- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
DETROIT -- As Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News writes, free agency begins today for Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and others, given the changes in the system. Marco Scutaro will still have images of his World Series-winning single dancing in his head, forever entrenched in the great lore of the San Francisco Giants, and he'll be thinking about Tuesday's parade -- and yet all the while, he will not technically be part of their roster. This is how quickly the offseason work begins.
Most teams have held organizational and staff meetings in recent weeks to evaluate their own talent and consider outside options.
Some thumbnails on decisions to come for all 30 teams:
Los Angeles Angels: Their framework has changed rapidly. This franchise was thought to have outstanding starting pitching at the outset of 2012 season, but the Angels may have as many as three openings in their rotation going into 2013. C.J. Wilson had surgery that figures to impact him into next season, and the Angels must quickly decide whether to pick up options on Dan Haren ($15.5 million) and Ervin Santana ($13 million). There are legit reasons for them to pass on those options, and if they do so -- and are unable to re-sign Zack Greinke -- well, their rotation would be a complete mess.
Houston Astros: They need a whole lot of better players -- it's as simple as that -- as they brace themselves for what figures to be a really, really tough 2013 season.
Oakland Athletics: Oakland needs to identify a shortstop, whether it's through a new negotiated deal with Stephen Drew or some other route. The A's have a young team with a lot of parts already in place.
Toronto Blue Jays: Toronto has rotation needs, for sure, at a time when so many of the Jays' young pitchers are recovering from arm trouble. But as their next manager comes aboard, he will have to address perceived clubhouse culture issues -- like those that Omar Vizquel gave voice to at season's end.
Milwaukee Brewers: They want to add pitching and need two starters, but as written here a couple of weeks ago, they could be really interesting players in the market for Josh Hamilton, if he is not priced outside of their realm.
St. Louis Cardinals: Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman are out, but the rotation should be in good shape for next year, so long as Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and others come back. Allen Craig is fully established at first base. Now GM John Mozeliak has a lot of payroll flexibility to augment the bench and the bullpen, where he sees fit, and they have to hope that Rafael Furcal rebounds from yet another injury.
Chicago Cubs: Look, if there are ways for them to get better in the long term, they'll move on it. They do have a lot of money to spend but have to be careful to not squander their financial advantages.
Arizona Diamondbacks: They say they expect to keep Justin Upton. "Which is what you need to say to keep up the trade value," said a rival GM. "I still think they're going to deal him." Not unless the Diamondbacks get strong equal value in return, and they will be looking for someone who can play on the left side of their infield. It will be interesting to see if the Diamondbacks are willing to talk about Trevor Bauer, whose stock plummeted in the eyes of rival evaluators this season, amid questions about his fastball velocity and his ability to make necessary adjustments -- like pitching down in the strike zone.
Los Angeles Dodgers: They say they have a lot of money to spend, and it'll be interesting to see if they choose to compete with their market rivals, the Angels, for Greinke. They have to decide whether Hanley Ramirez is a shortstop or a third baseman.
San Francisco Giants: They won the World Series in 2010 and spent heavily to keep Aubrey Huff and others from that championship team, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if they had the same approach with Scutaro and Angel Pagan this year.
Cleveland Indians: This could be a relatively quiet offseason for the Indians, as they consider ways of augmenting the roster without spending a ton of money -- or it could turn into a winter of major change. If Cleveland devotes itself to overhauling the roster in an effort to rebuild the pitching, then it has a lot of players who would be really attractive in the trade market -- shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who is signed through 2014 and could be enormously attractive to Arizona, Oakland or Tampa Bay; outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is eligible for free agency after next year; Carlos Santana, who is reaching the crossroads when he needs to decide whether to rededicate himself to being a catcher; pitchers Justin Masterson and Chris Perez, as well as Vinnie Pestano -- because if the Indians go for the complete overhaul, they might as well trade Pestano now, when his value is at its highest.
If Cleveland traded that group of players, it could net a huge haul of prospects. The Angels, who are looking for bullpen help, could be a match.
Seattle Mariners: Seattle must decide whether to turn the page on Justin Smoak, who has really struggled the last two seasons, and whether to trade more pitching for offense, as the Mariners did last winter in the move for Jesus Montero.
Miami Marlins: They're in the process of a dramatic reduction of their payroll, while bringing in a whole new coaching staff. In other words, business as usual.
New York Mets: They don't have much money to acquire talent from outside the organization, but they will be willing to spend tens of millions to keep David Wright -- if he'll agree to stay. If not, they'll have some tough decisions to make.
