The GM's Office: hot stove

Five potential trades for Justin Upton 

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
1:40
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UptonScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith just one year remaining on his contract, Justin Upton has been the subject of recent trade talks.
When the offseason began, many insiders believed a trio of power-hitting outfielders would be dealt, including former Dodger Matt Kemp, former Red Sox left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and the Braves' Justin Upton. Kemp already has been traded (to the Padres), as has Cespedes (to the Tigers) … now we wait to see where the Braves trade Upton.

At age 27, Upton is just entering his prime years after another solid season (.270/.342/.491, 34 doubles, 29 home runs, 102 RBIs). The Braves would love to sign him long term, but with the recent signing of Giancarlo Stanton and the Braves' own signing of Freddie Freeman, the market has quickly inflated in terms of both years and dollars, which lessens the Braves' chances of retaining him. Atlanta also has Evan Gattis, who can play catcher and left field (albeit below average) and whom they control for five more seasons. If the Braves are unable to extend Upton, the smart business decision would be to trade Gattis as well. The team would take a step back in 2015, but the Braves would be building a squad that is ready to win when their new ballpark opens in 2017.

The Braves are ideally looking for young starting pitching and a second base upgrade in return for Upton, but like any other trade scenario, they're more concerned about the overall talent, affordability and controllability coming back in this type of transaction.

There are at least five clubs that remain interested in Upton, and here's an idea of what the return would look like with each of those teams:

1. San Diego Padres

Padres rookie GM A.J. Preller is focused on improving the Padres' lineup for 2015 and is off to a great start in landing Kemp.

Dissecting the Rays' managerial search 

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
11:57
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Don Wakamatsu, Kevin Cash, and Raul IbanezGetty Images, USA TODAY Sports, USA TODAY SportsThe Rays will choose either Don Wakamatsu, Kevin Cash or Raul Ibanez as their next manager.
With some offseason dominoes having already fallen around Major League Baseball, let's check in with the latest buzz on the biggest topics around the sport:

The Tampa Bay Rays' managerial search

The Rays' managerial search took another bizarre twist Friday when it was announced that their three finalists were Don Wakamatsu, Raul Ibanez and Kevin Cash. Their initial list of eight individuals to interview was puzzling to begin with, considering just two of those candidates were former big league managers: Wakamatsu and Manny Acta.

Wakamatsu's first managerial stint lasted only 274 games with the Seattle Mariners, and he was 28 games under .500 when he was fired in 2010. Acta has six years of MLB managerial experience, but his career win percentage is just .418, and he hasn't had a winning season.

But the surprising part wasn't that those two got interviews; they're both solid baseball men and deserve another chance. Instead, it was more about which experienced managers did not get an interview.

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10 bold predictions for this offseason 

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
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Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, complete with 13-year contracts, a trade including a Gold Glover and a good, young pitcher, and a key free-agent signing or two. But that's just the beginning of this wild and wooly offseason.

With that, here are 10 bold predictions I see happening in the weeks ahead:

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1. Jon Lester re-signs with the Boston Red Sox

Most analysts think Lester has pitched his last game for the Red Sox. … I'm not one of them. I think the Chicago Cubs will offer the most years (six) and dollars, but a return to Boston for fewer years (five) and less money is my prediction. The Red Sox desperately need a top-of-rotation starter and won't be a legitimate contender unless they get one. Lester was happy in Boston, and unless the Cubs blow the Sox's offer away, I think that's where he lands.


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2. Marlins sign James Shields

The Marlins shocked the baseball world with the signing of Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year deal, and they'll do it again by landing a top-of-rotation starter.

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Four potential trades for Cole Hamels 

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
10:30
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Cole HamelsAP Photo/John BazemoreMany teams would love to have Cole Hamels, but four teams have the best chance to get him.
The Phillies' rebuilding program really won't commence until they deal their most valuable asset, left-handed starting pitcher Cole Hamels, who is also the most valuable player on the trade market right now.

