NL Notes: Mozeliak, Mets, Braves, Pirates, Padres

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tackled a variety of topics in a two-part interview with MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch. Looking back to the last offseason, he said that the team identified Pat Neshek as an option because he offered a different look from the club’s other relievers, and said that the David Freese-for-Peter Bourjos trade would not have been made without the inclusion of prospect Randal Grichuk.

Here’s the latest out of the National League …

  • The Mets have, as expected, decided not to bring back hitting coach Lamar Johnson and assistant Luis Natera in those roles, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Johnson stepped in mid-season after his predecessor, Dave Hudgen, was fired. Meanwhile, Triple-A skipper Wally Backman will not be elevated to the big league staff, but will be offered the chance to keep his position.
  • As the Braves continue to make their own staff changes, scouting director Tony DeMacio has been re-assigned, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Atlanta is still waiting to hear whether interim GM John Hart will take the job full-time, Nightengale adds.
  • If the Pirates are unable to bring back catcher Russell Martin, another impactful transaction that could have PR benefits would be a Neil Walker extension, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. With a $5.75MM arbitration salary to build off of over his next two seasons of eligibility, and coming off of a .271/.342/.467 slash with 23 home runs, he will not be cheap.
  • The Padres had a private workout today with Cuban free agent Yasmany Tomas, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. Tomas officially hit the open market yesterday.

Pirates Designate Jose Tabata For Assignment

The Pirates have designated right-handed-hitting outfielder Jose Tabata for assignment, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Tabata’s struggles led to him being outrighted earlier in the year, though he made his way back to the big league roster and ultimately played in the Wild Card game.

Tabata, 26, has not lived up to the expectations that led the team to sign him to a six-year, $15MM extension in August of 2011. Over the 2012-14 seasons, he has logged only 901 plate appearances, slashing .266/.325/.375. Tabata also saw his promising early numbers on the basepaths (35 steals; 14 times caught in 2010-11) wither away (12 bags stolen, 15 times caught since).

Though Tabata’s .771 OPS in part-time duty last year raised some hope that Pittsburgh would recoup some production from its investment, he again faltered this year. Over just 186 plate appearances, he posted a meager .282/.314/.333 line.

In the end, the Pirates remain on the hook for $8.75MM over the next two years. That includes a $250K buyout for the successive club options that come with his contract. ($6.5MM for 2017, escalating by $1MM thereafter.) Though the early-career extension did not work out, neither does it constitute too serious an impediment, even to a small-payroll club like the Bucs.

Tabata’s contract has already passed through waivers once, but it is not clear that he has much of a future in Pittsburgh at this point. As things stand, the Pirates seem likely to allow Travis Snider a chance this spring to hold off youngster Gregory Polanco for the regular role, perhaps deploying a righty bat to complement those left-handed swingers. Snider, who slashed .264/.338/.438 and hit 13 home runs through 359 plate appearances, has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility remaining.


Pirates Acquire Preston Guilmet From Orioles

The Pirates have acquired minor league righty Preston Guilmet from the Orioles in exchange for cash considerations, Baltimore announced. Guilmet was recently designated for assignment by the O’s.

The 27-year-old had mixed results with Baltimore this year at the big league level. Over 10 1/3 innings, he struck out 12 against just two walks, but he also yielded six earned. The former Indians farmhand also had a cup of coffee with Cleveland. Though his earned run mark rose at Triple-A Norfolk this year, Guilmet continued to post appealing K/BB figures, striking out 10.1 and walking only 1.9 batters per nine.

As of yet, those solid minor league numbers have not yet resulted in much of a chance at the big league level. As MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth noted upon Guilmet’s DFA, that could be due to the fact that he tops out in the low 90s and is not a groundball producer.



Latest On Rangers’ Managerial Search

Here’s the latest on the Rangers’ search for a new manager:

OCTOBER 3:

  • After already having interviewed Buechele and Maddux, the Rangers announced six additional candidates today: Bogar, Lovullo, White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing, former big leaguer Alex Cora, Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash, and Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister.

OCTOBER 2:

  • The Rangers will interview Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports. The 49-year-old has been a candidate for multiple managerial openings in recent years, including the just-filled Astros job.

