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Tampa Bay Rays Rumors
Now that former Rays skipper Joe Maddon has signed with the Cubs, the Rays find themselves at a philosophical crossroads, writes Buster Olney of ESPN (Insider only). The Rays must decide whether to pursue tampering charges against the Cubs. Per Olney, the Rays thought they were close to signing Maddon to a multi-year extension before he ultimately opted out of his contract. The timing seems suspicious, but it may be difficult to prove tampering.
The Rays have two options. They can either ignore the whiff of wrong doing or pursue an investigation. Major League Baseball has the authority to demand phone and email records from all 30 clubs, so a basic investigation is possible. Other small market teams, tired of being bullied by the big spenders, would ostensibly support an investigation. If tampering is proven, the Cubs could be forced to relinquish a player in return for Maddon. Historically, such returns have been middling. Randy Winn was traded for Lou Piniella, reliever Chris Carpenter was dealt for Theo Epstein, and the pair of Jhan Marinez and Ozzie Martinez were sent to the White Sox for Ozzie Guillen.
- Despite turmoil atop the Rays organization, Ben Zobrist is excited to have his $7.5MM club option exercised, writes Marc Tomkin of the Tampa Bay Times. He expressed faith in GM Matt Silverman along with lieutenants Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander. Zobrist is set to become the first player in Rays franchise history to begin a 10th season with the club.
- The Orioles declined a $17.5MM option for Nick Markakis a few days ago, but they’re still striving to re-sign him, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. One person who expects Markakis to return is manager Buck Showalter. The Orioles can negotiate exclusively with Markakis through Monday night. They also need to decide on a potential qualifying offer, which could depend on the character of their negotiations. After considering his $2MM buyout, the $15.3MM qualifying offer is just a $200K savings over the club option. If the club is confident Markakis will pursue a multi-year deal elsewhere, they may be more inclined to make the offer.
- Baltimore officially declined Nick Hundley‘s 2015 option via Twitter. The club is potentially interested in re-signing Hundley at a rate below his $5MM option, tweets Roch Kobatko of MASNsports.com. The 40 man roster now stands at 31 players according to Kubatko (also Twitter). We first learned the Orioles planned to decline the option last Thursday.
The Cubs‘ decision to replace Rick Renteria with Joe Maddon seems “a little dirty,” but the baseball world will go on, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. The Rays believe the Cubs tampered with Maddon while they had him under contract, and others in the game aren’t happy that Maddon’s situation led to Renteria’s firing. Rosenthal notes that if MLB can prove the Cubs tampered, the Rays could demand a promising young player in compensation, maybe even a player as talented as Javier Baez or Addison Russell. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers would have retained outfielder Andy Dirks in 2015 if they knew he would be healthy, Tom Gage of the Detroit News tweets. Dirks platooned with Matt Tuiasosopo in left field for the Tigers in 2013, but he missed the entire 2014 season with back and hamstring issues, and the Tigers lost him on waivers to the Blue Jays today.
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti doesn’t believe Jason Giambi will be a good fit for the team’s roster next season, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets. Giambi will be 44 in January, and he hit .133/.257/.267 in limited duty in 2014, so it’s no surprise that the Indians might move on. Terry Francona has called Giambi a “manager-in-waiting,” so Giambi’s next move could involve coaching.
- The Indians have made a variety of front office moves, Hoynes tweets. Ross Atkins will be Cleveland’s new vice president in charge of player personnel, with Carter Hawkins becoming director of player development and Paul Gillispie the director of pro scouting.
The Rays announced that they have exercised their one-year, $7.5MM club option on Ben Zobrist.
The move was perhaps one of the easiest calls for any team with an option over a player, as the 33-year-old Zobrist again turned in an excellent campaign and proved to be a tremendously valuable asset for Tampa. In 654 plate appearances for the Rays, Zobrist slashed .272/.354/.395 at second base and in the outfield corners, and he even chipped in at shortstop and in center field as well.
The upcoming season will mark Tampa’s final year of control over Zobrist, who early in the 2010 season signed a four-year, $18MM contract extension that contained a pair of club options. Zobrist earned $7MM in 2014 — the first of the two option years — and will earn $7.5MM this year, bringing his total earnings on the deal to $30MM over six years. He’s averaged a staggering 5.4 fWAR and 5.8 rWAR per season over the life of that deal.
