Thursday, February 14, 2013
Five moves that will happen this spring
By Jim Bowden
Don Mattingly, left, has quickly become one of the majors' best managers.
During spring training, players aren’t the only ones trying to fine-tune things. General managers must use the time to evaluate not only their players but their field staff, too. It’s the time to get things done, especially things such as contract negotiations, which neither player nor management wants to do into the regular season. After nearly three decades in the industry, I’ve seen and experienced what happens when certain things don’t get done before the regular season commences.
Thus, I predict the following five moves will get done during spring training:
In January, Mattingly was given the Tommy Lasorda Managerial Achievement Award at the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation event. It was well deserved. Mattingly took the helm in the wake of Joe Torre’s departure after the 2010 season and since then he has quickly developed into one of the game’s best and most respected managers. Heading into his third season, Mattingly and his team keep getting better; the Dodgers could win at least 90 games and either win the division or at least secure a wild-card berth.
Mattingly’s calm presence, leadership and patience have been instrumental in the development of their young players, and his ability to delegate authority to his coaches has been a model example. Leaning on pitching coach Rick Honeycutt has really helped his handling of pitchers, and with Mark McGwire serving as the new hitting coach, he now has one of the best staffs in the league.
He asked the team to pick up his 2014 option, but the club denied the request. However, the Dodgers are aware of Mattingly’s fast-rising stock, as well as the impending managerial opening in Washington after Davey Johnson retires this fall. It is as plum a position as any in baseball. The right move is to sign him to a multiyear contract and give him the stability to manage a team that will have the highest expectations of any Dodgers squad since they last won a World Series in 1988.
Although it looks like Kyle Lohse will leave via free agency and Chris Carpenter will be out for the season with a right shoulder nerve injury, the Cards are optimistic they will remain playoff contenders. They boast a plethora of young pitchers who should make an impact in 2013.
However, the most important piece of any rotation remains the No. 1 starter. He’s the ace, the stopper, the veteran who serves as a model for young pitchers. When healthy, Wainwright is all of that. General manager John Mozeliak told me that he’d like to sign Wainwright to an extension before Opening Day. Mozeliak was able to prevent catcher Yadier Molina from testing the market, and with a strong and healthy spring, the same should happen for Wainwright.
The Mets will open spring training with a starting outfield of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter. It's probably the worst group in the league, as all of them are better served in a reserve role. That's why GM Sandy Alderson will continue to search for upgrades. He made a four-year, $48 million offer to Michael Bourn that didn’t get done when Alderson wouldn’t relent on a vesting fifth-year option. Bourn signed with Cleveland on Monday.
When the Reds signed Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $25.5 million deal back in 2010, it was with the expectation he would eventually develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. The Reds have spent the first three years working him exclusively in the bullpen, where he has really developed the command of all his pitches and greatly improved his secondary stuff. Last year, he dominated the NL with a 1.51 ERA, a 0.80 WHIP and 122 punchouts in only 71 2/3 innings.
General manager Walt Jocketty and pitching coach Bryan Price both strongly believe Chapman finally is ready to make the move to the starting rotation, a move they hope will be as successful as when the Chicago White Sox made a similar switch with young left-hander Chris Sale.
However, manager Dusty Baker and several Reds players, including veterans Bronson Arroyo and Brandon Phillips, think that Chapman is the best fit as closer, especially in a year where they are good enough to win a World Series. The Reds signed Jonathan Broxton to a closer-type three-year, $21 million deal with the hopes he can replace Chapman. Broxton should be able to do it, but certainly no one expects him to be able to do what Chapman did last year.
Therefore, with an already deep rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake, it probably makes more sense to wait a year to move Chapman into the rotation because this team is good enough to win it all right now.
To be sure, Lohse will find a home, but I really don’t think anyone in baseball knows where Lohse is going to end up, including agent Scott Boras, the 30 GMs and even Lohse himself. I think the Los Angeles Angels would be the best fit for him, but it sounds as though the Angels have exhausted their offseason budget. The Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals could use him too, but none appears to be interested. The San Diego Padres would like to sneak in there, but Lohse would prefer a contender.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he hasn’t talked to Boras lately, but he did concede that Boras went around him to try to convince owner Mark Attanasio to step up. Remember, the Brewers did make a two-year offer to Ryan Dempster before he signed with the Red Sox. The Brewers could really use Lohse in the rotation behind Yovani Gallardo.
The Rangers have been engaged on Lohse, and if the market drops enough they could swoop in and add yet another starter to what already is a deep and solid rotation. Signing Lohse would allow the Rangers to properly develop their young pitchers rather than rushing them into the rotation.