5 AL moves that need to happen.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With the World Series trophy now residing in San Francisco, every American League team saw its 2012 season end in disappointment. Here are five moves that could help change that for 2013. We'll look at the NL side of things tomorrow.
1. Tampa Rays trade LHP David Price and SS Tim Beckham to the Arizona Diamondbacks for OF Justin Upton and RHP Trevor Bauer
It would be the blockbuster of blockbusters, with two franchise talents/former No. 1 overall draft picks switching coasts in the prime of their careers, but it is also a move that could potentially help both teams solve some issues. As long as the Rays hold their payroll at a similar level, trading Price is an inevitability, as his increasing arbitration awards are going to price him out of their budget within the two years. By swapping him for Upton -- whose salaries for the next three years are already locked in -- they can ensure that they have cost certainty over a premium young talent who can fill a void in their lineup, rather than having to move him for prospects in 12-18 months.
The Rays would essentially be replacing one Upton with the other, but they'd also be bringing in the power bat that they've needed to complement Evan Longoria for years. Upton's not as good a player right now as Price is, but given the respective replacements, the improvement in the outfielder might be equivalent to the drop off in the rotation, especially with a piece like Bauer coming along with Upton. The Rays have the pitching depth to move Price for an offensive upgrade, and acquiring Upton while his value is at its lowest might be their best chance to add a big-time bat while their window to contend is open. Buster Olney has already written that the Rays could be shopping Price this winter, and this is the kind of package that would make it happen.
For Arizona, the price is stiff, but it turns two players that have frustrated the organization into one of the elite pitchers in the game, and a true staff ace who can carry them if they get into October. It wouldn't be easy to pull the trigger on surrendering two guys who have carried as much hype as Upton and Bauer, but if Kevin Towers was offered the chance to turn potential into performance, I'm not sure he could walk away from the opportunity.
2. New York Yankees sign B.J. Upton for five years, $75 million
With Nick Swisher seemingly on his way out of New York, the Yankees have an opening for an outfielder, and they should take advantage of the chance to move Curtis Granderson to right field by bringing in a new center fielder. Upton would give the team a 28-year-old premium defender who has the same flaws that Granderson had when he came over from Detroit, so Kevin Long gets a new project with a lot of offensive potential. And by bringing in Upton to play center, the team can move Granderson to right field, where his diminishing abilities to go back on balls won't be as noticeable. The short porch in right field is a perfect fit for Granderson's defensive skill set, and Upton has the speed to run down balls in the gaps that Granderson won't get to.
Upton also gives the team some youth, which this aging roster could use, and his familiarity with the AL East should make the transition smoother. While $75 million might seem like a lot for a player who has never turned into what he was projected to become, his combination of above-average offense and range in center field make it an investment worth making.
3. Detroit Tigers sign Melky Cabrera for one year, $7 million
The Tigers' struggles against left-handed pitching were exposed in the first two games of the World Series, when Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner carved up their lineup in San Francisco. Especially problematic was the team's reliance on journeyman rookie (two words that don't often go together, and with good reason) Quintin Berry in left field, and his placement in front of Miguel Cabrera in the lineup due to the team's lack of on-base threats. Melky Cabrera can solve both problems at once, giving the team a drastic upgrade in left field who can also serve as the switch-hitting No. 2 hitter that Jim Leyland craves. Oh, and there's the fact that Cabrera destroyed left-handed pitching this year, putting up a 202 wRC+ against southpaws that ranked fourth in baseball, behind only Buster Posey, Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen.
Yes, there's the whole PED suspension issue, and Melky Cabrera is unlikely to ever repeat his 2012 performance, but he was pretty good for the Royals in 2011 and didn't fail any drug tests then. And on a one year "make good" contract, there wouldn't be much risk for the Tigers, who know a thing or two about giving second chances to guys who can hit. Offering Melky the chance to hit in front of the Triple Crown winner is a perfect sales pitch to get him to Detroit and show that he can perform even while clean. Given his contact rate, gap power and switch-hitting skills, he'd be the perfect complement to Miguel Cabrera, and the "Cabrera Squared" shirts would sell themselves.
4. Texas Rangers trade RHP Tanner Scheppers and 1B Mitch Moreland to the Cleveland Indians for OF Shin-Soo Choo
With Josh Hamilton unlikely to return, the Rangers need a legitimate left-handed bat. While plugging in Jurickson Profar and shifting Ian Kinsler to the outfield would create room for the team's best prospect and fill Hamilton's void, it would also make the team too right-handed, as they'd be down to just David Murphy and Moreland as left-handed regulars.
Choo would give them a patient left-handed stick whose gap power would play up in the heat, and could slide between RF and DH, depending on Nelson Cruz's health. His weakness against lefties means that they could use his spot to slide Profar in, getting him some playing time even if he's not slotted for an everyday job out of spring training. And because he's entering the final year of his contract, they wouldn't have to part with any of their best prospects to get him. The Indians would save roughly $8 million (depending on what Choo gets in his final trip through arbitration) and would add two interesting young players to their big league roster, so it's a move that could be a win-win for both sides.
5. Oakland Athletics sign Eric Chavez for one year, $4 million
Back when "Moneyball" -- the book, not the movie -- was published, Eric Chavez was Billy Beane's golden child. He had turned into an elite third baseman at a young age, and looked poised to help carry the franchise after the departure of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Miguel Tejada. However, chronic back problems derailed his career and stole his power, and Chavez had to spend his final four years in Oakland watching from the bench as the A's Cinderella run crashed around him. Now almost 35 years old, Chavez somehow found the fountain of youth in New York, but it's time for him to come home.
Josh Donaldson did an admirable job filling in at third base after Brandon Inge got hurt, but he's probably best suited to a part-time job, and as a right-handed hitter, he could use a lefty to share the job with. Chavez is a lefty who should be strictly platooned and can't be counted on to play everyday, so the match is perfect, and Chavez could be reunited with the franchise that developed him in time to celebrate its rebirth. The A's are extremely young and could use a veteran leader such as Chavez -- especially if he can hit like he did in 2012 again -- and it seems only fitting that he finishes his career where it started.
Offseason decisions for all 30 teams.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
DETROIT -- As Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News writes, free agency begins today for Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and others, given the changes in the system. Marco Scutaro will still have images of his World Series-winning single dancing in his head, forever entrenched in the great lore of the San Francisco Giants, and he'll be thinking about Tuesday's parade -- and yet all the while, he will not technically be part of their roster. This is how quickly the offseason work begins.
Most teams have held organizational and staff meetings in recent weeks to evaluate their own talent and consider outside options.
Some thumbnails on decisions to come for all 30 teams:
Los Angeles Angels: Their framework has changed rapidly. This franchise was thought to have outstanding starting pitching at the outset of 2012 season, but the Angels may have as many as three openings in their rotation going into 2013. C.J. Wilson had surgery that figures to impact him into next season, and the Angels must quickly decide whether to pick up options on Dan Haren ($15.5 million) and Ervin Santana ($13 million). There are legit reasons for them to pass on those options, and if they do so -- and are unable to re-sign Zack Greinke -- well, their rotation would be a complete mess.
Houston Astros: They need a whole lot of better players -- it's as simple as that -- as they brace themselves for what figures to be a really, really tough 2013 season.
Oakland Athletics: Oakland needs to identify a shortstop, whether it's through a new negotiated deal with Stephen Drew or some other route. The A's have a young team with a lot of parts already in place.
Toronto Blue Jays: Toronto has rotation needs, for sure, at a time when so many of the Jays' young pitchers are recovering from arm trouble. But as their next manager comes aboard, he will have to address perceived clubhouse culture issues -- like those that Omar Vizquel gave voice to at season's end.
