Tag:Evan Brunell
Posted on: October 25, 2011 4:06 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 4:28 pm
 

John Lackey to miss 2012 season with Tommy John

Lackey

By Evan Brunell

In Ben Cherington's introductory news conference, the new Red Sox GM said that John Lackey will need Tommy John surgery, which knocks him out for the entire 2012 season.

“He had some intermittent elbow soreness throughout the season,” Cherington said. “After more consultation with Dr. Yocum, John has decided to go ahead with Tommy John surgery. We’re waiting on a surgery date, but I talked to him the other day, and he’s really excited about the future, certainly anxious about the surgery and getting that done and the rehab, but knows that he’s a much better pitcher than what he showed in 2011. I believe he’s going to be a much better pitcher than what he showed in 2011, and we look forward to having him as part of the staff, likely in 2013."

This move comes as a major surprise, but Peter Gammons was on the ball back in late June when he said on WEEI that there was significant concern about Lackey's health and how it's translating to on-field performance. Lackey recently finished a brutal 2011 with a 6.41 ERA in 28 starts, leading baseball by giving up 114 earned runs.

"I’ve had indications that there are some questions about just how healthy [Lackey is]," Gammons said back in June. "We know he was disabled with the elbow problem." Gammons said Lackey may need Tommy John by August, despite his elbow not being significantly different in MRIs compared to when he signed with the Red Sox prior to the 2010 season. (Lackey, when asked about Gammons' quotes, told ESPN Boston that "He straight made that up." Apparently not.)

Lackey will miss the entire season with Tommy John surgery, joining Daisuke Matsuzaka on the shelf. Dice-K also underwent Tommy John surgery early in the season and is not expected to return until at least the midway point of 2012, if not later. With both Matsuzaka and Lackey on the shelf, Boston will have work on its hands to round out a rotation that so far, will include Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. It appears likely that Alfredo Aceves will become a starter after a successful year out of the bullpen as a long reliever.

As for additional pitching depth, Cherington didn't sound as if he was terribly interested in going out and paying for a big starter. "Most likely we’ll do that through some good, creative buy-low acquisitions," he said.

However, if Cherington changes his mind and goes after free-agent starter C.J. Wilson or possible Japanese import Yu Darvish, he'll have more money to work with. Lackey's surgery means his sixth-year option for the league minimum salary will kick in, which lowers his average annual value by $2.7 million. Lackey's original contract was for five years and $82.5 million, which works out to $16.5 million a year. That number will now be reduced about $2.7 million per year on the conditional option Lackey agreed to upon signing, in which he agreed to play in 2015 for the league minimum should he miss time at any point from 2010-14 for a pre-existing elbow injury. That's a significant amount which could mean the difference between sitting at home in October and the ability to acquire a quality player that can put Boston in October.

For all news, check out the CBSSports.com free agency tracker.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 25, 2011 3:38 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 4:21 pm
 

Ben Cherington takes over as Red Sox GM

Cherington

By Evan Brunell


Ben Cherington has been announced as the new general manager of the Red Sox, replacing Theo Epstein. In his news conference, Cherington said he "developed a passion for baseball and the Red Sox" during his time in baseball.

"I feel like I've been preparing for this job since my first job in baseball," he added.

Epstein was announced as president of baseball operations for the Cubs earlier Tuesday, allowing Cherington to take the reins as GM officially after being de-facto GM for the last two weeks. Cherington was joined in a news conference by president Larry Lucchino, but not ownership. This speaks to the fact that Lucchino will probably gain more influence now that Epstein has left, as the president lost much of his influence when Epstein resigned as GM in 2005 over a dispute with Lucchino. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it will be interesting to see how the dynamics play out. For his part, Lucchino said there was "no one more prepared" to take over as GM in a statement prior to the news conference and that "he will hit the ground running, in full stride, and no one will outwork him.”

Cherington began by wishing his former boss "great fortune in his next venture" and noted that he is not similar to Epstein in that he can't play the guitar, nor does he own a gorilla suit, hearkening back to how Epstein sneaked out of Fenway and avoided reporters when he resigned in 2005.