It will be interesting to see how the Rays approach Zobrist over the next calendar year. He drew considerable interest at the trade deadline and would figure to do so again this offseason were new president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman willing to make Zobrist available. However, doing so would put a significant dent in the team’s hopes of contending next season. They could at some point approach him about an extension as well, or look to shop him next July should they again fall out of contention. Of course, Tampa could also just retain Zobrist through season’s end next year and extend him a qualifying offer, thereby guaranteeing themselves at east a compensatory draft pick following what would likely be another season of excellent production.
The Rays are compiling a list of managerial candidates and could announce a formalized list by the end of the week, writes Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. The team’s goal is to have a new skipper in place by Thanksgiving, according to Mooney, who also notes that the Rays are taking the unusual step of asking their players on the qualities they would like in a new manager. “We don’t really bother ourselves with what is the norm,” Silverman explained. “We do what we think is right for our ballclub. They’re an important voice into who leads our clubhouse.”
More from the AL East…
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds to the recent Adam Lind trade speculation by writing that those looking to guess the first significant trade of the offseason would be wise to bet on the Blue Jays moving Lind. There are “strong indicators” that the Jays would like to reallocate the funds that are dedicated to Lind, so the team could very well exercise his $7.5MM club option and deal him. Sherman lists the Mariners and Athletics as potential fits, noting how well his platoon role fits the A’s model.
- Meanwhile, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that he doesn’t see the Mariners as a fit for Lind given the team’s bulk of left-handed bats. While I agree that it’s an imperfect fit, Lind strikes me as a reasonable fit there if the club can find a right-handed bat to pair with him at DH.
- In his latest Yankees Inbox, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com writes that the team’s likely preference would be to retain David Robertson for one more season before handing the ninth inning over to Dellin Betances. That, of course, makes a qualifying offer likely, though I can’t envision any scenario where Robertson would accept the offer. Hoch also writes that Ichiro Suzuki will be seeking more at-bats than the Yankees have to give, even in a part-time role. Hoch wonders if he’d be a fit for an NL club who could use him off the bench and in the late innings while giving him occasional starts in the outfield as well.
Here’s the latest coaching news from around the majors…
- In addition to Seitzer, the Braves have announced the hiring of Jose Castro as the assistant hitting coach. Castro, 56, has worked as a minor league hitting coach or coordinator with the Expos, Marlins, Padres and Mariners from 1990-2010 and served as the Cubs’ quality assurance coach last season.
- The Braves have hired Kevin Seitzer as their new hitting coach, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. The hiring could be officially announced as soon as today. Seitzer served as the Blue Jays‘ hitting coach in 2014, meaning Toronto now has a vacancy to fill. Seitzer also previously worked as a hitting coach with the Royals (2009-12) and Diamondbacks (2007).
- Seitzer and the Blue Jays couldn’t settle on a new contract, which led Seitzer to explore options elsewhere, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports. The Jays are now looking for a new hitting coach in addition to a new bullpen coach, though the rest of the coaching staff is under contract for 2015.
- The Athletics have hired Mike Aldrete as their new bench coach, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, with the hiring expected to be announced today. Aldrete, a Bay Area native, spent the last three seasons as the Cardinals‘ bench coach and four seasons prior to that as St. Louis’ assistant hitting coach.
- The Rays don’t know who their next manager will be, but they’re planning on keeping their current coaches, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. A new manager will usually add some of his own staff, but that won’t be the case with the Rays, who want to ensure continuity regardless of who manages next year. Topkin points out that could be good news for bench coach Dave Martinez, who could be a candidate for the managerial job.
Here’s the latest on former Rays manager Joe Maddon.
- In an interview with MLB.com’s Bill Chastain, Maddon explains why he decided to opt out of his contract with the Rays. Maddon says that, after the Rays informed him of his opt-out clause, they extended a new offer, but the two parties failed to find common ground. He adds that he currently has no employment offers and is “open for anything,” including sitting out for the year.
- Both sides thought they would agree to a new contract for between three and 10 years, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Ultimately, though, those negotiations fizzled. Maybe that was because the salaries offered (which would have reached just above $3MM annually) were too small, but Topkin writes that some within the Rays wonder whether another team might have reached out and expressed interest in Maddon. If so, that could lead to a tampering charge.
- Topkin also notes that team president Matt Silverman did not notify Maddon of his opt-out clause in an attempt to get him to leave and get a fresh start with a new manager, as some have speculated. Maddon’s agent Alan Nero was the one who had the opt-out clause included, so he was aware of its implications.
