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The Diamondbacks more or less kicked off their offseason last week when they announced the hiring of Dave Stewart as general manager and De Jon Watson as vice president of baseball operations. That duo, along with chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, will be tasked with righting the ship for a team that lost an MLB-worst 98 games in 2014. Both Nick Piecoro and Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic have authored highly informative columns about how things will shake out this offseason after talking with that group. Here are some highlights from the Republic’s scribes, but each piece is full of lengthier quotes and is well worth reading in its entirety…
- It’s tough to get a read on Stewart at this point, Piecoro writes, as the new GM expressed a desire to add a front-of-the-rotation arm but expressed hesitancy toward the free agent market and toward the trade market. Stewart appears to be more conservative than predecessor Kevin Towers on the trade front, according to Piecoro, and as for free agency, both Stewart and Watson doubted the team would have the resources to pursue Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields.
- A trade of minor league talent to acquire an established pitcher doesn’t seem likely either, Piecoro writes. He quotes Stewart: “We’re going to try to maintain our minor-league system. We’ve got to start putting players back in our system. So the trade market, we’ll look at it if it makes sense, but it’s not likely.”
- La Russa tells Piecoro that when it comes to a manager, the team is looking for a candidate that can “lead and inspire.” Previous managerial experience sounded important to La Russa, who stated, “…when you start managing the game, the more that you’ve pulled the trigger as a manager somewhere, there is an art to that.” Asked specifically about recently dismissed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, La Russa said he is “sure” that Gardenhire’s name will come up during their search.
- La Russa also touched on payroll, though his answer when asked for a specific figure was nebulous; payroll could fall anywhere between $80-110MM, he stated, depending on whether or not there is value to be found, per Piecoro.
- Shifting to Buchanan’s piece, La Russa said that there may not be many changes to the team’s coaching staff beyond the firings of Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell. La Russa offered particularly high praise for first base coach Dave McKay, pitching coach Mike Harkey and bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. — the latter two of whom he feels handled Arizona’s slew of injuries well. Roving pitching instructor Dave Duncan, La Russa’s former pitching coach, will take on a bigger role in the organization but will not return to a coaching position.
- Buchanan spoke with Stewart on the team’s outfield situation. While Towers had expressed the desire to add an outfield bat, Stewart sounds much less inclined to do so. “I think that A.J. (Pollock) in center, (David) Peralta played well, (Mark) Trumbo will probably be in the outfield mix with (Paul) Goldschmidt being at first base and being healthy again,” the GM explained to Buchanan. “It’s a pretty solid outfield, in my opinion.” La Russa spoke on the outfield as well, adding praise for Ender Inciarte.
- The D’Backs have yet to address their desire to incorporate analytics into their front office, but Stewart again repeated that it is a priority for the team. “…We’ve got to go through the process of trying to get the right person in to take over that department for us,” he said.
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.
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.
While Red Sox chairman Tom Werner recently implied that the team is likely to do some significant spending on the free agent market this offseason, a source tells Alex Speier of WEEI.com that adding two top-tier pitchers isn’t in the club’s offseason blueprint. The team will likely pursue one ace-caliber pitcher, but the feeling within the organization is that there’s enough talent to fill out a championship-caliber rotation. Joe Kelly and Rubby De La Rosa appear to have spots penciled in, and Clay Buchholz has had a resurgence of late. Beyond those three, the Sox have Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez all in line to compete for rotation spots. It’s still believed that the team will pursue Jon Lester most aggressively, Speier writes, though he also spoke with Rays manager Joe Maddon about the Tampa skipper’s former right-hander, James Shields.
Here’s more on the 2013 World Series champs and their attempt to get out of the cellar in 2015…
- Webster, Workman and Ranaudo have failed to impress in extended looks at the Major League level this season, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. MacPherson has a hard time envisioning GM Ben Cherington heading into the 2015 campaign with two or three unproven arms in the rotation following the struggles that many of the team’s young prospects endured in 2014. Only De La Rosa has shownthe ability to be a piece of next year’s rotation, he concludes. MacPherson spoke with both manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves about the struggles that Boston’s young pitchers have endured thus far.
