At some point there will be that awkward discussion: Did we do enough?
Every organization has it. You do X and Y, but you run out of money for Z. So, you start the season vulnerable in an area or two. You try to get by for as long as you can, but at some point it bites you. Your team falters as a result. What you thought was a better team after you made a few offseason moves turns into a disappointing season.
This happens more often than not in the major leagues.
The Red Sox lost out on Jon Lester and Andrew Miller, but traded for Wade Miley and Rick Porcello, and signed Justin Masterson. Good going, but the Red Sox need an ace. They also need a lefthander in the bullpen, a strong setup man. While they bolstered their lineup with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, did they do enough? Is their bullpen vulnerable?
Meanwhile, look at those Miami Marlins. They are serious about being contenders in the National League East.
Miami acquired righthander Mat Latos from the Reds, and All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon in a seven-player deal with the Dodgers. They also gave up their top pitching prospect, lefthander Andrew Heaney, in the Gordon deal, and got veteran righthander Dan Haren.
The Marlins have started to build around Giancarlo Stanton and his $325 million deal. Latos and Haren will hold down the fort until Jose Fernandez is ready to return in June.
“We need a first baseman,” said Marlins general manager Dan Jennings. “We need a hitter with power.”
The Blue Jays added free agent catcher Russell Martin, and outfielder Michael Saunders in a deal with Seattle. They obtained third baseman Josh Donaldson from Oakland. But they haven’t acquired a real No. 1 pitcher. They have no closer.
“Well, every team battles depth problems,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “You can never have enough. We were pretty lucky with the numbers we needed last year, our starters held up pretty good. But that’s kind of a rare year. I know [we’re] going to try to bring in some guys.”
Reds manager Bryan Price has seen his pitching staff decimated with the losses of Latos and Alfredo Simon (Detroit). They haven’t gotten their power bat.
“By the time we get into spring training we’re hoping to be in that same position where we’re talking about our chances,” Price said. “And in the end, as I said last year, you have to play 162 games and decide who the best team is. You always want to go into spring training feeling like you have a great chance to do some damage.”
The Royals are losing James Shields and have not signed any pitcher. They have replaced longtime designated hitter Billy Butler with Kendrys Morales on a two-year, $17 million deal. Morales hit .218 last season.
“I told our front office last year in these very Winter Meetings, let’s find a way to get us to 90 wins,” said manager Ned Yost. “And they got us to 100. So, it’s kind of the same mandate this year. Find a way to do it.”
The Tigers have had bullpen issues for the last three years. They are in danger of losing starter Max Scherzer. They traded Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes. They acquired Shane Greene from the Yankees and Simon from the Reds. They’re a big-market, big-payroll team. Without Scherzer and Porcello, they’re not as strong in the rotation. They failed to obtain Miller for the second time.
There’s a lot of head-scratching over Billy Beane’s moves in Oakland. Signing Butler, trading Jeff Samardzija, Donaldson, and Brandon Moss, adding Brett Lawrie from Toronto at third base.
“We’re looking to get a little bit younger, yet if you want to look back to the end of 2011 and leading into 2012, we traded our last three All-Stars in [Trevor] Cahill, [Andrew] Bailey, and [Gio] Gonzalez and we ended up winning the division,” said manager Bob Melvin. “We’re looking to compete again. This isn’t something where we’re breaking it down and moving in a different direction. The players that we’re getting back we like. There’s always a balance here for us in that we have to look down the road. We lost quite a bit of talent the last couple of years, making some trades. Billy is about as good as it gets as far as being able to handle that balance and keep us competitive currently, yet also having to look down the road for the future.”
The White Sox have made big statements with the signing of Adam LaRoche for first base, as well as adding Samardzija and closer David Robertson. Their rotation looks solid with Chris Sale, Samardzija, Jose Quintana, John Danks, and Hector Noesi.
The White Sox made a bid for Miller but settled for Zach Duke and Dan Jennings. They need more bullpen help, and they need a better player than Dayan Viciedo in left field. But they’ve made themselves competitive.
Have the Yankees done enough? They added Miller but traded away the promising Greene in a three-way deal that netted shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks. Brian Cashman said he’s tried to enhance his starting pitcher, and kicked the tires on Porcello, but he didn’t have a Cespedes to trade to the Tigers.