Atlanta Braves: They will decide this week whether to pick up the $12 million option on Brian McCann and whether they'd rather use the money in their attempt to re-sign Michael Bourn.
Milwaukee Brewers: They want to add pitching and need two starters, but as written here a couple of weeks ago, they could be really interesting players in the market for Josh Hamilton, if he is not priced outside of their realm.
St. Louis Cardinals: Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman are out, but the rotation should be in good shape for next year, so long as Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and others come back. Allen Craig is fully established at first base. Now GM John Mozeliak has a lot of payroll flexibility to augment the bench and the bullpen, where he sees fit, and they have to hope that Rafael Furcal rebounds from yet another injury.
Chicago Cubs: Look, if there are ways for them to get better in the long term, they'll move on it. They do have a lot of money to spend but have to be careful to not squander their financial advantages.
Arizona Diamondbacks: They say they expect to keep Justin Upton. "Which is what you need to say to keep up the trade value," said a rival GM. "I still think they're going to deal him." Not unless the Diamondbacks get strong equal value in return, and they will be looking for someone who can play on the left side of their infield. It will be interesting to see if the Diamondbacks are willing to talk about Trevor Bauer, whose stock plummeted in the eyes of rival evaluators this season, amid questions about his fastball velocity and his ability to make necessary adjustments -- like pitching down in the strike zone.
Los Angeles Dodgers: They say they have a lot of money to spend, and it'll be interesting to see if they choose to compete with their market rivals, the Angels, for Greinke. They have to decide whether Hanley Ramirez is a shortstop or a third baseman.
San Francisco Giants: They won the World Series in 2010 and spent heavily to keep Aubrey Huff and others from that championship team, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if they had the same approach with Scutaro and Angel Pagan this year.
Cleveland Indians: This could be a relatively quiet offseason for the Indians, as they consider ways of augmenting the roster without spending a ton of money -- or it could turn into a winter of major change. If Cleveland devotes itself to overhauling the roster in an effort to rebuild the pitching, then it has a lot of players who would be really attractive in the trade market -- shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who is signed through 2014 and could be enormously attractive to Arizona, Oakland or Tampa Bay; outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is eligible for free agency after next year; Carlos Santana, who is reaching the crossroads when he needs to decide whether to rededicate himself to being a catcher; pitchers Justin Masterson and Chris Perez, as well as Vinnie Pestano -- because if the Indians go for the complete overhaul, they might as well trade Pestano now, when his value is at its highest.
If Cleveland traded that group of players, it could net a huge haul of prospects. The Angels, who are looking for bullpen help, could be a match.
Seattle Mariners: Seattle must decide whether to turn the page on Justin Smoak, who has really struggled the last two seasons, and whether to trade more pitching for offense, as the Mariners did last winter in the move for Jesus Montero.
Miami Marlins: They're in the process of a dramatic reduction of their payroll, while bringing in a whole new coaching staff. In other words, business as usual.
New York Mets: They don't have much money to acquire talent from outside the organization, but they will be willing to spend tens of millions to keep David Wright -- if he'll agree to stay. If not, they'll have some tough decisions to make.
Washington Nationals: They've opened contract talks with first baseman Adam LaRoche and pitcher Edwin Jackson, but they'll have to pay more than they ever expected to keep both -- or they'll have to find replacements.
Baltimore Orioles: They could be the sleeping giants of the winter, because their playoff berth of 2012 gave them credibility and now they have money to spend -- for help at first base or in the rotation. They are viewed, among rival executives, as one of the teams most likely to make a big, pricey splash this winter.
San Diego Padres: San Diego could be poised for a really big strike because they have a lot of prospect depth, and with a couple of upgrades, they would be really dangerous for next season. Soon we'll know if the Padres look at Chase Headley as a hot stock that needs to be moved when the possible return is at its zenith, or as a player they can build around.
Philadelphia Phillies: They need to find a third baseman and outfield help at a time when they don't have much money to spend because of other payroll obligations. The re-signing of Cole Hamels represents their big offseason move, for all practical purposes.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Once again, Pittsburgh is left to plug some holes in its rotation while assessing modest upgrades to its everyday lineup. After a frustrating finish to the 2012 season, it could be a rough winter, as well.
Texas Rangers: Some rival executives are convinced that Texas already has a foot out the door in its relationship with Hamilton. If the Rangers let him walk away, they'll have to decide how the other dominos will fall, with a possible pursuit of Justin Upton and with Ian Kinsler possibly moving to the outfield as Texas decides how to implement super prospect Jurickson Profar.
Tampa Bay Rays: Once again, they will weigh their choices as teams ask them about their pitching -- David Price, James Shields, etc. -- but keep in mind that the team's organizational philosophy has always been about hoarding good pitching, which is really the only way the Rays can compete. They badly need lineup upgrades and will have to find a replacement for B.J. Upton. On paper, they would seem to match up for a possible deal with the Royals, who have good position players to offer in trade.
Boston Red Sox: They need solid solutions at first base and shortstop, and at the back end of their bullpen, and they have to determine the best course of action with Jacoby Ellsbury, who is likely headed to free agency after next season.
Cincinnati Reds: They've got a really good pitching staff in place, but they need to settle on a course of action in left field and center field, whether they retain Ryan Ludwick or look for an alternative to Drew Stubbs. Presumably, Todd Frazier will be an everyday player in 2013, and friends of Scott Rolen believe he'll retire. The Reds have to decide who will play left field, writes John Erardi.
Colorado Rockies: Not only does Colorado need more pitching talent, but clearly it's an organization that is in the middle of reassessing its operational philosophy.
Kansas City Royals: They've got an outstanding bullpen and a good and developing everyday lineup, but they desperately need at least two solid starting pitchers to anchor the rotation.
Detroit Tigers: They'll need to rebuild their bullpen and figure out how to augment the lineup, beyond the 2013 return of Victor Martinez.
Minnesota Twins: Their challenge is daunting -- administer major improvements to the pitching staff without having much minor league talent and without much in the way of available funds.
Chicago White Sox: It was a really satisfying season for this team, in many respects, but there are major changes to come, with Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, etc. The White Sox are expected to decline a handful of options for their players, writes Mark Gonzales.
New York Yankees: Their priority is all about the pitching, for now. They'll need to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte (who friends believe is definitely coming back) and also negotiate a new deal with Mariano Rivera. And they'll try to find some middle ground with free-agent catcher Russell Martin, while seeing if anyone reaches out to them about Alex Rodriguez. They'll assess Robinson Cano's demands -- and if they're anything close to the rumored 10-year asking price, they'll probably punt on those talks until next winter.
• As the Giants took batting practice here before Game 4 Sunday evening, manager Bruce Bochy chatted near first base about what he loves about his job. Next season will be his 19th as a major league manager, but there is little sign of emotional wear-and-tear on Bochy. He sleeps very little during the postseason, he acknowledged, and during the past month he got away from an exercise-and-diet regimen that he'd been able to maintain most of the season.
I first covered Bochy two decades ago, when he was the third-base coach for the San Diego Padres and I worked at the San Diego Union-Tribune, and almost nothing seems to have changed about him. His internal equilibrium is still held in place by his self-deprecating sense of humor, and while he has never been boa****l or pushy, he has always been incredibly competitive. He may never, ever lend voice to it, but I'll always believe that he strongly believes in his own ability to manage a game, run a pitching staff, and cope with internal personnel issues. After the 1994 season, the Cubs approached the Padres about speaking to then-manager Jim Riggleman. I called GM Randy Smith to ask about possible replacements, and he mentioned only one name. "Boch," Randy said. "He's going to be a great manager."
On Sunday evening, I asked Bochy about how much longer he wanted to manage, and he sounded surprised by the question. "I haven't really thought about it," he said.