SEPTEMBER 28:

  • The Rangers will interview interim manager Tim Bogar, pitching coach Mike Maddux and Triple-A Round Rock manager Steve Buechele as they attempt to find a permanent replacement for Ron Washington, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram tweets. The Rangers will also interview “a few external candidates.”
  • It comes as no surprise that the Rangers would interview Bogar, Maddux and Buechele. At the tail end of a disastrous, injury-filled season, the Rangers have performed well for Bogar, which has already led to speculation that Bogar might be almost forcing the Rangers to hire him. Maddux has said that he hoped to receive an interview for the position. He would likely return as the pitching coach if the Rangers hire Bogar (and, presumably, if Maddux is not offered a managerial job elsewhere). Buechele, meanwhile, has also interviewed for the open manager position in Houston.

Kevin Towers Leaving Diamondbacks Organization

After being replaced as the general manager of the Diamondbacks, Kevin Towers has declined an opportunity to stay on in another capacity, the club announced today. The club has also decided not to renew the contract of assistant GM Billy Ryan.

Towers had been waiting to consider the new role after talking it over with new GM Dave Stewart. He took over the club’s baseball operations in 2010. After initially finding success, the D’backs have sputtered in each of the last two years. The seat increasingly heated up as a series of high-profile trades (and, to a lesser extent, free agent signings) backfired on the veteran executive.

Towers first hit his stride in a front office capacity with the Padres, starting out as their scouting director and ultimately taking over as the GM. A long tenure ended after the 2009 season, leading Towers to work as a special assignment scout with the Yankees for one year before heading to Arizona.

It remains to be seen what the future holds for Towers. Many have speculated that he could move back to San Diego in some kind of advisory capacity to newly-hired GM A.J. Preller, though there are no indications to date that anything is in the works.


Offseason Outlook: Colorado Rockies

Another hot start raised expectations in 2014, but regression and injuries once again combined to doom the Rockies. Colorado seems intent on fielding a competitor, but it remains to be seen whether it will have the payroll flexibility needed get there.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players

Contract Options

Free Agents

With the Rockies, it seems, the real issues reside not in the details of roster construction, but in the philosophical and strategic direction of the organization. Critiques of the decisionmaking structure – and, in particular, owner Dick Monfort and the two key front office executives Dan O’Dowd and Bill Geivett — have migrated from fans and former players to internal sources. Yet it still seems rather unlikely that the team will undergo any kind of front office shakeup, or that the organization’s general approach will change.

Barring a major shift in front office personnel or in operating style, it is not clear what the Rockies can do to change the outlook for next year in a significant way. As things stand, the team appears stuck in a difficult middle ground – albeit one that has not gotten in the way of reliably above-average attendance figures. What are the options going forward?

On the one hand, the club has shown an utter lack of inclination to trade away any of its veterans for future resources. Despite being well out of contention this year, and having a few potential candidates (some playing on expiring contracts), Colorado did not pull the trigger on any summer deals.

Indeed, to the contrary, Monfort was said to have pulled the plug on a deal that would have sent veteran starter Jorge De La Rosa to the Orioles in exchange for a quality prospect arm in Eduardo Rodriguez. Instead of dealing the 33-year-old De La Rosa, the Rockies later inked him to a two-year, $25MM extension. To be sure, it may have been difficult for the team to convince a better arm to pitch at Coors Field for that kind of scratch, and De La Rosa has an excellent track record at altitude. But adding the promising Rodriguez and instead pursuing one of the many mid-level free agent starters (including, perhaps, De La Rosa himself) would have made for a nice alternative.

Even with De La Rosa back, contention in 2015 – while not unimaginable — would be a surprise. Colorado has few glaring holes in the lineup, but the pitching staff is coming off of a season characterized by injury and ineffectiveness.

Then, there is the payroll to consider. Player salaries are expected to land in the mid-$90MM range again, about half of which is already slated to go to De La Rosa and stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. The total guaranteed commitment lands at about $61MM, but that is before accounting for arbitration raises that could cost nearly $25MM and decisions on options the club holds over Brett Anderson and LaTroy Hawkins.

In short, the Rockies have little room for addition without first making some subtractions. But where to trim salary?

It has often been wondered whether and when the Rockies would consider dealing either of their two stars in an effort to reload. But season-ending surgeries for Tulo and CarGo make that difficult to imagine, and Monfort has sent signals that he has no such intention. Senior VP of Major League operations Bill Geivett recently shot down that idea as well: “If we’re going to win, they’re going to need to be part of it, too.”

