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Inside Baseball MLB Notes | Baker wants another crack with Nats

Jon Heyman



Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker answers questions after Game 3 of the National League Division Series baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Chicago. The Cubs won 2-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the series. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

With the postseason well underway, Inside Baseball this week will focus only on the biggest stories around the game, rather than all 30 MLB teams, with both the American and National Leagues covered here.

From my take on 16 moves that have brought the Dodgers within one game of the World Series, click here.

Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Torey Lovullo is winning widespread praise for the job he did and seems like the likely Manager of the Year in his first year.
  • If the Nats took a piece out of the Cubs, hurting their chances to beat the Dodgers again in the NLCS, the Diamondbacks were hurt for their series with the Dodgers by having to use Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke to beat the Rockies in the wild-card game. Ray just wasn’t the same guy in the NLDS vs. the Dodgers as he was in the regular season against them.
  • Tony La Russa left the organization, and left no doubt that just because you’re a Hall of Fame manager, that doesn’t make you a Hall of Fame executive.
  • The D-Backs let go scouts John Vanderwal, Marty Mason, and Gill Kubsky. An original version of this story incorrectly stated that Todd Greene had also been let go, though he will remain with the team.
  • Despite the other firings, the D-backs still plan to expand the scouting department, which include hiring an additional pro scouting director.

Boston Red Sox

Chicago Cubs

  • If anyone thinks Cubs people think Joe Maddon was wrong to save Wade Davis for a save situation in Game 2, they would be wrong about that. While initially, it seemed like Davis was wasted, the reality is that, for his sake, they were only going to pitch him one inning at most anyway, so they’d still have to get out of another inning with someone else in a bullpen that’s gone south. Davis was believed not likely to have bounced back completely from his heroic seven-out performance to save the team in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nats, so it’s understandable why the Cubs wanted to be very cautious with him. He isn’t Kenley Jansen, who’s blessed with a rubber arm (yes, he’s human). Maddon explained to me he has no regrets about that, and that the decision for him was whether to stay with Brian Duensing or go to veteran starter John Lackey. As it turned out, perhaps Duensing would have been better. But that’s a tough second-guess.
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon walks back to the dugout after taking out Mike Montgomery during the eighth inning of Game 3 of baseball's National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Detroit Tigers

Houston Astros

  • They made some great decisions, and the call to go for Justin Verlander is among their best. But they may still rue that first deadline when they failed to come up with the extra relief help they needed. They blamed the Orioles for not following through on the agreed-upon Zach Britton trade. But the Dodgers came up with two strong lefties, and other relievers were dealt. Francisco Liriano may not have been enough.

Miami Marlins

Minnesota Twins

  • The hiring of respected journalist John Manuel, the longtime editor of Baseball America, was nice to see. Derek Falvey, Twins team president, was part of the hiring of a lot of journalists in Cleveland. One thing the Indians do great is blend new school with old, and the Twins should make sure to do this. Hard to believe they dispatched longtime exec/scout Wayne Krivsky, who while briefly GM in Cincinnati, helped bring in Justin Turner, Didi Gregorius and Todd Frazier (Chris Buckley was his scouting director). Not bad at all. Krivsky incidentally is the one who helped bring Turner to the Orioles and the Mets, too, and tried to get him back to the Twins when Turner decided to go home to the Dodgers instead.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Someone high up with the Dodgers suggested Corey Seager was a “coin flip” whether he’d be able to play in the World Series. One reason they may be more liberal in putting him on the roster is that they could replace him if he turns out to be unable to play, whereas if they’d tried to play him in the NLCS and he couldn’t go and had to be replaced, he couldn’t be brought back for the World Series, either.

New York Mets

  • The word out of Mets camp is that they have a final “six or so” managerial candidates. 
  • The Mets will pick up the $6.5 million option on reliever Jerry Blevins, which has been expected.
  • They still seem to be weighing whether to do the same with Asdrubal Cabrera’s $8.5 million option (as opposed to the $2 million buyout), but considering concerns about David Wright and whether he’ll be able to play third base (Cabrera was more than adequate in his absence), it is believed that it’s more likely than not they will pick that one up, too (but it isn’t quite a given).
FLUSHING, NY - MAY 31: New York Mets Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (13) throws over to first base during a regular season MLB game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the New York Mets on May 31, 2017, at Citi Field in Flushing, NY. (Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire)