He loves San Francisco, he explained, and its fan base. He has felt great support in his relationships with general manager Brian Sabean and the team's owners and executives. He has always enjoyed the players, who, through their actions, have demonstrated their belief that Bochy's decisions are rooted in his pursuit of wins, rather than through some personal agenda. Barry Zito was taken off the postseason roster in 2010 and he didn't whine, didn't complain, didn't make excuses; he just went out to work through a bullpen session. When Bochy summoned Tim Lincecum to his office this fall to discuss Lincecum's demotion to the bullpen, Bochy said, Lincecum embraced the move fully and never complained. The Giants have a great core of clubhouse leadership, with Matt Cain and Buster Posey at the center, but with all the others buying in.
About five hours after Bochy talked about what he loves about his job -- which is to say, just about everything -- he ambled out of the dugout wearing a champagne-soaked T-shirt and a big grin. He's having the time of his life, again.
The Giants did it again, writes Henry Schulman. Giants' fans went crazy. It's hard to believe the Giants did it again, writes Mark Purdy. Marco Scutaro was the soul of the 2012 Giants, writes Tim Kawakami.
Hopefully there will be more treat than trick on Halloween in San Francisco.
The major tactical advantage for the 2012 World Series was in San Francisco's bullpen excellence. Tigers manager Jim Leyland had very few options he could really trust, and, on the other hand, Bochy had many outstanding relievers available, from Lincecum to Jeremy Affeldt to Sergio Romo.
From ESPN Stats & Information, how the Giants' bullpen dominated again:
A. Affeldt got six swings-and-misses, two more than in any other appearance for him this season. He threw two splitters, and both were swings-and-misses on strike three.
B. Romo started all three hitters he faced with a first-pitch strike. He matched a season high with five swings-and-misses overall.
C. Romo's first strikeout came with his slider; to that point, all of Romo's strikeouts this postseason had been with his slider. His next two strikeouts were with his fastball, and his strikeout of Miguel Cabrera to end the series was Romo's first called strikeout of the postseason.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info
6: Triples by the Giants this postseason (franchise record) -- including Brandon Belt's RBI triple in Game 4
10: Consecutive games with hit by Pablo Sandoval this postseason (one shy of Giants franchise record)
24: Consecutive games reaching base safely by Miguel Cabrera (T-3rd longest in postseason history)
56: Consecutive innings without trailing by Giants -- second-longest streak in postseason history (ended by Miguel Cabrera HR in third inning)
• As the World Series ended, Leyland quickly turned and retreated to the clubhouse, while Miguel Cabrera -- who took an 89 mph fastball right down the middle to end the series -- angrily grabbed his bats and walked out of the dugout. Justin Verlander stood against the railing and watched the Giants celebrate.
"I wish it were me," he said flatly.
Cabrera was asked after the game if he felt the six-day layoff between the end of the AL Championship Series and the start of the World Series had hurt the Tigers, and when he answered, he wasn't making an excuse, he wasn't complaining, he wasn't trying to take anything away from the Giants' pitchers, who he complimented.
Yes, he thought the Tigers were hurt by the layoff, he explained. They had been doing a lot of things well in Rounds 1 and 2 of the playoffs, and after the time off, they stopped doing those things well. They tried to make it work, he said, with the workouts before the World Series, but they got out of sync.
Some numbers from the World Series could be seen as support for Cabrera's belief.
From ESPN Stats & Info: The Tigers' main problem offensively in the series was their lack of success on pitches in the strike zone. After hitting .365 on such pitches in the ALCS, the Tigers hit just .175 on in-zone pitches in the World Series, including .059 (1-for-17) on pitches down the middle. Their batting average on pitches out of the zone dropped only slightly, from .148 to .130. Compared with the ALCS, they swung at a higher percentage of pitches in the strike zone and a lower percentage of pitches out of the strike zone.
Tigers vs. pitches in strike zone (ALCS/World Series)
Slug pct.: .587/.300
Miss pct.: 11.3/18.6
Said one scout: "The Giants pitched great, and when the Tigers got pitches to hit, they didn't."
Winter came too early for the Tigers. The Tigers' stars didn't get it done.
Detroit reliever Octavio Dotel says the Tigers didn't have the same fight as the 2011 Cardinals. He sounds like a casual fan; what the Tigers didn't have was the same bullpen, or just one more high-on-base-percentage hitter in their lineup.
Max Scherzer coped with a really hard year.
For the Tigers, change will come in 2013, writes Lynn Henning. Alex Avila had a forearm injury.
Phil Coke says the Tigers will be back.
Dings and dents
1. Lew Ford had surgery, writes Dan Connolly.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The hiring of Walt Weiss would be a compromise for the Rockies -- but a good one, writes Terry Frei.
2. Rick Knapp is going to another team.
Royals could trade for pitching.
DETROIT -- The career record of Anibal Sanchez is 48-51, but the contract he signs in the weeks ahead could be worth more than a million bucks for each of those victories because the timing of Sanchez's free agency couldn't be better. He's been pitching well of late; he's on the World Series stage; he's 28; and -- best of all for him -- the marketplace is expected to be flush with the cash of free-spending teams.
Sanchez could get anywhere from $30 million to $60 million as a free agent, some agents and executives predict, and Kyle Lohse could get a deal in the $77.5 million range, as C.J. Wilson did last winter.
This is the landscape the Kansas City Royals are staring at as they look to improve a rotation that desperately needs at least two solid starting pitchers. They could join the bidding for someone such as Lohse, or Sanchez, or Edwin Jackson -- but remember, GM Dayton Moore has been down that road before, having signed Gil Meche to a $55 million deal. Meche had a couple of decent seasons, but, in the end, he was taken down by a shoulder injury and his won-loss record with the Royals was 29-39. It didn't pay off.
This is why nobody should be surprised if the Royals deal one of the core hitters from their every-day lineup -- left fielder Alex Gordon, designated hitter Billy Butler, third baseman Mike Moustakas or first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Each would have varying degrees of trade value. Butler, 26, is under contract through 2014, at $8 million annually, with a club option of $12.5 million for 2015; he also would get an assignment bonus if he were to be traded. Gordon, 28, is signed through 2015, for salaries of $9 million, $10 million and $12.5 million; he has a player option at $12.5 million for 2016. Hosmer and Moustakas, who are represented by Scott Boras, do not have long-term deals.
Hosmer, 23, presumably would have the most value in the group despite coming off a really rough sophomore season in which he hit .232 with 14 homers; rival evaluators like his swing, and his defense. Moustakas, 24, hit 20 homers, with 73 RBIs.
On paper, the Royals could match up with the Tampa Bay Rays, who have a wide range of pitchers they would discuss in possible deals, from Cy Young candidate David Price to respected James Shields to less experienced pitchers such as Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann and Alex Cobb. The Mariners have a surplus of young pitching and have determined that their best shot at adding high-end offensive talent is through trades. The Diamondbacks have pitching to deal, and Moustakas could be an interesting fit for them. Oakland has pitching, and Hosmer would be a great fit for the Athletics.
The Royals claimed Chris Volstad.
The Mariners have pitching to trade, writes Geoff Baker, including James Paxton -- and Baker writes about how Royals' scouts were on hand.
• Ryan Vogelsong has been checking the forecast for tonight's Game 3 for the past few days, but unless it's raining hard, he will be pitching in short sleeves. It doesn't matter if it's 30 degrees, or 20 degrees, or 40 -- he'll make like an offensive lineman. While chatting the other day, he recalled pitching on a brutal day in Chicago last year, and he figures nothing could be worse than that -- and he threw six scoreless innings in that game.
The Giants were all bundled up as they worked out Friday evening.
