With the exception of the accepted waiver claim of Manny Ramirez by the White Sox, the waiver trade deadline was a real dud, with change-of-scenery-type trades of Manny Delcarmen and Jeff Francoeur the only deadline-day moves. It was a year when GMs were especially aggressive with their claims and blocks, severely limiting deals. But Manny has spiced up trade deadlines before (take the 2008 non-waiver deadline, when he went to L.A. in a memorable three-team trade, for instance), and he could well spice up the AL Central race, executives predict.
Many baseball people seem to like the move, even ones that didn't put in a claim on Ramirez. It's understandable why Ramirez' reputation is spotty now, after he wore out his welcome in two cities, but he remains well-respected as a hitter, borne out by his .915 OPS with the Dodgers.
"He'll have a big month for the White Sox,'' predicted one competing executive from a team that didn't claim Ramirez because it thought he was too much of a "headache'' and not worth the trouble for them.
Of course, the White Sox don't worry about such things. They've accepted all sorts of personalities and have mostly thrived, to the point where the team has been compared to the Raiders. GM Ken Williams is, in fact, a Bay Area-native and a fan of the silver and black -- he's also baseball's greatest risk taker, having claimed Alex Rios and Jake Peavy on waivers a year earlier.
The Sox already have catcher A.J. Pierzynski, an aggressive player and personality who seems roundly hated by many competing players, and frenetic, opinionated manager Ozzie Guillen, whose own son, Oney Guillen, keeps tweaking his boss Williams on Twitter, even after he was made to leave the team following some inappropriate Tweets.
Guillen is seen by some as a mad genius who might just be the perfect match for Manny, who certainly is all that and more.
"[Manny] will fit right in there with that whole crew,'' one executive from another AL team said.
While Ramirez, who went 1 for 3 in his debut on Wednesday, had exactly two hits in his last two months with the Dodgers, scouts say that he can still hit for a high average and provide a presence in the middle of the order. "He can still swing the bat, and he's a savvy runner,'' one scout said. The White Sox have had an up-and-down year, but Manny often provides a spark upon arrival.
"He's terrific at the beginning, terrible at the end,'' another competing GM said of Ramirez.
That should bode well for the Sox, who have him under contract for only a month at $3.8 million (with $3 million deferred). They like him enough that they will consider bringing him back, but of course that depends on how things go.
Ramirez's rep for clutch and great hitting led to two other teams claiming him -- the Rangers and Rays, who have aggressive young GMs in Jon Daniels and Andrew Friedman, respectively, and supportive owners. The Rangers didn't have a huge need for a big hitter and were willing to use Ramirez in left field, so that says something about the reverence for Ramirez' offensive potential -- though part of Texas' incentive to claim may have been based on a block of the Rays and Yankees. The Rays have low revenues but were willing to make a big expenditure to improve their one non-strength -- an inconsistent offense.
Ramirez's fate with the Dodgers was sealed when he didn't start four straight games and even before he was ejected on the first pitch while pinch-hitting on day four. Scott Miller of CBSspports.com reported that Ramirez actually asked out of the lineup one of the days. Whatever the exact case, it was clear that both sides wanted a divorce by the end, and the cost-conscious Dodgers were only too happy to save the $3.8 million left on Ramirez' salary.
The breakup wasn't quite as ugly as the one between Ramirez and the Red Sox, but it certainly added to Manny's reputation for selfishness and petulance. It's not so bad, though, since three excellent GMs were not discouraged from making a claim of Ramirez.
Manny was gone by Monday and arrived as a White Sox by Tuesday but curiously didn't play until Wednesday. He acceded to a press conference, which was a positive start considering he hadn't been talking to media all year (he used Joey Cora as a translator, though he speaks English, but that's OK, it's a step). The White Sox are expecting Ramirez's real contribution to come on the field, though.
The rest of the waiver deadline lacked pizzazz as the last-minute deals were Delcarmen going from the Red Sox to the Rockies and Francoeur going from the Mets to Texas for Joaquin Arias, a player who had been designated for assignment to make room for another ex-Met, Alex Cora. Both deals are seen as change-of-scenery moves.
The Rangers loved Arias when they chose him as a teenager over Robinson Cano as the player to be named later in the Alex Rodriguez deal, but his stock had fallen with a low on-base percentage and weakening arm. Francoeur, the odd man out in the Mets outfield once Carlos Beltran returned, wanted out.
Francoeur's stock had fallen to the point where the Rangers only have to pay the prorated portion of the minimum salary (about $70,000) for the month of September, same as Arias. He gives the Rangers some outfield flexibility and a right-handed bat for cheap -- though not one with the pop and consistency of Ramirez, obviously.
Word is, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, currently embroiled in the heavily-covered divorce trial with wife Jamie, wants to convince the NFL to let him have a Los Angeles football franchise. He is a real estate man (or at last a parking lot man), and he claims to have the perfect site or sites.
Something tells me that the NFL won't bite, however, based on the embarrassing revelations coming about the McCourts Dodger dealings. Those include a back-tracking of his promise not to consider selling naming rights to venerable Dodger Stadium and keeping the payroll in the top quarter of teams, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
• The Brewers are still holding a slim hope that they can re-sign Prince Fielder, though others believe that their chances are practically nil. The Brewers' selling point is that he is "the man'' -- the guy who will always bat cleanup and play first base for them. Their chances were hurt when Joe Mauer got $180 million from the Twins, and the Brewers understand that. They don't want to go that high, and Fielder wants at least that much.
