WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – With the signing of Matt Wieters by the Nats, all the big offseason stuff is mostly out of the way now.
So without further ado, here are the long-awaited grades …
Whoever thought they had a chance to land Edwin Encarnacion? Not many. And not even them. There’s no question his signing for $60 million was one of the greatest winter miracles in baseball history. So big thumbs up to president Chris Antonetti, GM Mike Chernoff and Co., and also to owner Larry Dolan (known here as “the good Dolan”). While the party at Napoli’s is obviously over, no one’s complaining. Boone Logan adds a lefty to one of baseball’s best pens on a one-year deal. It appears that only health questions (there’s already concern about Michael Brantley, more on that below) can keep them from another division championship. Grade: A.
Chicago White Sox
They acquired three of the best prospects in the game at a time most teams don’t part with prospects, and even got the Red Sox to pay for the $31 million remaining on the Yoan Moncada deal. Also in their impressive haul were hard-throwing Michael Kopech and highly-ranked Lucas Giolito (though the Nats seemed to have been down on him). And they still have Jose Quintana, which means a third huge haul remains possible. Grade: A.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox said they were content with their rotation, but made the big deal of the winter, landing superstar pitcher Chris Sale, one of the best pitchers in the game and quite a cut-up. The hunch is, David Price will do better his second go-round in Boston, giving them quite a top three (with also Cy Young winner Rick Porcello). Tyler Thornburg was a very key pickup, especially considering the re-figured value for late-inning relievers. They liked Mitch Moreland for his ability to hit to left-center (though Pedro Alvarez might have been a bigger threat), though no one can replace Big Papi. Grade: A.
Los Angeles Dodgers
They brought the whole gang back. And why not? Kenley Jansen is one of the top three closers in baseball, and he understandably wanted to stay with the organization that converted him from catcher (plus, he had family reasons to stay). Rich Hill got the big deal he’d been waiting for forever, and that was a nice twist to a heart-wrenching story. And Justin Turner has become one of the better clutch hitters in baseball. They even returned clubhouse favorite Chase Utley on a late surprise, after getting a much needed right-handed bat, the improving Logan Forsythe from Andrew Friedman’s old team. Ian Kinsler or Brian Dozier would have been even better, but the Dodgers like their prospects (and they’ve been proven right over the years for holding them tight: see Corey Seager and Julio Urias). With Hyun-Jin Ryu said to be back in better health, no one has depth like them. Grade: A.
They wound up bringing back Mark Trumbo on a seemingly reasonable $37.5-million, three-year deal in a tough market for power hitters, replacing mainstay Matt Wieters with Welington Castillo and making some depth moves. There are some real injury concerns (Chris Tillman, and to a lesser extent J.J. Hardy) but this group has made a habit of surprising folks. Grade: A-minus.
They added two oldies but goodies for the rotation and will now line up Julio Teheran, Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia, R.A. Dickey and Mike Foltynewicz as a viable rotation, then plugged a second base hole and plugged it again when Sean Rodriguez and his family were broadsided by a criminal driver, knocking him out for the year. Brandon Phillips now seems anxious to join the team that looked much better in the second half. Plus, lefty Luiz Gohara, the youngest pitcher in the Arizona Fall League, and promising Alex Jackson, who will be converted back to catcher, came from the Mariners, enhancing a potentially bright future. Manager Brian Snitker is on a short leash with a one-year guarantee, and the guess is, they play for him. If not, Ron Washington, a John Hart favorite, is waiting in the wings. A-minus.
They gutted their system and spent a bit to give themselves a chance at one last hurrah before the probable big sale of the team. In any case, their everyday lineup is young and talented and the pen looks strong, giving them an outside chance to surprise some folks. Steady hand Don Mattingly is a good man to help them bounce back from a tragic first year that will be recalled for the impossibly sad death of their best player, superstar pitcher Jose Fernandez. If Giancarlo Stanton can stay healthy, they still have the makings of a great positional nucleus, Dan Straily and Edinson Volquez should provide needed innings, pen pickups Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa improve a strength and veteran backstop A.J. Ellis brings top leadership skills. Grade: B-plus.