- In a second piece, Speier writes that Mookie Betts has gone “from blocked to building block,” noting that his versatility and upside may have led to him supplanting Xander Bogaerts as the club’s most untouchable asset in trades. Of course, Dustin Pedroia remains under contract at second base and the team has an enviable outfield logjam, so interest in Betts will likely be high, but Speier opines that Betts should be retained, as his versatility would allow the Red Sox to pursue upgrades at a number of positions in the future, knowing that Betts could be moved around the diamond and still thrive.
- Koji Uehara told reporters, including Speier’s colleague Rob Bradford, that the life on his splitter still isn’t there. As Bradford notes, Uehara has experienced a late-season downturn like this before, as he struggled greatly at an oddly similar juncture near the end of his tenure with the Rangers in 2011. The displaced closer adds that he’s not thinking about where he’ll play in 2015 or regaining the ninth inning, but rather trying to finish the season on a high note before “see[ing] what happens in free agency.”
The Marlins plan to offer Giancarlo Stanton a deal that would make him the highest-paid player in team history, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported back in August that Miami would try to lock up its 24-year-old star for the long term, though the team was not necessarily optimistic of reaching agreement. For his part, Stanton tells Nightengale that he is willing to hear offers, but still wants to see “some progression moving forward.” “It will be interesting to hear what they have to say when the time comes,” he said, “but right now, I’m not worrying about it. I mean, we’re still in this season. When this season is over, then we can start thinking about 2015.”
Here’s more from the National League:
- Mets third baseman David Wright will be shut down for the rest of the year but is not expected to require surgery on his left shoulder, Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reported (via Twitter) on in advance of a team announcement. The club says that Wright has experienced persistent inflammation in his left shoulder, which may go some way to explaining his uncharacteristically average .269/.324/.374 slash this year. The star 31-year-old is owed $107MM over 2015-2020.
- Ryan Braun of the Brewers has seen his ongoing thumb issues expand to become a broader problem with his right hand, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Though surgical options have been explored, it was determined that none seemed sure enough to warrant the risk. Since a hot start, Braun has seen his numbers dwindle and then fall off a cliff of late. He is still owed $12MM on an earlier extension next year before his five-year, $105MM pact kicks in starting in 2016.
- Left-handed starter Jon Lester makes sense as a free agent target for the Cubs, argues Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. He is young and sturdy enough to warrant a significant investment, says Rogers, though Chicago can also choose to forego an overpay given the number of solid arms that could be had on the open market in 2016.
The Red Sox have fewer wins than the Royals since the start of the 2012 season, but having losing years before and after a World Series victory has its advantages, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. They’re going to have a very valuable top draft pick next year (if the season ended today, they would pick in the top ten, just as they did in 2013) and a bigger international signing pool. Meanwhile, they retain the financial edge they have over other teams — they’re already reloading for 2015 with the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, along with the impending addition of Rusney Castillo, all of whom will have significant salaries going forward. Here are a couple more quick notes out of Boston.
- The Red Sox placed Mookie Betts, Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa on revocable waivers today, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets. All are valuable young players, so it’s a strong possibility they’ll be claimed, at which point the Red Sox will pull them back. It probably isn’t likely any of them will be traded.
- With Cespedes and Craig in the fold and Castillo soon to join, manager John Farrell says the Sox will hunt for pitching this offseason, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier tweets. Boston, of course, dealt Jon Lester and John Lackey at the trade deadline, although it remains possible that the Red Sox could re-sign Lester when he becomes a free agent this winter.
In an appearance on WAAF’s Hill-Man Morning Show, Jon Lester explained recent comments that he wouldn’t necessarily go to the highest bidder this offseason (via WEEI’s Rob Bradford). “…I don’t need to go to the highest bidder if that isn’t going to make me happy,” said Lester. “I’m not going to just take the highest bid, the money, the most years just because it’s in front of you. … I make decisions based on me and my family and is this place — whether it’s Boston or one of the other 29 teams – is this place going to be good for me and my family?” Lester did note that he could still end up signing the highest bidder, of course, but the happiness of his family will be the top priority. Lester also repeated that he doesn’t have any hard feelings toward the Red Sox, and he discussed his farewell to owner John Henry as well.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos appeared on Sportsnet 590 The Fan with Mike Wilner and Ben Ennis today, and Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith provides some of the highlights. Of particular note was the fact that Anthopoulos said top prospect Daniel Norris could be a factor out of the team’s bullpen in September if he continues to pitch well. The 21-year-old Norris has skyrocketed up prospect rankings this year on the heels of a 2.25 ERA with 11.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 108 innings across Class-A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A.
