The GM's Office: The GM's Office

Rookie rankings: Jose Abreu still top dog 

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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Jose AbreuScott W. Grau/Icon SMINot only is Jose Abreu a top rookie, he also should garner some votes for the AL MVP award.
This spring, many analysts predicted that this year's best rookies would likely consist of a group of position players that included Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco and Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez and possibly a top pitching prospect -- the Arizona Diamondbacks' Archie Bradley, Colorado Rockies' Jonathan Gray or Seattle Mariners' Taijuan Walker -- or two.

Many of those players have surfaced and played a factor, but none of them reach the top 10 in our rookie rankings. The top of this year’s rookie rankings is anchored by a certain slugging Cuban import, with emerging youngsters and another import (Masahiro Tanaka) to follow. Certainly those aforementioned prospects still could end up being the best long-term players of the class. In fact, I'm sure at least a few of them will be. But they haven't been the best in their rookie seasons.

As we head down the stretch and into the final five weeks of the season, here's my ranking of the 10 best rookies in baseball:
Rob ManfredAP Photo/Ricardo ArduengoRob Manfred has a laundry list of improvements he could make during his tenure.
Major League Baseball owners made the right call by electing Rob Manfred as the 10th commissioner in baseball history. His experience, track record and leadership skills made him the obvious choice.

Most importantly, he was the candidate most likely to proceed in the same philosophies and direction as outgoing commissioner Bud Selig. Like Selig, Manfred’s modus operandi will be to gain the consensus of all 30 owners on major decisions, with an emphasis on continued competitive balance. During his news conference, Manfred referred to competitive balance as the bedrock of baseball.

He also understands that most owners want to see the game progress in many areas. My colleague Buster Olney explained some of the major issues Manfred must deal with immediately.

In addition to the issues Buster identified, here are 10 more issues and their various subtopics that I’d like to see Manfred pursue over the next couple of years.

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'94 strike: From 1st place to headed home 

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
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Davey JohnsonStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesManager Davey Johnson and the Reds led the NL Central with a 66-48 record when the strike arrived.
Oh, what could have been.

We, the Cincinnati Reds, had worked to get to the top of our division and become one of the better teams in baseball. Over the course of a short, 20-month span, we had rebuilt and reshaped the team to make a playoff run. We were finally there. We felt we even had a shot at a World Series title.

Had a shot, that is, until Aug. 11, 1994, when at 9:45 p.m. PT, Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson struck out Oakland's Ernie Young, and the baseball players went on strike, resulting in a devastating 7-month work stoppage, which at that time was the longest in the history of major North American professional sports leagues.

The 1994 season was taken from us, and I wonder to this day how far that team could have gone.

1993 struggles

For me, the general manager of the Reds, it was especially tough to take, given the years that led up to it. I was hired by Marge Schott to become the GM of the Reds on Oct. 16, 1992. At the time, I was the youngest GM in the history of baseball, at age 31, and I came out swinging by hiring Tony Perez as manager, trading for Kevin Mitchell and Roberto Kelly, and signing free-agent starting pitcher John Smiley to a four-year contract. I was feeling pretty good about the progress we had made, and Baseball America even referred to me with the headline "Boy Wonder."

The next several months were a different story, and after them, the more appropriate headline would have been "Boy Blunder." Let's just say everything quickly turned into a nightmare.

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Grading the GMs: Dombrowski on top 

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
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DombrowskiAP Photo/Paul SancyaTigers GM Dave Dombrowski has a good vantage point for the postseason following his July moves.
That was quite a busy and entertaining MLB trade deadline. Today we grade all 30 major league general managers based on how they did. But first, a few key points: 1) Just because a team didn't do anything at the deadline doesn't mean they should get a low grade, because in some cases, doing nothing is best for a team; and 2) There are more positive grades than negative ones because some trades are win-win based on the objectives of the general managers.

Let's get right to it:

Dave Dombrowski, Detroit Tigers

A
Trades: Drew Smyly, Austin Jackson and Willy Adames in three-way deal for David Price; Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel for Joakim Soria.

Analysis: Dombrowski solidified himself once again as one of the best GMs of his era when he landed Price in a surprise blockbuster at the deadline, trading his fifth starter and starting center fielder for the former Cy Young Award winner.