New York Mets:
They did what they absolutely had to do, which was bring back lineup anchor Yoenis Cespedes, who has thrived since coming to New York. It’s OK they are overpaying a bit to keep Neil Walker at second base, but they probably regretted picking up Jay Bruce’s option after the corner power market imploded. Two more returnees – Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas – were essential for a pen that is expected to be without Jeurys Familia for a while with an MLB domestic violence ban. Addison Reed can fill in ably while Familia’s gone. Grade: B.
New York Yankees:
They loved Aroldis Chapman, so his return surprised no one and gave the Yankees a great bullpen again. After adding him and stud veteran hitter Matt Holliday, there was said to be $4 million left for GM Brian Cashman to utilize, and their late pickups on the cheap for Chris Carter and Jon Niese could pay off. Their modified rebuild may be way ahead of schedule judging by the performance of Gary Sanchez late last year and Gleyber Torres in the Arizona Fall League (Torres was MVP). They may be better than folks think, and could regret failing to add a veteran pitcher to give them some rotation depth that’s lacking. Of course, they have plenty of prospects to trade for that later, if needed. Grade: B.
They’d get an “A” for effort, but somehow, it seems the money could have been better spent. Ian Desmond is a fine all-around player, and he gives them an option just about anywhere if there are injuries, as there often are at a mile high. But as a first baseman he’s barely an average offensive player (and one who hit .237 in the second half last year). Mike Dunn got the recommendation of new coach Mike Redmond from their days together in Miami, and he’s a plus for the pen, but he, too, seems like an overpay at $19 million for three years, especially after Boone Logan and Jerry Blevins signed for barely a third of that. They do have a stable of pitchers with promise, and perhaps their best chance in years, so they have that going for them. Grade: B.
The Tigers promised to start a selloff but they never did it, and that was the correct call for a team that admirably puts winning first. Perhaps they were hoping to give excellent owner Mike Ilitch one final big chance, but unfortunately, Ilitch passed away, leaving behind quite a legacy of effort for their historic franchise. They won’t be great in the field or on the basepaths, but they will pound the ball again, especially from the right side, and the return to stardom of Justin Verlander gives them hope to remain a threat. Of course, they’ll need to do better against the Tribe this go-round. Grade: B.
St. Louis Cardinals:
Dexter Fowler and Brett Cecil filled obvious needs, and while they are certainly no bargains, they will help. The Cardinals still carry themselves as a champion, and they have a decent rotation, even after the disappointing loss of Alex Reyes to Tommy John surgery, and a solid offensive team. But they will still need a nice bounce-back year from Mike Leake, and also to prove their fundamental flaws from a year ago were a fluke. Grade: B.
Their charge was to surround their great hitting triumvirate of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager with enough talent to get them to the playoffs for the first time in forever. And GM Jerry Dipoto, baseball’s biggest dealer, worked overtime to that end. The most vital move was to add Jean Segura, who will play shortstop, which has some worried that new defensive responsibilities could negatively impact his offense. There are still a lot of questions about the rotation, and that even includes with longtime ace Felix Hernandez, but they won’t have to pitch great with such a fine offense. Grade: B.
They answered the expected loss of Aroldis Chapman with a nice move to replace him with Wade Davis, one of few pitchers who could replicate what Chapman does, presuming he’s healthy. And the cost was only Soler; while he had four years to go, he had lost his place with the Cubs who lost patience. The other moves were smaller ones. Jon Jay bring hustle and nice defense to a center field platoon with fellow Miamian and protégé Albert Almora. And Brett Anderson is another low-risk option for the No. 5 starting slot. Of course, the Cubs hardly needed an overhaul. They were the best last year, though it took extra innings to break their 108-year drought in Game 7 vs. Cleveland. Grade: B.