Washington Nationals: They've opened contract talks with first baseman Adam LaRoche and pitcher Edwin Jackson, but they'll have to pay more than they ever expected to keep both -- or they'll have to find replacements.
Baltimore Orioles: They could be the sleeping giants of the winter, because their playoff berth of 2012 gave them credibility and now they have money to spend -- for help at first base or in the rotation. They are viewed, among rival executives, as one of the teams most likely to make a big, pricey splash this winter.
San Diego Padres: San Diego could be poised for a really big strike because they have a lot of prospect depth, and with a couple of upgrades, they would be really dangerous for next season. Soon we'll know if the Padres look at Chase Headley as a hot stock that needs to be moved when the possible return is at its zenith, or as a player they can build around.
Philadelphia Phillies: They need to find a third baseman and outfield help at a time when they don't have much money to spend because of other payroll obligations. The re-signing of Cole Hamels represents their big offseason move, for all practical purposes.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Once again, Pittsburgh is left to plug some holes in its rotation while assessing modest upgrades to its everyday lineup. After a frustrating finish to the 2012 season, it could be a rough winter, as well.
Texas Rangers: Some rival executives are convinced that Texas already has a foot out the door in its relationship with Hamilton. If the Rangers let him walk away, they'll have to decide how the other dominos will fall, with a possible pursuit of Justin Upton and with Ian Kinsler possibly moving to the outfield as Texas decides how to implement super prospect Jurickson Profar.
Tampa Bay Rays: Once again, they will weigh their choices as teams ask them about their pitching -- David Price, James Shields, etc. -- but keep in mind that the team's organizational philosophy has always been about hoarding good pitching, which is really the only way the Rays can compete. They badly need lineup upgrades and will have to find a replacement for B.J. Upton. On paper, they would seem to match up for a possible deal with the Royals, who have good position players to offer in trade.
Boston Red Sox: They need solid solutions at first base and shortstop, and at the back end of their bullpen, and they have to determine the best course of action with Jacoby Ellsbury, who is likely headed to free agency after next season.
Cincinnati Reds: They've got a really good pitching staff in place, but they need to settle on a course of action in left field and center field, whether they retain Ryan Ludwick or look for an alternative to Drew Stubbs. Presumably, Todd Frazier will be an everyday player in 2013, and friends of Scott Rolen believe he'll retire. The Reds have to decide who will play left field, writes John Erardi.
Colorado Rockies: Not only does Colorado need more pitching talent, but clearly it's an organization that is in the middle of reassessing its operational philosophy.
Kansas City Royals: They've got an outstanding bullpen and a good and developing everyday lineup, but they desperately need at least two solid starting pitchers to anchor the rotation.
Minnesota Twins: Their challenge is daunting -- administer major improvements to the pitching staff without having much minor league talent and without much in the way of available funds.
Chicago White Sox: It was a really satisfying season for this team, in many respects, but there are major changes to come, with Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, etc. The White Sox are expected to decline a handful of options for their players, writes Mark Gonzales.
New York Yankees: Their priority is all about the pitching, for now. They'll need to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte (who friends believe is definitely coming back) and also negotiate a new deal with Mariano Rivera. And they'll try to find some middle ground with free-agent catcher Russell Martin, while seeing if anyone reaches out to them about Alex Rodriguez. They'll assess Robinson Cano's demands -- and if they're anything close to the rumored 10-year asking price, they'll probably punt on those talks until next winter.
• As the Giants took batting practice here before Game 4 Sunday evening, manager Bruce Bochy chatted near first base about what he loves about his job. Next season will be his 19th as a major league manager, but there is little sign of emotional wear-and-tear on Bochy. He sleeps very little during the postseason, he acknowledged, and during the past month he got away from an exercise-and-diet regimen that he'd been able to maintain most of the season.
I first covered Bochy two decades ago, when he was the third-base coach for the San Diego Padres and I worked at the San Diego Union-Tribune, and almost nothing seems to have changed about him. His internal equilibrium is still held in place by his self-deprecating sense of humor, and while he has never been boastful or pushy, he has always been incredibly competitive. He may never, ever lend voice to it, but I'll always believe that he strongly believes in his own ability to manage a game, run a pitching staff, and cope with internal personnel issues. After the 1994 season, the Cubs approached the Padres about speaking to then-manager Jim Riggleman. I called GM Randy Smith to ask about possible replacements, and he mentioned only one name. "Boch," Randy said. "He's going to be a great manager."
On Sunday evening, I asked Bochy about how much longer he wanted to manage, and he sounded surprised by the question. "I haven't really thought about it," he said.