The Dodgers struck early and often. They sent Haren to the Marlins, but added free agent Brandon McCarthy. They sent Gordon to Miami, but acquired Howie Kendrick from the Angels. They traded Matt Kemp to the Padres and got back catcher Yasmani Grandal. They are about to consummate a deal for Jimmy Rollins to play shortstop.
The Dodgers needed a bullpen revamping desperately, and did add Joel Peralta and Chris Hatcher. They may need one more starter and a significant back-end bullpen piece. With that payroll, will they leave themselves short in the pen again?
New Rays manager got help in job search
Another branch of the Terry Francona tree — Kevin Cash — is taking over as manager of the Rays. Cash was the surprise choice over the experienced Don Wakamatsu, but Cash has a plethora of baseball knowledge and should do well.
Cash grew up in Tampa, he played for the Rays, and has had other tours of duty in the American League East, including Boston.
“When I got done playing I felt I had a pretty strong sense for the AL East,” he said. “There’s been so much turnover the last two or three years, and being a part of the AL Central, you listen to [general manager] Matt Silverman and all the organization talking about the group and the players. So, again, just learning — you know the names, you know the names on the back of the jerseys, but the more detail, I’d probably rather just listen and hear about.”
It’s no secret that Francona recommended Cash, who served as his bullpen coach in Cleveland after a year of being Toronto’s advance scout. Francona’s recommendation also got Cash an interview in Texas. The Rangers went with Jeff Banister, the Pirates’ bench coach, while the Rays whittled it down to Cash, Wakamatsu, and Raul Ibanez, who withdrew his name from consideration in the final week of the process.
Cash, at 37 the youngest manager in baseball, credits Indians GM Chris Antonetti and president Mark Shapiro with helping him prepare for the interviews.
“It was remarkable, the way they reached out and helped me along, just giving advice,” said Cash. “It was incredible for them to stop what they were doing and assist me, in both processes, with Texas and Tampa. I cannot say enough about the group in place there, and I’m so excited to be coming into a group that seems . . . a lot of similarities. But those friendships that I created will consistently be maintained.”
The Rays have been one of the least-active teams this offseason. Nothing much to do and not much money to do it. They still have a top pitching rotation, and their offense is what it is. The Rays won only 77 games last season. That was with Joe Maddon. Now Cash has to do better than his predecessor.
He’ll get to pick his bench coach, but that’s about it.
And he said he’s reached out to about 10 players so far, and plans to get to the rest soon.
Cash is a nice guy, so we wonder if the heated Rays/Red Sox rivalry will continue?
Apropos of nothing
1. The World Series champion Giants lost out on Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, are lukewarm on Chase Headley, but are now going hard for James Shields. You never bet against the Giants, but finding a third baseman can be tough. Atlanta’s Chris Johnson is a possibility, but the Giants aren’t high on him, either.
2. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll monitor Madison Bumgarner and his innings (270 between the regular season and playoffs) from last season. “We looked into that. We talked about it,” said Bochy. “There’s other clubs that have had a lot of success in a four- or-five-year period. The Yankees, the most recent. They went three years, took a year off, and won the next year. We’d like to think that we keep a watchful eye on our pitching staff and try to just give them a break when we can, the pitching, the starters, spring training. We try to make adjustments for them so we don’t wear them down. You look at Bumgarner, the innings that he’s put in, we’ll have to keep an eye on him.”
3. The Giants never would have gone to a seventh year (even with an option) on Lester, but would have gone beyond the $150 million over six years they offered, if Lester hadn’t pulled the plug.
4. Nationals manager Matt Williams on a possible trade of Jordan Zimmermann: “Everybody is talking about it. I love him on our team. I love to give him the ball every fifth day. And I hope that I get a chance to do that for a long time to come. But it is the game. It is the business of the game. And you have to deal with it. I know that there’s been a lot of speculation, a lot of talk about it. But at this point I’m looking forward to giving him the ball every fifth day.”
5. Worcester’s own Ron Darling, a TBS and MLB Network commentator, is producing a Syrah wine with New York restaurant owners Steve McFadden and Paul Favale at the Donelan Vineyard in California. All proceeds from “Darling Reserve” will go to battle type 1 diabetes, which afflicts Darling’s son, Jordan.