- Nicholson-Smith also writes that the Blue Jays have made several waiver claims this month, but none have resulted in the acquisition of a new player. The team isn’t expected to make a trade today, but it will need to clear a roster spot for the returning Edwin Encarnacion. Nicholson-Smith notes that the Jays are willing to cut ties with out-of-options players, and Anthopoulos has expressed some frustration with Juan Francisco‘s strikeout tendencies. However, he adds that the Blue Jays do value Francisco’s left-handed power.
- Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner isn’t committing to bringing back longtime general manager Brian Cashman in 2015, but the Yankee GM tells George A. King III of the New York Post that he’s not bothered by the situation. “That’s the process,” said Cashman, whose contract expires after the 2014 season. “There isn’t much to say at this point. That’s for another day.” Steinbrenner’s comments to King were of a similar nature, as he chose to focus on the season at hand rather than the future of his GM.
- Steinbrenner also says he’s had no recent conversations with Alex Rodriguez, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, but the Yankees are expecting A-Rod to return in 2015 following his 162-game suspension. The 39-year-old former MVP has three years and $61MM remaining on his contract.
In an interesting discussion with Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, Red Sox reliever Burke Badenhop discussed his use of the Pitch F/X tool at BrooksBaseball.net. Velocity, vertical movement, strike zone plots, and release point are among the pieces of information that Badenhop utilizes to evaluate his outings.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Jon Lester may be playing in Oakland, but he knows his time there will almost certainly be short, as John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports. Looking ahead to the free agent market, the lefty said that the Red Sox made clear that they intend to pursue a return. “At the end of the season, [the trade is] not going to change my mind about going back there if they are aggressive and competitive and do the things they say they’re going to do,” Lester said in reference to his long-time club. “They told me, ‘We’re going to be aggressive. You’re going to get blown out of the water by some of these [other] offers,’” said Lester, who maintains that the sticker shock will not be the most important factor for him. “I’m not going to the highest bidder. I’m going to the place that makes me and my family happy. If that’s Boston, it’s Boston.”
- Of course, Lester should have no shortage of suitors, in large part due to the fact that he has been outstanding this year. Indeed, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes, Lester has set himself up for free agency with as good a walk year (thus far) as any recent starter.
- After failing to extend Lester last offseason, the Red Sox will soon face a similar situation with regard to the man he was traded for, Yoenis Cespedes. As Alex Speier of WEEI.com writes in discussing the possible parameters of an extension for Cespedes, it seems somewhat curious that Boston would have chosen him as the return if it did not have at least some hope of locking him up past 2015 (especially since Cespedes will not be eligible to receive a qualifying offer). Though his power is undeniable, the 28-year-old’s overall value has lagged his visibility to an extent. Regardless, he seems quite likely to draw plenty of attention in free agency, and Speier suggests that comparables could include B.J. Upton (five-year, $75MM free agent deal) and Hunter Pence (five-year, $90MM late-season extension). Of course, as Speier notes, a full season in Fenway could provide Cespedes the opportunity to post some outlandish numbers and boost his value.
- Orioles third baseman Manny Machado seems destined for a DL stint but, more importantly, appears to have avoided another major knee injury. The club announced yesterday that a MRI revealed a right knee ligament sprain, saying that further update would be forthcoming today. Executive VP Dan Duquette said that the club had not yet decided whether it would shop around for additional options at the hot corner, but will make that assessment when more is known on Machado’s timetable, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports on Twitter.
- The Blue Jays announced yesterday that righty Neil Wagner will undergo Tommy John surgery. Wagner, 30, has been hit hard in ten games with Toronto on the year, though he was playing at the Triple-A level at the time of the injury. He has not matched his successful 2013, when he worked 38 frames of 3.79 ERA ball in the majors and dominated at Triple-A (2 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings).
