10 observations from a busy week of Hot Stove developments
Ten observations about the recently concluded general managers meetings in Orlando and the weekend's developments:
The Mets finally hired a new manager, choosing Terry Collins over Bob Melvin, Chip Hale and Wally Backman. Collins not only had connections but also had the experience and the feisty personality his bosses sought. Collins, who previously managed the Angels and Astros (though his record is mixed), is also said to have done an excellent job last year as the Mets' minor-league field coordinator. He is just the fiery type the team preferred after the clubhouse was seen as slightly too low-key lately. It also couldn't have hurt that Collins is not only known to be very close to pitching legend Sandy Koufax, who's as close as anyone to Mets owner Fred Wilpon, but perhaps more importantly, Collins also won the admiration of Mets VP Paul DePodesta, GM Sandy Alderson's righthand man, while working in the minors for the Dodgers when DePodesta was their GM. Collins was seen as the favorite from the moment his connections came to light -- though several people friendly with Alderson figured he'd eventually go with the safer Melvin (so did I), who attended the University of California-Berkeley, where Alderson used to lecture. The issue with Melvin is that he was, according to a person familiar with their thinking, "too much like'' the erudite Alderson and DePodesta.
Collins wouldn't say much publicly about his abrupt ending in Japan, where he disagreed with his bosses on the Orix Buffaloes who wanted to try to win every game while Collins favored going with youth, or the insurrection in Anaheim in which Angels players petitioned the front office to have him removed, explaining he didn't want to "point fingers.'' He did explain it all to his interviewers with the Mets, to their satisfaction.
Like Collins, Hale and Backman also are perceived as fiery, but Alderson preferred a manager with more experience, and neither of those two have ever managed at the major league level. Mets fans were disappointed that Backman, a sparkplug on the 1986 world championship Mets team, didn't get the job, nor did successful former Mets manager Bobby Valentine even get an interview. That second call is curious in light of the Collins hiring (some writers immediately starting referring to Collins on Twitter as Bobby Lite).
Mets people are saying Hale, who will stay as third-base coach, was a "close second,'' which could put him in position to take over if Collins doesn't work out over his short two-year contract.
The D-backs came into the meetings thinking they should see what they can get for their young star outfielder and left thinking there was a better chance to trade him when than when they got there, people familiar with their thinking say. The Royals, Mariners, Marlins, Blue Jays and Red Sox are among about seven to eight teams seen as potentially serious suitors, but a trade is complicated by Arizona's understandable insistence on receiving major-league ready talent in return. Which means they want both Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Bard from the Red Sox. A deal with anyone might not be made quickly, but it appears to have a reasonable chance of happening this winter.
The numbers appear to be getting crazy, and it's not just the $18 million for catcher John Buck and the $16.5 million for set-up man Joaquin Benoit, which seemed like fairly reasonable deals (though there was a lot of executive squawking about both, especially Benoit, who has great talent but an iffy shoulder, and should tip the Rays 10 percent for rehabbing him). Adrian Beltre rejected an offer that was believed to be at least $60 million for five years from the A's and reported to be for exactly the $64 million he once got from the Mariners for those very same five years, and is said to be comparing himself to Torii Hunter, another two-way star who signed for $90 million at about the same age. Meanwhile, Jorge De La Rosa was thought to be talking about at least a four-year deal, and Carl Pavano is said to be looking for $33 million over three years, or "Ted Lilly money.'' Can't blame any of them. It's the laws of supply and demand. There aren't a lot of great players on this free agent market (and three of the best ones will likely end up back with the Yankees), and there certainly aren't a lot of excellent third basemen or starting pitchers.
Jayson Werth was spoken about in the past tense by Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, according to a story by Bob Brookover in the
Jeter will wind up back with the Yankees, but not before this turns into a soap opera it seems. Both sides need each other, but they appear to be in a something of a standoff for the moment. The Yankees' three-year, $45 million bid to Jeter is probably intended to scare off other suitors while not insulting the icon. But whether it attracts Jeter remains to be seen. One friend of Jeter's said before the process started they didn't believe anything in the $50-million-for-three genre would be well received. Jeter's agent, Casey Close, told the New York
That's what Rivera has told friends, though the Yankees say they haven't been told that yet. The Yankees will most likely give it to him. While he made comments during the year that he wouldn't mind going year-to-year, Rivera had such a good season (33 saves, 1.80 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) -- which is to say, like always -- as the Yankees closer, that his desire is probably warranted, even for a 40-year-old.
