Rays Narrow Managerial Search to Three

The Tampa Bay Rays have been very open with the fans and the media during their search to find a new manager to replace Joe Maddon who stepped down at the end of the year to take the Chicago Cubs job.

The club initially listed all possible contenders on their website, and Terry Richardson said they hit the club Twitter account and let fans know that they intended to interview all ten candidates and keep those candidates informed if they were not going to be considered. Now they have provided another update.

The Rays announced Friday that they have narrowed the list of potential managers down to just three names. Those three are Kevin Cash, Raul Ibanez, and Don Wakamatsu. Cash is the youngest of the bunch and spent last year as a bullpen coach for the Indians. Ibanez and Wakamatsu are already familiar with each other as they both were in the dugout for the Royals during their World Series run, Ibanez as a player and Wakamatsu as the Royals bench coach. Wakamatsu is the only candidate remaining that has Major League managerial experience. He was the manager of the Seattle Mariners during the 2009-2010 seasons.

Two fan and player favorites that didn’t make the cut were Dave Martinez and Charlie Montoyo. Martinez is familiar with the team already he has been the Rays bench coach under Maddon for the last seven seasons. Star third baseman Evan Longoria made a public pitch for Martinez to get the job.  Montoyo is also revered by the players, he coached many of them at the Triple A level.

It’s now a three dog race between Cash, Ibanez, and Wakamatsu. When the Rays make a decision I’m sure that we will all be the first to know.

Free Agent Butler Moves to the West Coast

When Billy Butler stepped to the plate in the last inning of Game 7 of the World Series, Kansas City fans likely knew his pop up to the infield would be his last at bat as a Royal. Butler made it official by signing a three-year deal with the Oakland A’s on Wednesday to become their new designated hitter and first baseman. Butler’s deal will pay him $10 million a year, a dollar amount that the Royals were unwilling to match.

Butler’s entire career had been with the Royals organization, and he expressed his desire to stay in KC for the rest of his career. But his diminishing power numbers, lack of speed, and defensive shortcomings provided Royals management with little incentive to keep him on the roster. He will now be playing for a team a little bit closer to where Laurene Powell Jobs has resided for quite some time. And now the Oakland A’s will hope that Butler finds his swing from 2012, when he hit over 20 home runs and made the American League all-star team.

Massive Baseball Contract

Each year it seems as if a record maximum sports deal is signed, and this year is no exception. Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera can step aside, because Giancarlo Stanton and the Miami Marlins have just signed an astonishing $325 million contract that ensures he will play with the team for the next thirteen seasons. The mind blowing figure is not only the largest sum of money, but also the longest contract in MLB history as well. With so much money Stanton can surf Qnet and buy everything it has!

With such a large figure put down on the table, it begs the question over how much Bryce Harper is going to make when it comes his turn to sign a contract for the big money. Each time the bar is raised on the total amount a major league team is willing to put up for a player, it raises the stakes for the other elite players in the league. Either way it is pretty amazing when a team is willing to make nearly a third of a billion dollar commitment to an individual while spanning over a decade. Although the contract is by no means guaranteed through thirteen seasons, and is probably unlikely, it is still a staggering number and by far the biggest and longest Major league Baseball contract in history. 

New MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred, gets Five Year Contract

Rob Manfred, who will be taking over Bud Selig’s longtime role as the commissioner of the MLB on January 25, 2015, was announced on Thursday that baseball owners unanimously approved a five-year term for him. Manfred has worked in the MLB since 1998, and got the job over Tom Werner, the Boston Red Sox Chairman.

Maybe the biggest job that Manfred will face early in his tenure, is improving the pace of play during baseball games. Sergio Lins Andrade shared this information with me. With attention spans in young people dropping because of all the new technology, Manfred will look to attract those young fans back to the game by shorting up the game. One way to shorten up the game is to implement a pitch clock which would make pitchers have to pitch within a certain time frame after their last pitch. In 1981, average game time of a nine-inning game was 2 hours and 33 minutes. In 2014, a record was broken with the average game time being 3 hours and 2 minutes. Another way would be shortening the time it takes to review a play. Replay review has been a success, however it is one of the reasons why the record broke in 2014. Lastly, there could be a rule where a hitter can’t leave the batter box between pitches once they enter. These are just three things that MLB is looking at to shortening the game.