Kansas City Royals:
The tragic loss of Yordano Ventura makes things difficult, as there’s no way to replace him. They will likely outdo all the lowly saber picks again, as they know how to get things done, and will also very likely band together in the potential K.C. swan song for Eric Hosmer (talks are barely getting started, though he’s the one they most want back), Lorenzo Cain (very likely a goner after the year, if not sooner) and Mike Moustakas. But can they improve with a rejiggered roster and better health? Jason Hammel should provide innings and Brandon Moss some power, but Jorge Soler was a disappointment in Chicago and their bullpen won’t be quite as deep without Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Grade: B.
They seem to be giving it one more shot with Zack Greinke, who totes a $34-million salary, or about four times more than the second highest paid D-back (Yasmany Tomas), before possibly fielding trade offers again this winter, or even at the deadline. Of course, they have to hope he has a better start to the 2017 season than the ’16 one if they do wind up trading him, as the best offer is believed to have come from the Dodgers for something short of $25 million per year. The talented Taijuan Walker was an interesting add, but they are going to have to find a shortstop from among Chris Owings, Ketel Marte and Tony La Russa favorite Nick Ahmed. There were too many cooks last year, spoiling any real chance for deposed GM Dave Stewart. But new man Mike Hazen seems to have a better situation after the past few GMs were put in tough spots. B-minus.
San Diego Padres:
The Pads appear to be back on the right track, spending mostly on the future while concentrating on their Latin stronghold. They spent the winter adding rotation pieces at low rates, taking advantage of the opportunity they offered to lure veterans in need of jobs, including Jhoulys Chacin, Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard and ultimately Jered Weaver. They won’t win for a while. But the better news is, their young stash is an impressive one. Grade: B-minus.
As one Reds person said, “the fourth time was the charm” to be rid of Brandon Phillips, the man who wouldn’t leave. The Reds, of course wound up practically giving him away to make room for Jose Peraza, but it was time. He had to go. Everyone around the organization knew it. Nice bonus to get actual prospects back for waiver-wire pickup Dan Straily. Grade: B-minus.
They know they are a year away but improved their lots with several one-year deals for veterans, some of whom could become trade bait. Jeremy Hellickson showed he can thrive in tough Citizen’s Bank Park, so it’s not such a bad thing he took the $17.2-million qualifying offer. Howie Kendrick, Michael Saunders and Joaquin Benoit add more veteran presence (not to mention trade fodder) as the young corps matures. The deal for Odubel Herrera could be a bargain. Grade: B-minus.Washington Nationals
The late signing of veteran catcher Wieters saved them from a C (or lower). That’s a big plus, as they were previously looking at going from the best hitting catcher in 2016 (Wilson Ramos) to about the worst, at least statistically speaking. Wieters should help. A lot. The Nats also seem extremely excited about the prospect of Adam Eaton batting behind new superstar Trea Turner at the top of an excellent lineup, and while that trade seemed like an overpay to most, they get five more years with Eaton, which makes them feel much better about the situation. In any case, they seem to have no regrets about not sending what may have been a similar package to Pittsburgh for Andrew McCutchen. GM Mike Rizzo has been making great deals for years, but the continuing pen question carries the potential to haunt them. After failing to land Mark Melancon (he preferred the signing bonus in SF, a Nats person said he believed; plus the Denver native probably didn’t mind going West) or Kenley Jansen in free agency, and deciding not to trade center field prodigy Victor Robles for Alex Colome and never really coming to close to a deal for David Robertson, they are holding tryouts for closer. The situation has the potential to queer what might be a very nice season. For now, the closer could be Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley, Endy Romero, Koda Glover or even Joe Nathan, a great one who’s 42 but has shocked them early. Grade: B-minus.
