Inside Baseball MLB Notes: The offseason hot stove might be cold right now, but we’ve still got plenty of notes on (nearly) every MLB team.
- Three GMs predicted to me that J.D. Martinez would sign the biggest contract of the winter, though it is still said here that Eric Hosmer will.
- MLB absolutely hammered the Braves, setting an example for what can happen to anyone who’s considering disobeying the rules. The penalties went well beyond what some past scofflaws received (i.e. the Red Sox, who lost a few prospects but suffered no personal penalties) but people around the game generally applauded the concept of cleaning up the game, especially as it relates to dealings with Latin America (which many call the “Wild West”). Some Braves people cooperated, aiding the inquiry, but the investigation really was transformed when the Braves turned over all the emails and texts related to the organization, as they are required to do.
- Word is, there could be another penalty or two handed out to one or two more working in the international ranks there, beyond the one-year ban for top scout Gordon Blakely and rare lifetime ban for GM John Coppolella, who got the brunt of it.
- Braves people believe that while they were hurt by the loss of the 13 prospects who were set free that they still rank near the top in terms of organizational talent — one Braves person suggested he believes they are second now, behind only the White Sox.
- While many people around MLB praised the home office for cracking down, one unavoidable result was an undeserved benefit for those among the 13 prospects set free who were party to the shenanigans.
- The Braves wound up with a respected and accomplished new GM in Alex Anthopoulos, who was allowed by the team to add Andrew Tinnish from his former Blue Jays team, and to promote Perry Minasian, who he also knew from the Jays. The Braves’ front office is still a little on the thin side (whatever you say about the banned Coppolella, he was apparently working around the clock — and he did find a lot of good players, though obviously some by disregarding rules). Anthopoulos also let go Adam Fisher, who like Minasian had just been hired by Coppolella (as his No. 2 guy in Fisher’s case) but who Anthopoulos didn’t know. Fisher got a rough break, but he had a two-year deal and will have ample time to figure out what to do next. The Mets are believed interested in hiring him back.
- The Braves plan to shop Matt Adams, who had a nice year but currently looks like a bench player for them as things stand now.
- The belief now is that R.A. Dickey is likely to retire.
- There’s one year to go for the odd couple of GM Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, two guys who are great at their jobs but together are like oil and water. One potential point of contention in what’s likely their last year together is the shortstop spot: Duquette thinks Tim Beckham is the guy; Showalter doesn’t seem convinced.
- There may also be a debate about whether to trade or keep star closer Zach Britton.
- Alex Cobb is on their radar.
Boston Red Sox
- The Red Sox have been linked to Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana, but Jose Abreu is another one who’d fit them, too, if they can work out a deal. That may not be so easy, however. The sides have indeed spoken about Abreu, who is being shopped to other teams as well, but the early word is that there may not be a great match. The White Sox are said by one source to have made a request that included at least one young player currently on Boston’s major-league roster, and apparently the request either halted talks or at least appears to have left the sides thinking a deal won’t be easy. The Red Sox people may have some regret about not getting Abreu in the first place, so it’s no surprise they did show interest. They were one of at least four teams to bid at least $60 million for him, along with the Brewers and Astros, in addition to the winning ChiSox. Abreu is expected to make $35 million-plus via arbitration the next two years, but off his 2017 season, he’s worth it.
- A trade for Abreu may not be so easy if Boston needs to dip into the minor leagues, however; Boston’s farm system isn’t nearly as strong as it once was, in part due to the previous deal with the Chisox, the one that netted them Chris Sale.
- They are considering Eduardo Nunez, whose versatility makes him a fit for a number of teams. The Blue Jays, Mariners, Giants and Angels are among other potential matches for Nunez.
- For those who say there are no great long-term deals for starting pitchers, this week marked the 20th anniversary of the Pedro Martinez signing. In that deal, then GM Dan Duquette signed Martinez to a $75 million, six-year deal that became an $87 million, seven-year deal when the option was exercised. At the GM meetings. Duquette recalled that the deal was done at the Waldorf Astoria at a time President Bill Clinton was there, and security was tight. Duquette almost didn’t get through to finish the deal, until one of the Secret Service agents was told Duquette was there to “sign Pedro,” whereupon he let the GM through. Must not have been a Yankees fan.
