The GM's Office: New York Yankees

Likely landing spots for James Shields 

December, 22, 2014
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James ShieldsAP Photo/Colin E. BraleyJames Shields is beginning to make his rounds to determine where he'll call home next season.
James Shields has pitched more than 200 innings and won double-digit games eight consecutive years with a 3.64 ERA during that time, and as the leader of the Kansas City Royals' pitching staff, he was instrumental in the development of many of their young successful pitchers. His intangibles are as strong as his durability, and that's why so many clubs covet him.

He did not pitch well in the 2014 postseason, but most teams will overlook that in part because, including spring training, he threw more than 270 innings on the season. His best fits, in my opinion, are the San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox, but they're not the only teams that have a chance to sign him.

1. San Francisco Giants

The world champions have had a difficult offseason after losing third baseman Pablo Sandoval to the Boston Red Sox (for basically the same offer they made) and then falling short on their bids for free agents Jon Lester, Melky Cabrera and Chase Headley. (They were able to retain reliever Sergio Romo, who signed for less to stay home.) However, they're still hard at work, and Shields is atop their wish list. They would love to be able to slot him behind Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain and ahead of Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy in their rotation.

The fact that Shields takes the ball for 32-plus starts a year and you can pencil him in for 220-plus innings per season makes him a perfect fit for a team in need of starting-pitching innings, plus his leadership and winning attitude would fit nicely in a clubhouse that has three championships in five years. The Giants also aren't afraid to be the highest bidder here.

Odds they get him: 3-to-1


2. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox failed in their attempt to bring Lester back to Boston, losing out to the Cubs by more than $20 million dollars. Given their unwillingness to spend a little extra on Lester, it's unlikely they would turn around and sign Max Scherzer for more years and money. Their best option on the trade market is Cole Hamels, but the prospect package it would take to get him makes that a reluctant option for Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. Jordan Zimmermann and Johnny Cueto also have been mentioned as trade options, but that's doubtful given that both of their clubs are potential playoff teams. Therefore, signing Shields might be the team's best option.

Shields would fill the pitching leadership void that has been vacant since the Lester deal; his mentorship of the Red Sox's young pitchers could make overpaying to get him worthwhile here. A rotation of Shields, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley and Rick Porcello would make the Red Sox the favorites to win the AL East, in my mind. That said, this is the type of free agent the Red Sox normally offer at least one year less than other teams on the market, which could cost them Shields.

Odds: 5-to-1


3. Texas Rangers

The Rangers have quietly met with Shields and realize that he would not only be an important signing for them to place behind Yu Darvish and ahead of Derek Holland in their rotation, but he would also give them protection if Darvish, Holland, Martin Perez and/or Colby Lewis don't come back fully healthy. Like other teams, they also value his leadership and mentorship qualities.

The real question here is whether the Rangers are willing to spend the kind of money it's going to take to sign Shields after the dreadful results they had last year with their free-agent signing of Shin-Soo Choo and trade for Prince Fielder, who spent much of the season on the disabled list (making eight figures in the process). Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine told me they had a great meeting with Shields and his wife, but the team would have to make a trade or two to lower payroll in order to sign him. That lowers the odds, but it's still quite possible.

Odds: 7-to-1

Most likely landing spots for Max Scherzer 

December, 17, 2014
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Max ScherzerBrad Penner/USA TODAY SportsMax Scherzer went 18-5 with 252 strikeouts and a 3.15 ERA with the Tigers in 2014.
Max Scherzer is considered the No. 1 free agent in this year's class and is expected to get the largest contract of the offseason. In fact, I predicted he will get a seven-year, $189 million deal, a prediction I stand behind despite the fact that he is asking for at least $200 million.

The 30-year-old Scherzer is 91-50 in his career with a 3.58 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. However, it's his performance over the past three years that has separated him from his colleagues. He has become a true ace, with an average wins above replacement of 5.6, which essentially means he alone turns an 88-win team into a 94-win team and a 94-win team into a true championship contender. Scherzer has won 39 games over the past two years, the most of any American League pitcher, with a 3.02 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 10.2 K's per nine innings.

His fastball remains in the 92-95 mph range, and he has a hard, nasty slider, a deceptive changeup and an impressive curveball. He can throw all of his pitches in any count for strikes and has learned how to keep hitters off-balance, with the ability to punch them out with any pitch in his repertoire. He has struck out a staggering 723 hitters over the past three seasons.

Still not impressed? Maybe you need to hear the spiel being laid out by his agent, Scott Boras, who compares him to Peyton Manning. While that's an absurd comparison, Boras certainly makes a strong case as to why the two compare favorably. The bottom line is that Scherzer is an ace and a difference-maker for any team that signs him.

Teams should be lined up for his services. But they're not. One prominent GM told me this week it's due to his asking price and contract length.

"He’s looking for too many years and too much money for the injury risk of any pitcher," said the GM, "let alone a right-hander with a power arm and that type of delivery.”

Only a few teams can afford him, but many of them are passing either because of price, risk or budget constraints.