Los Angeles Angels:
The moves to add Danny Espinosa and Cameron Maybin aid a decent defense, and Luis Valbuena provides a needed left-handed bat. In any case, it’s fair to say the Angels may be better than folks think, anyway (they were only outscored by 10 runs last year, despite being knocked out early by a rotation’s full of injuries). If Garrett Richards is sound enough to replicate past performances, that will be a big bonus. But you have to wonder whether Jesse Chavez will ably fill a rotation spot, and whether the catching tandem of Martin Maldonado and Carlos Perez will be good enough to handle a starting corps marked by youth and arm questions. Grade: B-minus.
They did a nice job filling holes with one-year deals, gathering Mike Napoli, Carlos Gomez and Andrew Cashner without breaking what seemed to be an uncharacteristically restrained budget. Napoli is a winner and Gomez seemed to form a great and quick connection with manager Jeff Banister. But Cashner, at this point, looks like a flyer, the type of hard-throwing talent who is destined to break your heart. Overall, their offense probably won’t be as good, with Desmond, Beltran and Moreland gone, but they also likely saved some money for some potential extensions (more on that below) and their usual deadline dealing. Grade: B-minus.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants were intent on bringing in Melancon after regretting missing out on him at the deadline last year following an October bullpen blowup, and he certainly addresses their biggest need. Though, he didn’t exactly come cheap; Melancon was one of four players who went in trade for Joel Hanrahan three years ago, and now he gets $62 million. The Giants filled their biggest hole but have also left a question at third base (though late signee Aaron Hill gives them a backup plan) and in left field (though some love Mac Williamson’s power). Somehow, they look even further behind the Dodgers – though if they get to October, you know these three-time champions are going to be dangerous. Grade: C-plus.
Tampa Bay Rays:
They seemed to have loosened up a bit. But they appear to have clung to the unrealistic belief they can contend (at least that’s what they say, publicly). In the long run, the guess here is they would have been better off trading star starter Chris Archer, who’s been inconsistent but maintained a high valuation, or even closer Colome. You have to love LoMo, who’s a great personality. But $2.5 million looks like an overpay at this point. Getting pitching prospect Jose De Leon for decent second baseman Forsythe is the thing they needed to do more of. Grade: C-plus.
They made several big bold maneuvers to build an excellent offense, gathering names early when the prices seemed highest. In the end, they seemed to have overpaid drastically for Josh Reddick, Brian McCann and Charlie Morton, especially compared to moves that came later. In any case, the lineup is imposing. As for the rotation, well, that remains a question. They need Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. back healthy and dealing, especially if they can’t complete a deal for Quintana. Grade: C.
They kept Sonny Gray rather than selling low and avoided the drastic moves that have marked their years. They made some nice moves, Rajai Davis and Trevor Plouffe among them, but they seemed like small potatoes for a team willing to try anything. The most interesting thing they did was get into the fray for Encarnacion, making a nice try at $50 million for two years, before Encarnacion decided they were too geographically undesirable for him to consider returning to his roots. They did make some great pickups at the deadline, like starter Jharel Cotton and others from the Dodgers, but they aren’t included in the grade here. Grade: C.
They were certainly right to non-tender home run champion Chris Carter based on how he struggled later as a free agent. But the play will ultimately depend on whether Eric Thames can translate his Korea stardom to the majors after signing a three-year deal. Wieters would have been a nice add for a young staff in need of help, and they did have a late meeting on the subject before ultimately deciding against it. They are said to be shooting for 2019. And that may be about right. Grade: C.
They neither traded Andrew McCutchen nor landed Jose Quintana, giving them a “headline, no story,” quality. They did tell McCutchen he needs to move from center field, and the guess here is, he responds with a much better offensive season. Daniel Hudson is here to help the pen. But Jung-ho Kang’s off-field problems are a real downer. Grade: C-minus.