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What's next for the Boston Red Sox? 

July, 31, 2014
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John Lackey, Jon Lester Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesThe Red Sox still have work to do following the John Lackey and Jon Lester trades to retool for 2015.
The Boston Red Sox didn't trade Jon Lester and John Lackey on Thursday with a "rebuild" in mind.

Given its core of veteran talent, this is not a team that needs to rebuild. Instead, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington's objective in trading Lester and Jonny Gomes to the Oakland Athletics for Yoenis Cespedes and Oakland's competitive balance draft pick, and then trading Lackey to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, is to retool and get back to competing for a division title next year. That's what management and Red Sox fans expect.

And frankly, I think he did a phenomenal job doing that.

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Five GMs under pressure to make a deal 

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
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Ruben Amaro Jr. AP Images/Matt SlocumThe Phillies must start the rebuilding process; Ruben Amaro Jr. has until 4 p.m. Thursday to begin it.
It's go time for major league general managers. This is the time they shine and broker deals that could make or break a team's season, or set in motion its offseason. But certain GMs are under more pressure to make deals than others. Who's under the most pressure? Let's take the temperature of the following GMs and see just how critical it will be for them to get something done.

1. Ruben Amaro Jr. | Philadelphia Phillies

There hasn't been a GM under this much pressure to make multiple deadline deals in a decade.


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Trade deadline objectives: AL East 

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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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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Trade deadline objectives: NL West 

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
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Ben ZobristRob Tringali/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesThe Giants already added Jake Peavy and could target an upgrade at second base as well.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The five teams in the National League West have stratified themselves into two distinct classes as the trade deadline and the final portion of the season approach. The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers continue to jostle for the division title while the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are all at least 11 games back as of Sunday.

The teams have been active on the trade front, as the Padres shipped Huston Street and Chase Headley off recently and the Giants made a major acquisition Saturday, landing Jake Peavy. But the division's buyers still have some remaining needs, and the division's sellers still have some valuable pieces that can help to restock their farm system.

Here's a breakdown of what each team is buying or selling, along with a trade that I'd like to see each franchise make:

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Trade deadline objectives: AL Central 

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
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DombrowskiAP Photo/Paul SancyaEven after acquiring Joakim Soria, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski isn't done just yet.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The Detroit Tigers have the biggest lead of all six division leaders and are the heavy favorites to not only win the American League Central but also be the first team to clinch their division.

The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals are both within striking distance of the second wild-card spot, and both likely will be buyers. The Indians could use another starting pitcher, while the Royals need an offensive upgrade in right field.

The Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins should be sellers, although neither team has an impact player to trade.

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Trade deadline objectives: AL West 

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
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Billy BeaneMichael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty ImagesIs Billy Beane done dealing? Some believe he has one more trade in him before the deadline.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The American League West has been the busiest of the six divisions so far, with the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels making the biggest trades thus far in July. The Athletics started the fireworks back on July 4, when they acquired both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs in a blockbuster deal, and the Angels answered last week when they acquired one of the game's most consistent closers in Huston Street in a six–player deal.

Everyone is now waiting for the Seattle Mariners to respond and GM Jack Zduriencik is hoping not to let people down; he has been one of the most active GMs in terms of phone calls and texts over the past couple of weeks. The Texas Rangers and Houston Astros are going to sell, and while neither one has an impact player they will be dealing, they both could still make multiple minor deals between now and the deadline.

And don't think the Athletics and Angels are done. Although neither team really has to make another move, both are still out there listening and trying to find ways to make one more deal to enhance their chances of winning this division.

Let's run through the objectives of each team

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Mike Rizzo and Frank WrenAP PhotoWashington GM Mike Rizzo and Atlanta GM Frank Wren don't need to pull off a blockbuster this season.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The National League East has become a two-team race between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, with the second-place team still having a good chance to reel in one of the two wild-card berths. Neither team is expected to make a blockbuster deal by the trade deadline, but both are looking for the same thing: left-handed relief help and bench upgrades. Sometimes improving a team by inches rather than feet or yards can be the difference between making the postseason or going home.

The rest of the division should be sellers. The Marlins are hoping for enough wins between now and the deadline to become buyers, but realistically, they should be in sell mode. The Mets have Bartolo Colon and Daniel Murphy to offer in deals, while the Phillies should be open to trading every veteran on their roster.