Here’s the latest news out of Fenway Park…
- Ben Cherington said the Red Sox “haven’t gotten to” the stage of exploring a contract extension for closer Koji Uehara, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports, though they’ll broach the topic in October. “He’s a guy who has done a great job for us, certainly one of the guys that we would love to have here. We’ll address that after the season,” Cherington said. As for Uehara, he is “happy and honored they feel that way…Boston has been good for me, but they are one of 30 teams I would consider.” As Abraham notes, there has been speculation that the Sox could extend a one-year qualifying offer to Uehara since they (unlike many teams) can afford spending approximately $15MM on a one-year deal for a closer.
- Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s offensive struggles have gotten to the point that WEEI.com’s Alex Speier is wondering about his long-term future with the Sox. While Bradley hit in the minors and was a heralded prospect entering the season, Speier finds little historical evidence to suggest that Bradley will be able to recover from his poor start and eventually become a decent hitter at the Major League level.
- If the Marlins are unable to extend Giancarlo Stanton and decide to trade the slugger, John Tomase of the Boston Herald feels “no team is better positioned” than the Red Sox to procure Stanton’s services given the number of top-flight prospects in Boston’s farm system. The Sox could add a Major League piece to the mix as well in Yoenis Cespedes, though he’d have limited value to Miami given that he can opt out of his contract after the 2015 season.
- Also from Tomase, the Red Sox are “realistic about their chances” of bringing Jon Lester back in free agency. Though Boston certainly intends to pursue Lester, the team’s reluctance to commit too much money to over-30 pitchers could see the Sox get outbid by another suitor.
The Tigers have “kicked around” the idea of trading for a hitter to bolster the back end of their lineup, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports in his latest Full Count video. Finding a quality bat will be more difficult in the August waiver period, of course, and there also isn’t any position that Detroit would clearly be looking to upgrade. Rosenthal says the team is “pretty much set in the outfield,” though I’d argue that adding another outfielder to complement or even replace J.D. Martinez or Rajai Davis (both of whom were originally acquired to be part-timers) would help the Tigers down the stretch.
Here’s some more from Rosenthal’s video and a separate piece that examines which managers and general managers could be on the hot seat…
- Some of Jon Lester‘s former teammates believe the southpaw will sign with the Cubs this offseason. Lester, of course, has ties to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, and the Cubs’ recent waiver claim of Cole Hamels indicates that the team is prepared to spend big money on a top-tier starting pitcher.
- Had the Padres hired Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, the return of Kevin Towers to the San Diego organization “would’ve been almost automatic.” (The two worked together in New York.) Between Tony La Russa’s hiring in Arizona and the firing of Josh Byrnes in San Diego, rumors have swirled for weeks that Towers would find himself back with the Friars given his friendship with Padres president/CEO Mike Dee. As Rosenthal notes, Towers could still return under new GM A.J. Preller, though rival executives are split as to whether Towers’ presence would be a positive or a negative for Preller as a first-time general manager.
- Bud Black “would be out of work for about five minutes” if Preller decided to make a managerial change. Mike Dee recently told Rosenthal that Preller would decide on Black’s future with the Padres, though the fact that Black’s removal was “never seriously considered” by upper management would seem to bode well for the long-time skipper.
- While Reds GM Walt Jocketty is in the final year of his contract, “there is no indication that Jocketty wants to leave, or that owner Bob Castellini wants him out.” Rosenthal speculates that a reunion between Jocketty and La Russa in Arizona could be a possibility, though Jocketty might prefer to stay with the contending Reds rather than face a rebuilding job with the D’Backs.
- Ruben Amaro’s future as the Phillies‘ GM has been in question given the team’s struggles, which could also mean that manager Ryne Sandberg’s continued employment could also be up in the air. The Hall-of-Famer has “at times looks overmatched, struggling in his communications with veterans and with his in-game management,” Rosenthal writes, though he points out that Sandberg hasn’t been given much to work with on the roster. Sandberg is under contract through the end of the 2016 season.
- Could Jeff Luhnow’s job actually be in jeopardy? Rosenthal isn’t sure, though he notes that “internal tension seems unavoidable” in Houston. The Astros have seen little improvement on the field this season and Luhnow’s front office was widely criticized for its handling of the Brady Aiken negotiations.
- Mike Maddux’s Rangers contract is up at the end of the season, and while extension talks probably won’t take place until then, both Maddux and the team seem eager to see the long-time pitching coach remain in Texas.