Beyond those two cornerstones, there are any number of hypothetical possibilities to free up a little cash. Let’s take a closer look, in the context of the overall roster:

The Rockies lineup is largely in place, unless the team decides to explore some changes. Gonzalez will presumably occupy one corner outfield spot, while some combination of younger players – Corey Dickerson, Drew Stubbs, Charlie Blackmon, and Brandon Barnes, many of whom are coming off of breakout years – can be expected to combine to make up a solid unit. Colorado reportedly has some interest in bringing back Michael Cuddyer, but that appears to be quite a luxury.

Among the outfielders, only Stubbs presents the realistic possibility of a cost-saving trade given his $5.7MM projected hit. But he is the best center field option of that group, and may not bring much in return with just one year of not-inexpensive control remaining (not to mention the fact that his big numbers last year were driven by a .440 BABIP at Coors). But his combination of power, speed, and defense could make him a reasonably marketable asset.

In the infield, the diamond appears set at three spots: short (Tulowitzki), third (Nolan Arenado), and first (Justin Morneau). Trading the veteran Morneau could deliver some savings and bolster other needs, with first base being entrusted to Wilin Rosario or prospect Kyle Parker. But that would take away one of the team’s best bats from last year, and the club seemed disinterested in shopping him at last year’s trade deadline.

The Rockies are not without options at the other infield positions, but they offer the greatest possibility for movement. At the keystone, DJ LeMahieu is a reliable defender who just has not contributed much with the stick (career 76 OPS+). Josh Rutledge offers more promise at the plate, but defensive metrics have little regard for his glove. With free agent pickings looking slim, the Rockies might be best served by dealing away one of these still-young players while pursuing a left-handed-hitting utility option – the late-blooming Rafael Ynoa is an in-house possibility — to platoon with whoever remains.

Most interesting, perhaps, is the situation at catcher. Rosario has failed to impress the team behind the dish, and took a step back offensively in 2014. He appears to be a trade candidate, though Colorado would certainly not be selling at an opportune time. And while Michael McKenry was a nice surprise last year, he seems more likely headed for a backup or platoon role. If the Rockies are to make a run at a top free agent, Russell Martin looks like an excellent fit on paper, but he figures to draw strong interest elsewhere and may be out of Colorado’s comfort zone financially.

Ultimately, the possibilities noted above could be driven by whether a pitching acquisition requires cash or a trade chip. As things stand, improving upon the team’s uninspiring group of arms is surely the priority.

In the rotation, De La Rosa will likely be joined by two players who had relative breakout years in Jordan Lyles and Tyler Matzek. That trio contains enough questions of its own, but things get even less clear thereafter. Tyler Chatwood is shelved with his second Tommy John procedure, Jhoulys Chacin looks like a lottery ticket (shoulder problems) or non-tender candidate, and Juan Nicasio is said to be slated for the bullpen. Younger arms like Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, and (to a lesser extent) Christian Bergman and Tyler Anderson offer some hope in the relatively near future. But it would be optimistic to expect too much of that group in 2015. Otherwise, the team is left with questionable depth options like Yohan Flande.

So, what can the Rockies do to bolster that group? The option over Anderson is too risky to be considered seriously: $12.5MM for a full season of a healthy Anderson is an attractive enough proposition, but the lefty has not thrown even 50 frames in a MLB campaign since 2011.

Convincing Anderson to return for a lesser amount makes theoretical sense, but runs into a major practical concern: why would he choose to take a pillow contract to throw half his innings at Coors Field? This same problem, of course, could limit Colorado’s ability to take advantage of the rest of a deep market for mid-tier starters – including some, like Justin Masterson and Brandon McCarthy, who induce ground balls at a solid clip. Even if Colorado can clear enough salary next year to afford an arm of that nature, it would likely need to make a multi-year commitment that could hamstring the organization when it is more likely to be in a position to contend.

The trade route is an alternative to free agency. One could imagine the Rockies matching up with a team like the Mets on some kind of swap of an outfielder for an arm. Rosario probably has enough upside to be an important part of a deal for a useful pitcher. To be sure, adding a reliable hurler with an attractive contract situation would presumably require the sacrifice of some significant portion of the organization’s best prospect talent. But Geivett has said that the team wants to add “impact” even if that means getting an aging hurler.