The Phillies probably will have to wait until free agents Max Scherzer and Jon Lester have found new homes before they find the right trade partner, but that won't stop Phillies GM Ruben Amaro from laying the groundwork between now and then. Hamels, 30, is one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball and is coming off another sensational year (6.6 WAR, 2.46 ERA, 3.07 FIP and 1.15 WHIP in 30 starts). His contract is also club-friendly, with four years remaining at a fair market value of $22.5 million per season.

One of the problems the Phillies have to deal with, however, is Hamels has 20 teams on his no-trade list, which leaves just nine teams. He might be willing to waive it for certain clubs, especially if they agree to pick up his option year or if he is given some type of assignment bonus, but the Phillies also have a limited market of teams that both can afford to take on Hamels' contract and have the top prospects to send back in this magnitude of a deal.

Although there are other possibilities, the Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers and Red Sox are probably the four teams that match up the best with the Phillies.

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Market, not PEDs, led to Peralta's 'reward' 

November, 26, 2013
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When word got out about the four-year, $52 million contract that Jhonny Peralta signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, many people in the baseball industry were not pleased.

Perhaps most notably, Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler tweeted that he didn't like seeing players "rewarded" for PED use, and some other players expressed similar sentiments through social media.

While I can understand why players would see it this way, I can assure you that Peralta is not being "rewarded" for his PED use, but rather benefiting from a barren shortstop market.

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How Tigers can take the next step 

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
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Max ScherzerHannah Foslien/Getty ImagesMax Scherzer is going to be expensive, but Detroit must give him an extension.
The Detroit Tigers were swept in the 2012 World Series by the San Francisco Giants four games to none and this year weren't able to get back after losing in the American League Championship Series to the Boston Red Sox. This despite the fact that the Tigers had a better team this year than last year with a healthy Victor Martinez at DH, improved defense in right field thanks to Torii Hunter, an impact closer in Joaquin Benoit, and a fully developed Max Scherzer, who should win the AL Cy Young Award next month.

The Tigers head to the offseason knowing their core is intact for another run in 2014. All five members of the rotation -- Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello -- are signed for 2014, and the same can be said for their lineup core including: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Martinez, Hunter, Alex Avila and shortstop Jose Iglesias.

But as the Red Sox showed, the Tigers still have some weaknesses. Here is how GM Dave Dombrowski can shore them up for 2014.

1. Tough decisions on free agents

Benoit developed into one of the American League's best closers this year, and the Tigers would like to bring him back. The good news for them is that there are a number of other closers set to be available as free agents, such as Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour, so they have options if Benoit signs elsewhere. The Tigers could hand the job to Bruce Rondon, but I'm guessing they will sign someone with more of a track record.

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Hamilton to Angels, Dickey next? 

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
3:40
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RA DickeyAP Photo/Paul J. BereswillIf the Angels really want to win the winter, they should make a strong push for R.A. Dickey.
For the second straight year, the Los Angeles Angels have swooped in to land the biggest free agent out there, signing Josh Hamilton to a five-year deal worth $125 million.

The Angels got incredible production from Torii Hunter last year, so Hamilton will fill the void Hunter left when he signed with the Detroit Tigers a few weeks ago. However, signing Hamilton creates the same problem the Angels had last year: too many outfielders.

As I see it, the Angels have three options for handling this logjam.

1. Trade for R.A. Dickey

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Trade candidates for all 30 teams 

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
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Not every team will make a trade at this week’s winter meetings in Nashville, but every team could. With that in mind, let’s take a look at one player (or more) who could be on the trade block this week from each of the 30 teams.

American League




Baltimore Orioles
Player: Brian Matusz, LHP
Reason: There are several teams that believe what Matusz did in relief for the Orioles down the stretch he can also do in the starting rotation if given another opportunity. The Orioles want a corner guy/DH, and they might have to use Matusz to fill that hole.
Possible trade partners: Mets, Padres, Indians, Cubs


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How the Tigers can get even better

October, 29, 2012
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While the Detroit Tigers and their fans are obviously feeling a bit blue Sunday night, they will soon come to realize that the 2012 season was a huge success. They won the AL Central, swept the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and appeared in the World Series.

