Ranking the new managers
Ten teams hired a manager this winter and some did better than others. Here are my rankings of the new managerial hires, from top to bottom.
• While the Yankees want to bring their negotiations with the iconic Derek Jeter to a close soon, and are expected to up their $45 million offer sometime this week, they seem opposed to giving Jeter a fourth year. A fair guess for the final number might be $52 million over three years. In any case, the soap opera has gone on long enough.
• While it's difficult to imagine the Yankees' captain leaving under any circumstance, opposing executives are starting to wonder whether their hardball tactics and occasional public utterances of less than 100 percent support (sometimes far less than 100 percent) for Jeter could possibly influence their Cliff Lee talks. Regardless, the Yankees remain the heavy favorite for Jeter. As for Lee, to this point there's no indication the Yankees would repeat the seven-year, $161-million deal they gave to CC Sabathia; Lee, while superb and more proven in the postseason, is 32, four years older than Sabathia when he was a free agent two years ago. But there's no getting around the fact the Yankees absolutely need Lee.
• The Yankees have yet to make an offer for Lee, but while the Rangers want Lee back and are among the nouveau riche in baseball with their $80-million-a-year TV deal, it's going to be hard for them to beat the Yankees, who are said to be willing to go well past $20 million per year on at least a five-year deal for Lee, and maybe even six years. The Nationals may be the one team willing to compete financially with the Yankees for Lee, but execs say they'd be surprised to see Lee go to a team that still looks like it's a couple years from contention.
• If any other team does go hard for Jeter, the Giants, with their GM being Brian Sabean, who was in charge of the Yankees' draft when the Yankees took Jeter, seems the most logical. They are looking for a shortstop. Other shortstops available are J.J. Hardy, Jason Bartlett and Marco Scutaro through trade and Miguel Tejada and their own Juan Uribe via free agency. Jose Reyes would interest the Giants, if he's truly available in a trade, as the
• Johnny Damon wouldn't mind ending up back in the AL East, with the Red Sox, Rays or Yankees.
• The Tigers made a great deal to sign Victor Martinez, a switch-hitting catcher, for $50 million over four years. It's quite a bit higher than the two-year offer (for about $20 million) that the Red Sox originally offered but still represents a fair price even in an overheated market. The Tigers, with aggressive owner Mike Ilitch, still are believed to be in the market for another proven hitter. They could bring back Magglio Ordoñez, but shouldn't be ruled out as a landing spot for Jayson Werth, either. Ilitch always has had a good rapport with agent Scott Boras (who represents both those players). Though Boston still seems like the early favorite for Werth, who seems like a better fit for Fenway Park than Detroit's Comerica. Boston's short leftfield but expansive and tricky rightfield just might be perfect for the righty-hitting, slick-fielding rightfielder.
• The Rangers rejected a $9-million team option for Vladimir Guerrero and didn't offer him arbitration, but those were a matter of prearranged deals. It still seems like there's a decent chance Guerrero returns to Texas, where he fits the ballpark and lineup perfectly.
• It's early, and there will be plenty of interest, but everyone is still assuming Carl Crawford ends up in Anaheim.
• The Pirates are trying for some big fish. It's just a matter of whether any of those fish will go there.
• The Royals are playing in the free-agent market for pitching. They along with the Royals and Mets might take a look at Kevin Millwood.
• Jon Garland usually waits until later in the offseason to settle for his undermarket one-year deal but this time he signed quickly with his hometown Dodgers. His $5 million guarantee is very low for a pitcher who consistently is a double-digit winner and 200-inning man regardless of his low strikeout totals. One AL exec explained that righthanders with average stuff just don't play well in free agency. But one agent was amazed that even if Garland hits all his performance bonuses and vesting options, he still earns less than reliever Joaquin Benoit, a reliever guaranteed $16.5 million by the Tigers (if Garland reaches all his numbers, he can make $16 million over two years). In any case, one competing GM said of the Dodgers, "They really have a solid rotation now.''
• The Marlins giving $7 million to Javier Vazquez makes sense on a one-year deal. He's an innings eater who'll take pressure off the rest of the staff. As one GM put it, they "traded'' Dan Uggla for Omar Infante, Mike Dunn, John Buck and Javier Vazquez. Not too bad. From Vazquez's perspective, he needed to be in the NL and has a condo in Sunny Isles, 15 minutes from the ballpark. While the Yankees have yet to secure Jeter, Rivera or Lee, at least they get a draft choice for Vazquez.
• The Twins won the rights to negotiate with Tsuyoshi Nishioka, a second baseman and shortstop who's won the Gold Glove at both positions and added a Japan League batting title for what is believed to be slightly more than a $5 million fee. He's a natural replacement or Orlando Hudson at second base and shouldn't have trouble making a deal with Minnesota considering the reasonable posting fee.
• The White Sox are interested in retaining catcher A.J. Pierzynski but didn't want to pay what he might make in arbitration. They see Pierzynski making less than he did a year ago.
• The arbitration process isn't fair to good middle relievers such as Scott Downs and Jason Frasor who are considered Type As and thus have compensation attached to them. The ranking system should be amended so middle relievers aren't Type As. Only closers should be eligible for Type A status among relievers.