Vogelsong's fastball, since August
Category First nine starts Last six starts
BA .354 .192
HR allowed 5 0
OPS 1.062 .509
From ESPN Stats & Information, more on Vogelsong's exceptional two-seam, sinking fastball:
"Vogelsong has been effective this postseason by getting ahead of hitters. Opposing hitters are 2-for-34 in at-bats ending in pitchers' counts (0-1, 0-2, 1-2 and 2-2), and 3-for-36 in at-bats ending with two-strike counts. If Vogelsong falls behind or gets to a three-ball count, Tigers hitters should look for his fastball. Vogelsong has thrown 23 pitches in three-ball counts and 10 in 2-0 counts this postseason, all of which have been fastballs. He has thrown just 10 off-speed pitches in hitters' counts (1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 and 3-1) in his three starts. Vogelsong struggled with his fastball for most of the second half of the season, but it has been extremely effective for him down the stretch and into the postseason.
Andy Dirks will be back in the Detroit lineup. This year -- including the postseason -- the Tigers are 53-35 when Dirks is in the starting lineup, and 42-43 in other games.
The Tigers' comeback must start tonight, writes Bob Wojnowski. They've been punchless, writes Lynn Henning.
The Tigers are in a comfort zone: as underdogs.
Bruce Bochy deserves more credit as a game manager.
As Prince Fielder was barreling home and bearing down on Buster Posey, the Giants say they weren't thinking about a possible collision.
The Giants' dynasty is here and now, writes Tim Kawakami.
From ESPN Stats & Info: Fifty teams have previously taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. Of those 50, 40 went on to win the World Series.
• Rick Hahn is taking over from Ken Williams, and he's prepared for the departures of Jake Peavy and A.J. Pierzynski.
• Joe Girardi went to extraordinary lengths to save Alex Rodriguez from some embarrassment.
This seems really silly, and another case of Girardi trying to manage fallout rather than just managing the games and his players. Late in the season, Girardi said repeatedly that CC Sabathia was healthy -- when the Yankees knew Sabathia was pitching with a bone spur and significant elbow discomfort.
• Lance Berkman wants to get in shape.
• The St. Petersburg mayor said no to the Rays. It's hard to overstate what a terrible situation the team is locked into.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Bryan Price interviewed for the Marlins' managerial job, writes Clark Spencer. Not surprisingly, Brad Ausmus wasn't interested.
2. The Marlins lost a catching guru.
3. The Pirates added two to their roster.
4. Joel Sherman estimates what it will take for the Mets to keep David Wright: an eight-year deal.
5. The Red Sox will interview Rick Peterson for their pitching coach job.
6. The Orioles cut ties with their No. 1 pick from 2006.
7. Torey Lovullo and John Farrell have a strong relationship.
8. The Brewers are thinking about small changes.
9. The Cardinals have a lot of pitching depth, writes Derrick Goold.
10. Walt Weiss was interviewed for the Rockies' job.
Santana a reclamation project for Royals.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Kansas City Royals need starting pitching if they're going to have any hope of respectability in 2013, even with an offense that should be comfortably above-average. With that in mind, they acquired right-hander Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles on Wednesday for minor league lefty Brandon Sisk.
AP Photo/Denis Poroy
Santana had a 5.16 ERA in 2012, but a 3.38 mark in 2011.It was hard to watch Santana in 2012 and remember that he was an effective, sometimes even above-average starter in three of the previous four seasons. However, the loss of some velocity made him extremely homer-prone -- a pitch that at 93 mph would miss a few bats became a BP fastball at 89-90, with about 60 percent of his homers allowed (and he allowed an American League-leading 39) coming off that flat four-seamer.
His slider is still a swing-and-miss pitch, although he left his share of them up in the zone this year as well, and his changeup is fringy enough that it doesn't miss left-handers' bats, leaving him more reliant on the slider. I see some approach issues that another pitching coach might help, but he also needs to find that missing velocity and learn to throw that changeup for strikes. There's enough raw material to entice teams -- like the Royals, perhaps -- into "we can fix him!" thinking, but at least now Kansas City has him on just a large one-year deal with the promise that he could re-enter the market next winter after a better performance.
Sisk is a potential lefty specialist, working with a fringy fastball but a low three-quarters slot that helps him sweep an 81-83 mph slider away from left-handed batters. He doesn't have a good weapon to get right-handed batters out, since they see the ball well out of his hand, and there's enough violence in his delivery that he's unlikely to ever show average command.
Santana has a $13 million team option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout. The Angels picked up the option before making the deal, and are sending $1 million to K.C. along with Sisk.
If the Angels weren't going to pick up the option or make Santana the qualifying offer needed to potentially collect draft-pick compensation for him next year, Sisk is better than nothing, but I don't see him as more than a left-on-left reliever.
Best, worst Gold Glove picks.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2012 American League and National League Gold Glove Awards have been announced. As usual, the selections made by the managers and coaches are a mixed bag, with some strong selections and a handful of questionable winners.
There are a number of no-brainer choices when it comes to Gold Glove voting. Mark Buehrle, Yadier Molina, and Alex Gordon, for example, were obvious choices where both the numbers and the scouts agree; in fact, the panel of experts for the Fielding Bible Awards unanimously recognized all three fielders for their defensive contributions, and all three also repeated as Gold Glove winners. However, other Gold Glove selections required more careful thought and insight on the part of the managers and coaches, who do the voting.
At Baseball Info Solutions, tracking defense is one of our specialties, so let's take a look at some of the best (and worst) Gold Glove selections this year.
Darwin Barney is the rare player who earns Gold Glove support despite unimpressive offensive numbers. His 28 defensive runs saved (DRS) threatened Chase Utley's 2008 mark for the best statistical season at second base in recent history. Barney's errorless-games streak, which lasted nearly the entire year, played a huge role in that. Barney also worked with the Cubs' coaching staff to improve defensively, working on the fundamentals as well as pre-pitch positioning to seemingly give him more range to both sides. Gold Glove voters took note, giving him their award to go alongside the Fielding Bible Award.
This selection is even more impressive considering the incumbent NL second baseman Barney overtook in the voting. Brandon Phillips has had a strong hold on the NL Gold Glove, winning three of the last four awards. His defensive play is supported by the numbers, as well, with another 11 DRS in 2012. However, the voters recognized how special Barney's season was and gave the award to the right player.
Jason Heyward has quietly been a very good defensive right fielder and finally received recognition this year with both a Fielding Bible Award and a Gold Glove Award. Following two consecutive seasons with 15 DRS, Heyward saved the Braves an estimated 20 runs this year, topped only by Josh Reddick's 22 DRS among right fielder. Combined with Michael Bourn and underrated defender Martin Prado in Atlanta, Heyward was a major cog in the top defensive outfield in baseball this year. It would have been easy to favor former center fielder Carlos Beltran or co-assists leader Hunter Pence, but the NL voters made the right choice with the 22-year-old Heyward.
J.J. Hardy is an excellent defensive shortstop, and the recognition is long overdue. The AL shortstop field is crowded with enticing Gold Glove options, including incumbent Erick Aybar, Elvis Andrus, and Alcides Escobar.
The bittersweet aspect of Hardy's victory is that Brendan Ryan was again overlooked by the voters. Ryan's 27 DRS are 50 percent more than Hardy's. Ryan has perennially led the league statistically, dating back to his time in St. Louis, though he has yet to receive the Gold Glove recognition he deserves. Probably overlooked due to his abysmal bat, Ryan is the best defensive shortstop in baseball, and with Troy Tulowitzki out of the picture this year, the Fielding Bible voters finally agreed. That being said, Hardy's award is also well-deserved.
