The GM's Office: The GM's Office

Ranking the playoff bullpens 

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
9:52
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HollandPeter G. Aiken/USA TODAY SportsGreg Holland anchors a Royals bullpen that was sixth in ERA in the second half of this season.
We ranked the playoff rotations and starting pitchers Monday; today we rank -- and discuss -- the bullpens of the 10 playoff teams.

1. Kansas City Royals

Closer: Greg Holland
Setup man: Wade Davis
Situational righties: Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow
Situational lefty: Brandon Finnegan

The Royals might not have the deepest bullpen, but they have the best, thanks mostly to a dominant trio of relievers in Herrera, Davis and the league's best closer in Holland, who has converted 46 of 48 save opportunities this year and has the most saves and best conversion rate of any closer in baseball since May 10, 2013.

Playoff starting pitcher, rotation rankings 

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
12:03
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Kershaw/GreinkeUSA TODAY SportsZack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw anchor a formidable Dodgers rotation.
The most important element of every major league team in the playoffs is its starting rotation; it's the closest equivalent to a quarterback on an NFL team or the top three players on an NBA team. History has shown us that elite starting pitching has played a greater role in winning championships than any other aspect of a team's infrastructure.

Evaluating starting rotations for the postseason is much different than doing so for the regular season. During the regular season, you concentrate on the team's depth, even the Nos. 6 and 7 spots on the depth chart. In the postseason, you emphasize the top three starters on each team, with little weight given to the fourth starter and no weight to the fifth starter, who's normally in the bullpen. You especially focus on the team's No. 1 starter, who often pitches twice in a five-game series and as many as three times in a seven-game series. You also must factor in how much workload a pitcher has had in the regular season, how they've pitched at the end of the season and any signs of fatigue, something that's not controllable outside of a cortisone shot to lessen the inflammation in a shoulder or elbow.

History shows that pitchers who can miss bats and post higher strikeout rates often perform better in the postseason than contact pitchers. Why is this? Well, these hurlers are facing the game's best lineups, and they need to have the stuff and command to win those battles. Having impeccable command of all pitches in and out of the strike zone is a necessity, because many hitters on playoff teams don't have many weaknesses to exploit.

With that as a preface, here are my rankings of this year's postseason rotations based on scouting, statistical and sabermetric analysis, with specific matchups, workloads, trends and intangibles all factored in:

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John Hart's offseason to-do list 

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
12:58
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John HartAP Photo/David TulisInterim Braves GM John Hart reportedly is mulling the team's offer to take over the job full-time.
Longtime executive John Hart has been offered the full-time general manager job (and senior VP) with the Atlanta Braves, and I think he will take it (although it might be for only the next three years before he passes the torch to 35-year-old John Coppolella). The Braves' GM job would give Hart an opportunity to put closure on his baseball career by building the type of starting rotation he wasn't able to in Cleveland or Texas while also making the Braves' lineup a force like he did in Cleveland.

I'm sure it's tough for Hart to walk away from his present lifestyle, which includes being an analyst for MLB Network and a senior adviser for the Braves, not to mention plenty of time with his family and on the golf course. But once a GM, always a GM, and there is no doubt the lifestyle he is enjoying now will be waiting for him on his 70th birthday, which is right about when he'd be ready to return to it.

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Players who are poised to rebound in '15 

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
9:30
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Jason Kipnis, Jay BruceGetty ImagesJay Bruce and Jason Kipnis, both former All-Stars, have been disappointing this season.
Every year there are players who underachieve, and when it happens, opposing general managers pick up the phone and call that team's GM to find out if they can "steal" the player in a trade. GMs view players with the same mindset they do the stock market, trying to acquire players when their stock is down, much like fantasy baseball owners do. Whether it's a real GM or a fantasy GM, identifying those players who will rebound early and getting them before their opponents can is important to success.

As such, I suspect Braves GM Frank Wren, for instance, will be calling Indians GM Chris Antonetti to see if he can pry away Jason Kipnis while his stock is down, and I would expect Yankees GM Brian Cashman to call Reds GM Walt Jocketty to see if he can steal Jay Bruce from them. Here are five players, including Kipnis and Bruce, who I expect to rebound, whether it's with their existing club or the teams they're traded to this offseason:

1. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians

Kipnis, 27, signed a six-year, $52.5 million deal through 2019 last offseason, with a team option for 2020. His first year of the deal has been a disaster; he has not been getting on base, not hitting home runs and not driving in runs.

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The secrets to the Cardinals' success 

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
11:11
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Lance LynnAP Photo/Jeff RobersonLance Lynn (15 wins, 2.73 ERA) has been a key factor in St. Louis' rise to the top of the NL Central.
They trailed the Milwaukee Brewers for the first five months of the season, were trudging along at six games over .500 as recently as Aug. 12 and have had to hold off the surging Pittsburgh Pirates, but there the St. Louis Cardinals sit, right back on top of the National League Central. They're on their way to winning a second straight division title.

But this is not the same Cardinals team that won the NL pennant a year ago. Sure, they have many of the same pieces, but many things have had to go right, they've had to fight through some setbacks, and adjustments had to be made. Let's look at how the Cardinals have climbed from third place in the NL Central as of mid-August to the top of the division.

They've maintained consistency

The Cardinals have had some valleys, but they've managed to grind through them and avoid prolonged losing stretches. In fact, they've posted a winning record every month this season.

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Possible pennant race X factors 

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
3:40
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    Jarrod DysonAP PhotoSpeed never slumps and Jarrod Dyson has plenty of it. He could impact KC's postseason chances.
    It's coming down to the wire, and every game counts in the pennant race. With several teams still clinging to postseason hopes, even the slightest developments -- an injury, a surprise performance, an emerging rookie -- can make the difference. These X factors can decide whether a team is playing October baseball or going home.

    Here are 14 American and National League players or managers who could be X factors for their teams as they march to the postseason.

    American League

    Kansas City Royals | Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore | OFs

    The Royals have the best two-speed weapons in the pennant race. Dyson and Gore, along with the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, are considered two of the fastest players in baseball right now. Dyson, 30, has stolen 33 bases this year and been caught just six times.

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Top 5 Executive of the Year candidates 

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
2:05
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Billy Beane, David DombrowskiUSA TODAY Sports/AP Photo Billy Beane and Dave Dombrowski have been busy GMs over the past 10-plus months.
Major league general managers have remained busy on the trade and free-agency front all year long, and their hard work has created some of the best pennant races we've seen in years. In fact, as the calendar turned to September, 21 of the 30 teams were still within 9 1/2 games of a playoff berth.

But there are five general managers -- coincidentally, all of them are in the American League -- who have stood out for the job they did this year building teams that have legit playoff, and possibly World Series, aspirations. Three of these GMs happen to work in one division: Oakland's Billy Beane, Los Angeles' Jerry Dipoto and Seattle's Jack Zduriencik in the AL West.

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Rookie rankings: Jose Abreu still top dog 

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
11:12
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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:

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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
10:45
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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
10:00
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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
Jul 31
6:46
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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
11:25
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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
1:18
PM ET
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
11:26
AM ET
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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