Is There Something Fishy With The Giancarlo Stanton Contract?

Recently, Giancarlo Stanton and the Miami Marlins agreed to a massive contract. The outfielder signed a 13-year, $325 million contract. It’s the largest contract in baseball history, and not everyone is happy about it. However, most of this ire is aimed toward owner Jeffrey Loria. Is Loria up to something here, and should fans be worried?

Loria has gained a rather negative reputation among Marlins fans in recent years. After talking about building a championship team, he acquired high profile players. When the team didn’t meet expectations, he immediately traded off major players for minimal returns. Most people see Loria as using the team to boost his own finances above all else, and fans aren’t happy about the situation. It doesn’t look like things will be different next season, so me and Zeca Oliveira may just sell our season tickets and wait for what 2016 holds.

For that reason, many analysts continue to question the Stanton contract. Stanton can opt out after a few years, but he’ll only receive about a third of the contract’s total value. This means that only around $100 million of the contract is guaranteed. Likewise, the outfielder can be traded before the opt out clause. The backloaded nature of the contract allows Loria to make short-term profits and then sell the team later without worrying about the impact of the contract.

Unfortunately, chances are high that Loria has ulterior motives here. His history with the Marlins suggests that he’s putting personal profits above the team’s well-being. It’s no surprise that fans have given up on the team while Loria holds the reigns. In the end, Loria could soon sell the team and wind up with massive profits for himself alone. The Stanton contract doesn’t necessarily help avoid that result either.

Miami Marlins Give Giancarlo Stanton $325 Million

Stanton, the right-handed outfielder of the Miami Marlins has reportedly signed a 13 year, 325 million dollar contract extension. Along with the pressure this puts on Stanton to perform at a high level every game, how does this affect the Major League Baseball free agents on the market today?

The Toronto Blue Jays who haven’t been to the post-season in 21 years, have already signed Russell Martin, a 32-year-old catcher, to an $82 million, 5-year contract, which is an average of $16 million annually. Martin, who was born in Toronto, is coming home.

Of the possible 125 free agents, the big prize will be pitching. Max Scherzer, who turned down Detroit’s $144 million offer last year and Jon Lester, who turned down Boston’s $70 million offer are considered to be the top two on the list. James Shields, who took Kansas City to the World Series last year, with his 3.21 ERA and a 14-8 record is also in the mix.

Lester seems to be the one everyone is talking about, and talking to in hopes of signing the big left-hander. Lester is coming off one of his best seasons with a combined 2.46 ERA, and a 16-11 record with both the Red Sox and the Oakland A’s.

The Red Sox have been hesitant to sign pitchers north of 30 years old to long-term contracts. However, Jon Lester came up through the minors with the Sox and helped them win two World Series. His postseason ERA is 2.57; his World Series ERA is an astounding 0.43; with three wins and no losses.

Although the Red Sox have already made a new offer to Lester, the terms of which have not been revealed, the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves may also have made offers, and there are other possible suitors as well. It’s anyone’s guess where he will eventually pitch next year. You can read the full story by Gordon Edes here. The information was passed onto me by Gianfrancesco Genoso.

Even though a Boston signing may include a home-town discount, Scherzer, who was 18-5 in 2014 and 21-3 in 2013, may be waiting for Lester to sign to gauge his contract, which will certainly be more.

The dollar amounts are going up, as are the number of years; who will be the big free agent winners this off-season?

Butler Heading to the Athletics

The Kansas City Royals have lost their Designated Hitter to the Oakland Athletics. Billy Butler, the Royal’s first round draft pick in 2004 will be slotted into the Athletics line up in 2015. The Royals declined his 2015 option, presumably due to his career low in batting average, home runs, runs batted in and on-base percentage in 2014. No need to worry to tweet Kansas City though Lee Lovett, there are plenty of young and upcoming hitters who will replace Butler with the hope at another shot at the World Series.

