- Even though the Orioles don’t have a true general manager at the moment, they “remain open to moving anyone in the right trade,” Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com writes. Front office questions aside, it’s unclear how many valuable trade chips Baltimore even has, given that it’s wrapping up a 47-win season in which it dealt a slew of established veterans. Reliever Mychal Givens would likely be in demand, and Kubatko cited him as a possible trade piece earlier this week. Speculatively, middle infielder Jonathan Villar and right-hander Dylan Bundy are also among O’s who may find themselves in trade rumors this offseason.
- The Orioles, who have more international money available than any other team, are known to be battling with the Marlins for Cuban prospects Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr. and Sandy Gaston. While it has been suggested that the Mesa brothers will sign with the same team, they’re not necessarily a package deal, Kubatko reports, writing that the two “aren’t joined at the hip.”
- The Orioles made an eyebrow-raising move in August when they traded $750K in international money to the Phillies for minor league first baseman Jack Zoellner. It turns out the Phillies may have released Zoellner had they not found a taker for him, according to Kubatko. Per Kubatko, Philly was “far less enthusiastic about Zoellner” than Baltimore’s front office, which was then led by since-fired GM Dan Duquette. Zoellner doesn’t rank among Baltimore’s top 30 prospects at MLB.com, and, as Kubatko notes, didn’t stand out in Rookie ball from 2017-18 despite being old for the level.
The Yankees were impressed enough with Aaron Boone’s first season at the helm to bring back his entire staff for 2019, tweets George A. King III of the New York Post. Boone made a number of changes to the staff after the 2017 season, promoting Marcus Thames to hitting coach and installing bench coach Josh Bard, third-base coach Phil Nevin and first-base coach Reggie Willits, among others. The 2018 coaching crew will get a chance to run it back after an impressive 100-win season and a second straight playoff appearance.
Here’s a couple other notes from around the MLB…
- The Diamondbacks are replacing their natural playing surface with artificial turf in advance of the 2019 season. Arizona’s baseball operations staff conducted in-depth research, finding their new dual-fiber surface provides performance and health benefits previously unavailable. The retractable roof at Chase Field made it increasingly difficult to maintain consistent growing conditions for their natural surface. Arizona will join Tampa Bay and Toronto as the only franchises to utilize an artificial turf, though the Rangers are reportedly considering a similar surface for their new stadium. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes that Texas has yet to make a decision on the playing surface for the stadium set to open in 2020, but decision-makers within the organization will be closely monitoring the situation in Arizona.
- Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun writes that there’s symbolic value to the Orioles’ attempts to woo top Cuban prospect Victor Victor Mesa, even if they can’t close the deal. Considering the Marlins’ recent push to collect international spending pool money and their cultural ties to Cuba, Miami is now widely considered the favorites to sign Victor Victor Mesa, though Mesa’s intentions are as of now unclear.
- In a separate tweet, Meoli suggests that the Orioles summer trade of starting pitcher Kevin Gausman to the Braves was motivated by financial considerations. Though not initially presented as a primary concern, the trade cleared Gausman and Darren O’Day’s contracts from the Baltimore ledger in 2019 and beyond. Gausman has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility remaining after making $5.6MM in 2018. Darren O’Day has yet to pitch for the Braves, though he’ll likely have a role in their bullpen next season as he’s under contract for $9MM in 2019.
TODAY: The Marlins picked up $1MM of bonus availability in the swap with the Nats, per Spencer (via Twitter). The prior deal with the Reds brought in $750K, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets, meaning that the Miami organization has just over $6MM in spending capacity to work with.
YESTERDAY: The Marlins and Orioles have long been considered the two front-runners to sign top prospect Victor Victor Mesa and his younger brother, Victor Mesa Jr., given the fact that they possess the two largest remaining international bonus pools. At the time of the showcase featuring the Mesa brothers and hard-throwing righty Sandy Gaston, a fellow Cuban prospect of intrigue, Baltimore was reported to have a $6.7MM pool to the Marlins’ $4.3MM allotment.
However, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (via Twitter) that following the weekend trade sending prospect Ryan Lillie to the Reds and this morning’s relatively stunning trade of Kyle Barraclough to the Nationals, the Marlins have “almost as much” international money as the Orioles. The specific amount that the Nationals sent to the Marlins in order to acquire the final three years of club control over Barraclough isn’t clear, but in order for the Marlins to be within striking distance, it’d have to be substantial.
Slot money must be traded in increments of at least $250K, per the collective bargaining agreement, so we know that following this past weekend’s trade of Lillie, the Marlins were up to at least $4.55MM in pool allotments. Based on that number and the fact that Spencer indicates the Marlins are still somewhat shy, it seems reasonable to deduce that the Nats couldn’t have sent more than $2MM to Miami.
Washington opened the 2018-19 signing period with a total pool of $4,983,500 but was also barred from spending more than $300K on any one signing as penalty for significant overages in previous signing periods. Per Baseball America’s Ben Badler, the Nats had already signed three players — Jeremy de la Rosa, Yeuri Amparov and Edwin Mercedes — for their maximum $300K, and the team had made another 15 signings, though the values of those additional signings is not clear.
The Marlins have reportedly been trying to sell the brothers Mesa and Gaston on their proximity to Cuba and the strong Latin American population in the Miami area. The Fish did host the showcase for the three prospects last week, and they reportedly had personalized lockers set up in the clubhouse to help the trio visualize the possibility of playing there in the future.
While the showcase was closed to the media, Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs spoke to a number of scouts who were on hand and provided a breakdown of the overall opinions of the players involved. Victor Victor Mesa’s 60-yard dash time clocked in at 6.5 seconds, placing him at a 65 to 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, per McDaniel and Longenhagen, who pegged a 50-grade (average) on his raw power. Their detailed report, which is free to read and features plenty of detail for those interested in the group, notes that Albert Almora’s name came up as an oft-mentioned comp for the elder Mesa brother.
Gaston, meanwhile, hit 97 mph and showed better feel for his secondary offerings. The younger Mesa brother checked in a bit slower on the 60-yard dash (6.9 seconds) but had an above-average throwing arm and an above-average hit tool. Notably, McDaniel and Longenhagen write that they feel the Marlins are the favorites to land Victor Victor Mesa, which would likely make them the favorites to land Mesa Jr., as the two are said to be considered a package deal.
Quite a few players will hit the open market this fall, and they’ll do so by way of varying mechanisms. The end of the regular season triggered a recent wave of free agents, consisting of a certain subset of players — namely, those who were outrighted from 40-man rosters during the season and accepted minor-league assignments at that time despite having the right to elect free agency. Players in that situation are entitled instead to hit the open market at season’s end, if they were not added back to the 40-man roster in the meantime.
As conveyed by Matt Eddy of Baseball America, who also covers quite a few other minor moves, these players have now elected free agency:
Cardinals: LHP Tyler Lyons
Marlins: OF JB Shuck
Padres: OF Matt Szczur
Phillies: INF Trevor Plouffe
White Sox: RHP Tyler Danish
Mychal Givens’ bottom-line numbers may have taken a step back in 2018, but the right-hander finished the season strong for the Orioles and will again be a possible trade chip this offseason, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The front office tabbed Givens as nearly untouchable in trade talks this past summer under general manager Dan Duquette, but it’s not clear how the new Orioles’ top baseball ops decision-maker will perceive Givens’ availability. The 28-year-old Givens, controlled through 2021, averaged 95.1 mph on his heater, 9.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 76 2/3 innings this season en route to a 3.99 ERA. Relief help figures to be as in-demand as ever this offseason as teams continue to more aggressively deploy relievers and shy away from starters facing opposing lineups for a third time.
- Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun chats with rookie center fielder Cedric Mullins about being the first of the Orioles’ hopeful next wave of core pieces to arrive on the big league scene in 2018. Mullins, who turned 24 last week, enjoyed a strong season between Double-A and Triple-A before debuting with the O’s in August and hitting .235/.312/.359 in 191 plate appearances down the stretch. Considered by the Orioles as a potential long-term piece in the outfield, Mullins and Meoli discussed the young outfielder’s opportunity to emerge as a leader of the next wave of O’s talent and the type of speed-based offense he and Jonathan Villar can bring to the lineup. The O’s ranked last in the Majors in stolen bases each season from 2014-17, swiping a stunningly low 19 bases in 2017. Mullins, meanwhile, has a 30-steal season under his belt in the minors (2016) and stole 23 bases across three levels in 2018.