Relief pitching was every bit as problematic for Colorado last year. Two lefties remain in place — the disappointing Boone Logan and the struggling Rex Brothers – leaving the team with the option either to fiddle with that area or simply hope for improvement. Hawkins is expected to occupy the ninth inning to start the year, which at least provides a ready answer to the question of who will close. Former closer Rafael Betancourt is said to be a possible re-acquisition. And the team has options for right-handed setup men and middle relievers, including Nicasio, Adam Ottavino (who pitched well in 2014), Rule 5 pickup Tommy Kahnle, and surprising 29-year-old rookie Brooks Brown. Improving the production from the pen, then, could be as straightforward or as complicated as the team prefers. With every dollar being watched, it might make the most sense to let the market shake out and pluck a few veterans who miss out on the deals they hoped for.

The difficulty for the Rockies is, in the end, not hard to assess: the team is in position to add a piece or two, but it is more than a piece or two away from being a reliable contender. Stretching future resources to add a player like Martin, or overpaying in AAV and/or years to convince a starter to pitch in Denver, increases the risk of a prolonged malaise. From a competitive perspective, it probably makes sense to craft a strategy of exchanging veterans for future talent. But, then, that was already clear this summer.


Latest On Diamondbacks’ Managerial Search

Here’s the latest on the Diamondbacks’ managerial situation:

OCT. 3:

  • Jim Tracy’s interview with the D’Backs was yesterday and went well, sources tell Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link).
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Rangers have granted the D’Backs permission to interview Bogar. As he notes, this is a bit curious, as Bogar is seen as one of the favorites in Texas’ own managerial search.

OCT. 2:

  • The Diamondbacks have now also received permission to interview A’s bench coach Chip Hale and Dodgers third base coach Lorenzo Bundy, the team announced. They also announced that they’ve asked the Rangers for permission to interview interim manager Tim Bogar.

OCT. 1:

  • The D’Backs now announce that they’ve received permission to interview Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu for the position as well. Wakamatsu formerly managed the Mariners and recently interviewed for the Astros’ managerial opening before Houston hired A.J. Hinch.
  • McEwing has also been officially cleared to interview, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted and the club confirmed on Twitter.
  • The club has announced (Twitter links) an initial candidate list that includes Sandy Alomar Jr. and Jim Tracy in addition to Bell, Green, Nevin, and Ward. That list will be added to once interview consents are received for personnel under contract with other clubs.

Continue reading


Blue Jays Outright George Kottaras

The Blue Jays announced that they have outrighted catcher George Kottaras off the 40-man roster and officially announced the outrights of Munenori Kawasaki and Dan Johnson, both of which were made known earlier in the week.

Kottaras, 31, batted a strong .233/.351/.533 with three homers in 38 plate appearances between the Indians, Cardinals and Blue Jays this season. Two of those homers came as a member of the Indians in his first game of the season.

The journeyman catcher has always shown plus plate discipline and plus power but low batting averages, as evidenced by his .215/.326/.411 career batting line. Kottaras has struck out in 23.7 percent of his career plate appearances, but that number has jumped to 35.3 percent over the past two seasons (164 PA). Defensively speaking, he’s thrown out just 18 percent of opposing base-stealers in his career, and pitch-framing metrics haven’t been kind to him.

Kottaras and Johnson have both elected free agency, per the Blue Jays, while Kawasaki has yet to do so. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star tweets that Kawasaki will likely do the same thing that he did last offseason: seek a Major League deal elsewhere but return to the Blue Jays as a minor league free agent if he is unable to find one.


Octavio Dotel Retires

The man who has played for more Major League teams than anyone in history won’t be adding another to his resumé, as right-hander Octavio Dotel has decided to officially retire, reports Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish.

Last we heard on Dotel, the veteran reliever was looking to make a comeback in 2014, though that never wound up coming to be. Cotillo notes that Dotel tried to rehab from his most recent injury (elbow inflammation that cost him nearly all of the 2013 season) in the Dominican Republic in hopes of latching on with a new team, but the rehab was unsuccessful.