- There have been whispers that Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein recently traveled to Florida to meet with Maddon, although Nero denies that happened, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Nero confirms, however, that he has had discussions with the Cubs and nine other teams. Nero also says that Maddon has received a number of job offers in broadcasting and in front offices, although Maddon is wary of taking a front office job with a team and creating speculation that he will ultimately replace that team’s manager.
In the wake of yesterday’s report Rays ownership has discussed relocating the franchise to Montreal, Commissioner Bud Selig paused and then declined to answer whether Tampa Bay is a viable major league market, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Selig did say, however, the team needs a replacement for Tropicana Field. “The team has to have a ballpark that makes them competitive,” the commissioner said before Game Four of the World Series. “It doesn’t produce the kind of revenue they need.”
In other news involving the Rays and the American League:
- Change is coming to the Rays and the front office and players alike don’t see it as a negative, writes the Tampa Tribune’s Roger Mooney. “Whoever we bring in here, they’re going to set the scheme and how they want to win games and be a successful organization,” said pitcher Alex Cobb. “When that trickles down to the players, all that is is us playing up to our capabilities, and that doesn’t matter who is in the dugout or the front office.” Mooney notes all coaches are under contract for 2015; but, if the new manager is from outside the organization, there may be changes to the staff.
- In today’s mailbag, a reader proposed his Indians offseason plan to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer: trade Jason Kipnis and David Murphy for prospects to free up money, then use that money on Victor Martinez. Hoynes doesn’t see the Tribe trading Kipnis so soon after giving him a $50MM+ extension, despite his bad year. The reader’s ambitious plan also calls for Cleveland to have one of their young outfielders form a platoon with Nick Swisher and, given his $15MM salary, Hoynes believes the team wants to see him in the lineup every day.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe identified Mark Buehrle as a trade candidate earlier today and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets the Twins have long been admirers of the Blue Jays hurler. Still, his $19MM salary is too high.
- If the Jon Daniels-Jeff Banister partnership works in Texas, it will continue a trend in the game of a college educated GM with no professional playing experience working with a baseball lifer as manager, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe details the challenges faced by the Braves and Dodgers this offseason. John Hart and Andrew Friedman differ in age, style, and substance, but they face similar roadblocks. Here’s more from Cafardo..
- Scouts who have seen pending free agent James Shields over his career feel he’s changed from a fastball/changeup pitcher to a fastball/cutter pitcher. At one time his changeup was unhittable and the cutter, which has now taken over, is hittable at times. Shields is still effective but there is some bewilderment over his repertoire.
- Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle will be made available in a trade, though his $19MM contract will be a deterrent unless the Jays are willing to assume part of it. Still, he seems more tradable than knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
- Cafardo expects Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist to draw a lot of trade interest this offseason. In fact, new Dodgers boss Andrew Friedman might want to reunite with him in Los Angeles.
- The White Sox would love to move John Danks, but the $28.5MM owed to him over the next two years will be a deterrent to teams. Meanwhile, pitching coach Don Cooper still believes Danks, who has lost some of his heat, could become the second coming of Buehrle and pitch effectively in the mid-to-high 80s.
- The Twins haven’t asked Torey Lovullo for a second interview yet, but he also hasn’t been told he’s out of the hunt.
Alex Rodriguez is gearing up to re-join the Yankees in 2015 and Joel Sherman of the New York Post thinks the embattled slugger should take a lesson from Manny Ramirez. Ramirez hurt his reputation with his own PED troubles but has carved out a second act for himself as a player/coach for the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate. Still, Sherman is skeptical that A-Rod can earn redemption like Manny has. Here’s more from the AL and NL East…
- Pablo Sandoval would be a strong fit for the Red Sox, opines Scott Lauber of The Boston Herald. Boston is in the market for an upgrade at third base and balance for their right-handed heavy lineup. The 28-year-old switch hitter turned down a three-year, $40MM extension offer from the Giants earlier this year and right now that appears to have been a smart decision.
- Years ago, the Mets were unsure of exactly what they had in right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. “We couldn’t get a consensus,” former Mets assistant GM Jim Duquette said. “He is getting everyone out, but doing it with an 88-90 mph fastball. We called it an invisi-ball. Is he a No. 1, a No. 2 or just another guy?” Petit wound up going to the Marlins in the 2005 Carlos Delgado trade and today he has found a home with the Giants where he is now a postseason hero.
- Rays GM Matt Silverman is talking with his staff and players to determine the characteristics to look for in the club’s next manager, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “The first step is identifying the type of manager that we want,” Silverman said Saturday. “And from that we will begin generating names we think might match that description.” Topkin checked in with several Rays players to see what they want in their new skipper.