He loves San Francisco, he explained, and its fan base. He has felt great support in his relationships with general manager Brian Sabean and the team's owners and executives. He has always enjoyed the players, who, through their actions, have demonstrated their belief that Bochy's decisions are rooted in his pursuit of wins, rather than through some personal agenda. Barry Zito was taken off the postseason roster in 2010 and he didn't whine, didn't complain, didn't make excuses; he just went out to work through a bullpen session. When Bochy summoned Tim Lincecum to his office this fall to discuss Lincecum's demotion to the bullpen, Bochy said, Lincecum embraced the move fully and never complained. The Giants have a great core of clubhouse leadership, with Matt Cain and Buster Posey at the center, but with all the others buying in.
About five hours after Bochy talked about what he loves about his job -- which is to say, just about everything -- he ambled out of the dugout wearing a champagne-soaked T-shirt and a big grin. He's having the time of his life, again.
The Giants did it again, writes Henry Schulman. Giants' fans went crazy. It's hard to believe the Giants did it again, writes Mark Purdy. Marco Scutaro was the soul of the 2012 Giants, writes Tim Kawakami.
Hopefully there will be more treat than trick on Halloween in San Francisco.
The major tactical advantage for the 2012 World Series was in San Francisco's bullpen excellence. Tigers manager Jim Leyland had very few options he could really trust, and, on the other hand, Bochy had many outstanding relievers available, from Lincecum to Jeremy Affeldt to Sergio Romo.
From ESPN Stats & Information, how the Giants' bullpen dominated again:
A. Affeldt got six swings-and-misses, two more than in any other appearance for him this season. He threw two splitters, and both were swings-and-misses on strike three.
B. Romo started all three hitters he faced with a first-pitch strike. He matched a season high with five swings-and-misses overall.
C. Romo's first strikeout came with his slider; to that point, all of Romo's strikeouts this postseason had been with his slider. His next two strikeouts were with his fastball, and his strikeout of Miguel Cabrera to end the series was Romo's first called strikeout of the postseason.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info
6: Triples by the Giants this postseason (franchise record) -- including Brandon Belt's RBI triple in Game 4
10: Consecutive games with hit by Pablo Sandoval this postseason (one shy of Giants franchise record)
24: Consecutive games reaching base safely by Miguel Cabrera (T-3rd longest in postseason history)
56: Consecutive innings without trailing by Giants -- second-longest streak in postseason history (ended by Miguel Cabrera HR in third inning)
• As the World Series ended, Leyland quickly turned and retreated to the clubhouse, while Miguel Cabrera -- who took an 89 mph fastball right down the middle to end the series -- angrily grabbed his bats and walked out of the dugout. Justin Verlander stood against the railing and watched the Giants celebrate.
"I wish it were me," he said flatly.
Cabrera was asked after the game if he felt the six-day layoff between the end of the AL Championship Series and the start of the World Series had hurt the Tigers, and when he answered, he wasn't making an excuse, he wasn't complaining, he wasn't trying to take anything away from the Giants' pitchers, who he complimented.
Yes, he thought the Tigers were hurt by the layoff, he explained. They had been doing a lot of things well in Rounds 1 and 2 of the playoffs, and after the time off, they stopped doing those things well. They tried to make it work, he said, with the workouts before the World Series, but they got out of sync.
Some numbers from the World Series could be seen as support for Cabrera's belief.
From ESPN Stats & Info: The Tigers' main problem offensively in the series was their lack of success on pitches in the strike zone. After hitting .365 on such pitches in the ALCS, the Tigers hit just .175 on in-zone pitches in the World Series, including .059 (1-for-17) on pitches down the middle. Their batting average on pitches out of the zone dropped only slightly, from .148 to .130. Compared with the ALCS, they swung at a higher percentage of pitches in the strike zone and a lower percentage of pitches out of the strike zone.
Tigers vs. pitches in strike zone (ALCS/World Series)
Slug pct.: .587/.300
Miss pct.: 11.3/18.6
Said one scout: "The Giants pitched great, and when the Tigers got pitches to hit, they didn't."
Detroit reliever Octavio Dotel says the Tigers didn't have the same fight as the 2011 Cardinals. He sounds like a casual fan; what the Tigers didn't have was the same bullpen, or just one more high-on-base-percentage hitter in their lineup.
Dings and dents
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The hiring of Walt Weiss would be a compromise for the Rockies -- but a good one, writes Terry Frei.
2. Rick Knapp is going to another team.
• The Twins' spring training complex is going to need renovations.
• The Cubs' TV job interests a former All-Star.
And today will be better than yesterday.
With the World Series complete and the 2012 season in the rearview mirror, Buster Olney takes an early look at decisions facing all 30 teams this offseason.