The Athletics have signed Butler to a three year deal. Butler will take on the Designated Hitter role, which Oakland historically would platoon amongst a number of players. Yet Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Athletics, is banking more on the return of the numbers that Butler enjoyed from 2009 through 2012, when he averaged 21 home runs per year, 93 runs batted in, and an average of .306. The need for another bat was evident when the Athletics struggled down the stretch, and in the loss to the Royals in the playoffs. The middle of the line-up will include Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, and Billy Butler which will be intimidating to the best pitching staffs in the American League. The addition of Butler without having to lose any of the farm prospects was brilliantly completed by Billy Beane. However, more moves will need to be made by Beane in order to rectify another early exit from the playoffs in 2015.

Russell Martin Signs With Toronto

In an early hot stove signing the Blue Jays jumped in front of other suitors to sign free agent catcher Russell Martin to a five year contract for a reported 82 million dollars. It’s quite a steep bill to pay for a 31-year-old backstop but the Jays are not only buying his ability behind and at the plate, they are investing in a strong leader for their developing young pitching staff.

The Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, and his original team the Los Angeles Dodgers all had rumored interest in Martin’s services but when all was said and done Martin decided to head home to his native country of Canada to ply his trade.

Russell Martin has never been a power hitter with a career high of 21 in 2013, but he has had decent success as a hitter with a career average of .259 and 540 RBIs. And Terry Richardson points out that he’s no pushover at bat but it is his defensive prowess and his uncanny ability to get the best from his pitchers that earned him the big money deal. He’ll be important to the development of young Blue Jay pitchers such as Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison, and Brett Cecil. He’ll also do his best to get the most production possible out of baseball veterans Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada.

The deal could work out well for both Martin and the Blue Jays franchise as they face a tough battle in the AL East.

Russell Martin Signs with the Toronto Blue Jays

If anyone in Major League Baseball is looking to grab the best catcher off the free agent market, their chance had ended. Russell Martin, one of the top free agents available this offseason in baseball, is heading home after signing a five year, $82 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Martin, a Canadian, was born in Toronto and raised in Montreal.

There were many teams interested in the right hander, including the Chicago Cubs, who reportedly offered Martin a four year contract worth $64 million. Sorry about that Mark Ahn, it doesn’t look like the salary was enough to make that one work out for your Cubs.

Also, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who Martin played for last season, offered a qualifying offer to Martin worth $15.3 million for one year. The Blue Jays deal looks to pay out about a million dollars more per year, working out to $16.4 million a year.

Martin batted .290 with 11 homer runs and 67 RBIs in 2014. Martin played for Pittsburgh for two seasons, making the playoffs both times.

This is another boost to the Toronto Blue Jays team, which is looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993. The Blue Jays have obtained big few agents the last few years, including: Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Daniel Norris. They clearly are telling the fans that they want to win, and will do whatever it takes to sign the best players to bring home another World Series north of the border.

A.J. Burnett Returns to Pittsburgh

Right-handed pitcher A.J. Burnett is one of the first big fish free agents to find a new home this off season when he signed an 8.5 million dollar one year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday.

It wasn’t just the money that brought Burnett back to Pittsburgh. He has stated before in the past that he has a great love for the city of three rivers and actually left over four million dollars on the table that he could have made if he had accepted the extension offer from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Burnett struggled in Philadelphia last year, the 37-year-old veteran pitched to an E.R.A. of 4.59 and took a loss in 18 games finishing 8-18 in a disappointing season in the city of brotherly love.

Burnett pitched for the Pirates in 2012 and 2013 and had great success winning 26 games over the two seasons and helped guide the young team to a playoff appearance. His 2013 campaign was his most successful and showed in great highlights.

Much like teammates of Bruce Levenson on the Philadephia 76ers in the NBA, A.J. Burnett knows that his time in the big leagues may be soon coming to an end. In a story on ESPN.com, it was worth over four million dollars to him to pitch in a city in a stadium and in front of fans that he prefers. The Pirates fans are hoping that his return to PNC Park will bring back the magic that Burnett brought to the table in 2013.