Let’s put it this way: they still have a lot of work to do. They did add catcher Jason Castro early, giving him a pricey $24.5-million deal because he has the type of smarts to maybe lift a young and iffy staff. He’s also known for being able to steal a few strikes in a skill that’s become a hot commodity. But he will have to be a miracle worker among strike stealers to make this work. The pen remains unsettled, and they were disappointed not to have gotten what they felt was fair for star second baseman Dozier. But that was a bit of bad luck; this wasn’t they year to be shopping power – no one wanted it. They were also disappointed not to have lured Mike Napoli, who obviously has accurately sized up the situation. Grade: C-minus.
Toronto Blue Jays:
This would have gone a lot better had Edwin Encarnacion just accepted their early $80-million, four-year bid, though it’s hard to blame him for waiting and looking around, with the new CBA not yet done and rumors swirling that the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros and Rangers were poised to go big for EE. As it turned out, rather than revisit Encarnacion, the player they loved, once the CBA was finalized, they wound up going back to retain Jose Bautista, the star they seemed to have soured on but suddenly had to have. While they got Bautista for $18 million (about 10 percent what he originally sought) it seemed almost like a desperation move partly done in response to disappointed fans (though they clearly needed outfield help). The early signing of Kendrys Morales guarded against the Encarnacion loss but looks like a bit of an overpay now. J.P. Howell and Joe Smith are pluses, but Brett Cecil is a big loss, too. Grade: D.
Around the Majors …
With Jorge and Rubby De La Rosa bidding for a starting spot this year, this situation could turn into a war De La Rosas. (sorry!)
The Braves are considering bringing back Kelly Johnson for a third go-round but word is that he seeks a major-league deal. Maybe they can sign him and trade him to the Mets again? … Technically, Brandon Phillips didn’t turn down his first trade to the Braves. He just hadn’t decided when time expired and the Braves moved on to take Rodriguez. The second time, the Braves got Phillips for considerably less … Word is, Matt Kemp has lost significant weight.Baltimore Orioles
While it is always some concern when a shoulder is involved, the Orioles say they believe Chris Tillman is just behind due to having to stop his offseason program. The Orioles are penciling him in for about 10 days into the season. He seems to have reacted positively to the PRP injection. Should Tillman be out an extended period that would be a big loss … The Orioles have been very active lately, adding outfielders Craig Gentry and Michael Bourn plus pitchers Vidal Nuno, Richard Bleier and Gabriel Ynoa. Last-minute moves have been a hallmark of Dan Duquette’s operation. Nuno is seen as a reliever who can make an occasional start, and didn’t have anything to do with Tillman’s issue … No one said a word at the time, but the $11.5-million deal for Manny Machado seems quite light, considering almost a decade ago Prince Fielder made the same figure at the same service time level. The lack of progress is stunning … The Orioles were considering a minors deal for Steve Clevenger, whose career suffered a major setback when he posted idiotic tweets a year ago, leading to his immediate suspension by the Mariners. But sometime after Clevenger gave an interview to Jeff Passan of Yahoo in which he attempted to apologize and explain his nutty tweets, there was no offer made for Clevenger. “The Orioles passed,” is all the word back on that one. It does seem like he might have scarlet T (for bad tweeter) now, and his best bet may be to try an independent league … The Orioles and Royals are once again rated as somewhat stinky by the PECOTA projections, which have been wrong a lot about those two teams. “They’re consistent,” Duquette remarked, drolly.
Boston Red Sox
They like what they see so far from Pablo Sandoval, and while they won’t say what his weight is, he is considerably smaller. Good thing, because third base is his job, if he takes it. Brock Holt is the second option … Hector Velazquez, a 28-year-old right hander, chose the Red Sox over the Yankees. The Red Sox have decent hopes for the converted infielder.
Jake Arrieta and the Cubs were supposed to speak about a potential contract in January, but if they did, there is no sign of optimism. Cubs management weighs age heavily in their calculations, and there’s no indication they were willing to go more than four years, if that. Arrieta is expected to be one of the biggest free agents in a strong market this winter, and he will undoubtedly cite the Max Scherzer $210-million deal as a comp.