The question marks
There are always several questionable selections for the Gold Glove Awards, and this year is no exception. These players may win based on reputation, incumbency or their offensive output -- all seemingly irrelevant reasons to recognize a player's defensive play. Three indefensible choices include shortstop Jimmy Rollins and outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Adam Jones.
Rollins was once a great defensive shortstop. With a strong arm and excellent range in both directions, he perennially ranked near the top of the league in DRS. With his great defense, he saved the Phillies an estimated 18 runs and won a Fielding Bible Award in 2008, gracing the cover of "The Fielding Bible, Volume II" the following spring.
However, Rollins is now 33 and is a below-average defender at short. His range has faded, costing his team eight runs this year compared to an average shortstop, according to defensive runs saved, following a minus-7 DRS season in 2011. Using more traditional defensive statistics, Rollins made as many errors this year as the previous two seasons combined and posted the lowest fielding percentage of his career. It's unclear what motivated the managers and coaches to select Rollins over the likes of defensive superiors Zack Cozart, Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford, and Andrelton Simmons.
Andrew McCutchen is a bright young star and appears to have several great seasons ahead of him. However, while his offense is MVP-caliber, his defense is not. Bourn, on the other hand, is a league-leading defender. He saved an estimated 24 runs above an average center fielder, tops in MLB. Oddly enough, he has won a Gold Glove previously, which makes this selection more puzzling. Cameron Maybin (9 DRS), Bryce Harper (13), Chris Young (7) and Carlos Gomez (3) are also defensive standouts more deserving than McCutchen (minus-5).
For whatever reason, center field seems to be a tough position for Gold Glove voters. Adam Jones has won multiple Gold Gloves, probably thanks to two or three home run robberies that make highlight reels. However, astute Orioles fans will remember a few late-season plays where Jones misread fly balls to center field in crucial games, costing the Orioles an extra-base hit. This is not uncommon for Jones, especially on deep fly balls, where he bleeds more runs than any other center fielder in baseball.
Jones also led the league in errors this year among center fielders without throwing out as many runners as in recent years, so it's clear that Jones won this award based on his reputation and his bat rather than on purely defensive merits. It's unfortunate that spectacular defenders such as Mike Trout (23 DRS, with plenty of Web Gem catches to boot), Denard Span (20) and Craig Gentry (16) were overlooked in favor of Jones, whose minus-16 DRS ranked dead last in MLB for center fielders.
Fear the Nationals.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Nobody would argue that the Washington Nationals had a storybook ending to their 2012 season. Washington burst out to a six-run lead in the early going of Game 5 of the NLDS, only to watch the St. Louis Cardinals chip away at that margin and Drew Storen pick a rather unfortunate time to have a rare meltdown on the mound.
Despite the weak end, 2012 as a whole should be considered a roaring success for the Nationals. Their 98 wins set a new franchise record, and whether in D.C. or Montreal, it was the first time the team finished a completed season as the division champs. Washington residents got to see the city's first taste of baseball playoffs since the Senators lost the 1933 World Series to the New York Giants.
The good news is that the tale of these Nationals isn't finished and there are more sequels to come. Volume 1 didn't end with Gio Gonzalez and the rest showering with champagne, but the team enters the offseason in perhaps the strongest position of any team in the National League for the next few years.
Washington's best players aren't going anywhere. Gonzalez is signed through at least 2016, and if he continues to pitch as well as he did this year, the team can retain his services for $12 million in 2017. Ryan Zimmerman's in town until at least 2019. Stephen Strasburg won't hit free agency for four more years and wunderkind Bryce Harper until after 2018. Jordan Zimmermann hasn't yet been signed to a long-term deal, but can't seek a contract anywhere else until after the 2015 World Series.
Even better, with roughly $50 million of the team's 2013 payroll guaranteed -- and even with arbitration awards imminent -- the team still has plenty of money to spend. Jayson Werth is probably signed for too much for too long, and only so many teams can trick the Los Angeles Dodgers into picking up their unwanted long-term contracts, but the Nats have enough good contracts elsewhere on the club to lessen the impact of Werth's in the years to come.
With the core of the team returning, the Nationals get to be in that rare situation in which their winter shopping list can consist of wants, rather than needs. Without any real holes in the lineup, they have the luxury of getting to window-shop and kick a lot of tires. The San Francisco Giants have to fill two-thirds of their outfield, and their only non-terrible second baseman is a free agent. The Atlanta Braves have to replace one of the best third basemen of all time and possibly center fielder Michael Bourn. Washington gets to pick and choose its offseason targets.
One of the stunning things about Washington's 2012 run was how few players really performed at levels that are likely unsustainable going forward. Harper and Strasburg are two of the brightest young stars in the game. When you take into account the league change, Gonzalez prevented runs just as well as he did in 2010-11. The only player who really was a huge surprise on the upside was shortstop Ian Desmond, hitting .292/.335/.511 after entering the year with a .262/.304/.387 line in two-plus seasons in the majors. Even with some healthy regression in 2013 -- the ZiPS projection system has him at .269/.312/.432 for the 2013 season -- he's more likely to be a positive than a problem next season.
With 98 wins, Washington had the youngest pitching staff in the majors and the fourth-youngest lineup in the majors in 2012. They keep all of their best players and have money to spend and the flexibility to go after any player they want this winter. Fans may have been disappointed not to see Strasburg pitch in the playoffs in 2012, but short of worst-case scenarios, they won't be waiting long to see his postseason debut. With all of their organizational strengths, the Washington Nationals have plenty more opportunities to write their happily ever after.
How the Tigers can get even better.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
While the Detroit Tigers and their fans are obviously feeling a bit blue Sunday night, they will soon come to realize that the 2012 season was a huge success. They won the AL Central, swept the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and appeared in the World Series.
Of course, the club's weaknesses were exposed a bit in losing to the San Francisco Giants, but they are in a great position to improve their club this winter. Here are five ways I expect GM Dave Dombrowski to try to improve the club this winter.
1. So long, Delmon
Delmon Young was fantastic in the ALCS and was named MVP of the series, but as a DH/left fielder he's a below-average player, as evidenced by his .267/.296/.411 line this year. He is a free agent, and the club will gladly let him walk, as they will have Victor Martinez coming back from a knee injury that cost him the 2012 season. Martinez will be an upgrade at DH, so the team is getting better without doing anything.
2. Bye-bye, Valverde
David Maxwell/Getty Images
After repeated postseason failures, Jose Valverde will not be back in 2012.
Speaking of impending free agents, Jose Valverde will also be one, and the Tigers, who didn't trust him to pitch in any high-leverage spots in the World Series, won't bring him back. He made $9 million this year, so that will bring some salary relief. Detroit's bullpen was not a strength, and I could see them making a play for Rafael Soriano, who will almost certainly opt out of his deal with the Yankees, and would be an upgrade. Yes, he'd be pricey, but owner Mike Illitch has made it clear that he's willing to spend to try to win a World Series, and the club has roughly $90 committed for 2013 as of today. In other words, they have some money to spend.
I could also see the club trying to rebuild their pen by shopping Rick Porcello, who is still fairly well-regarded and will turn 24 in December. But as a ground ball pitcher on a team with a bad infield defense, he's a terrible fit. They should shop him to the National League or to clubs with good outfield defense in search of bullpen help. I could see San Diego, Minnesota and Pittsburgh as fits. Maybe Porcello for Joel Hanrahan, or possibly to Kansas City for someone such as Aaron Crow.
3. Retain Peralta and Sanchez
Jhonny Peralta has a $6 million option for 2013, and the club will certainly pick that up. Anibal Sanchez is set to be a free agent, and he will have suitors, and that's one guy the club will want to make a play for. He has shown this October that he's a solid mid-rotation starter, and if he's paired with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister the Tigers will have one of the best rotations in the league.