In fact, the Phillies should be the center of attention between now and July 31 because there is not a "seller" in baseball with more talented difference-makers to trade. The difficult part for teams getting deals done with them will be dealing with all of the bad contracts, no-trade provisions and high return the Phillies are asking for in return.

With that in mind, let's take a look at where each team stands and who they should be looking to either acquire or trade away:


1. Washington Nationals: Buyers

Needs: Left-handed reliever and a bat off the bench.

Lefty reliever targets: Antonio Bastardo, Phillies; Neal Cotts, Rangers; Andrew Miller, Red Sox; James Russell, Cubs; Oliver Perez, Diamondbacks; Tony Sipp, Astros; Mike Dunn, Marlins.

Bench targets: Chris Carter, Astros; Chris Denorfia, Padres; Alejandro De Aza, White Sox; Jonny Gomes, Red Sox; Dayan Viciedo, White Sox; Jake Smolinski, Rangers; Mike Olt, Cubs; Drew Stubbs, Rockies.

What to expect: The Nationals don't need to make a move; they are the team to beat in the NL East and should be considered a legitimate World Series contender. They could stand to improve the two areas above, and I expect GM Mike Rizzo to upgrade one or the other by the trade deadline.

Trade I'd like to see happen: Right-handed pitching prospect Austin Voth to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for lefty reliever James Russell.

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Chase HeadleyDenis Poroy/Getty ImagesChase Headley started off slowly, but has been hitting much better as the deadline approaches.
Throughout July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire each player.

Player: Chase Headley | 3B/LF | San Diego Padres

Possible destinations: Toronto Blue Jays, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees

The 30-year-old Headley will be a free agent after this season, and although he has a modest slash line for the season -- .229/.296/.355 -- he has batted .323 in the month of July, and his stock is soaring as the trade deadline approaches. Here's more on what it would take for these three contenders to land him:


Toronto Blue Jays

Why? The Blue Jays would like to keep Brett Lawrie at second base long-term, so third base remains their biggest positional need. The Jays also need better balance in their lineup, and with Headley being a switch-hitter, that would improve them in that area as well.

Who? Left-handed pitcher Sean Nolin and shortstop Dawel Lugo should get the deal done. Nolin finally reached the majors with the Blue Jays in May 2013 and struggled in his first start, getting knocked out in the second inning after giving up six runs in a loss to the Orioles. However, he pitched well at three different stops in the minor leagues this year, making 12 starts with a 3.52 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and a strikeout rate of 8.7 per 9 innings. While 19-year-old Lugo shows 15-20 homer power in batting practice, he has yet to show it in games because he struggles to hit pitches on the outside part of the plate -- a weakness he'll be able to overcome in time. He has soft hands and, combined with a strong arm, can make plays in the hole. He has average speed at best, but he makes up for it with good jumps and angles off the bat. Those two make for a fair package for Headley.

Will it happen?

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Jake Peavy Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesJake Peavy could provide a boost on the back end of a contender's rotation.
Throughout July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire each player.

Player: Jake Peavy | SP | Boston Red Sox

Possible destinations: Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals

Peavy was traded July 30, 2013, in a three-team trade that sent Avisail Garcia from the Tigers to the White Sox, Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox to the Tigers, and Peavy to the Red Sox. Peavy's value has since dipped, and not just because he’s another year older. His ERA is a full run higher than his career mark, and his WHIP is the highest it has been since his 2002 rookie campaign. His average fastball velocity has dropped from 90 to 89 mph, and the rest of his offerings have diminished as well.

His 1-8 record in 19 starts can be partly explained by a lack of run support and a defense that has been poor at times. But the bottom line is it has been a subpar year by Peavy's standards.

However, because of his competitiveness and winning attitude, Peavy could rebound in the second half and help a contending team at the back of their rotation. To acquire Peavy, the trade cost will be significantly less than it was this time last year, but the Red Sox should still be able to land a solid, albeit not top, prospect.


Milwaukee Brewers

Why? The Brewers are pleased with the top four in their starting rotation, Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta and Matt Garza. However, their fifth starter has struggled mightily; Marco Estrada was demoted to the bullpen, and rookie Jimmy Nelson has not looked good after two starts. Peavy would provide an immediate upgrade there.