“Why would a guy take any less when he’s six months from free agency?” Arrieta asked rhetorically. “I’m not even talking about myself.
“Somebody will pay,” he said. “That’s a known fact. I’m healthy, in the prime of my career; I’m going to be good for a long time. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, it remains to be seen.”
Sources still remain concerned about Michael Brantley, but the team is hopeful … The Indians loved the idea of adding Utley to the clubhouse and made an offer (though one below the one he took with the Dodgers), and might have had a shot if L.A. hadn’t stepped in late … The Indians are pretty set with the only questions being the last outfielder (Austin Jackson is among those in the mix) and last bullpen piece. Pretty remarkable position for a small-market team.
The Reds were believed to have been willing to go higher than the $3 million Jered Weaver signed for in San Diego. Thus, they remain a possible destination for starting pitchers who remain on the market – Doug Fister, Colby Lewis and Jake Peavy.
The Tigers understand that there’s practically no way Justin Upton will trigger his opt out after the year, not the way power has been de-valued on the open market. That said, they expect much more for him this year after his big finish following a shockingly slow start … The Tigers are encouraged that Jordan Zimmermann’s neck situation appears to have cleared up … A big loss for the Tigers came with the resignation of R.R. person extraordinaire Aileen Villareal, who left to pursue other interests in her L.A. hometown. Anyone interested in baseball P.R., the Tigers may make two hires … The team seems most likely to have Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Collins share the center field job, though others are in the mix.
The Astros made the most prominent play for Miguel Cabrera this winter, but their offer was so weak, Tigers people felt they couldn’t even take it to owner Ilitch. Word is, the Astros wanted Detroit to pay more than half the $150 million remaining on Cabrera’s contract … Mike Fiers and Chris Devenski are battling for the No. 5 starter job … They need to start better than 7-17. They gamely tried to climb out of it, and almost did it.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals and Eric Hosmer are expected to have negotiations, and word is, he’s the top free agent on their “keep” list (Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain also are free agents after the year). The team has conceded he’s worth more than Brandon Belt, who got a $75-million deal with the Giants, and the number would almost certainly hit nine figures. But it is believed he might at least look at something in the range of the Mark Teixeira deal ($180 million, eight years), or perhaps even more years considering his relative youth (Hosmer was quoted recently saying he never said anything about 10 years). Agent Scott Boras isn’t commenting on the coming talks or the asking price, but word he is he views Teixeira as “old money,” considering skyrocketing MLB revenues in the eight years since.
Los Angeles Angels
They Angels met on Matt Wieters, but ultimately either decided to pass or were outbid by the Nats. Seemed like a perfect fit considering a rotation of young pitchers. By a certain standard (a pitcher making at least 70 starts within four years of their debut) Wieters has “brought along” the most starters since 2008, along with Buster Posey and Russell Martin.
Los Angeles Dodgers
L.A. asked about Justin Verlander this winter, though nothing got close as the $28-million salary was a lot for them since they also had interest in bringing back Rich Hill, Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen, which they did. Dodgers people are also telling some teams they may try to get below the luxury tax threshold in a year or two, once Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Alex Guerrero come off the books (my take: that’s a nice cause but still looks like a bit of a long shot). Verlander could be something to keep an eye on though, as he has made it known that if the Tigers do begin a serious sale at some point, he’d consider waiving his no-trade clause. Plus, the Dodgers would hold particular interest, as he and fiancée Kate Upton bought a home in the Beverly Hills area, and Upton obviously is in the modeling/movie business, so the Dodgers would be the most attractive option. And Verlander might be even better finally in the N.L. … The Dodgers had many more discussions regarding Ian Kinsler, but even more about Dozier, which were well publicized. The asking price for Kinsler was said to be higher than that of Dozier, plus Kinsler’s AAV is almost double that of Dozier ($14 million to $7.5 million) and much, much higher than that of Forsythe, who they eventually obtained to fill the second base slot … Utley, who was signed late for a backup role partly because he is seen as being so great for the clubhouse/club, gets $62,500 for 40, 60, 80 and 100 games, and also for 400 and 500 plate appearances, and $125,000 for 500 plate appearances … The Dodgers are one of several teams considering their old Cy Young closer Eric Gagne. Orel Hershiser, a great Dodger in their broadcast group, immediately endorsed a Gagne move to the majors. “It’s no joke,” a friend said of Gagne’s resurrection bid.