- The Cubs met at the GM meetings on Jake Arrieta, and while they are interested, there’s still said to be a gap on the years – he wants long (six or seven years) they want shorter — and the sides aren’t believed to have spoken since the meetings.
- Kudos again to Roberto Clemente award winner Anthony Rizzo, who recently donated $150,000 to build lights for the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High field in Parkland, Fla. (For history buffs, Stoneman Douglas was a journalist who advocated for saving the Everglades, which borders Parkland.) Looks like he wants to get a head start on becoming the first repeat Clemente winner. Good for him.
Chicago White Sox
- Jose Abreu wasn’t very popular a year ago. But that should change this winter. Abreu had an enormous year, and there appears to be a greater value placed on first base this year, with nearly 10 teams seeking to fill that spot. Even after the Mariners answered their first-base question by trading for Ryon Healy, there’s plenty of need. Abreu isn’t cheap after opting for arbitration as his contract allowed, with the expectation that he’ll get $17 million and $20 million his final two seasons in the process. But he’s a cheaper proposition than Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana, thanks to the shorter commitment.
- Other agents are unhappy to see Charlie Blackmon move from agent Myles Shoda to ACES (Seth and Sam Levinson) and have expressed that unhappiness to MLB, not that much can be done about it. ACES has been a target of MLB for their ties to Kirk Radomski and other past issues, such as Melky Cabrera’s phony website, but the sport has to this point not been able to pin anything on the agency, which has somehow remained one of the biggest six or seven in the game, despite all those negative ties.
- There’s a feeding frenzy over Dallas Keuchel’s availability to agents after he said he’d be switching. And no wonder. He is a year away from free agency, with a nine-figure deal to come (and quickly).
- Word by the way is that while Keuchel is the one who had the standing to speak out about the disappointment not to get Justin Verlander (or anyone else) at the first deadline, the disappointment was organization-wide, and included manager A.J. Hinch, who had been stumping for Verlander for a while.
Kansas City Royals
- Word is, the Royals are looking hard at top free agents, including their own Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, but also a few others if they can’t keep their two coveted stars. While some figured they might retool if they can’t keep Hosmer and/or Moustakas, sources suggest owner David Glass has made contending next year a goal. So they are very reluctant to rebuild. They absolutely love Hosmer, but while they won’t come close to meeting an asking price believed to be $200 million, or more, they will give it what they see as their best effort. They also very much like Moustakas, so those are their top two choices.
- One rival GM thought that if any reliever could get a four-year deal beyond the two star closers (Wade Davis and Greg Holland) that Mike Minor would be the one to do it, since he is young and a lefty.
Los Angeles Angels
- The Angels have done a nice job adding smart, capable people to their front office, and Brad Ausmus is the latest example. After another year in the front office, he should be one of the most sought-after managerial candidates a year from now (we always assume some openings). The résumé is the best: 18-year MLB career as a catcher (almost all as a starter), an Ivy League education (Dartmouth degree) and four years major-league managing.
- Dee Gordon still seems to make a lot of sense for the Angels.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- As the only team basically known to be approved as a landing spot by Giancarlo Stanton, the Dodgers in some ways are in great position to land Stanton, the MVP of their league and one of the best players in the game who also happens to have complete no-trade clause as part of his record $325 million contract.
- Darvish pitched beautiful games against the Diamondbacks and Cubs before bombing in the World Series. One rival GM suggested he thought the WS performance might cost him $20 million on the open market.
- Making sure everyone knows, agent Nez Balelo says Andre Ethier “plans to play in 2018.” Me: Ethier can still hit off the bench and would be a nice clubhouse addition.
- A Stanton trade doesn’t necessarily get the payroll to where they want it – if they seek to cut from $115 million to $85-90 million. While Stanton is to make $25 million, and that would be a big step, natural raises mean that wouldn’t be enough to get them to that $85-90 million as they’d probably hit $130 million-plus if they do nothing.
- Some people around the team believe Marcell Ozuna and possibly even Christian Yelich could be in play after Stanton is dealt. (Stanton is the priority, and it wouldn’t help the Marlins to muddy the waters with two such cost-efficient stars before Stanton goes.) Ozuna has two years of arbitration before he’s a free agent, so his timing may not be right for them.