Who? The Red Sox will probably start by asking for one of their top outfield prospects in Mitch Haniger or Tyrone Taylor, an offer I expect GM Doug Melvin to politely decline. However, power-hitting outfielder Victor Roache, the Brewers' first-round pick in the 2012 draft, might be enough to get it done. Roache has hit 33 home runs and driven in 107 runs in his first two years of professional ball, but he has struggled to get on base consistently (.307 career OBP). He's a project, but he's worth taking a chance on, given his power potential.

Will it happen? There's a good chance this could happen, especially because the Braves seem to have lost interest and the Cardinals and Mariners appear to be chasing a higher-level starter.


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Trades the Phillies should make now 

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
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Ruben Amaro Jr. AP Images/Matt SlocumPhillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has a multitude of options at the MLB trade deadline.
The time has come for the Philadelphia Phillies to realize that it’s too late to retool. It’s time for them to put denial behind them and embrace the realities of a complete rebuild.

The Phillies have everything going for them in terms of a marketplace in their favor. There are very few teams that are pure “sellers” at this deadline, and many of them should be have already acted (like the Chicago Cubs) or don’t have the pieces to sell (like the Houston Astros). As a result, the Phillies are sitting in a perfect position for a rebuild.

Need a top-of-the-rotation starter with postseason success? Philadelphia has two in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Need an impact closer with an ERA closer to one than two? They have Jonathan Papelbon. Need a lefty reliever? They have Antonio Bastardo. Need a middle infielder with postseason success? They have second baseman Chase Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Need an outfielder with power? They have Marlon Byrd.

Now, wheeling and dealing all of these players over the next two weeks will not be as easy as making some standard trades. Many of these players have no-trade provisions or overvalued contracts with long-term exposure, and some are longtime Phillies who simply don’t want to get traded. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will have to get creative by being open to eating contracts or paying significant parts of contracts, convincing players to waive no-trade clauses as well as convincing other teams that some of the players are healthy. Furthermore, he'll have to get the fan base prepared for the loss of many of their favorite players. It’s not an easy task.

Amaro has had a lot of success over the years in Philadelphia since joining their front office back in 1998 as an assistant GM. He was promoted to GM in 2009 and has been there ever since. He’s overseen three first-place finishes in the NL East, followed by a third-, fourth- and, in all likelihood, fifth-place spot this year. His early success included the help of former GMs like Pat Gillick, and Ed Wade's previous work, but that shouldn’t take anything away from his accomplishments. However, the last few years have not been kind to him, and his popularity in Philadelphia and around baseball is at an all-time low.

However, he has a chance to change all of that -- and his legacy -- over the next two weeks. With some massive blockbusters and wheeling and dealing, he can make the future bright once again, but it can only happen with some serious and painful moves for everyone. The time has come to rebuild in the City of Brotherly Love, and here are seven trade suggestions that could start the process.

1. Hamels to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for center fielder Joc Pederson and left-handed pitcher Julio Urias

Joc Pederson
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsDodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson has All-Star potential.
The Dodgers have been linked to both David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays and Hamels. According to sources, the Dodgers are willing to part with one of their top-tier prospects but not two. But the reality is that with the real chance of the Dodgers winning a World Series either this year or next -- and the benefits that a pitcher of Hamels ilk would provide to that cause -- it’s hard to envision the Dodgers letting a teenager stand in the way of a deal.

In return, the Phillies will get their long-term solution in center field with Pederson. Pederson profiles out to a 25-homer, 25-steals type of player who has the potential of joining the 30/30 club, especially if he plays half of his games at Citizens Bank Park. He has a lifetime .305/.404/.515 slash line in five minor league seasons and is major league ready.

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Cole HamelsRich Schultz/Getty ImagesCole Hamels has just a 3-5 record, but his peripheral numbers are solid.
Throughout July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire each player.

Player: Cole Hamels | SP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays

Before we dive into potential fits for Hamels, let's look at his unique contract situation and some recent history of big-name starting pitcher trades.

Contract: $22.5 million per year through 2018, with team option for $20 million or $24 million vesting option for 2019. He also has a limited no-trade provision, which will make it difficult to trade him if the Phillies' best deal is a team on that list.

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