The Kushners’ excuse not to buy the Marlins that Jeffrey Loria is a candidate to be ambassador to France may have been a small factor, but there is word there were others. Word going around is that they also had at least one of two real issues. 1) they wouldn’t be approved by MLB due to Charlie Kushner’s seedy past (while he wasn’t the front man, it was going to be hard to say some of it wasn’t his money, and that might have been an issue, according to sources; Darren Rovell first reported of the Kushners’ involvement), and/or 2) they may have had trouble coming up with the cash. Someone in the know said, “They are billionaires but their money is in real estate.” In the end, between the lack of liquidity, the ambassadorship and all the rest, folks think it was just too big a headache … On the ambassadorship front, Loria is said to be a “serious” candidate … The Romney family was in talks on buying the Marlins, but eventually those discussions stalled … There are multiple groups still trying to buy the team, and while it isn’t known whether they could actually get $1.6 billion, word is, they should easily top $1.2 billion, which would still be an impressive return.
Owner Mark Attanasio was thought to be open to a try for Wieters, but his top baseball people either couldn’t get past his negative pitching framing results or didn’t want to spend the money at this juncture in the rebuild … The Brewers floated an extension in the $20 million range for Jonathan Villar, but he passed for now.
Over the winter they made a brief play for Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias.
New York Mets
The Mets seriously discussed a straight-up swap of Michael Conforto for J.D. Martinez before re-signing Cespedes but ultimately decided that one year of Martinez for Conforto wasn’t enough. For a while, though, it was a real consideration … The back is a bigger concern than the neck for David Wright, who said he’s taking “baby steps” but remains hopeful he’ll be a key contributor for the Mets, and get more starts at third base … The Neil Walker extension talks seems to have gone away. “Nothing to talk about,” a Mets official said … Amed Rosario looks like a can’t-miss prospect … Of the Mets’ big four pitchers (Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz), Terry Collins said, “they are “throwing the (tar) out of the ball.” … Yoenis Cespedes has turned himself into a personality through his spending habits (huge!), without hardly saying a word. The car watch is a real thing down in Port St. Lucie. It was big for Mets marketing to bring him back, as his agents sold teams.
New York Yankees
Joe Girardi’s deal is up at the end of the season. How much pressure is on him? Brian Cashman explains here … Dellin Betances is a great pitcher, but he was treated fairly in arbitration … The Yankees have two big power prospects in Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge, but in terms of raw power teammates say it isn’t close, that Judge has otherworld type power when he connects … The Romney family is in talks to buy a small piece of the Yankees. Details here. … Yankees people suggest that all the big improvements to George M. Steinbrenner Field will be done by the spring opener Friday vs. the Phillies, and they’ve been making great progress lately. However, it looks like there’s still a ways to go (for instance walkway that was supposed to encircle the stadium is still not yet a full circle.)
A rival GM says the A’s acted in talks like “they were selling the Sonny Gray of 2015, not the Sonny Gray of 2016.” Which is exactly why it was always going to be unlikely they’d move him … Several teams have sought medicals on Henderson Alvarez, who had surgery late last season and is planning an April/May return.
