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Managers, Top Front Office Execs On Expiring Contracts

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Monday was one of the most stunning days baseball has seen in recent memory. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch, who oversaw several contending teams in Houston and led the club to a World Series championship, lost their jobs as a result of a sign-stealing scandal. Before accusations against the Astros arose several weeks ago, neither Luhnow nor Hinch looked likely to leave their posts for the foreseeable future. Now, though, the Astros are the lone team in baseball that doesn’t have a clear answer at either spot (though the Red Sox could join the Astros soon if the league drops the hammer on manager Alex Cora). But what about after the 2020 season? Which clubs could be in need then?
With help from the ever-valuable Cot’s Baseball Contracts, let’s take a look at clubs whose GMs and/or managers are entering contract years. As a reminder, this list might not be complete or fully accurate. Some teams may have extended their lame-duck executives/skippers and not publicized those moves yet, for instance, while other individuals in those spots could have less job security than it appears.
Angels: Entering the 2016 season, the Angels hired general manager Billy Eppler to helm a franchise led by all-world center fielder Mike Trout. As was the case then, Trout remains on a collision course with a Cooperstown plaque. The problem is that the Angels have continually failed to take advantage of his presence. Since Eppler came aboard, they haven’t even posted a .500 season. They’re also on their third manager (Mike Scioscia, whom Eppler inherited, then Brad Ausmus and now Joe Maddon) since their GM assumed the reins. Eppler has been rather aggressive this offseason as he works on a turnaround, though, having signed third baseman Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $235MM contract, picked up catcher Jason Castro and added starters Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy. The acquisition of a much-needed front-line rotation piece this winter has eluded Eppler, who will perhaps keep trying to land one before the season. Regardless, it appears to be put up-or-shut up time for Eppler. Should the Angels fail to make significant progress in the upcoming campaign, it seems likely they’ll have a new GM a year from now.
Blue Jays: The partnership consisting of president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins has been going on since before 2016. The Blue Jays were then on the cusp of their second straight ALCS-bound season, but they’ve since launched a rebuild and endured three consecutive losing campaigns. Shapiro’s now going into the final season of his contract, though he and the organization are willing to discuss an extension, while Atkins’ status is a bit less clear. Atkins signed an extension last June, but it’s unknown whether it will go beyond the coming season. One thing’s for sure, however: This has been a busy offseason for Shapiro and Atkins, as the Jays have acquired four pitchers (Hyun-Jin Ryu, who cost the team an $80MM commitment, as well as Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson and Shun Yamaguchi) and infielder Travis Shaw.
Braves: The two-year extension Snitker inked in 2018 has a team option for 2021, in which he and the Braves will go for their third straight NL East title. Snitker, who took over as interim manager in 2016, endured a couple losing seasons before his recent run of success and has not been able to secure a playoff series win thus far. The overall results have been good, however, so it stands to reason the Braves will exercise Snitker’s option if they have another playoff-caliber season.
Nationals: The extension the Nationals gave GM Mike Rizzo a couple years back reportedly lasts through 2020, while manager Dave Martinez has a club option for ’21. Back when the Nats re-upped Rizzo, they were known as a talented team that couldn’t break through in the fall. That finally happened in 2019, the year the franchise finally took home its first World Series. Thanks in part to that triumph, it would be a stunner to see the Nats allow Rizzo or Martinez to get away anytime soon.
Royals: Like Rizzo, it doesn’t seem Moore’s in any danger of exiting his current organization. Moore, KC’s GM since 2006, has only overseen two playoff teams, but the Royals sure made those seasons count. They won the AL pennant in 2015 and then the World Series the next year. They’re now amid a rebuild and coming off two 100-loss seasons, and are likely in for another lean year. Still, new owner John Sherman is reportedly set to hand Moore an extension to keep him atop the franchise’s baseball hierarchy.
Tigers: GM Al Avila seems to be safe, at least from a contractual standpoint, but the rebuilding Tigers could go in another direction in the dugout soon. Veteran skipper Ron Gardenhire’s not signed beyond then, and there doesn’t appear to be any hurry on the team’s part to change that. While Gardenhire enjoyed plenty of success with the division-rival Twins from 2002-14, he signed off for a difficult job in Detroit. The club, which hasn’t had much talent throughout Gardenhire’s reign, has gone 111-212 on his two-season watch. The Tigers have somewhat beefed up their roster this winter, though, and that should give Gardenhire a legit chance to help lead the team to a better output than its 47-win mark in 2019. Detroit has redone the right side of its infield by signing first baseman C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, improved at catcher by adding Austin Romine and landed innings-eater Ivan Nova for their rotation. Nothing splashy there, but Gardenhire’s probably happy to have those vets aboard after he had to guide such a sorry roster a season ago.
Yankees: This is the last guaranteed year of Boone’s contract, though his deal does include a club option for 2021. At this rate, the Yankees will exercise it, as Boone has made an almost seamless transition from the broadcast booth to the dugout. He has two 100-win seasons in as many attempts, has helped the Yankees to an ALCS, and nearly won AL Manager of the Year honors during an injury-laden 2019 for the club. Expectations will be even higher this season, though, considering Boone now has ace Gerrit Cole at the front of his rotation.