Dotel, 40, will finish his career having played for a record 13 teams in the Majors. In parts of 15 big league seasons between the Astros, Athletics, Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Mets, Rockies, Pirates, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Yankees and Blue Jays, Dotel compiled a 3.78 ERA with 10.8 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 32.5 percent ground-ball rate. In his best seasons, Dotel averaged 94+ mph on his fastball, but he lost some of that velocity late in his career and finishes with an average of 93 mph on his heater.

Dotel never earned an All-Star nod, but he did secure a World Series ring after pitching 24 2/3 innings of 3.28 ERA ball during the regular season for the 2011 Cardinals, plus another 10 1/3 postseason frames in which he yielded three earned runs (2.61 ERA). Dotel recorded saves for nine of the 13 teams for which he played, totaling 109 in a career that earned him more than $41MM, per Baseball-Reference.com. MLBTR wishes Dotel the best of luck in his post-playing career.


Carlos Correa, Tyler Chatwood Change Agencies

Top Astros prospect Carlos Correa — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft — has changed representation and is now a client of Greg Genske and the Legacy Agency, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). In other agency news, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish tweets that Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood has switched agents as well and is now a client of agent Bob Garber. He had previously been with MVP Sports.

A report from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick earlier this week indicated that Correa was leaving his previous agents at KMG and seeking new representation, having talked with Legacy, the Boras Corporation, MVP and Excel Sports. The Puerto Rican shortstop ranked second on the midseason edition of MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list, and he ranked third on the same list from ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required).

Correa, who recently turned 20 years old, was in the midst of an outstanding season with Houston’s Class-A Advanced affiliate this season despite being nearly four years younger than the league’s average age at 19 before breaking his fibula while sliding. He batted .325/.416/.510 with six homers and 20 steals in 293 plate appearances before his injury. In his scouting report, Law noted that Correa has improved at every stop on both sides of the game, giving him a chance to stick at shortstop defensively. Both his power and plate discipline progressed faster than even some optimistic scouts had expected, Law adds.

Chatwood, 24, had a breakout season with the Rockies in 2013, posting a 3.15 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate in 111 1/3 innings. However, he tossed just 24 innings in 2014 before his season would come to an end with an injury that would eventually require Tommy John surgery. Chatwood underwent his operation on July 19, so it’s possible that he could return to the Rockies late in the 2015 campaign. He will be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason. As Cotillo notes in a second tweet, Chatwood had previously left the Boras Corporation for MVP back in January.

Both of these changes are now reflected in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains agent information on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any errors or omissions within the database, please let us know via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.


Latest On The Phillies’ Ownership

The Phillies have issued a statement refuting a FOX 29 report from last night which claimed president and CEO David Montgomery was forced out of his position in order for partial owner John Middleton to become the team’s majority owner. Via CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury (Twitter link), here is the Phillies’ statement:

“Contrary to the FOX 29 report last night, David Montgomery’s leave of absence from the Phillies is entirely due to his medical condition, as previously announced. There is absolutely no other reason for his leave from active involvement in the Phillies management. Over the life of the Phillies partnership no one entity or family has owned a majority of the partnership, and we do not foresee this changing in the future.”

Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer also spoke to multiple unnamed sources that “strongly” refuted the notion that Montgomery was forced out (Twitter link). But, in a full article, Gelb writes that not all of what FOX 29′s Howard Eskin reported can be refuted. While the notion that Montgomery was forced out appears decidedly incorrect, Gelb confirmed with two sources that Eskin was correct in reporting that Middleton now has a 48 percent share of the team. It’s not clear how long he’s held such a large share, according to Gelb, but it does appear to be unusual for a Phillies minority owner to have such a large stake in the team.

According to Gelb, Middleton is not expected to make a push for majority ownership, even if he is technically positioned to do so. Additionally, Gelb spoke with multiple sources who said that were it not for Montgomery’s battle with cancer, he would still be assuming his duties as team president. He adds that the Phillies are expecting Montgomery to make a full recovery and return to his post, though a timetable is unclear.

Should the Phillies make a move for a permanent replacement for Montgomery, Gelb continues, senior vice president of marketing and advertising sales Dave Buck is viewed as one of the top internal candidates. Middleton himself told someone with whom Gelb spoke that Montgomery’s situation would not be evaluated until at least January. For the time being, interim president Pat Gillick has “unilateral control of the franchise,” and has deferred day-to-day business matters to senior VP of administration and operations Mike Stiles.