There is no word of offers yet to Lee, as he appears to be enjoying courtship time at the moment. The Nationals have interest, but most baseball people believe Lee's decision will likely come down to the incumbent/almost hometown Texas Rangers and baseball's Goliath, the New York Yankees. Rangers president/part owner Nolan Ryan conceded he expects to be outbid by the Yankees, but the competitive Ryan still hopes the lure of the hometown might work for Lee, who is building a home in Little Rock, Ark., not far from his hometown of Benton, Ark, which is still over five hours from Arlington, Texas, but a lot closer than New York is. The Rangers are believed willing to go at least four years, but it seems uncertain whether they'd go past that even for a pitcher who has no history of arm trouble. The Yankees will definitely be willing to go at least five for Lee, 32, putting them in the favorite's position. They'd probably prefer to avoid a sixth year, but this being free agency, him being the biggest prize and there being no great second option for the Yankees, the likelihood is that he gets six assuming he goes there.
That could mean he's destined to wait for the Winter Meetings or later. Or it could also mean the Angels are employing their usual under-the-radar type strategy. GM Tony Reagins quietly signed Torii Hunter for $90 million at a Del Taco just before Thanksgiving 2007 without anyone noticing (except maybe the counterperson at the Corona, Calif., fast food joint), and perhaps they will try the same with Crawford, who's received Hunter's endorsement already. Crawford, 28 and a beloved all-around star, may shoot for as many as 10 years. But eight wouldn't be bad. After all, a similarly well-liked player of comparable age, Mark Teixeira, received several eight-year offers two winters ago. Crawford's agent, Greg Genske, has prepared a video tribute to the all-around star for the viewing pleasure of interested teams and media.
Not only did they add Benoit, but they have plenty of spending money left. No less than $50 million came off their books, and for all the whining about Benoit, he's only going to cost about 10 percent of that figure in 2011. That leaves a lot of loose change for importing the big hitters they seek. They were in fairly serious talks with Adam Dunn but have not hit his magic number yet -- which is believed to be perhaps four years and $60 million. There is also the matter of his agents having to convince the proud Dunn to finally give up the glove, which isn't really an attribute for him.
The Tigers, Orioles and Rangers appear much more aggressive in pursuing V-Mart, whose two-year offer from Boston during the season was summarily dismissed. He's believed seeking a five-year deal (though four at the right price probably will suffice).
• The Mets have decided to keep Dan Warthen as pitching coach. But Collins wants a catching guy as bullpen coach, so Randy Niemann will move to the minors again. Young Josh Thole will be given every chance to win the starting catching job, so having a catching instructor on the staff could be helpful. Dave Wallace was seen as a possible pitching coach, as he is Collins' best friend in baseball. Those two and Sandy Koufax used to dine together in Vero Beach when Collins was a minor-league manager with the Dodgers and Wallace his pitching coach. Collins may choose Jon DeBus, whom he also knew from the Dodgers, for his staff.
• Many Mets fans were disappointed Backman didn't get the top managerial job. But that's nothing compared to his old friend Lenny Dykstra, whose prized German Shepherd might be allowed to be repossessed according to TMZ. Backman is expected to manager somewhere in the minors for the Mets.
• Ollie Perez isn't helping the Mets' cause to trade him by spring training by posting a 9 ERA so far in winter ball
• The Yankees and Brewers got excellent pitching coaches in Larry Rothschild and Rick Kranitz, respectively. Ex-Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland would be a superb hire for someone.
• The Twins seem to be trying hard to keep Carl Pavano. Yankees people may have a tough time believing this, but Pavano was said to be very good with the Twins younger pitchers (he does know pitching) and a positive force in Minnesota's clubhouse.
• The Pirates, Nationals, Orioles and Royals are in the free agent market, which is good to see,.
• Executives think Royals ace Zack Greinke probably will be traded. He has a limited no-trade list, and is said to have no desire to go to New York or other big markets. Texas is one team interested if they lose out for Lee.
• The Rangers have begun their search for a hitting coach to replace Clint Hurdle. They received permission to talk to Padres hitting coach Randy Ready, but it doesn't appear likely he'll leave San Diego.
• The Marlins have beefed up their bullpen, especially by getting Mike Dunn from the Braves in the Dan Uggla trade, and are now trying for another starter.
• The Dodgers would like to add one more starting pitcher, and Vicente Padilla is a possibility.
• According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Trey Hillman could become Don Mattingly's bench coach in Los Angeles.
• Vladimir Guererro is talking to the Rangers and three other teams about a DH job.
• Hideki Matsui seems like a good fit for the White Sox, which if it happens would mean the ex-Yankees and Angels slugger would have played for teams in the three biggest cities in the U.S.
• Talks have broken off between the A's and Hisashi Iwakuma, sources confirm. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported it.
• Bengie Molina, who earned two World Series shares last year for having started the year with the Giants before being traded to the Rangers, is leaning toward returning now after talking about retiring late last year. He was affected by injury in 2010, which might have impacted his late-year thinking.