Joe Maddon shocked many people by opting out of his contract with the Rays Friday and has now become the most coveted managerial free agent in recent history. While early speculation was that he’d follow former GM Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers, Friedman and the Dodgers have issued a statement backing Don Mattingly as their manager, definitively stating that Mattingly will manage the Dodgers next season.
There’s been plenty of other Maddon chatter, however, so we’ll keep track of the latest on his situation here…
- Maddon’s agent Alan Nero says 10 teams have contacted him about Maddon, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Job suggestions have varied from manager to something like the Chief Baseball Officer position occupied by Tony La Russa. Maddon has also been contacted by several media outlets. Nero notes that Maddon is prepared to sit out 2015. He cited a previous experience with Lou Pinnela who spent a year as a FOX analyst before joining the Cubs. Apparently, Maddon’s friends say he’s interested in joining a NL club due to the added challenge of managing the pitcher’s at bats.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Berardino that the news of Maddon’s availability came as a surprise to him. “This is a pretty big opt-out,” he said. “When I saw it, I was surprised, but it’s certainly caught my eye.” Though he did not say expressly that the team would consider Maddon, Ryan seemed to indicate that is very much a possibility. “I certainly will do my due diligence on anybody that’s available,” said Ryan. “Everybody was hoping I would hurry up and get a manager. ‘What’s taking so long.’ Now everybody sees this.”
- Meanwhile, sources tell LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (via Twitter) that the team will indeed reach out to Maddon.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto put to bed any speculation that the Halos would consider Maddon, telling Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (Twitter link) that, “of course Mike [Scioscia] will be our manager.”
- David Kaplan of CSNChicago has spoken to several sources who have indicated to him that the Cubs are indeed the front-runner to land Maddon at this time, but there are several teams that have shown interest (Twitter link).
- ESPN’s Buster Olney, who intially reported the opt-out, hears that if Maddon ends up with the Cubs, the Rays will investigate the issue of tampering (Twitter link).
- Sherman reports that Maddon is looking for a five-year deal worth roughly $25MM (Twitter link). He again downplays any thought that the Mets could go to those heights, noting that GM Sandy Alderson doesn’t believe managers should be compensated as such.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post spoke with Maddon on the phone (Four links to Twitter) and was told that Maddon didn’t feel the Rays would commit to him the dollars he was hoping for on a new contract. Maddon, 60, has had jobs throughout his career where his salary was dictated to him, and he felt this would be his last chance to find out how the open market would value him. He added that he was unaware of a clause in his contract that allowed him to opt out if Friedman left the team, and it was new Rays president of baseball ops Matthew Silverman who told Maddon of the clause. He said being contacted by teams with managers is none of his business. “They will do their business how they want to do it,” he told Sherman.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (via Twitter) that Maddon was looking to be compensated with a deal that would’ve paid him like one of the top two or three skippers in the game, meaning something north of $5MM per season. Cafardo then spoke with Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero (Twitter link), and was told that Maddon would consider sitting out for a year, perhaps taking a TV gig, if the right opportunity doesn’t arise, but Cafardo adds that Nero’s phone line is “lighting up.”
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also spoke to Maddon (Facebook link), and Maddon told him that he learned his contract contained a two-week opt-out window in the event that Friedman left the Rays. Rosenthal asked Maddon specifically about the Cubs, to which Maddon replied, “I don’t know. I have to talk to people. I have interest everywhere right now. I’ve got to hear what everyone has to say.” Maddon wants to work, regardless of landing a new managerial gig, but his preference is to be in a dugout.
- Sherman tweets that he’s been told that Maddon won’t be going to the Braves or Blue Jays and that all signs point to the Cubs.
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan spoke to one Maddon confidante who said Maddon wouldn’t have opted out of a deal without having a sense for what the market could offer, and he wants to go to a big market (Twitter link).
- The Twins are the only team with a current managerial opening (besides the Rays, of course), but La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune heard that the team had yet to contact Maddon (Twitter link).
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press looks at whether or not the Twins could plausibly make a run at Maddon, noting that the team has never paid a manager more than $2MM annually and will in fact be paying Ron Gardenhire $2MM not to manage the club this season.
- Mets owner Jeff Wilpon gave Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link) a very concise and definitive answer when asked about Maddon, stating, “No. We are not changing managers.” GM Sandy Alderson told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, “Terry is our manager,” via text message (Twitter link).
- Jayson Stark of ESPN tweets that the more people with whom he speaks, the greater the sense he gets that there was almost no offer the Rays could’ve made to keep him there.