Braves Retain Fredi Gonzalez, Hire Bo Porter As Third Base Coach

Interim Braves GM John Hart announced today that the team will retain Fredi Gonzalez for the 2015 season and hire recently dismissed Astros manager Bo Porter as a third base/outfield and baserunning coach (Twitter links). According to a team press release, assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher will not be returning to the organization in 2015, and Porter will replace former third base coach Doug Dascenzo. Hitting coach Greg Walker already announced his resignation earlier this week. The remainder of the coaching staff will return, according to the Braves.

The news may not sit well with Braves fans, as many called for Gonzalez to suffer the same fate as recently fired GM Frank Wren following the team’s collapse and offensive struggles. Gonzalez, however, will be retained for a fifth season as the Atlanta skipper. To this point, the Braves are 358-290 under Gonzalez, who has also managed the Marlins and owns a lifetime 634-569 record as a Major League manager.

David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported shortly before the announcement that Porter was expected to join the Braves’ staff (Twitter links). As O’Brien noted, Porter has strong ties to Gonzalez after spending three years with him as a coach for the Marlins and playing for him when Gonzalez managed Triple-A Richmond in 2002.


AL Central Notes: Anderson, Tomas, Sox, Cabrera

Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson will not be back with the team next year, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. According to Rosenthal’s source, Anderson informed GM Terry Ryan that he wouldn’t return once Ron Gardenhire was ousted as manager. However, John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press spoke with Anderson directly, who went on the record with a different story, saying he didn’t quit, but just assumed he was out once Gardenhire was dismissed. “It’s been a tough four years,” Anderson tells Shipley. “I understand where they’re coming from. Maybe they need someone new. I imagine the new guy will want someone new. It’s not like I’m saying, ‘I’m out,’ I’m just assuming that will be the case.” However the scenario truly played out, it does appear certain that the Twins will have a new pitching coach for the first time in 13 years next season.

Here’s more from the AL Central…

  • The Twins have expressed interest in arranging a private workout for slugging Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link). The news comes as a bit of a surprise, because as I noted in yesterday’s Offseason Outlook for the Twins, the team has never shown a willingness to approach the dollars Tomas figures to command. However, the team does have a need in the outfield.
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn spoke with Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this week and offered several glimpses into the South Siders’ upcoming offseason. “Long-term targets are priority,” the GM said when asked whether the Sox would be players on the free agent market before softening his stance a bit. “We may be in position where shorter-term deals for veteran players might make sense.” The bullpen will be a target for the Sox this winter, and while Hahn isn’t opposed to signing or trading for an established ninth-inning arm, he said he’s never much bought into the “proven closer” concept: “The overall goal for the bullpen is to have multiple options from potentially the right and left side, many of which could be end-game options. I’ve never been of the mindset that somebody has to be the closer. It’s not an ideal way to deploy what should be your best reliever.”
  • ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick hears from multiple sources that Miguel Cabrera‘s comments about not wanting his postseason bonus money were made in jest, and the Tigers slugger will indeed sign the paperwork to receive his money. As USA Today reported Tuesday, Cabrera stated that he wouldn’t sign and didn’t care about the money, as he “just want[ed] the ring.”

Rockies Do Not Expect Major Changes For 2015

Barring a last-minute change of heart from owner Dick Monfort, the Rockies are not prepared to undertake significant changes to their front office, reports MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Likewise, that decision-making group seems set to try to build a contender while relying primarily on the same major pieces that remain under team control.

Senior VP of Major League operations Bill Geivett spoke with Harding on the club’s roster. “We like the team that we have,” he said. “When the majority of them are out there, we feel good about our chances. At the same time, we look at next year and we know our pitching staff, we need to improve, and we need to be able to score runs on the road.”

While not surprising under the circumstances, Geivett indicated that the team has no intentions of dealing its two biggest stars (and two biggest contracts) shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez“If we’re going to win, they’re going to need to be part of it, too,” he explained.

Geivett said that the club’s focus was on improving a pitching staff that was among the least effective in baseball last year. “We need impactful starting pitching,” said Geivett. “We’re not going to check his ID. We don’t care how old he is. We don’t care how much time he has. In order to compete against the teams we play with, we know starting pitching is essential.”

