The Element of Surprise…
The World Series is not yet over, but the 2014-15 Hot Stove League is already well under way.
The biggest shocker was the announcement that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon had opted out of his contract to become a free agent. While I knew that there was a financial gap between what Maddon would require upon the conclusion of his contract next year and what the Rays would be willing to pay, I certainly didn’t expect Maddon’s sudden availability. Interesting that he had to be told about the two week clause to opt out of his contract should former GM Andrew Friedman depart, but clearly a signal that the Rays organization wants to show that they are more than the Friedman-Maddon show. I’ve read that the Rays didn’t want Maddon playing as a lame duck manager next season and that makes sense. Still, he is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, manager in baseball.
Tampa Bay Times
I had expected Maddon’s availability to put Don Mattingly on thin ice in Los Angeles, but publicly the Dodgers have stood behind Mattingly as their manager for 2015. While I don’t think that Mattingly is the manager that Maddon is, I do believe that he eventually will be. Mattingly has continued to improve in my eyes, and he deserves the opportunity to succeed with the Dodgers. But it must be hard for new Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman sit idly by while his close friend is available to the highest bidder. With the only remaining managerial opening being in Minneapolis, it’s a given that if Maddon manages in 2015, a team will make a late decision to jettison their current manager. Speculation that it will be the Chicago Cubs certainly makes sense, but I feel bad for Rick Renteria who did a very good job last year with the younger Cubs.
If I owned a baseball team, I’d certainly consider making a change to bring in Maddon. It will be interesting to see where he lands. I really doubt that he’ll sit out a year waiting for the next job.
Meanwhile, I certainly do not feel bad for the Tampa Bay Rays. I am in favor of anything that weakens AL East Rivals, but I am sure that Tampa will be fine.
For the Yankees, they missed their guy when Chili Davis signed a three year deal to be the new hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox. Chili was my personal favorite for the job, and had hoped for his reunion with the Yanks. But it was not meant to be. With Dave Magadan off the board, it’s anybody’s guess who will replace Kevin Long as the Yankees hitting coach. Of the latest names, I do like the idea of the Yankees pursuing Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton or if they stay in house, someone like James Rowson. Without strong clear cut options, it does make one wonder if the Yanks were premature in letting Long go. It certainly didn’t take him long to find a new job in Flushing Meadow. With his reputation, it was a certainty that he wouldn’t remain unemployed very long.
John Munson/The Star-Ledger
In retrospect, the Yankees should have kept Long and brought in an assistant hitting coach. Regardless of who they hire as a replacement, I still think the Yankees should join the many team now employing two hitting coaches. My personal favorite for that role continues to be Hideki Matsui.
A wasted roster spot…
With the World Series now tied up, I am hopeful that it goes the full seven games. While I want the San Francisco Giants to win, I am not ready for the announcement that Alex Rodriguez has rejoined the Yankees active roster. I am not looking forward to his return and I do not feel that he’ll be the productive player that he once was. In my opinion, he’d look better someplace like Miami but the guy has no trade value unless the Yankees are willing to absorb what’s left on his inflated contract. He is definitely the poster child against long-term contracts. This has turned out to be one of the worst that I’ve ever seen. The thought of three more years of A-Rod is so incredibly painful. I sincerely hope that A-Rod’s presence does not deter the Yankees from re-signing free agent third baseman Chase Headley.
There was once a time that I thought A-Rod would never wear pinstripes again but sadly, it appears that I was wrong. Of course, it’s not my money and the Yankees still owe A-Rod too much to just release him.
Assuming the Yankees do bring back Headley, the position that scares me the most next season is first base. It’s hard to count on Mark Teixeira and when he plays, he is a shell of the player he once was. It is looking like A-Rod will be playing some first base which brings its own questions. I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training. As for Derek Jeter’s replacement at short, I think the answer is outside of the organization. More than likely, it will be a short term solution. Asdrubal Cabrera probably makes the most sense unless it is determined that his long term future is better suited for second base.
With the World Series set to end either Tuesday or Wednesday, I am sure that the Hot Stove League will start heating up if the last few weeks have been any indication. No offense to either the Giants or the Kansas City Royals, but, outside of A-Rod, I am ready for the rebuilding of the Yankees to begin…
The first swing is a strike…
OK, I am bummed. Today’s news, aside from the fact that my beloved Minnesota Vikings and San Jose Sharks lost games, was the Boston Red Sox naming former Yankee Chili Davis as their new hitting coach. I had really hoped we’d see the return of Davis to New York to replace the departed Kevin Long. However, it is not meant to be. Not sure if Davis decided not to wait on the Yankees, or if they made a lower offer, or if Davis simply looked into the crystal ball and saw greater potential with the 2015 Red Sox hitters.