Of course, the club's weaknesses were exposed a bit in losing to the San Francisco Giants, but they are in a great position to improve their club this winter. Here are five ways I expect GM Dave Dombrowski to try to improve the club this winter.

1. So long, Delmon

Delmon Young was fantastic in the ALCS and was named MVP of the series, but as a DH/left fielder he's a below-average player, as evidenced by his .267/.296/.411 line this year. He is a free agent, and the club will gladly let him walk, as they will have Victor Martinez coming back from a knee injury that cost him the 2012 season. Martinez will be an upgrade at DH, so the team is getting better without doing anything.

2. Bye-bye, Valverde
[+] Enlarge Jose Valverde
David Maxwell/Getty ImagesAfter repeated postseason failures, Jose Valverde will not be back in 2012.

Speaking of impending free agents, Jose Valverde will also be one, and the Tigers, who didn't trust him to pitch in any high-leverage spots in the World Series, won't bring him back. He made $9 million this year, so that will bring some salary relief. Detroit's bullpen was not a strength, and I could see them making a play for Rafael Soriano, who will almost certainly opt out of his deal with the Yankees, and would be an upgrade. Yes, he'd be pricey, but owner Mike Illitch has made it clear that he's willing to spend to try to win a World Series, and the club has roughly $90 committed for 2013 as of today. In other words, they have some money to spend.

I could also see the club trying to rebuild their pen by shopping Rick Porcello, who is still fairly well-regarded and will turn 24 in December. But as a ground ball pitcher on a team with a bad infield defense, he's a terrible fit. They should shop him to the National League or to clubs with good outfield defense in search of bullpen help. I could see San Diego, Minnesota and Pittsburgh as fits. Maybe Porcello for Joel Hanrahan, or possibly to Kansas City for someone such as Aaron Crow.

3. Retain Peralta and Sanchez

Jhonny Peralta has a $6 million option for 2013, and the club will certainly pick that up. Anibal Sanchez is set to be a free agent, and he will have suitors, and that's one guy the club will want to make a play for. He has shown this October that he's a solid mid-rotation starter, and if he's paired with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister the Tigers will have one of the best rotations in the league.

Further, Sanchez is a strikeout pitcher, which makes him a great fit for the Tigers, as he's less-reliant on his defense, which will always be a team weakness as long as they build their lineup around Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

4. Upgrade the outfield corners

Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks are decent role players, but they are not everyday guys. The Tigers have moved top prospect Nick Castellanos from third base to right field because of Miggy, and he could be up some time in the second half of next year. (And one day, don't be surprised if Castellanos is at third with Cabrera in left, a position he played when he came up with the Marlins.)

In the other outfield corner, I could see them making a play for Nick Swisher, as he has been one of baseball's most consistent performers over the past few seasons. The Tigers' lineup lacks depth -- something the Giants exposed -- and Swisher would provide that. Again, he won't come cheap, but the Tigers have money. A less pricey alternative would be Angel Pagan, who is also a free agent and could be a great No. 2 hitter while upgrading the outfield defense in left.

While they wait for Castellanos, I expect Avisail Garcia to man one corner with Berry and/or Dirks on the bench.

5. One more year of Leyland

Manager Jim Leyland's contract is up, and you have to think he wants to get a ring in Detroit. However, at 67 years old, who knows how much longer he will want to manage? I'd bring him back on a one-year deal and let him know that he can have the job as long as he wants it, but at this stage of his career I'd go year-to-year.

Even if they don't do much, the Tigers are probably AL Central favorites. And since Dombrowski will have some payroll flexibility, I could see him turning the Tigers into the dominant AL team next year.

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