Further, Sanchez is a strikeout pitcher, which makes him a great fit for the Tigers, as he's less-reliant on his defense, which will always be a team weakness as long as they build their lineup around Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
4. Upgrade the outfield corners
Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks are decent role players, but they are not everyday guys. The Tigers have moved top prospect Nick Castellanos from third base to right field because of Miggy, and he could be up some time in the second half of next year. (And one day, don't be surprised if Castellanos is at third with Cabrera in left, a position he played when he came up with the Marlins.)
In the other outfield corner, I could see them making a play for Nick Swisher, as he has been one of baseball's most consistent performers over the past few seasons. The Tigers' lineup lacks depth -- something the Giants exposed -- and Swisher would provide that. Again, he won't come cheap, but the Tigers have money. A less pricey alternative would be Angel Pagan, who is also a free agent and could be a great No. 2 hitter while upgrading the outfield defense in left.
While they wait for Castellanos, I expect Avisail Garcia to man one corner with Berry and/or Dirks on the bench.
5. One more year of Leyland
Manager Jim Leyland's contract is up, and you have to think he wants to get a ring in Detroit. However, at 67 years old, who knows how much longer he will want to manage? I'd bring him back on a one-year deal and let him know that he can have the job as long as he wants it, but at this stage of his career I'd go year-to-year.
Even if they don't do much, the Tigers are probably AL Central favorites. And since Dombrowski will have some payroll flexibility, I could see him turning the Tigers into the dominant AL team next year.
Sox in better shape than Yanks.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The New York Yankees finished the regular season with the best record (95-67) in the American League before defeating the Baltimore Orioles in a very exciting AL Division Series. So a four-game sweep by the Detroit Tigers in the AL Championship Series shouldn't take away from a very successful season, should it? The Yankees were beaten by a good team that caught fire at the right time. It happens. The Tigers' starting rotation has the ability to dominate and did just that, and the Yankees' hitters were not up to the challenge but they shouldn't hang their heads. They were one of the best offenses in the majors. Unfortunately, they cooled off at the wrong time.
Hey, it could have been a lot worse. Just ask the Boston Red Sox, who lost 93 games and were one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. They ended the season on an eight-game losing streak and finished in last place for the first time since 1992. The drama surrounding Alex Rodriguez's dismal playoff performance and flirting scandal was nothing compared to what went on in Boston the past year. So what I'm about to tell you might come as a surprise. Looking ahead, the Yankees are in no better shape than their hated rivals from Beantown. In fact, when taking a look at their respective rosters, needs, payroll flexibility and farm system, I think Boston is in better long-term shape.
What the Yankees' opening day roster will look like if they do nothing this winter.
LF Brett Gardner
SS Derek Jeter
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Eduardo Nunez
RF Chris Dickerson
C Chris Stewart
C Francisco Cervelli
1B/3B Casey McGehee
IF/OF Jayson Nix
OF Melky Mesa
SP CC Sabathia
SP Phil Hughes
SP Ivan Nova
SP David Phelps
SP Adam Warren
RP Rafael Soriano
SU David Robertson
RP Boone Logan
RP Joba Chamberlain
RP Clay Rapada
RP Cody Eppley
RP Chase Whitley
Allow me to explain.
Yankees: Current roster/needs
In the tables to the right, I have taken a stab at projecting what each team's opening day roster would look like if they did nothing this winter. Obviously, that won't happen, but the exercise helps us see where the strengths and weaknesses are, and allows us to predict possible transactions.
Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson are expected to have their club options exercised, so they are included. Closer Rafael Soriano also is there, although he is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract to pursue a multiyear deal on the free-agent market, so you could argue that is a bit of a stretch. We can assume catcher, designated hitter and right field are definite needs this offseason. In addition, the rotation could use a No. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia, as Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent and the Yankees already have said they aren't counting on Michael Pineda for 2013. Re-signing Mariano Rivera is a no-brainer whether Soriano returns or not, but that might end up being a relatively even swap. (Of course, the future Hall of Famer is apparently considering retirement after missing the 2012 season with a torn ACL, so the Yankees might not even have the option.)
What the Red Sox's opening day roster would look like if they do nothing this winter.
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Daniel Nava
2B Dustin Pedroia
3B Will Middlebrooks
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
1B Jerry Sands
RF Ryan Sweeney
DH Pedro Ciriaco
SS Jose Iglesias
C Ryan Lavarnway
1B/3B Mauro Gomez
IF Ivan De Jesus, Jr.
OF Ryan Kalish*
SP Jon Lester
SP Clay Buchholz
SP Felix Doubront
SP John Lackey
SP Franklin Morales
CL Andrew Bailey
SU Junichi Tazawa
RP Andrew Miller
RP Mark Melancon
RP Craig Breslow
RP Rich Hill
RP Scott Atchison
Red Sox: Current roster/needs
On paper, this 25-man roster probably isn't as talented as the Yankees', but there's a good chance it will be much better by the opening of spring training (read the next two sections of the article to find out why). That said, when you look at in-their-prime position players, the Red Sox combo of Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury is at least as good as any combo the Yankees have. Cano probably is the best player on either team, but guys such as Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Granderson are in decline.
Because of the big Adrian Gonzalez-Carl Crawford-Josh Beckett trade, the Sox have some big holes, and they'll need to find a top-of-the-rotation starter, a pair of corner outfielders, a designated hitter and a first baseman. There's interest in bringing back David Ortiz and Cody Ross, and both players reportedly would like to return to Boston. So there's a chance two of those holes will be filled before free agency starts.
Yankees: Payroll flexibility
2013 guaranteed contracts and estimated salaries for arbitration-eligible players: $161 million
2012 payroll, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts: $209,792,900
With the Yankees expected to decrease their payroll beneath the $189 million luxury tax threshold before the 2014 season, there doesn't appear to be much flexibility over the next couple of seasons. Yes, even the Yankees will have payroll limitations for the next couple of years. The 16 players who are either guaranteed contracts or eligible for arbitration this offseason will account for an estimated $161 million in 2013. If Soriano opts out, the Yankees will save $12.5 million. Factor in an estimated 12 pre-arbitration players who would make an average of $500,000, and my projected total before any offseason moves are made would be somewhere between $155 million and $167 million.
Expect a few non-tenders (players eligible for arbitration do not have to be offered contracts and would become free agents) to drop that total by $3 million to $6 million. While it's not known how much the Yankees will spend this offseason, I wouldn't expect them to add more than $50 million to their 2013 payroll. So let's say they decided to bring back Kuroda, Nick Swisher and Rivera; that would account for almost all of that $50 million right there, and you are looking at almost the exact same team as this year, but a bit older and (likely) worse.
Red Sox: Payroll flexibility
2013 guaranteed contracts and estimated salaries for arbitration-eligible players: $79 million
2012 payroll, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts: $175,249,119
Like the Yankees, the Sox have several holes to fill throughout their roster. But unlike the Yankees, they won't have the same payroll restriction. Thanks to the Dodgers, the Red Sox head into the offseason with less than half the amount of projected salary the Yankees have. Not only did they free up more than $60 million in salary for 2013, but they now are committed to exactly zero contracts that pay players in their mid-30s more than $20 million per season, as the Yankees are doing with Rodriguez and eventually will be doing with Sabathia and Teixeira.
Although the Red Sox should have the ability to spend more than any other team in baseball this winter -- I think they'll add somewhere between $60 million and $80 million to the 2013 payroll -- they'll think long and hard before signing any player to another Crawford-type deal. But in order to avoid another disaster of a season, they will have to consider spending their money on the likes of B.J. Upton and Zack Greinke, two of the most talented players available in free agency.