- “There’s a gigantic difference in how we use analytics here compared to Baltimore,” Yankees reliever Zach Britton told Fangraphs’ David Laurila. After coming to New York from the Orioles in a trade deadline swap, Britton was presented with lots of personally-focused data. “I’d never been exposed to that amount of information,” Britton said. “And it’s not just ’Here’s a stack of stuff to look over.’ …. I don’t want to get into specifics, but some of it is how my ball moves, both my sinker and my slider, compared to different hitters’ swings. It kind of opens your eyes to things you maybe didn’t think of when you didn’t have that information.” The Orioles are known to be looking for a more analytically-minded figure in their new general manager, though the team has a long way to go to catch up to the Yankees, who are known to have one of baseball’s best information departments. If Britton’s comments sound similar to Justin Verlander’s reaction to joining the Astros last season, it isn’t a surprise, as Britton noted that “If you look at the teams in the postseason, most are well-known for their analytics departments, especially the Astros.”
After recently polling MLBTR’s readership about which of the six open managerial positions had the most to offer, it only follows that we ask the same question about the three general manager vacancies.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s use “general manager” in this sense as the person in charge of a team’s baseball operations department, even if that official title could be something different (i.e. president of baseball ops) on a particular team. If you’re a hypothetical executive who has multiple GM offers presented to them, deciding which job to take demands a big-picture view. Which franchise has the most to offer a new GM in terms of resources, which range from everything from player payroll to front office staffing? Would a GM have full control of baseball ops, or is there another rung above them on the organizational ladder? Does a team already have some good players in place and is expecting to win, or is a rebuild under way, or will a rebuild be under way in the near future?
With all these factors (and more) in mind, let’s take a look at the three open GM jobs…
Mets: As disappointing as New York’s 2018 season was, this is still a team that boasts one of the game’s best pitching staffs, plus some intriguing young building blocks in Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, and a healthy Michael Conforto. If incumbent veterans like Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier can avoid the DL and regain some of their old productivity, the team’s lackluster lineup will already get a huge boost, not even factoring in what external additions can bring into the fold. There is certainly opportunity for quick improvement in 2019, and since the team doesn’t have any payroll money guaranteed beyond the 2020 season, there’s plenty of room for extending in-house stars and adding some other notable salaries in trades or free agents.
That’s the good news about the Mets job, though as any follower of New York’s sports media could tell you, there’s also quite a bit of bad news. It’s still unknown how much financial flexibility the Mets actually have, as while team payroll has cracked the $150MM mark in each of the last two seasons, that’s still a modest figure for a club that plays in the New York market. There’s also the open question about how much autonomy a general manager truly has within the organization, given how owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon are so often accused of taking a heavy hand with their input in the baseball operations department. For instance, it’s unusual that an incoming GM would be inheriting three influence senior members of a team’s current front office staff, and there is uncertainty if a new GM would really be allowed to fire John Ricco, J.P. Riccardi, and/or Omar Minaya unless ownership allows it. Manager Mickey Callaway is also staying on for 2019, so a new general manager wouldn’t even able to select their own preferred voice in the dugout. It also might not help that the Wilpons themselves are reportedly looking for different things in a general manager, as Jeff prefers to hire a younger GM with an analytics background, while Fred wants a more experienced name from a scouting and personnel background.
Giants: The main pro and the main con of the San Francisco job amount to the same thing — this is a team that expects to win. Even if 2019 may be a season more focused on something of a rebuild-on-the-fly, there is little doubt that the franchise wants a turn-around after two straight losing seasons. To this end, a new GM will have money to spend, as the Giants haven’t afraid of exceeding the luxury tax threshold in the past, and are now free for more big spending after (barely) getting payroll under the threshold this season to reset their escalating tax payment figure to zero. There’s also no small amount of appeal in taking over one of baseball’s top-tier, most historically-rich franchises, and a team that has three World Series championships within the last decade.