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Trade deadline objectives: AL East 

July, 28, 2014
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Dan Duquette and Buck ShowalterAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarOrioles GM Dan Duquette made multiple trades before the 2012 and 2013 trade deadlines.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

It's looking like the AL East could become quite a race, with two teams (the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees) being within four games of the division-leading Baltimore Orioles, with the fourth-place Tampa Bay Rays having won nine of their past 10 games. Only the last-place Boston Red Sox check in as potential sellers, though we're not quite sure what the Rays will do at this point.

With that, let's have a look at the AL East deadline objectives:

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Bartolo ColonBrad Penner/USA TODAY SportsBartolo Colon could prove to be a useful cog for a contending team aiming for the playoffs.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Bartolo Colon | RHP | New York Mets

Possible destinations: Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, New York Yankees


Miami Marlins

Why? Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill and general manager Dan Jennings both told me on separate occasions this past week that owner Jeffrey Loria is committed to contending and winning this year, and is prepared to provide the financial backing necessary for trades. Hill characterized his relationship with Jennings as a partner, and both have been told if they find a good baseball deal to bring it to Loria and he will approve it. This includes the David Price sweepstakes if he’s traded. They’ve also told me that starting pitching, not second base, is their top priority.

Therefore, based on who's available, Colon -- who's signed through next season and not just a rental -- would be a good target. Colon would provide leadership for their young pitchers and more important increase their chances of staying in the pennant race all season.

Who? A package of right-handed pitcher Nick Wittgren and outfielder Austin Dean would be fair value.

Will it happen?

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Jason HammelMike McGinnis/Getty ImagesJason Hammel has a career-best 4.62 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player. Note that this file was posted prior to the trade sending Hammel to the Athletics along with Jeff Samardzija in exchange for Addisson Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily.

Player: Jason Hammel | RHP | Chicago Cubs
Possible destinations: New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners


New York Yankees

Why: Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has made it clear that he’s prepared to open the checkbook to acquire a starting pitcher to help the Yankees' chances of making the postseason in Derek Jeter's final season.

Michael Pineda won't return until August (at the earliest), there is no guarantee CC Sabathia will be effective when he returns later this month, and Vidal Nuno has been mediocre at best. In other words, a rotation upgrade has become a necessity.

GM Brian Cashman has been speed-dialing his peers on a daily basis trying to add a starter sooner rather than later.

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Rookie Rankings: Tanaka dominating 

June, 20, 2014
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 Masahiro TanakaAP Photo/Kathy WillensIt's been all thumbs up for Masahiro Tanaka this season.
As we near the halfway point in the season, a dozen rookies are having impact upon their pennant-chasing teams thus far. Let's look at my latest rankings and assess the best of the 2014 rookie class.

1. Masahiro Tanaka | RHP | New York Yankees
If the season ended today, Tanaka would win both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL Rookie of the Year Award. I also expect him to start the All-Star Game for the American League if he continues to pitch at this level. Tanaka has been brilliant -- his split-fingered fastball already is the best in the sport, and his late life and command is special, especially when coupled with his vastly underrated secondary pitches.

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Seven bold predictions for 2014 

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
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Cliff Lee Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesCliff Lee has a lot to be worried about if things go sideways for the Phillies.
With the start of the 2014 season upon us, it's time to take a guess at what might happen this year.

In this space last season, I predicted that Yasiel Puig would become an instant hit in Los Angeles and envisioned a last-place finish for the New York Yankees. Although the Yankees did not end up in the AL East cellar, they definitely fell off, and "Puigmania" did indeed ensue. So here are seven predictions I'm making for 2014.

1. Phillies finish last in the NL East

The Philadelphia Phillies might not have the worst roster in baseball, but they do have the oldest, and it's a team that has been on a steady decline for the past few years.

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MLB has never had more parity 

March, 15, 2014
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One of the main purposes of ESPN Insider's Future Power Rankings is to offer fans hope.

Even if your team is bad now, it might be really good in three years. The rankings are designed to peer into the projected future. However, this year’s FPR also illustrated something else: baseball has achieved a tremendous amount of parity. If you look at the overall scores, you'll see that the gap between No. 1 and No. 5 (25.8 points) is larger than the gap between No. 5 and No. 25 (23.8). This kind of parity keeps fans’ hopes alive because, year to year, any team could be that surprise contender.

The rankings showed there were four elite teams with scores well above the average: the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers. Conversely, there was a significant drop to the last four teams: the Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers and Miami Marlins. But what about that middle 22 teams?

For fans celebrating their teams ranked just below the elite at fifth or sixth, not so fast. For fans upset their teams ranked as low as 24th or 25th, not to worry. The reality is, there isn’t much difference between the fifth-ranked team and the 26th-ranked team, thanks to this new competitive balance. Any of the teams within this range can easily move up or down within a year with some solid moves and decisions.

But how did baseball create such competitive balance so quickly?

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GM awards for best trades, signings 

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
11:55
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Billy Beane and Brian CashmanGetty Images, AP PhotoBilly Beane and Brian Cashman enjoyed very fruitful offseasons.
I'm all packed with spring training just days away. So before I depart I thought it was time to give my offseason awards and hand out some hardware to the general managers for their offseason work.