ADVANTAGE: RED SOX
Yankees: Farm system
Al Bello/Getty Images
The Yankees likely will bring back Mariano Rivera but could lose their current closer.With top prospect Manny Banuelos out for the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and Dellin Betances having regressed badly in 2012, a farm system that didn't have much pitching depth to start with is now alarmingly thin, especially in the upper minors. Help is not on the way anytime soon. Jose Campos, acquired with Pineda from the Mariners in the Jesus Montero deal, has top-of-the-rotation potential but missed most of the season with an elbow injury after making five starts for low Class A Charleston. Ty Hensley, this year's first-round pick, could emerge as the top pitching prospect in the system before long, but the 19-year-old still is years from the majors.
Catcher Gary Sanchez, center fielder Mason Williams and right fielder Tyler Austin -- the top three prospects in the organization -- all project as future big league regulars, but none is expected to begin 2013 higher than Double-A. The lack of impact position players in the upper minors hurts the Yankees long term because they're forced to spend money to fill holes in free agency. Trading prospects for impact players helps the big league team but further weakens the farm system. This was fine before the payroll had an actual ceiling. Not anymore.
To give you an example, let's imagine Sanchez, Williams and Austin were actually ready for the big leagues in 2013. The Yankees could decline Granderson's club option, and replace free agents Swisher ($10.25 million salary in 2012) and Russell Martin ($7.5 million in 2012) with young and talented players who all make the minimum salary. Back to reality. Those prospects are not ready, so the Yankees will pay Granderson $15 million to stay in 2013, and fill their catcher and right-field voids via free agency. Furthermore, the likelihood they stay away from long-term deals this offseason limits the type of players they will end up with in the short term. Filling out the roster with Raul Ibanez-types, and possibly Ibanez himself, on one-year deals could be necessary for the next few seasons.
Red Sox: Farm system
Jackie Bradley Jr. could be the heir apparent to Ellsbury as the team's leadoff hitter and center fielder. The 22-year-old, who could be ready for the majors by midseason, had a combined .430 on-base percentage and 24 steals between Double-A and high Class A in 2012. Bryce Brentz, a 23-year-old right fielder, posted an .833 OPS in Double-A before getting a late-season call-up to Triple-A Pawtucket. He'll return there in 2013, where he'll be one step closer to Boston. His right-handed power should play well at Fenway Park. It's Xander Bogaerts, however, who will be at the top of most prospect lists going into 2013. He posted an .883 OPS for high Class A Salem before finishing the season in Double-A, where he continued to mash despite being only 19 years old. In 23 games with Portland, he hit five homers and 10 doubles. Many think he'll outgrow the shortstop position, so a move to third base and at least another full year in the minors are likely.
Matt Barnes is easily the top pitching prospect in the organization. A first-round draft pick in 2011, the 22-year-old breezed through the low Class A Sally League with five terrific starts (0.34 ERA, 4 BB, 42 K's in 26 2/3 IP) before a quick promotion to Salem, where he finished with a 3.58 ERA in 20 starts. He likely will start 2013 in Double-A and could be in Boston by early 2014, unless the Sox need him sooner.
ADVANTAGE: RED SOX
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has had a rough first season on the job, to say the least, but the midseason trade with the Dodgers has given him a chance to start over this winter. Think of it as the equivalent of resetting your PlayStation after getting off to a horrible start in your favorite video game. He still has to make the right moves, though, to get his team back on track. His first line of business was to fire Bobby Valentine and acquire manager John Farrell from the Blue Jays. Now he'll need to fix his roster. The way it was constructed at the time of his hiring, he might not have been in a very good position to succeed. That is no longer the case.
On the other hand, Yankees GM Brian Cashman has a very challenging offseason ahead of him. Sure, he'd like to trade A-Rod, but not even the Dodgers would take on his albatross of a contract. Jeter is questionable for the start of the season after ankle surgery. Sabathia will have his sore elbow checked out. Last offseason's big trade acquisition, Pineda, who missed the entire 2012 season, will miss at least the first two months of 2013 as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. There's still plenty of talent, but the players are getting old -- even Cano is 30 -- and the farm system is unlikely to help much in 2013.
If the Yankees are serious about getting below the luxury tax threshold, the top free agents, who will command top dollars on multiyear deals, are unlikely to sign with New York. Players who end up signing one-year deals usually are past their prime or coming off bad seasons. For every Raul Ibanez, who was great in the playoffs after a mediocre regular season, there are 10 players who will continue to be unproductive. Cashman is very good at his job, but he is in a tougher spot than his counterpart in Boston right now.
Who should get qualifying offers?Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For the next several days, much of the baseball world will be watching the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants fight it out in the Fall Classic. But for the 28 teams whose seasons have already ended, the focus will be on what to do once the World Series is over and the winter's work begins.
As soon as the World Series ends, eligible players will become free agents. Under the new CBA, teams can still seek draft-pick compensation for departing free agents, but the old system of classifying free agents as Type A and Type B based on past performance has been abolished. Now, a team that wants to receive a compensatory pick at the end of the first round in the following year's amateur draft has to make a "qualifying offer": a one-year contract equal to the average of the top 125 salaries from the previous season (in this case, $13.3 million).
A player's former team can continue to negotiate with him if he rejects the offer, but if he signs somewhere else, his new team will have to forfeit either a first- or second-round pick (the first 10 picks are protected). A team can't be compensated for a free agent unless he spent the whole season on the roster, which rules out midseason trade targets like Ryan Dempster, Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez and Shane Victorino (not to mention the amazing Marco Scutaro).
Qualifying offers must be extended by 5 p.m. ET on the fifth day after the World Series. Players who receive them will have until the seventh day after the Series to accept or reject. So which players are good candidates for qualifying offers, and what will their teams decide to do?
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
Hamilton, the highest-profile impending free agent, will almost certainly sign a lucrative, long-term contract somewhere this winter. He won't be tempted by a one-year contract for a lower salary than he made this season, but the Rangers have nothing to lose by making the offer as they size up the market for his services.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes
Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals
Lohse's 16-3 season set him up for the kind of mega-contract a team might regret. The Cardinals won't be the ones to give the 34-year-old big bucks, but they'll want to collect a pick when another club does.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Ortiz made over $14.8 million in 2012 and had his highest true average ever (.343) when his achy Achilles allowed him to play, so a short-term contract at a lower AAV would be a best-case scenario for Boston. Ortiz and the Red Sox are reportedly close to a two-year deal that could be finalized this week, though, so the Sox likely won't need to make a qualifying offer.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? No, assuming an extension is signed before Ortiz becomes a free agent.
Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox
The risk here is that teams will be too wary of Peavy's injury history to offer him a multiyear contract or a single-season salary higher than $13.3 million when the White Sox decline his $22 million option for 2013. That risk seems small, though, since Peavy is still just 31 and stayed healthy and effective all season.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes
Rafael Soriano, New York Yankees
Following a successful season filling in for Mariano Rivera, Soriano is expected to opt out of the $14 million he's owed for 2013. The Yankees wouldn't mind bringing him back for one year as insurance for Rivera, so they'll extend a qualifying offer. However, Soriano will want to go to a team where he can close instead of playing second fiddle to a 43-year-old, and he'll probably command a multiyear contract. The Yankees will be glad to get the pick.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes
Nick Swisher, Yankees
The Yankees reportedly don't want to re-sign Swisher for the price he'll probably command, but they wouldn't mind bringing him back on a one-year basis, even at a roughly $3 million raise from his 2012 salary.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes
Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves
A qualifying offer would be a sizable raise for Atlanta's free-agent outfielder, but Bourn is a Scott Boras client, and the agent will want to pursue a bigger payday. The Braves still might keep Bourn, but they'll make sure to get themselves a draft pick before deciding whether to up their offer.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Edwin Jackson might be a nice one-year returnee for Washington next year.Edwin Jackson, Washington Nationals
Jackson faded in September, finishing yet another season as a league-average pitcher who seemed to be able to do better. Even if that's all he is, though, there's value in an average starter who has stayed off the disabled list since 2004. Jackson might get a better offer from a team that's willing to pay more for his potential, but Washington wouldn't be upset if it wound up with him for another year.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes
Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees
The Yankees want to bring Kuroda back, but the newly budget-conscious club might want to make an opening offer below $13.3 million instead of starting the bidding there. The righty made $10 million this season and will turn 38 before Opening Day, so it's possible they could snag him for a little less, but his success in the AL East should attract other suitors. Extending a qualifying offer makes the most sense.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes
Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee Brewers
Marcum is an effective starter when healthy, but he's topped 200 innings only once, and he suffered another injury-plagued season in 2012. The soft-tosser's fastball velocity sank slightly lower after his return from elbow tightness, and small-market Milwaukee likely won't want to be on the hook for $13.3 million in the event that another team doesn't pay him like a more durable pitcher.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? No
Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers
It's hard to find catchers who can hit, so Napoli should draw significant interest despite his down year and lackluster defense. However, a qualifying offer would represent a considerable raise, and he might decide to accept it and try to build his value back up for a bigger payday after next season. Catchers tend to decline quickly, and the Rangers might be wary of committing that much cash to one who's about to turn 31.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? No
B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays' highest-paid player made $7 million this season; offering Upton nearly twice that would be a considerable risk for a small-market team with a notoriously tight payroll. However, Upton will probably receive a multiyear offer from another team, and the Rays depend on draft picks to keep the cost-controlled talent coming. Even if Upton were to accept the Rays' offer, they could probably find a team to take him via trade.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes
Bring back Floyd and Youkilis?Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This offseason, there are 46 players with either club or mutual options. The White Sox are at the center of the option frenzy, as they have the most players (five) with options, as well as the most money ($62.5 million) on which to make decisions. With the option decisions due soon after the conclusion of the World Series, Chicago has some big decisions to make awfully quickly.
Option decisions can be complex because they can amount to little more than a guessing game. Not necessarily in terms of the value the team believes a player will deliver -- though there is some of that -- but rather what the value of a win will be on the free-agent market. We generally think of a win purchased on the free-agent market as valued somewhere between $4 and $6 million, but this week, Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro said that he believes a win on the free-agent market costs $9 million.
That seems aggressive, but with new television contracts -- both on a local and national level -- potentially flooding the free-agent landscape with money, it is certainly reasonable to forecast that the price of free agents will go up this winter. Viewed in that light, perhaps some of the club options the White Sox hold aren't as weighty as they would appear. Either way, the decisions are not necessarily easy.
Well, most of the decisions, anyway. In Orlando Hudson -- who has an $8 million club option for next season -- Chicago does have one easy decision. In his first 99 plate appearances in Chicago, Hudson hit only .170/.247/.284, then the White Sox traded for Kevin Youkilis, and Hudson started only eight more times the rest of the way -- two of which came after the White Sox were eliminated from postseason play. For the season, he totaled -0.2 WAR. Paying his $2 million buyout is a no-brainer.
Speaking of Youkilis, he is the second of the five players on the docket. Youkilis represents a very difficult decision for the club. He is due $13 million if the club picks up his option and $1 million if they don't. That's a steep price for a player who only clocked 1.3 WAR this past season, but he played much better after his trade to Chicago, and posted an above-average wRC+ for the season.
What's more, the Sox still don't have an internal replacement ready to man third base. Brent Morel is clearly not the answer -- when he recovered from his back injury in August, the Sox sent him to Triple-A Charlotte -- and the team has no third base top prospect either. Their third baseman at Triple-A for most of the season was 31-year-old flameout Dallas McPherson. And the only palatable options on the market are part-time players such as Jeff Keppinger and Eric Chavez. Youkilis definitely still carries warning signs in his back pocket -- he didn't hit right-handed pitchers very well this season, and the last time he played more than 130 games in a season was 2009.
Still, if you chalk up part of his misfortune this season to his treatment in Boston, and combine that with the total lack of options on the free-agent market, picking up Youkilis' option isn't the worst idea in the world.
The decisions don't get any easier when it comes to the pitching staff. Picking up the $10 million option for Brett Myers, relief pitcher, would be a genuine waste of money. Not only was Myers mediocre in the role, but the Sox aren't hurting for quality relievers, especially after Donnie Veal's successful September introduction.
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Myers could be more valuable to the White Sox as a starter.But Brett Myers, starting pitcher, might warrant second consideration. In his last two seasons in Houston as a starter, Myers was a durable innings-muncher who got a lot of ground balls and posted a 2.76 K/BB that ranked 35th out of 86 qualified starting pitchers. On the other hand, because he doesn't throw 90 mph as a starter and relies on his defense to get outs and U.S. Cellular Field is a band box, Chicago may not be the best fit for him. The only White Sox regular to post a positive UZR last season was shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
Myers is also two years older than the other starter with a reasonable club option, Gavin Floyd, who can be retained for $9.5 million. Floyd also served as a starting pitcher this season. This season wasn't Floyd's best, especially because he missed time with an elbow injury, but Floyd's velocity was actually up this year. His average fastball clocked in at 91.5 mph, and his velocity increased as the season progressed. With the added velocity came Floyd's best strikeout percentage (19.9 percent) since 2009.
Unfortunately, it also came with his worst walk percentage (8.7 percent) during his time in Chicago, so his K/BB was an underwhelming 2.29. Still, there aren't any questions about whether or not Floyd can start, and there might be a touch of doubt with Myers. Floyd, who has been with the club since 2007, is also the devil the team knows, and costs $500,000 less. If only one option of the two is picked up, it should be Floyd's.
Bringing back Floyd would put Chris Sale, John Danks and Floyd at the front of the rotation, with Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago competing for spots at the back end. That's not bad, but it's still a rotation that could use Jake Peavy in it. Unfortunately, Peavy has a $22 million option that will be difficult to justify. By WAR, Peavy was one of the 15 to 20 best pitchers in the game last season, a remarkable comeback for a player who had been mostly left for dead prior to 2012. He posted an outstanding 3.96 K/BB for the second straight season, but last season he threw nearly twice as many innings as he had in 2011.
And there is the rub. A Jake Peavy who throws 200-plus innings has a case for being worth $22 million -- FanGraphs lists his 2012 value at $19.9 million. But no one can be sure that Peavy will post such a season. He has reached the 200-inning benchmark only four times in his 10 full major league seasons, and once in the past five seasons. Before this season, one prominent projection system forecasted Peavy for 119.1 innings pitched, and another had him pegged for 140.2. One successful year won't cure low forecasts for next season, as projections generally take a player's last three full seasons into account, and in that time Peavy has 145 innings a season. At 145 innings, Peavy is not worth $22 million. No one knows Peavy's medical issues better than the White Sox do, but picking up his option would be best characterized as a leap of faith.
The White Sox have five players with club options, and they will cumulatively pay them somewhere between $10 million and $62.5 million. Orlando Hudson is an easy cut, but the other four options aren't slam dunks in either direction, especially if the team believes that the free-agent market is set to explode.
The stickiest wicket is Peavy. Picking up his option will severely limit any maneuvering the team makes during hot stove season, but if he turns out another four-plus win season, he will be worth his money. Relying on him or any of the other three carries more than a fair amount of risk and there is a case to be made to drop all five options, but a conservative approach would involve picking up the options for both Floyd and Youkilis.