The downside, of course, is that taking over such a team means taking on a lot of pressure. There may be more of a case that the Giants need a rebuild rather than a reload, given how many expensive veteran contracts are on the books. (And how more veteran additions could be coming, if the Giants stick to their logic from last offseason.) Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ best asset, is also scheduled for free agency after the 2019 season, so the contention window may be particularly short unless Bumgarner can be extended, though the team is at least open to listening to a GM that would suggest Bumgarner be traded.
There is also some question of autonomy within the chain of command, as long-time executive Brian Sabean is staying on in an upper-management role, plus Bruce Bochy is being retained as manager. Team CEO Larry Baer has said, however, that the new baseball operations head will be reporting to him, and will have the freedom add new faces to the front office mix. This could be a situation where the “new GM” is really a president of baseball operations, with a general manager also hired in a secondary role to handle day-to-day duties.
Orioles: The cleanest slate of the three jobs, the Orioles are undergoing a change in direction at the very top of the organization, as John and Louis Angelos take over ownership duties from their father, Peter. It remains to be seen how the Angelos brothers’ style will differ from that of Peter Angelos’ style, though there has already been some indication that the Orioles are adopting a more standard approach to baseball operations (such as a new willingness to spend on international players). It also isn’t clear if a new GM will have the full autonomy that the team’s recent media release claims, or if incumbent VP of baseball operations Brady Anderson will still have a major voice in the decision-making process.
This all being said, while it might take some years for a general manager to remake the Mets or Giants in their own image, the new Orioles GM can put their big stamp on the organization as early as this offseason. Rather than navigate pre-existing payroll hurdles or expectations of contention, the new Orioles only has to focus on rebuilding for the next several years. As low as the Orioles sunk in 2018, the lure of a total rebuild could be enticing to many candidates — Blue Jays baseball ops VP Ben Cherington, for one, would seemingly only leave his position in Toronto “to build an organization from the ground up,” according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. A new general manager also has something of a head start on the rebuilding process due to the number of young talents acquired by former baseball operations executive VP Dan Duquette in the trade deadline deals of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, and Jonathan Schoop.
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- Cuban free agents Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr. and Sandy Gaston held a showcase in Miami for all 30 teams on Friday. The Orioles, with the most international spending room available (~$6.7MM), are reportedly the favorites to sign Victor Victor Mesa, an outfielder who’s the No. 1-ranked int’l prospect available. It seems the team that gets him will also land his brother, a fellow outfielder, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes the two “are viewed within the industry as a package deal.” The O’s are indeed interested in the tandem, reports Kubatko, who adds that they also “really like” Gaston – a right-handed pitcher. Financially speaking, the Orioles hold a significant edge over every other team in the league when it comes to signing any of these players, but Kubatko notes that the Marlins’ proximity to Cuba could stand in Baltimore’s way. The Marlins, who have the second-most money to spend ($4.3MM), have made it known that they are trying to use location to their advantage. Further, in their push to sign the Mesas and Gaston, the Marlins set up personalized lockers with uniforms for the players, Kubatko relays. Team CEO and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter also happened to be on hand for their showcase.
- The Orioles – the only team with more international money to spend than the Fish – had five representatives in attendance for the showcase of Victor Victor Mesa, brother Victor Mesa Jr. (also an outfielder) and Cuban pitcher Sandy Gaston on Friday in Miami, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Baltimore sent vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson, senior advisor Joe McIlvaine, special assignment scout John Stockstill and a pair of scouts (Dean Albany and Calvin Maduro), according to Kubatko, who hears that the O’s lack of a GM/manager won’t impact their pursuit of the Mesas. The Orioles said goodbye to both GM Dan Duquette and skipper Buck Showalter earlier this week.
Six teams are currently on the hunt for new managers, leading to a flurry of rumors and reports about experienced skippers, and coaches/broadcasters/former players all linked to these jobs. If you’re being offered your first shot at managing a big league team, obviously, you perhaps can’t be afford to be too picky — the same could be said of veteran ex-managers who don’t know if they’ll ever get another chance at running a dugout.