• Mets GM Omar Minaya has told some friends that he does love scouting and evaluation. Is this a sign that he's resigned to a re-assignment? Not sure. But it looks like a strong possibility now. Mets higher-ups met this week (including Minaya, assistant GM John Ricco and the ownership triumvirate of Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz), though the meeting was described by Mets people as "routine.'' True or not, some in the organization wonder whether Wilpon traveling to the minors to see the team's prospects with Ricco means that the Mets intend to elevate Ricco to the GM job. He might have just been assisting on a scouting mission.
• Francoeur will be nontendered by the Rangers. Ken Davidoff of Newsday reported that the Royals intend to sign him, and that makes sense. His greatest success came with the Braves, when Royals GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost were there (Yost was the third base coach).
• The Red Sox felt that Delcarmen's consistency and confidence were down, so that trade shouldn't be considered the white-flag variety. Boston has had 20 DL stays, so understandably its chances to make the playoffs remain low, though.
• Give Jim Hendry credit for interviewing Fredi Gonzalez for Cubs manager. But Gonzalez still looks like the likely Bobby Cox successor in Atlanta.
• The Yankees' policy of waiting to re-sign all their uniformed personnel, even the great ones, may cost them a couple of dollars with Mariano Rivera. But it should save them a few bucks on Derek Jeter. The Yankees understand that they must and will bring back Jeter, who's a special case and an all-time great Yankee, and that his off-year offensively isn't a factor in that decision. The Yankees won't talk about how long Jeter will play shortstop but he has done fine there this year. There are other issues, such as legacy and history, that inspire them to want to keep him. The early guesses of $25 million a year do seem a bit high now, though it's hard to quantify Jeter's value to the franchise. It was funny to hear Joe Girardi say aloud that Jeter was coming back, especially since he hasn't officially indicated what he himself will do.
• The Padres tried hard to add a starting pitcher, and are said to have claimed "multiple starters,'' including Hiroki Kuroda from the rival Dodgers. Their seven-game losing streak has put their grip on first place in jeopardy, but whatever happens, it's been a terrific year there.
• Stephen Strasburg's place with the Nationals was already well known, but it was made clear with the reaction to announcer Rob Dibble's comment that Strasburg needed to "suck it up'' and keep pitching. While Dibble's comment seems even more off-base now that it's known that Strasburg has a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and will have Tommy John surgery on Friday, it's rare to see a team this upset over a comment about one of its players. Normally it's comments about the organization that would be more upsetting to a team. Dibble earlier had sparked controversy by making fun of two women fans who were talking too much and he assumed it was about shopping. "There must be a sale going on,'' Dibble said. That comment wasn't good, either, but neither woman is the franchise pitcher that Strasburg is.
• The Nats' Nyjer Morgan was wrong to unnecessarily run over Marlins catcher Brett Hayes, then followed that the next day by charging Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad after Volstad threw twice at Morgan. Morgan is already appealing a seven-game suspension for throwing a ball at a fan. Yeesh.
• Poor Hayes suffered a separated shoulder when Morgan would have been safe with a routine feet-first slide. As Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reported, the Marlins already were looking for catching help with Ronny Paulino suspended for 50 games for a PED.
• Word is L.A.'s Matt Kemp wants at least a deal similar to Nick Markakis' ($61 million), and as a center fielder with power potential, he sees himself as more valuable. However, he knows it he won't get that with the Dodgers.
• Rare to see a trade where both sides have someone thriving right away, as is the case with Roy Oswalt and J.A. Happ.
• Jerry Di Poto has a solid relationship with Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall, so one competing GM said that Di Poto shouldn't be discounted as a candidate for the fulltime job, even with good outside candidates like ex-Padres GM Kevin Towers, Dodgers executives Logan White and DeJon Watson (the Watson report is courtesy of foxsports.com) and Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer (both Towers and Oppenheimer are with the Yankees now) available. All will be looked at, and though the D-Backs have yet to ask permission on any of the outside candidates, they are expected to.
• While teams were aggressive in their blocking, it's surprising that Ted Lilly got all the way to the Yankees before being claimed. The Yankees' starting situation changed in a month, with the injury to Andy Pettitte and struggles of A.J. Burnett. The Yankees had three All-Stars in their rotation so it's understandable why they didn't pursue Lilly when he was with the Cubs. Now they could use the rotation insurance, with Burnett struggling and Pettitte working his way back from a groin injury.
• The Dodgers want to keep Lilly. He is a tough kid and his popularity with the Yankees might help his case a bit, but it's hard to seem him approaching the $12-million salary he got with the Cubs.
• Cliff Lee's early struggles with Texas are perplexing. Before this rough past few weeks, he looked in line to surely hit $100 million on the open market (likely from the Yankees). Some pitchers struggle in Texas (though not the others on their current roster).
• Aroldis Chapman hit 103.9 mph, so early reports that he could throw 105 don't seem so farfetched now. The Reds look like they made a great call to give him a bit over $30 million now, and he could do the same thing that K-Rod did for the Series-winning Angels in 2002.
• Hard to believe how the Cardinals have fallen on hard times, and even their extra solidarity (with team-wide buzz cuts) doesn't appear to have helped. A relatively easy September schedule may come too late to help them.
• The players union believes that it has a strong case to prevent the Mets from turning K-Rod's contract from guaranteed to non-guaranteed, based on the language in the Basic Agreement. There is little precedent to support the Mets, but injuring his thumb while striking the grandfather of his children may not be looked at very kindly by an arbitrator, and understandably so.
• Alex Rodriguez was advised by Guy Oseary during the Katie Couric interview when A-Rod denied taking steroids. Oseary's office on Thursday said he's repping A-Rod again, the very day it came to light that Rodriguez had left longtime agent Scott Boras (who did a half billion dollars worth of deals with A-Rod). The office said that Oseary isn't repping A-Rod as a ballplayer, though. Rodriguez's current deal runs through age 42, so it may not matter.