Those comments certainly seem to indicate that Colorado will not be concerned with the future in looking for arms for 2015. At the same time, the club is reportedly not preparing to increase its payroll, and current commitments seem to leave fairly little to spend. Adding another starter would obviously help, given the massive uncertainty that permeates much of the team’s rotation (to say nothing of the bullpen), but it it is far from clear that such an acquisition — in and of itself — would make the team a likely contender.

Geivett himself has a lot riding on the coming season. Monfort made clear recently that he holds Geivett responsible for the product that takes the field at Coors. On the other hand, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post recently reported, internal team sources are frustrated with the owner’s own intrusion on baseball decision-making.


Mariners’ President: Payroll Will Increase In 2015

Earlier this week, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said that he felt he would have more financial resources to work with, and today Mariners president Kevin Mather confirmed as much in an appearance on 710 ESPN’s Brock and Salk show (Brady Henderson of 710 ESPN has transcribed some of the highlights). Mather explains that the Mariners spent $16MM more than they had budgeted for in 2014 (a total payroll of $107MM), but ownership has no intention of scaling that back after seeing the team’s performance this season:

“They’re fans and they seemed extremely pleased with the competitive nature of the games and September, meaningful baseball, and not one of them has said, ‘What are we going to do to get that $16 million back?’ They were all saying, ‘What are you going to do to get us six more wins next year?’”

Fresh off the signing of Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM contract, the Mariners posted an 87-75 record — their best since 2007 — and cleared two million fans at Safeco Field for the first time since 2010, which Mather says will help him to acquire more resources for Zduriencik.

If you have time to listen to the audio of the full interview (it’s roughly 21 minutes long), Mather’s interview is well worth hearing in its entirety. The first-year president was insightful and candid throughout as he discussed the extension of Zduriencik, the relationship between Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon, his own role with the team and the club’s approach at the trade deadline as they weighed a run at David Price.

Mather feels that Zduriencik’s contract extension was turned into a bigger deal than he’d expected. He echoed a story told by Zduriencik shortly after the extension, stating that he simply broached the topic casually at the end of a business lunch, asking the GM, “Does your wife like it in Seattle?” Zduriencik responded that she loves it, and Mather recalls, “I said, ‘Well, your contract’s up at the end of the year. Why don’t we talk about getting that extended?’” Mather does admit that Zduriencik’s rebuilding effort took longer than it should have, but he called the decision to extend him after the club’s success an “automatic.” Asked about Zduriencik’s best ability, Mather did not hesitate to say “personnel evaluation,” referring to evaluating young players.

Beyond that, he recalled his first test as a president — asking ownership for increased funding to sign Fernando Rodney late in the offseason. Unhappy with the asking prices of remaining starting pitchers and bats, Zduriencik suggested the idea of shortening the game. “The first thing I really tried to sell to ownership was, let’s take the ninth inning off the board,” said Mather, adding that he received little resistance on that front.

The team’s biggest desire moving forward, Mather says, is to avoid going through a “dip” like the Mariners went through from 2004-14:

“We need to be 85 to 95 wins every year, which means we need to draft well, we have to get our draft picks signed, we have to be strategic with our free agent signings, but we need to be competitive year-in, year-out. And you don’t do that by signing broken-down, middle-of-the-road free agents and hoping.”

Regarding the club’s summer interest in Price, Mather emphasized that with the team looking at a Wild Card spot, it was too difficult to mortgage the future. “Will you give up — and I shouldn’t use names – but will you give up [James] Paxton, or [Taijuan] Walker, or [D.J.] Peterson for David Price?” he asked, rhetorically. “…I want to be competitive in 2015, 2016, 2017 — these are young players that we control.”

Lastly, he discusses the impact that the team’s strong performance will have on attracting free agents. While he says it’s a selling point, the biggest red flag for the Mariners in attracting free agents, in Mather’s opinion, is the team’s travel schedule. Mather says he’s been assured by new commissioner Rob Manfred that MLB will look at the travel schedule in order to avoid scenarios like the one that came up this year where the team went from California to Houston to Toronto and back to Seattle without an off-day. He’s reminded Manfred about it multiple times, though he acknowledges that it may take a year or two in order to truly alleviate that pain for West Coast teams.