Andrew Marchand at ESPN New York looks at potential new homes for Robinson Cano. His first candidate is the Texas Rangers. He states: “The Rangers are well in place to make a big splash. They had another disappointing end to their season and have never really replaced Josh Hamilton. Plus, they have a lot of dough. One scout speculated they could slide Ian Kinsler to first to make room for Cano. In other words, watch out for Texas.” His fourth place candidate is the Seattle Mariners. He says: “The M’s are a team in flux right now, but Seattle needs to add offense. Could they try to buy the No. 1 free agent on the market? The only possible reason to endow this speculation with any shade of reality is that it is probably the dumbest move the Mariners could make, but they have some experience with that.
AL West Commentary
Evan Grant at Dallas Morning News reports that: “For the first time since the Rangers went bust at the end of Tom Hicks’ ownership, the club is expected to see total payroll reduced slightly. General manager Jon Daniels said Thursday that he expected the 2014 payroll to be in a “similar range, but a little below,” the 2013 figure. The Rangers spent approximately $125.3 million on payroll in 2013, eclipsing the previous high total of $120 million last year.”
Baseball Best Practice
Boston went 97-65, after going 69-93 in 2012. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York spoke with Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston about how the Red Sox went about their business last winter.
Adam: “Was it a conscious strategy last offseason to spread their money over several players as opposed to focusing on one high-ticket guy?”
Edes: “Absolutely. The one thing you have to recognize is they didn’t necessarily go a cheap route. I mean, they overpaid for some of the guys that they signed. A lot of people mocked the three years, $39 million they gave to Victorino, for example. And they were going to give the same thing to Napoli until the hip condition surfaced. The biggest change was trying to avoid longer contracts in terms of years — the [Carl] Crawford seven-year commitment, [Adrian] Gonzalez seven-year commitment. Both blew up on them so badly. That was a big part of their strategy. They were willing to pay a few more bucks if that meant they could go shorter term.”
“In some ways, managing in the postseason is easier than during the regular season. From April through September, you have to make sure your regulars get days off at the appropriate times, and you can’t let your relievers pitch more than three days in a row. Come October, all bets are off in terms of rest. Also, since players want to win, they are more likely to check their egos at the door and accept a reduced role in October that they may not be as willing to accept in May, so that helps, too.” —Manny Acta at ESPN
So they said
“We’ve got a lot of problems.” —Yankees GM Brian Cashman
Alex Rodriguez says if he doped, he was duped. —NY Daily News
“There’s an awful lot to get excited about,” said [Theo] Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations. “We had a year that was largely a mixed bag at the big league level, and it obviously didn’t go well, but there were some bright spots. We had a fantastic year in player development and acquisition. We put ourselves in position to have an elite farm system with a number of impact players.” —-Carrie Muscat at MLB.com
Mariners off-season targets
“Manager interview lists should include: Barry Larkin, Aaron Boone, Matt Williams, Dave Martinez, Brad Ausmus, Jason Giambi, Tony Pena and Orel Hershiser, Joey Cora, Mike Maddux and the vet group: Tony LaRussa, Charlie Manuel, Jim Tracy, Charlie Manuel, Jim Tracy” —Jim Bowden at ESPN
“Former Indians and Nationals manager Manny Acta is being examined as a possible candidate to join an early list compiled by the front office that already includes Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. (who interviewed for the job two years ago) and former Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch, a candidate with player-development experience now working in the Padres’ front office. Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is also said to be a name of interest to the Cubs, but it’s unclear whether the team will seek permission to contact him.” —Gordon Wittenmyer at Chicago Sun Times
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the club hasn’t even started to discuss its own potential free agents, but he expects the team will make a qualifying offer to OF Nelson Cruz. The qualifying offer, equal to the one-year average of the top 125 contracts in the sport, is necessary in order to get draft pick compensation if Cruz were to sign elsewhere. Last year’s offer had to be $13.1 million and that figure is expected to rise towards $14 million for 2014. ”We’re going to need corner run production,” Daniels said. “We’re going to need power. Obviously, Nellie’s been a source of that here for the last few years. The first order of business we’ll have to decide is whether we extend the qualifying offer to him. I would expect we will.” Evan Grant at Dallas Morning News
By the numbers
According to a Newsday reader poll, 49% of Yankees fans say their starting pitching should be addressed first in the off-season, and 33% said re-signing Robinson Cano.
The 2013 regular season has ended, and with it Major League Baseball saw paid attendance of 74,026,895, or a per-game average of 30,514 over 2,426 games. The season will end with attendance down 1.06 percent from 2012 when the league saw total of 74,859,268. “Paid attendance” represents the number of tickets sold, not the total number of actual people that went to a given game. —Maury Brown at Forbes
Ben Badler at Baseball America reports that: “five teams had the strongest presence at this week’s open showcases for Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, according to several sources in attendance. The Rangers and Red Sox, two teams that some believe could be the frontrunners for Abreu, each had several evaluators at Abreu’s showcases, held Monday and Tuesday at the Yankees’ Dominican academy. The Red Sox ‘were there in full force,’ according to one scout.
“White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams was there, as were a heavy contingent from the Giants led by general manager Brian Sabean, special assistant Felipe Alou and special assignment scout Pat Burrell. Dan Jennings, whom the Marlins recently promoted to general manager, was also in attendance. Every team had someone there to see Abreu.
“From a scouting perspective, there wasn’t much to learn that international scouts don’t already know. Abreu took batting practice and showed off his raw power, which earns grades of 70 to 80 on the 20-80 scale. Abreu has outstanding strength in his swing, and the only player in Cuba with more raw power than him at the time he left was Alfredo Despaigne.
“Abreu faced live pitching (it’s believed they were some released pitchers, throwing in the low-90s), but scouts are aware it’s a controlled environment. Generally speaking, some sly player representatives are known for trying to manipulate these workouts by making sure the hitter knows what’s coming through various ways, such as having the catcher tell the batter what pitch is coming. That’s why teams place more emphasis on bringing players in to their academies for private workouts or seeing players at international tournaments, even if the pitchers there might have below-average stuff. At the least, Abreu didn’t seem to hurt his stock.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers left veteran reliever Brandon League off their 25-man roster for the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, which begins Thursday night. League signed a three-year, $22.5 million contract in October and began the season as the Dodgers’ closer. He lost the job to Kenley Jansen in June and had his worst season in six years. League, 30, was 6-4 with a 5.30 ERA and 1.54 WHIP and, by the end of the season, was pitching only in mop-up situations. —Mark Saxon at ESPN LA
According to Andy McCullough at The Star-Ledger; One American League talent evaluator labelled [Michael] Pineda a “back-end” starter. The scout watched Pineda three times this summer, clocked his fastball around 91-93 mph and noted the pitcher’s “sluggish demeanor.” Pineda often leaned on his slider to best lower-level hitters. “He progressed and his arm strength improved,” said the scout, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely about another team’s players. “But he still had unreliable command and mechanics.”
Pineda threw fewer than 41 innings during rehabilitation from career-altering shoulder surgery, but achieved enough to convince Yankees officials he could contribute at the major-league level in 2014. “I was very happy with everything he did,” said [Gil] Patterson, the organization’s minor-league pitching coordinator, earlier this week. “So I certainly see him being able to do that.” Patterson offered a more optimistic take. He recalled watching Pineda pound the strike zone down and away and “throwing the ball hard.”
“Brazilian lefty Luiz Gohara just turned 17 at the end of July but was flashing average velocity and an above-average curveball in the rookie-level Appalachian League before he was shut down with shoulder soreness.” —Keith Law at ESPN