- Marlins TV broadcaster Rich Waltz and Jeff Conine did not deserve to be let go, though in Conine’s case, if Derek Jeter wanted to cut ties to the previous regime, it’s at least somewhat understandable (he was close to David Samson). No one around South Florida believed it was FOX that made that call, as is claimed, especially given that Waltz will continue to work for them in some regard. In a Miami Herald piece, someone “very close to Conine” doubted it was FOX’s call, too.
- It would be a surprise if Jeter hired his old manager Joe Girardi for a TV role, as they weren’t seen as especially close. Girardi was a rival of Jorge Posada, and Jeter was always a Posada guy (‘Sada, as he called him, endearingly). Girardi is living in the Boca area so it would make some sense, though, as a year fill-in before he presumably gets another managing job.
- The Marlins have begun interviews for the lofty job of president of business operations. They’ve mostly hired Yankees people so far (and one Mets person), but they are using a headhunter for this serious spot.
New York Mets
- The Mets have checked in all the possibly-available second baseman – Ian Kinsler, Caeser Hernandez, Dee Gordon, Brian Dozier and Jason Kipnis. Kinsler makes sense as a short-term solution who presumably wouldn’t cost a ton of prospects, but the Mets aren’t currently engaged with Detroit.
- The Mets have considered Eric Hosmer, but if they stick to their stated plan not to extend the payroll, that would seem unlikely. “Long shot,” one person familiar with their thinking called Hosmer. They have also looked at Carlos Santana.
- Unless they trade Juan Lagares (not ruled out), they won’t seriously play for Lorenzo Cain.
- They’ve gotten a positive report on Michael Conforto and his shoulder. While Jay Bruce is being considered, it seems like he’ll have better offers elsewhere.
- They seek one set-up type, such as Bryan Shaw, Mike Minor or their former closer Addison Reed. The Mets seem comfortable with an A.J. Ramos/Jeurys Familia duo closing.
- They will look at a back-end starter, but it’s consider “not a priority.”
- Johan Santana is on the Hall of Fame ballot, which presumably means he is aborting his comeback efforts. Last we knew (and not long ago at that) he was seeking a comeback. His Hall candidacy is interesting, but on a stacked ballot, he might be in danger of being knocked off via the 5-percent rule (a bad rule).
New York Yankees
- The Yankees have been on the far fringes of the Giancarlo Stanton talk to this point, and one reason for that is the difficulty it would seem to be for them to fit Stanton and his $25 million salary under the $197 million luxury tax threshold
- The Yankees are seen as the Shohei Ohtani favorite for a lot of reasons (marketing possibilities, history of Japanese stars, including a Japanese star on the current roster), but it doesn’t hurt that they have $3.5 million in international spending money, which is second by only $30,000 to the Texas Rangers, who have the most money. Not only that, according to the figures obtained by FanRag Sports, only two other teams are at $2 million or more – the Twins at $3 million and the Pirates at $2 million-plus. (Next is the Giants at $1.8 million). The Mariners, who are serious about going for him, are at $1.6 million. Among teams with interest but very little spending power are the Dodgers (close to $600,000), Red Sox ($425,000) and Mets ($175,000).
- Alex Cobb and CC Sabathia are also on their rotation radar.
- If anyone is seen as a favorite in the Yankees’ interesting managerial search, it may be Aaron Boone, who, like fellow candidate Carlos Beltran, made a very favorable impression in a short stay as a player in the Bronx. Boone and another former player who was briefly a Yankee, Hensley Meulens, were said to have done well in their first interviews, and are among those with a seeming chance at a second one. Boone and Beltran have absolutely no managing experience (Boone has been an announcer since he retired, and Beltran just retired) and no one has said exactly why they left such strong positive impressions on the Yankees. But here are a couple guesses: Boone showed rare honesty when, after injuring his knee playing pickup basketball, he admitted how he hurt himself and forfeited any pay for the following year with his honesty. And Beltran wanted to so much to be a Yankee that he offered to come to the Bronx for about $20 million less than he wound up making from the crosstown Mets (he was reported to have been willing to go to the Bronx for $98 million, but got $119 million from the Mets) and showed again a love for pinstripes by signing with them as a free agent years later. Chris Woodward’s connection to the Yankees is minimal (he was cut one spring training, Eric Wedge is the one candidate with major-league managing experience and may be viewed as the control choice. One rival exec said he thinks Wedge is very good, but is a lot like the fired Joe Girardi in terms of intensity (it’s high). And Rob Thomson is a respected coach who deserved an interview, but has been seen as a long shot due to his close ties to Girardi (that seems rough, as everyone who’s been with the team has ties to Girardi, but in any case, they seem like they want to move on). Beltran is the most interesting candidate as a likely Hall of Fame player who retired only weeks ago. He is respected and offers a lot of positives. But others wonder why he would want to manage. Star players have been major-league managers before (Frank Robinson, Paul Molitor and obviously Joe Torre), but none that has made $200 million. “Managing is quite a grind,” says one rival who wonders why Beltran would do it.
