They barely have the streets swept clean following the Kansas City Royals’ World Series parade, and the off-season intrigues have begun in earnest. OK, a couple began when it barely began sinking in that the New York Mets had blown a Series they actually could have won, or when Don Mattingly left the Los Angeles Dodgers and became the Miami Marlins’ new manager. But let’s start looking:
∆ We’ll start with the world champion Royals. They’re already said goodbye to right fielder Alex Rios and pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, declining to pick up each man’s 2016 option.
It’s not exactly surprising. Rios delivered a .640 OPS during the regular 2015 season and, while he had his moments in the postseason, his blunder in Game Four—thinking he’d caught the third out mistakenly, allowing Wilmer Flores to score and a Curtis Granderson fly to become a sacrifice fly—almost became the misplay of the game until Daniel Murphy’s misplays in the eighth inning. And Guthrie pitched his way out of the Royals’ rotation and wasn’t even a topic in the postseason.
∆ Alex Anthopolous saw the future of the American League East champion Toronto Blue Jays and was not amused. Neither was about half the Canadian press. Anthopolous resigned as the Jays’ general manager when former Cleveland chieftain Mark Shapiro was brought in as the Jays’ new CEO.
Anthopolous wouldn’t specify why he decided to walk, but the actual or alleged smart money is saying he didn’t feel comfortable certain degrees of power to Shapiro. The man who built the Blue Jays’ AL East champion is now up for grabs.
∆ Since Shapiro’s assumption of power, the Jays have exercised options on pitcher R.A. Dickey, outfielder Jose Bautista, and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion. Dickey’s option will pay him $12 million for 2016, Bautista’s will pay him $14 million, and Encarnacion’s will pay him $10 million. That’s three key pieces of the Jays’ run to the postseason secured. But will they make the effort to keep David Price?
∆ He couldn’t quite get the Mets all the way to the World Series championship, but manager Terry Collins will have two more years to manage the National League champions. The dollars weren’t disclosed at this writing but Collins gets a new two-year contract, likely his last before he retires, as he’s said he’d like to do “in a couple of years.”
∆ The least-surprising hot stove dish thus far: Zack Greinke exercising his opt-out option. The Cy Young Award candidate was expected to opt out of his incumbent deal and test the market, though it’s entirely possible the well-apportioned Los Angeles Dodgers could bring him back on a slightly better deal.
With three years left on the deal it means Greinke betting $71 million on getting that better deal.
∆ Dusty Baker will be the new Washington Nationals manager—after the Nats first pursued but broke it off with former San Diego manager Bud Black. After the Matt Williams fiasco the Nats wanted an experience manager, but Black bristled at an offer he considered a low-ball compared to what, for example, Mattingly is getting from the Marlins with less experience than Black has.
Meanwhile the prize for the incredibly stupid remark of the week must go to Forbes‘s Steve Kettman, writing that the single key for Baker bringing the Nats to the World Series will be “teaching Bryce Harper to be a man . . . Under Baker’s guidance Harper will be the best player in baseball next year.” I guess being the best player in baseball this year just wasn’t good enough even while Kettman said nothing about why Harper yet needs to learn to be a man.
∆ The real thing to beware with Baker: Has he learned at last not to burn out or misread his pitching staffs?
∆ Otherwise, eight Nats have become free agents: Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, Casey Janssen, Nate McLouth, Denard Span, Matt Thornton, Dan Uggla, and Jordan Zimmermann. For Janssen and McLouth, free agency became a reality after the Nats declined to pick up their options.
Fister tanked his way to the bullpen in 2015 and probably won’t return unless he’s willing to take a pay cut—if the Nats offer even that. Desmond, Span, and Zimmermann are likely to move on though they’ll likely get the qualifying offers that keep the Nats from losing them empty. And they won’t exactly miss Uggla while finding other ways to deepen their infield.
∆ Joe Nathan missed practically all of 2015 after a torn ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor pronator tear in his right arm sent him to a second Tommy John surgery. Not surprisingly, the Detroit Tigers have chosen not to pick up his 2016 option. Nathan has said he wants to make a comeback after rehabbing from the surgery.
∆ Eight Chicago Cubs have filed for free agency—including Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson, Trevor Cahill, Chris Donorfia, Tommy Hunter, Jason Motte, Fernando Rodney, and Dan Haren. Haren, however, has already indicated he’d retire. Fowler’s second-half splash was impressive but the Cubs have said they’re looking for more pitching, which may freeze him out of their plans.
But it might bring Cahill back into the Cubs’ cave, since his late-season pitching impressed the team enough that they might offer him a new deal. Might.
∆ The Los Angeles Angels have a new pitching coach: Charles Nagy, who held that job with the Arizona Diamondbacks most recently, until he was purged amidst then-GM Kevin Towers’s get-tough philosophy. (We know how that worked out for the Snakes.) In 2015, Nagy (pronounced “naggy,” which isn’t exactly his personality) worked in player development for the Cleveland Indians—for whom he was once a three-time All Star pitcher. Ironically, Mike Butcher, purged as the Angels’ pitching coach after the season, is now . . . the Diamondbacks’ pitching coach.
Nagy’s purge out of Arizona didn’t exactly sit well with many of his pitchers: “He might not be as boisterous as other coaches, might not be as outspoken, but Charlie, the best way I can put it is, he has this quiet storm about him,” said then-Arizona pitcher Joe Saunders, himself a former Angel. “He has a real quiet mentality, a real laid-back attitude. But when something needs to get done or be said, he says it—and says it in the right way. He’s very good at giving constructive criticism if need be.”
Nagy isn’t exactly a stranger to the Angels, either: he was once the pitching coach at their Salt Lake City farm.