So technically, the question of “which job would you prefer to take?” might not apply to many candidates, but it’s just fine for a hypothetical poll here on MLB Trade Rumors. All of these six openings have their pros and cons, and it really comes down to individual preference about what makes one job more attractive than another. Would you prefer to manage a team that has shown a willingness to spend? One with a proven organizational track record of success (and stability)? A rebuilding club with a bunch of promising minor leaguers on the way?
Here are the six teams currently conducting a manager search…
Orioles: Nowhere to go but up after 115 losses, right? Baltimore’s new manager will be entering an organization in a state of flux after a disastrous campaign, as the O’s are also looking for a new GM to replace Dan Duquette, as well as the Angelos brothers fully taking over the team’s operations from their father. With the rebuild just underway, however, a new skipper wouldn’t be expected to win for at least a few years, creating a low-pressure teaching environment to help bring along the Orioles’ younger talents (some of whom were acquired in the team’s deadline fire sale). There’s plenty of opportunity here for a manager to enter at day one and put their stamp on a new era of Orioles baseball.
Blue Jays: Another AL East team that is technically “starting” a rebuild, though the front office has unofficially been reloading the farm system over the last few years. Some of those young names made their debuts in 2018, though the biggest stars of Toronto’s highly-touted minor league ranks (including Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) are still to come in 2019 or 2020. Since GM Ross Atkins is targeting 2021 for the Jays’ return to contention, a new manager has two years of building and development ahead before expectations rise. With payrolls topping the $160MM mark in each of the last two seasons, a new manager can be confident that ownership and the front office will eventually spend to add talent.
Reds: Similar to the situation with the Jays, Cincinnati’s new skipper will step into a situation where some of the heavy lifting has already been done in terms of rebuilding. The Reds have built an interesting core of position players (Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett, Jose Peraza, Jesse Winker, and franchise cornerstone Joey Votto) that should only improve once top prospect Nick Senzel cracks the big league roster. The problem, of course, is a dearth of starting pitching, though the club is prepared to spend this winter to address that and other needs.
Rangers: Here’s another team in sore need of pitching help, which GM Jon Daniels has said “is a priority” for the coming offseason. The Rangers are in an interesting, and perhaps unwelcome, spot compared to the other teams on this list, in that they’re not really clearly rebuilding or planning to contend in 2019. This is what happens when a team almost entirely en masse, as neither the established players (Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor), the youngsters (Ronald Guzman, Willie Calhoun) or the former star prospects in between the two camps (Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara) particularly distinguished themselves last year. That said, a new voice in the dugout could help in unleashing the talent that this group clearly possesses, plus there’s organizational stability in the form of Daniels, who is the game’s second-longest tenured general manager.
Angels: What manager wouldn’t relish the opportunity to lead the game’s best player in Mike Trout, or the game’s most fascinating player in Shohei Ohtani? Combine those two with Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and a host of young relievers, and there’s a lot to like about the Angels’ roster. Beyond the star names, however, the Halos are still trying to fully get through a stunning onslaught of pitching injuries that have thinned the pitching depth (including sidelining Ohtani from the mound in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery). The new Angels skipper will be expected to turn things around quickly, especially with Trout only under contract for two more seasons. There are some big shoes to fill in the wake of Mike Scioscia’s departure, and it’s fair to wonder how much rope owner Arte Moreno will give to a manager who didn’t have a World Series title on his resume or the organizational influence that Scioscia held in the club.
Twins: If the team continues its yo-yo performance of the last four seasons under Paul Molitor, then it should be due for another winning season in 2019 — do we have a bizarro Giants/#OddYear scenario here? In all seriousness, Minnesota might actually be in the best position of any of these six teams to contend next season, given the weakness of the AL Central. The better odds might be on a bit of a step backwards as baseball operations heads Derek Falvey and Thad Levine figure out which of their young talents are actual building blocks and which might be trade chips. A manager who can get Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano back on track, however, could make a quick impact.
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