St. Louis Cardinals
While the Cardinals and catching icon Yadier Molina already have begun contract talks, as was reported here first, there is every reason to believe there’s a lot of work to do. The Cardinals seem to always look to make sound baseball judgments, even about their legendary players, which led to partings with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. A teammate said that while Molina may take something of a hometown discount, he didn’t think he’d take a big one. Molina, 34, had a very nice year last year (.307 batting average) and should be able to get three years on the open market despite his age, the friend speculated … Congratulations to Cardinals steady P.R. man Brian Bartow, who celebrated his 30th year on the job this week.
San Diego Padres
The Padres looked into Jose Iglesias, who would have fit nicely. But the offer was said to have been very little … The Padres are going to take a look at Gagne.
San Francisco Giants
Tim Lincecum is throwing and working out in his hometown in Seattle in advance of some team showcases. Several teams have expressed interest.
Tampa Bay Rays
No surprise, opposing teams believe the Rays seemed unmotivated to move Chris Archer, who has four years to go on his contract … Ryan Howard, who had a mansion in Clearwater, Fla., would still fit the Rays. “They should do it,” says a rival GM of Howard, who had a .900-plus OS in the second half last year… While Rays higher-ups are speaking optimistically again about a new stadium, the issue won’t be taken up until August, sapping some momentum. MLB seems to want them to stay in Tampa Bay since it’s the 11th-biggest media market and should be doing better than it has, though the Montreal rumors won’t go away. Even the Rays are thought to be worth close to $1 billion, and that’s without a new/real stadium.
The team is talking extension again with second baseman Rougned Odor. There is some hope that it can get done this time … The Rangers are also said to be “keeping the lines of communication” open with Yu Darvish on a possible extension, but both sides have agreed to keep things under wraps there. The Rangers’ close relation with Wasserman gives this a chance to get done even though Darvish is a free agent after the year. Texas signed Wasserman client Tyson Ross this offseason … There haven’t been talks yet with Jonathan Lucroy, a free agent after the year, but the sides plan to discuss things … This might be the end for Josh Hamilton, who’s seeing doctors after experiencing pain in his surgically repaired knee. Hamilton was back in camp today, but T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com said he’s “backing off.”
The Nats are said to very much like David Robertson, and though both sides suggest they were never really close on a trade during the winter, it still makes a lot of sense. The issue is this: if you talk to a Nats person, he’ll suggest the White Sox don’t behave like they really want to trade him, and if you ask a ChiSox person, he’ll say the Nats just weren’t very aggressive. In any case, the sides never agreed on the money/prospects. Perhaps the Wieters trade could help. The ChiSox could use a young catcher and Pedro Severino could make sense, as Mibelt Rodriguez and Phil Rogers pointed out … The Nats are trying to trade Derek Norris, other teams say. And that makes sense. Though considering he hit .186, good luck there … GM Mike Rizzo’s clandestine meeting recently with Wieters in Georgia (he took a day trip from spring training) may have had a big effect on the Nats’ about face … Nats people say Trea Turner’s arm looks even better than thought back at shortstop, his original position. The arm was the one question, but they have speculated that perhaps the time in the outfield stretched it out a bit … The Nats bid just about the same as the Giants for Melancon but believe San Francisco’s willingness to do a big signing bonus was a key. Melancon, a Denver native, probably didn’t mind going west after a career spent mostly on the East Coast … The much-criticized Jayson Werth $126-million deal generally has worked out very well for Washington, but there have been no talks about extending him following this season. Werth, meantime, says he’d like to play “three or four” more years. He believes going gluten and dairy free seven years go may pay off in an extended career.
Commissioner Rob Manfred is right to try to speed up the pace of the game, and while his hope for a pitch clock (a good idea, in my estimation) and possibly even limiting pitching changes (not for me) are a long way off, he’s having a hard time getting the players union to agree to do much beyond OKing a signal to execute an intentional walk. There is pushback even on mound visits, which is an idea that should have been done long ago. There’s plenty of time to talk in the dugout, I’d say. The other change will be quicker decision times for challenging calls, which was approved by MLB and the umpires, as is required.