me to go back to shortstop like I did in high school, I’ll do that."
Yankees co-owner Hal Steinbrenner talked to reporters (including Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal) about a number of topics related to the club. Here are some of the hot stove-related items….
- The Yankees haven't had any "real significant dialogue" with Robinson Cano and agent Scott Boras about a contract extension. Cano is a free agent next winter and said last month that he won't give the Yankees a "hometown discount" on a new deal.
- There also doesn't appear to have been any talks between the Yankees and manager Joe Girardi about a new contract. Girardi is heading into the last year of his three-year deal with New York. The Yankees' reluctance to discuss contracts before they expire is well-known, as Steinbrenner explains that he is "not a big believer in extensions," though "there are exceptions to every rule."
- The team's quest to get under the $189MM payroll limit by 2014 to avoid a major luxury tax payment isn't just a short-term goal, but rather about "being fiscally responsible" in general. "I believe that you don’t have to have a $220 million payroll to win a world championship, and you shouldn’t have to," Steinbrenner said.
- That said, Steinbrenner also left some room that the team's payroll could grow next year if the Yankees' young players don't perform as expected: "All I can continue to tell everyone is our commitment to the fans is never going to change. We will always field a championship-caliber team. Is our goal 189 [million] next year? Yes. But only if I’m convinced that the team I see we put together is a championship-caliber team."
- Steinbrenner is pleased with the team's offseason, noting that Andy Pettitte, Ichiro Suzuki, Hiroki Kuroda were all re-signed and Kevin Youkilis was brought into the fold. New York isn't done its winter shopping, as Steinbrenner said the Yankees "need another bat." The Yankees have recently been linked to free agent outfielder Scott Hairston and Nationals first baseman Michael Morse.
Yankees president Randy Levine addressed the team’s age, injuries, leadership and prospective free agents in a comprehensive interview with Barry Bloom of MLB.com. Here are some more highlights from his interview with Bloom:
- The Yankees aim to avoid the $189MM luxury tax threshold by 2014, Levine confirmed. “There are tremendous financial incentives to do it,” he said. “In addition to not paying the tax, there are tens of millions of dollars in revenue sharing rebates that will come back to teams like the Yankees if they stay under the threshold.”
- The Yankees must get younger to continue competing, Levine said. Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement places additional importance on player development and changes to the CBA could also lead to a “very different free-agent market,” Levine said.
- Joe Girardi and his staff have done a “good job,” Levine said. He declined to discuss Girardi’s long-term future with the team, saying only that discussions would take place at the appropriate time.
- Levine expressed confidence in general manager Brian Cashman and the team’s other front office executives. “I think everybody is great.”
- The Yankees are doing “very, very well” from a business standpoint, Levine said. He made it clear that the Steinbrenner family has no intention of selling the club, but said the Dodgers’ sale price of $2 billion “gives us something to smile about.”
- The Yankees would “love to have” Mariano Rivera come back in 2013, Levine said. “If he wants to come back, we'll welcome him back.”
- The Yankees want Rafael Soriano in New York and believe he has done a tremendous job. The closer is expected to opt out of his contract with the Yankees after the season and elect free agency.
- The Yankees will talk to Andy Pettitte this offseason if the left-hander is interested in returning for another year.
- Ichiro Suzuki “has done a good job” in New York, Levine said. As of now, however, the team is focused on 2012, not Ichiro’s next contract.
- Levine acknowledged that he’s concerned about injuries, saying the frequency of disabled list stints is “troubling.”
Division leaders and their rivals are squaring off today in both the AL and NL East. With the Yankees looking to pad their four-game lead over the Rays in their rubber match and the Braves looking to pull within 5.5 games of the front-running Nationals with a sweep, here are the notes, quotes, and song lyrics from the East:
- GM Brian Cashman reiterated Joe Girardi will manage the Yankees next year, according to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. Cashman was specifically asked, if in his mind, Girardi will be the manager regardless of what happens. "Yup," was Cashman's reply.
- The Nationals aren't letting the Stephen Strasburg controversy and the recent skid in Atlanta dampen their enthusiasm, according to the Washington Post's James Wagner. Mark DeRosa is the most vital presence in keeping the clubhouse loose with Wagner calling him part team dad and part team comedian.
- The Nationals' season is of historic proportions, writes Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. With 1933 the last time a Washington franchise won a league title and the District of Columbia having seen two versions of the Senators come and go in the interim, Svrluga also gives a lesson in how to calculate magic numbers for those who might have already perfected the math behind RGIII's QB rating.
- In addition to trying to make the playoffs, September is also about playing for awards and new contracts for the Rays, opines Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
- Jason Bay told Pat Borzi of the New York Times that he doesn't believe the effects of two concussions are the cause of his disappointing season. Manager Terry Collins hinted that was the case before the Mets' series in Milwaukee. Bay responded, "Terry’s asked me that, and I have nothing to quantify that with. How do you know? I don’t feel like it has. A lot of people look for a lot of reasons as to why things may or may not have come down as they historically have. Albeit that’s a viable scenario, but I can’t tell you from one day to the next how it felt. Those things did occur, but if I knew the answer, I would have fixed it by now.”
