Without further ado, here’s a review of what’s happened so far in the early stages of the 2012/13 offseason …
The Weiss is Right
The Colorado Rockies appointed former MLB shortstop Walt Weiss as their new manager this week.
Weiss becomes the latest ex-Big Leaguer to gain a managerial job despite having extremely limited experience in the role. He spent a number of years in the Rockies organization as an instructor and adviser before moving out of professional baseball and managing a High School baseball team this past season.
His 14 year Major League career and Front Office experience, combined with an excellent reputation as a thoughtful and likeable pro, will give him instant credibility with his new playing staff in a way that a person with years of Minor League managerial experience – but without Major League credentials – might take a long time to earn.
Mike Quade always seemed to be facing an uphill battle when he became the Chicago Cubs’ manager following Lou Piniella’s retirement with 37 games of the 2010 season to play. Quade never made it to the Majors as a player and despite – or possibly as a result of – amassing over 1,000 Minor League victories as a manager he carried with him a ‘Minor League’ tag that was always there for a player or media member to point to at times of trouble.
Quade was sacked at the end of the 2011 season having been a proud Cubs manager for 199 games.
Weiss will take over from Jim Tracy whose bright start with the team proved to be a false dawn. Tracy earned plaudits – including the NL Manager of the Year award – for the Rockies’ dramatic turnaround after he was appointed mid-season in 2009 and led them on to the National League Division Series. He took over from Clint Hurdle, who had been with the team for over six seasons, and the team was clearly underperforming in the early stages of the season.
Sometimes a team just needs to hear from a different voice after several years with the same leader and we’ll never really know quite what difference Tracy made that season. What we do know is that the Rockies’ record took a noticeable dive in each of the next three seasons, culminating in their 64-98 season this year that cost Tracy his job.
A quick glance at the Rockies’ pitching stats from 2012 reminds you that Weiss is inheriting a roster that needs plenty of work, but you would hope that the strong links he has with the organization will buy him the time needed to improve the team bit by bit over the next few seasons.
The Cardinals (Mike Matheny) and White Sox (Robin Ventura) both brushed aside a lack of managerial experience when making appointments over the 2011/12 offseason and the Marlins recently followed suit with their appointment of Mike Redmond. It is good to see new managerial talent getting a chance rather than the same old names travelling around the carousel.
No change in Washington
Barack Obama won a new term in office in the U.S. capital this week and Washington’s baseball team decided to stick with their current leader too. Davey Johnson will return as the Nationals’ manager after guiding them to an NL-best 98-64 record in 2012. The only slight surprise is that the contract is just for one further year before Johnson moves into a ‘consulting’ role in 2014.
The free agency market gets underway
If you were hoping for a big bang to kick off the free agent period then the Toronto Blue Jays signing utility infielder Maicer Izturis to a three-year/$9m contract (just over £36k per week) would have left you distinctly underwhelmed.
Blue Jays fans are unlikely to be rushing out to buy season tickets in response to the news. Izturis is a handy player to have on your roster, as he has proved with the Angels in recent years, but he’s not the sort of player you would expect a team to rush out and grab from the shelf straight away. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos may be the type of person that would queue for hours to get in first to the Harrods sale only to walk away with a toaster.
Having written that, a quick check on their website shows that toasters in Harrods start at £169. That makes spending $9m on Izturis seem a little less wasteful, at least.
The new free agency rules agreed as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement last winter meant that only nine potential free agents received a ‘qualifying offer’ from their previous team. All of the offers were turned down as the team had to offer a one-year contract worth at least $13.3m (£161k per week) and the only players you would be happy to pay that much are those that will be able to command more lucrative multi-year contracts on the free agent market.
Only eight of those players will actually hit the market as David Ortiz has agreed a two-year/$26m to stay with the Red Sox. Although he missed half of last season through injury, Ortiz showed that he is still a dangerous hitter when healthy. Boston followed this signing by agreeing a two-year/$6.2m contract with catcher David Ross this weekend.
Ross has been Brian McCann’s back-up in Atlanta over the last four seasons and the Braves will now be shopping for another capable catcher, especially as McCann is coming off his worst Major League season (20 homers but only a .230/.300/.399 batting line) and may not be fit to start 2013 after offseason shoulder surgery.
One catcher that definitely will not be playing at the start of next season is the Padres’ Yasmani Grandal. He received a 50-game suspension this week after becoming the latest player to test positive for testosterone.
Grandal grabbed everyone’s attention back on 2 June when he hit two home runs in his first Major League start. It’s a shame for the Padres that their catcher has now hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Reporting on the Los Angeles Dodgers spending money promises to be a regular feature of these offseason columns. Their latest proposed outlay is on Korean left-handed pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers bid $25.7m (£16.2m) to win the right to open exclusive negotiations with the player, following the same ‘posting’ process as most Japanese players go through. The Dodgers now have 30 days within which to agree a contract with Ryu.