- Michael Pineda is drawing a lot of interest. The goal is to be back on a mound by August, but he’d work as a two-year deal.
- Rob Thomson would be a worthy choice as bench coach for any team. He’s terrific, but if he is hired the Phillies become just the latest team to have no MLB managing experience for its manager and coach. The manager, Gabe Kapler, has only managed one year at A-Ball (Greenville, S.C.).
- The Pirates are yet another team that’s making a big play for Shohei Ohtani. They have to be considered a long shot (even they have to understand that) but they have an interesting pitch. They noticed similarities between Pittsburgh and Ohtani’s smallish hometown, and will sell him on a low-key life, where he can walk down the street and not be accosted for his celebrity. It’s worth a try. Can’t hurt.
- It seems the Pirates could consider a deal for Andrew McCutchen, or perhaps even Gerrit Cole. But they are saying any trade would have to make “baseball sense,” so it’s a greater likelihood they hold Cole for now, even if they do field interest.
- Jung-Ho Kang was released from his Winter League team, raising a question as to his Pirates status, even beyond his terrible driving record.
St. Louis Cardinals
- The Cardinals look like a major player this winter, even if they can’t lure Giancarlo Stanton. They have identified a big bat and a big reliever as their main areas of need. But they will look at Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish and other top relievers.
- In addition to Wade Davis (yet another Cub) and Greg Holland, they have to look at Zach Britton as well.
- They considered Brad Ziegler as a trade possibility over the summer. As a Kansas City native, he probably wouldn’t mind that.
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
- Giancarlo Stanton had previously been assumed to be willing to accept a trade to the Giants, but this has only been assumption based on geography; one person with some Miami ties to Stanton suggested he has concerns about the depth of the Giants and chances for a turnover after their 64-98 season (way worse than even the Marlins) and the new belief is that Stanton would most like to see where the rival Dodgers stand first, before seriously weighing the other interested teams.
- Dee Gordon’s name did come up in trade talk with the Marlins, though there’s still a belief he’d be more likely to be dealt to one of the teams with a more obvious second-base need (Angels, Blue Jays, Mets, etc.).
- Former Giant Eduardo Nunez’s name has come up. They don’t have a great answer at third base, at present.
Tampa Bay Rays
- This might be the time for the Rays to rebuild. They certainly seem to be considering it, and with only four top starting pitchers on the market (including their own Alex Cobb), they probably could get hauls for Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi. Some see them waiting until the trade deadline, and perhaps letting the uber-talented Archer enhance his value, but with four years to go, it’s pretty high right now.
- Logan Morrison is the obvious No. 3 first baseman on a market where Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana clearly fill out the top two spots. So he may have to wait for them to sign first.
- The Rangers’ immediate focus is starting pitching, which is very thin. They are looking at Cobb and Lance Lynn, which has been mentioned here before, but to this point not Jake Arrieta or the old friend Yu Darvish.
Toronto Blue Jays
- Eduardo Nunez is on the Jays’ radar. They made middle infield their priority, and someone who can play shortstop as well as second does make sense for them considering Troy Tulowitzki’s injury issues the past few years.
- Dee Gordon appears to interest them, as well.
- Lorenzo Cain makes sense for the Jays, as does J.D. Martinez, which was mentioned here last week. As a longtime Tiger, he’s expected to like Toronto (not too far away).
- GM Mike Rizzo is a lame duck heading into the year. It would seem he’d deserve another extension. While there’s been a rotation of managers (the owners need to take the hit on that one), they’ve won 90-plus four times with Rizzo, and almost nobody has his record in free agency.