- There is no easy fix for the Red Sox as they begin the long task of rebuilding their roster, writes the Boston Herald's John Tomase who provided a critique of the franchise from ownership to the farm system.
- It has been a surprising year for Bobby Valentine and Buck Showalter, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. No one could have predicted, even himself Sherman admits, the seasons the two managers have experienced.
- In a separate article, Sherman believes starting pitching will determine the Yankees' post-season fate.
- GM Alex Anthopoulos confirmed to reporters the Blue Jays are exploring moving their Triple-A club to Buffalo from Las Vegas, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. This would, in effect, bump the Mets, currently affiliated with Buffalo, to Las Vegas.
- Rays' manager Joe Maddon summed up his team's offensive problems by turning to song, reports the Tampa Bay Times' Topkin. "Again, we've sang this song," Maddon said. "I'm sure we could make a nice country and western song out of this whole thing. Between your dog and your pickup, we came up short again. We came up short agin." Unfortunately, Maddon will not be eligible in the songwriting category at the Country Music Awards tomorrow night.
The Yankees enter play today with a one-game lead over the Orioles and four games over the Rays. And, it's a good thing this isn't your father's Yankees, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. If George Steinbrenner was alive today, Rosenthal believes he might have fired manager Joe Girardi after blowing a ten-game lead in the AL East and replaced him with the likes of Lou Piniella. Hal Steinbrenner is almost the polar opposite of his father. So much so that, when Rosenthal asked Brian Cashman of the potential fallout that might occur if the team fails to reach the playoffs, the Yankees' GM said, "We have objective, patient ownership." Also from Rosenthal's column:
- The new schedule hasn't been a cure-all for small market teams like the Rays. Rosenthal suggests one way to mitigate the Rays’ disadvantage would be to scale revenue sharing so they would receive a greater percentage than a low-revenue club such as the Indians, who compete in a division with lower payrolls.
- A criticism of the new playoff system is Wild Card teams who have better records than division winners are penalized in the seeding of the Division Series. Rosenthal's solution is to wait until after the Wild Card game to seed the Division Series.
- The AL CY Young Award voting will be a test of how accepted advanced statistics are by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rosenthal points out the last eight AL pitchers to either lead or tie for the lead in those categories, like the Rays' David Price this year, each have won the award. The Tigers' Justin Verlander meanwhile leads in wins above replacement and Chris Sale of the White Sox leads in ERA+. Price is tops, however, in quality of opponents faced, based on the rankings of Vince Gennaro, president of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
- Larry Bowa's interview for the Astros' managerial vacancy is a good sign, as rival executives have worried that GM Jeff Luhnow is surrounding himself with too many like-minded sabermetric types rather than building a diverse baseball operations department.
- The Marlins may have difficulty in sticking with their plan to keep Emilio Bonifacio in center field, play Donovan Solano at second, and make the acquisition of a third baseman their top priority. Rosenthal points out the market for third basemen is bare, so one alternative for the Marlins is to acquire an outfielder and move Bonifacio back to third base.
- Look for the Rays to exercise their $2.5MM option on Fernando Rodney. Rodney is bidding to become only the second reliever in history (Dennis Eckersley in 1990) to have a season of 40 or more saves and an ERA under 1.00. Rodney leads baseball with 43 saves and his ERA is 0.66.
- The Cubs will look again this offseason to move Alfonso Soriano, who is one home run and one RBI shy of his first 30-homer, 100-RBI season since 2005. If the Cubs fail to receive a sufficient offer, they could always bring back Soriano, owed $36MM over the next two years, and try to move him at the deadline again. Rosenthal cited the example of Carlos Lee of how it is easier to deal an overpriced player the closer he gets to the end of his contract.
The Astros are the only team currently looking for a manager, but within a few weeks there’s a good chance other MLB teams will be in the market for managers of their own. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports lists those who could be managing for their jobs between now and the end of the regular season. Here are the highlights…
- Joe Girardi of the Yankees is a good manager who doesn’t deserve to be fired, Rosenthal writes. However, Girardi’s job security will be in question if the Yankees don’t win the AL East.
- It’d be reasonable to ask if Jim Leyland got enough out of the Tigers roster if Detroit misses the postseason. The Tigers could decide it’s time for a change after seven seasons under Leyland, Rosenthal writes.
- Though Mike Scioscia is under contract through 2018, Angels owner Arte Moreno would be disappointed to miss the playoffs after an offseason of aggressive moves.
- The Dodgers will likely pursue a contract extension with manager Don Mattingly no matter how their season ends, Rosenthal reports.
- Bobby Valentine won’t be back in Boston. If the Red Sox can’t pry John Farrell away from the Blue Jays, they’ll have to look elsewhere for a replacement.
- Some Marlins people believe their season started deteriorating when Guillen spoke publicly about Fidel Castro in April. However, it appears more likely the Marlins will re-structure their front office than fire Guillen.
- Rosenthal suggests Terry Francona could be a fit in Cleveland if the Indians dismiss Manny Acta following their disappointing second half. Francona will likely have options elsewhere and he might be prohibitively expensive for Cleveland.
- Fredi Gonzalez probably won’t have to worry about his job security as long as the Braves make the playoffs.