New York Yankees

  • The trade with the White Sox turned out to be more key than anyone could have imagined. Todd Frazier has brought enthusiasm, personality and some extra thump to the lineup, while Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson have become perhaps their second- and third-best relievers in arguably the best bullpen in baseball (the Indians and Dodgers are pretty good, too).
  • The Aaron Hicks trade was quite a great one, too. He was originally picked by the Twins, but the Dodgers, picking next, had been poised to take him. Hicks could have been a fantastic pitcher, scouts say, but he only wanted to be a position player.
  • Aaron Judge is obviously back on top of his hitting game, but one AL scout says he’d benefit from doing what Giancarlo Stanton did, which was to close his stance.
  • There had been an assumption by many that Masahiro Tanaka would not opt out of his contract, which has $67 million remaining over three years. But now that he is back on his best form, that does not seem like such a safe assumption anymore. The little tear in his elbow has not affected him, and he’s been pitching like an ace, helping the Yankees to the cusp of the World Series. A Yankees person had suggested they wouldn’t “chase” Tanaka if he did opt out – but that was before he stepped up his game. One consideration is that the Yankees are determined to get below the $197 million luxury tax threshold, so they can reset their penalties downward in time for the big free agent winter of 2018-19.
  • CC Sabathia has spoken to friends about pitching “one or two” more years, and that should be no problem after the way he’s performed this year. The Yankees, as we’ve written here, would love him back, But he will have other opportunities after his wonderful performance.

Philadelphia Phillies

  • The Phillies have tried to keep everything quiet, but a few names have leaked out. Here’s a new one: Chip Hale, the former Diamondbacks manager and current A’s coach, went for an interview. Other names that have surfaced include Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, Phillies special assistant Jorge Velandia, Phillies minor-league manager Dusty Wathan, and Red Sox bench coach Gary DiSarcina. Brad Ausmus is another who’s thought to be on their list, but it’s hard to tell with the Phillies. Hale did a terrific job his first year with the D-backs, and one NL GM remarked, “I don’t understand why he wouldn’t be a candidate everywhere.” Hale was the runner-up when the Mets hired Terry Collins, and while the Mets showed initial interest, it isn’t certain whether he remains on their list.

San Diego Padres

  • Chili Davis received permission to talk to the Padres about their hitting coach position. He is one of the Red Sox coaches being allowed to look around, and word is at least a couple teams on the West Coast are considering him for hitting coach. (My thought: He never comes up as a managerial candidate, but he’d make a fine one.)

Washington Nationals

  • Dusty Baker looked so sad and spent after the Nationals’ heartbreaking elimination, some wondered whether he wanted to keep doing this. But word is, he’d love “another crack” with this Nats team and is just awaiting final word from the team. “It’s up to (the Nats),” one person familiar with the situation said. GM Mike Rizzo hasn’t said anything, but most people around the team seem to be thinking Baker will be back for 2018, and other sources suggest they, too, believe Baker will be back.
  • Some wonder how the Nats could even consider letting go of Baker. “Why should he be fired? They had so many injuries. They lost (Adam) Eaton. (Trea) Turner was out a lot. And they had many other injuries. Plus, their bullpen was a mess in the first half,” one MLB manager said. “What did he do wrong? He had (Max) Scherzer on the mound. He did the right thing,” one NL exec said. It makes no sense to change managers. But the Nats are a bit unpredictable when it comes to managers. There has been some thought a negotiation might not necessarily be easy – the Nats had a negotiation fall through two years ago with Bud Black, and Baker is paid significantly less than in previous jobs — but people close to Baker believe that what’s foremost in his mind now is getting another chance with a team that seems ready to win. And as for how sad and spent he looked, one Nats person said, “It’s going to sting for a lot of us for a while.”

Jon Heyman is an MLB Insider for FanRag Sports, featuring breaking news, information and his Inside Baseball column, which appears on FanRagSports.com every Thursday. Heyman also has been an insider at MLB Network since the channel launched in 2009 and is a regular contributor to WFAN in New York, where he appears weekly on the Joe and Evan Show and previously appeared on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. He also appears on WSCR in Chicago, WBZ-FM in Boston and the Petros and Money Show on Fox in Los Angeles. Heyman comes to FanRag Sports from CBSSports.com, where he worked for five years and wrote the popular Inside Baseball notes column. Before going to CBS, Heyman worked for five years at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, where he was a senior writer and started an Inside Baseball Column. Heyman worked for 16 years at Newsday in New York, where he was the Yankees beat writer, a baseball columnist and finally a general sports columnist. Heyman started his career at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, then moved to the Los Angeles Copley Newspapers (Torrance Daily Breeze and Santa Monica Outlook) before going to Newsday. Heyman at one time also served as a national baseball writer for The Sporting News. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Santa Fe, N.M. native grew up in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island.