BEST OFFSEASON -- BIG-MARKET GM: Brian Cashman | New York Yankees

It was the most expensive free-agent spending spree in baseball history when the Yankees committed a combined $438 million for 22 years of contracts to Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. The Yankees quickly rebuilt their outfield, catching and starting pitching with All-Star caliber players and imported the best overall talent of any team in baseball this offseason. They also get credit for walking away from Robinson Cano by refusing to acquiesce to 10 years and approximately $240 million for a player in his 30s.

Runners-up:
Jon Daniels, Texas Rangers:

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The missing link for every AL team 

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
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Matt Garza AP Photo/Colin E. BraleyIf the Los Angeles Angels lose out on Masahiro Tanaka, they should go after Matt Garza.
On Tuesday, I focused on the missing piece for every National League team heading in to spring training, and today we turn our attention to the American League.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Houston Astros

Missing link: Pitching prospects
Solution: Trade 3B Matt Dominguez for prospects
The Astros are doing a masterful job of following the blueprint of general manager Jeff Luhnow, building through the draft and player development while mixing in a few veteran free agents who will have some trade value at the deadline.

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How Yankees can fill the A-Rod void 

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
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In my opinion, Alex Rodriguez has probably played his last major league game. When his suspension is up at the end of the 2014 season, I expect the New York Yankees to release him unconditionally and pay him the remaining $61 million of his contract. I also don’t think there is an owner or GM in baseball who will sign him -- even for the league minimum.

While the Yankees have saved A-Rod's $25 million salary for 2014, they now have a glaring void at third base they need to fill. There are many that are expecting them to spend some of that money on the hot corner, I get the sense they’d prefer to spend the money on Masahiro Tanaka and/or bullpen help while staying below the $189 million luxury tax threshold. Therefore, a stop-gap approach to begin the 2014 season is the most likely direction that GM Brian Cashman will be going with the goal of solving it long term by next offseason.

With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to run down all of the Yankees' options at third base, both for 2014 and beyond.

1. Call on the Captain

The Yankees say they are comfortable with some type of platoon with players such as Kelly Johnson, Scott Sizemore, Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna, Yangervis Solarte and Corban Joseph. Obviously, none of those guys are long-term solutions, and some will wonder if they are even viable short-term solutions.

If I'm Cashman, I would have a conversation with Derek Jeter to see if he would be willing to move over to third base.

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BeltranAP Photo/John MinchilloWith FAs like Carlos Beltran, it will be tough for the Yankees to stay below the tax threshold.
Some big free-agent names were signed over the holiday season, but that doesn't mean the market is dried up. With many teams waiting on the final destination of Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka, several quality free-agent pitchers remain, as well as some trade possibilities.

Plenty of big moves are still likely to come. So, here are my 10 bold predictions of the rest of the offseason. Not all are personnel related, but most will have significant impact on teams or the game itself.

1. New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels go over the luxury-tax threshold
The Yankees have worked hard over the last couple of seasons to try and keep their payroll below $189 million dollars for this season, and the Angels have worked diligently this offseason to do the same.

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Five teams with the best shot at Tanaka 

December, 25, 2013
12/25/13
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After weeks of drama, the Masahiro Tanaka posting saga is finally over. Rakuten, his team in Japan, has agreed to post him, and now all MLB teams have a chance to negotiate with him if they agree to put up the posting fee, which likely will max out at $20 million per the new posting rules. (If a team doesn't sign him, no fee is paid.)

Now the question is: Which team will get the prized right-hander? As far as I'm concerned, these are the five clubs with the best shot:

1. New York Yankees

The Yankees' top free-agent pitching target has always been Tanaka. Although their goal was to stay under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, it was more of a goal than a mandate, as GM Brian Cashman explained to me during the winter meetings.

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10 moves that still need to happen 

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
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Matt Garza, C.J. WilsonGetty ImagesMatt Garza might look pretty good in the Angels' rotation with C.J. Wilson.
This has been a wild offseason so far, with blockbuster trades and free-agent signings taking place even before we got to Orlando for the Winter Meetings. Yet, with two weeks left in 2013, the free-agent and trade markets still have a lot of unfinished business.

As I look around the league, I can see 10 more moves that make a lot of sense and should to get done for their teams to remain viable contenders for 2014. Let's take a look:

1. Los Angeles Angels | Move: Sign free-agent RHP Matt Garza

The Angels have worked hard

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Offseason grades thus far: AL 

December, 14, 2013
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McCann & GirardiAP Photo/Seth WenigManager Joe Girardi was all smiles after the Yankees signed free-agent catcher Brian McCann.
Entering the offseason, the 2013 free agent class was generally regarded as one of the weaker ones in recent memory. Thus, most industry insiders were banking on a healthy trade market to develop and they were right.

In addition to the generous free-agent signings, blockbuster trades dominated the news, re-sculpting several teams in a single move. Here's how each American League team has done this winter, thus far. Mind you, there's still a long way to go, several big-name free agents to sign and blockbuster trades to make.

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