6. Rick Porcello’s grandfather was Sam Dente, who played third base for the 1947 Red Sox.
7. Speaking of Porcello, he credits Victor Martinez with bringing him along and helping to change the way he pitches. Martinez told Porcello that someday he expects him to win a Cy Young Award.
Updates on nine
1. Dan Uggla, 2B, free agent — Uggla’s agent, Terry Bross, was trying to drum up business for an Uggla comeback at the Winter Meetings. A lot of Uggla’s decline may have had to do with an undetected concussion. He hit under .200 in 2013, and for a short time in 2014 before the Braves released him. Uggla is 34.
2. Allen Craig, 1B/OF, Red Sox — The Marlins have Craig on their list of possible acquisitions as they pursue a righthanded hitter to play first base. They’re doing their homework on the 30-year-old, who had very good years with St. Louis before he was sent to Boston at last year’s trading deadline. Milwaukee also has some interest in Craig in a platoon with Adam Lind.
3. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, free agent — The future Hall of Famer is starting to get some interest, according to his agent, John Boggs. “No news to report, but we’re having discussions with several clubs,” Boggs said.
4. Cole Hamels, LHP, Phillies — The Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, and Rangers are interested in Hamels. The sleeper team is the aggressive Astros. The Giants may be in if they can’t get James Shields. The feeling has been that if the Red Sox would pick up Hamels’s 2019 option at $20 million, he would waive his no-trade. The five years remaining on Hamels’s deal would be worth $110 million. Would he want an extension beyond that to OK a trade?
5. Cliff Lee, LHP, Phillies — The Phillies may have another trade chip in the 36-year-old Lee, but one they likely can’t use until late spring training or early in the season, when Lee is expected to be back after making only 13 starts in 2014 because of a strained left elbow that required rest but no surgery. The prognosis on Lee is good, but he’s owed $25 million in 2015. He won’t make a 2016 vesting option of $27.5 million based on 400 innings pitched in 2014 and ’15, but there is a $12.5 million buyout for 2016.
6. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies — The Phillies are trying to get teams interested in Howard, and a team source indicated they are willing to pay a great majority of his contract to move him. Howard, who hit 23 home runs and knocked in 95 runs last season, is owed $60 million between 2015 and ’17, which includes a buyout. The Phillies are trying to sell him as a DH. The Rays and Orioles could have needs in that area.
7. Stephen Drew, SS/2B, free agent — Agent Scott Boras was able to get Kendrys Morales a two-year deal worth $17 million, and now he’s working on Drew, another client who was shut out of free agency to start last season. Both players were affected by the layoff at the plate, having their worst seasons. Boras said that Drew has drawn interest at both second base and shortstop, including from the Mets and Athletics.
8. Shane Victorino, OF, Red Sox — Victorino continues to recover from back surgery and indicated in a recent text that he’s feeling fine and should be ready for spring training. Hard to tell how the Red Sox will utilize him, if at all. Victorino, who has one year remaining on his contract at $13 million, could begin to draw interest as teams see how his offseason rehab is progressing. One team that could make sense is the Mets.
9. Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox — A debate at the Winter Meetings among scouts and baseball writers was, if the Red Sox had to give up Mookie Betts or Swihart in a deal with the Phillies for Hamels, which would they part with? Most said neither, but if it came down to getting a deal done, most would give up Betts because Swihart is a unique player. He’s a catcher who hits well from both sides of the plate, has good speed, is athletic, and has a strong throwing arm.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Rick Porcello had a .268 batting average against, allowing 18 homers, in 2014 — .268 and nine homers against righties, and .268 and nine homers against lefties.” . . . Also, “Since the 2014 trade deadline, the Red Sox lost Jon Lester (6.1 WAR), John Lackey (2.8), Jake Peavy (1.9), and Felix Doubront (0.2), for a total of 11.0. And they’ve gained Joe Kelly (0.6 WAR), Wade Miley (1.7), Porcello (3.1), and Justin Masterson (0.3), for a total of 5.7.” . . . Happy birthday, Scott Hatteberg (45) and Bill Buckner (65).
email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.