I wish Chili the best in his new job, and I am sure that he’ll be a huge benefit for Yoenis Cespedes given their prior success together in Oakland.
Where does that leave the Yankees? At this point, Dave Magadan is probably the strongest name on the board. Dante Bichette has been mentioned as a possibility. I have not kept up with Dante’s post-playing career, but he is an intriguing name given his close friendship with Manager Joe Girardi and his son is a prospect in the Yankees system. Another name that intrigues me is Jason Giambi. Not sure if he is ready to pull the plug on his playing days, but he’s obviously already moved into a mentoring role and would be a great guy for the position. With so many teams moving to the two hitting coach approach, I think the Yankees should follow suit regardless of who gets the job. A perfect combo might be Magadan with Hideki Matsui as his assistant hitting coach.
While I am disappointed that Chili Davis is no longer an option, I wonder if the team has already made its decision. Reports are that a new coach could be named by Tuesday which leads me to believe the Yankees have either made their decision or they’ve significantly narrowed the choices.
Hopefully next week brings some good news regarding Joe Girardi’s coaching staff. It’s funny. When your team is not in the World Series, you are anxious for the WS to end so that the Hot Stove League can begin.
Speaking of the World Series, I am pulling for the San Francisco Giants by default. My NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers but sadly they couldn’t make it to the NLCS. As a Bay Area resident, it’s not too hard to default to the Giants even if they are the Dodgers bitterest rival. It doesn’t matter that the Giants have that ‘been there, done that’ feel to them whereas the Kansas City Royals are returning to a stage they haven’t seen since 1985. I am ready for another Orange October…
1-0 to start the 2014-15 Off-Season…
First order of business has been accomplished. With the signing of GM Brian Cashman to a new three year deal, the off-season can officially begin. I am glad that Cashman will be returning, although I certainly would not have been opposed to Billy Eppler stepping into the role.
I found Cashman’s words about Alex Rodriguez to be intriguing. It was a public admission that the team does not plan to rely upon Rodriguez as its everyday third baseman. Granted, I am not an A-Rod fan, but I openly prefer to see the return of Chase Headley or would support the free agent acquisition of someone like Pablo Sandoval. To hear Cashman talk about A-Rod possibly playing first base, I think that’s a great idea as Mark Teixeira is another older veteran who can no longer be relied upon to perform every day. Of course, the use of 1B/DH between Teixeira and A-Rod doesn’t really leave much room for Carlos Beltran on those days that he can’t play the field.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I would still like to see the Yankees find a way to sever ties with A-Rod even if it means eating his contract. Easy for me to say given it is not my money but A-Rod, the 40-year old hip “impaired” DH that has not played in a year will not perform to the level of the money he is still owed. So, filling the roster spot with a younger, more durable player certainly makes sense.
At this point in Cashman’s career, he is building his Yankees legacy as the longest running Yankees GM that I’ve ever known. When his time is over, he’ll be remembered among the best of the all-time Yankees GMs. Rebuilding a winner in the next three years would go a long way toward putting Cashman at the head of the class. Of course, failure could mean his dismissal. After 17 years on the job, he is truly entering “what have you done for me lately?” territory.
The Fall Guys…
I have long agreed that Kevin Long has been a great hitting coach, but for whatever reason, the message didn’t work this year. Perhaps it was the direct product of the available talent on the roster or it was the loss of a vital cog in the heart of the order when Robinson Cano fled for Seattle. But regardless of the reasons, it was time for a change. So, I was not disappointed when I heard that Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher had been fired.
My personal preference for hitting coach would be the Oakland A’s Chili Davis. I know that the A’s offense stalled late in the season, but I’ve always respected Davis and what his bat meant to a lineup.
The Yankees will be competing with the Boston Red Sox in their search since the Sox also need a hitting coach.
For the World Series, after the Yankees failed to reach the play-offs and the Los Angeles Dodgers bowed out in the first round, my latest preference is the San Francisco Giants. Maybe it’s because I am a Bay Area resident but it would be good to see the Giants prevail even if the Giants and St Louis Cardinals have been frequent participants of the Fall Classic in recent years. There’s no way that I’ll pull for the Baltimore Orioles or the Kansas City Royals regardless of how many years it has been since they last won. I had really hoped that Don Mattingly and the Dodgers would have succeeded with arguably the best pitcher in baseball with Clayton Kershaw but his 0-2 mark against the Cards sealed their fate.