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MLB

Ryan Braun Discusses Future – MLB Trade Rumors

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Franchise icon Ryan Braun is entering the final guaranteed season of the contract extension he signed with the Brewers nearly a decade ago. Now 36, the former MVP is nearing the end of a storied career. In fact, it’s not out of the question that 2020 could prove to be his final season, he acknowledged to reporters (including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) today at Fan Fest.
“I don’t take for granted this could be my last year playing baseball,” Braun told reporters. “It’s definitely a possibility,” he elaborated when asked if he would contemplate retirement after the 2020 season. “We’ll see how the year goes, see where I’m at physically. Obviously, my family’s always my top priority, so we’ll see how everything’s going then.”
Needless to say, that’s hardly a declaration that he’ll certainly hang up the spikes. He added that he doesn’t anticipate making a final decision until after this season, when he can reevaluate his health and family situation as well as the team’s outlook. Braun’s contract does come with a $15MM mutual option for 2021, but mutual options are rarely exercised. Typically, the price point is either high enough that the team would prefer to buy the player out or low enough that the player would rather explore free agency. In Braun’s case, it seems likely the Brewers would buy Braun out for $4MM rather than exercise their end.
That’s not to say, however, that Braun won’t be a key factor on Milwaukee’s 2020 outlook. He’s coming off a strong 2019 effort, in which he hit .285/.343/.505 (117 wRC+) in 508 plate appearances. The club anticipates him taking a similar number of plate appearances this season, he told reporters today. The longtime corner outfielder confirmed that some of that work figures to come at first base, where he’s played just 18 career games (all in 2018). Milwaukee’s corner outfield mix is crowded, with offseason signee Avisaíl García joining MVP candidate Christian Yelich and Ben Gamel. Yelich, notably, is at full strength for spring training after a knee injury ended his 2019 season in September, he told reporters today (including Haudricourt).
Today’s comments from Braun are perhaps unsurprising; that a 36-year-old player may at least entertain thoughts of retirement after the season won’t raise many eyebrows. Nevertheless, it’s notable to hear Braun verbalize the possibility. He is, as mentioned, still a productive hitter. In all fourteen of his MLB seasons, he’s been above-average at the dish by measure of wRC+. He’s certainly unlikely to return to the vaunted offensive force he was in his prime, but Braun still figures to be a valuable player in 2020. Should he again produce at the plate, he’d no doubt draw interest from teams next offseason, if he chooses to keep playing.

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Astros Interview Mark Kotsay For Manager

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The Astros interviewed A’s quality control coach Mark Kotsay last week as part of their ongoing search for A.J. Hinch’s replacement, reports Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (via Twitter). Kotsay becomes the ninth known candidate in Houston’s wide-ranging managerial search.
Kotsay also drew consideration from the Giants and Pirates for their vacancies earlier in the offseason, but he ultimately lost out to Gabe Kapler and Derek Shelton, respectively. He has no MLB managerial expereience, but he’s worked in the Padres’ front office and on the Pads’ and A’s coaching staffs since retiring as a player in 2013.
Kotsay joins Joe Espada, Eduardo Pérez and Will Venable as potential first-time managers to sit down with Houston. The Astros have also interviewed former MLB skippers Brad Ausmus, Dusty Baker, Jeff Banister, John Gibbons and Buck Showalter.

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