Cherington, who is considered a patient, as opposed to Epstein who has a reputation for being impatient, may have taken a shot at Epstein by saying that you "have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, on our due diligence in the decision-making process." Cherington said that the free-agent signings in recent years haven't been good enough. He also wants to be active in acquiring international talent, wanting the best players from around the world.

Earlier on Tuesday, Epstein spoke bout Cherington's readiness to take over the role, mentioning in an op-ed piece for the Boston Globe that Cherington had been discussed as his successor this summer, with an initial plan of Epstein departing after 2012. "If not for the complete confidence I have in Ben... I could not in good conscience leave the organization at this time. But there is no one in baseball more qualified to be the next general manager of the Red Sox.

"Ben is infinitely more prepared than I was when I took over nine years ago. He’s been an area scout, an international scout, an advance scout, a farm director, and he’s supervised drafts. Ben is honest and insightful, fearless and friendly - and he is ready to lead this organization forward."

Cherington, a New Hampshire native, has been with the Red Sox for 13 seasons and had served as assistant GM since January 2009, ascending to the role when Jed Hoyer became GM of the Padres. Cherington and Hoyer also served briefly as interim GM when Epstein resigned in 2005. Prior to his role, he oversaw the farm system including developing such players as Daniel Bard, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie.

Speaking of the farm system, Cherington believes the Red Sox system is "stronger and deeper than ever," although he did admit much of the talent is low. Boston's high minors have entered a bit of a fallow period as part of a cycle, but the low minors is highly regarded, even after dealing away several top prospects for Adrian Gonzalez prior to the season.

The 37-year-old also addressed the 2011 team, saying the team is eager to move on. "I believe there's a great motivation [on the part of the players] to clean up whatever does need to be cleaned up. ... We are going to have a very good team in 2012."

However, Cherington did caution that things might change moving forward. Not necessarily because what was done previously was incorrect, or even a difference of opinion, but because  "what's going to work moving forward is not necessarily what's worked in the past."

Cherington did mention that Boston's pitching depth has to improve, and "most likely we’ll do that through some good, creative buy-low acquisitions." With Daisuke Matsuzaka recovering from Tommy John surgery and unlikely to return until midway through 2012 at the earliest and now John Lackey needing his own Tommy John surgery which will knock him out for all of 2012, the Red Sox will have their work cut out for them in addressing the rotation. Cherington also said the team needs a right-handed outfielder, and spoke about Carl Crawford, saying time would need to be spent with the outfielder this offseason. Crawford, who signed a seven-year, $142 million deal prior to 2011, had an awful season and then heard his owner, John Henry, saying he didn't support the move.

"I was one of the strongest proponents of signing Carl Crawford, Cherington said. "I believe in him."

Regarding the search for a new manager, Cherington said the team will move "swiftly" but pointed out that Francona was not hired until Thanksgiving in 2004, so we could be in for a bit of a process. "I want a manager who has a strong voice," he said. "We need the right person."
 
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Posted on: October 25, 2011 2:32 pm
 

Torre: Up to teams to police beer

TorreBy Evan Brunell

Joe Torre, the executive vice president of baseball operations for MLB, joined ESPN Radio on Tuesday to touch on a wide range of topics, including beer in the clubhouse. Torre previously said baseball was looking into the extent of drinking beer in the Red Sox clubhouse and was considering a ban across baseball.

"I know is it’s an individual choice for the ball clubs," Torre said about allowing beer in the clubhouse. "We’re interested in [banning beer]. I probably should have stopped there. It’s basically individual clubs make those decisions, and it’s obvious when you have owners meetings, you certainly let your feelings be heard. But I’m sort of torn because it’s like anything else -- you’d like to have it available if people responded to it and did it in moderation. But you can’t always guarantee that, and then you’re responsible if something goes wrong. It’s even a matter of getting in your car and driving somewhere; that’s the scary part for me. But ... it is up to the individual club to police what they do and make the decisions about how they approach the beer in and beer out.”

Torre was also asked if baseball allows beer because of how long the season is and how the team needs to have an outlet to disengage after playing a game nearly every day.

“Baseball is a game of life," he said. "You eliminate the highs and lows. I think Michael [Kay, Yankees broadcaster] can tell you, he’s traveled with the club for years, you see the players and you see the people who travel more than you see your family. It’s one of those things that in other sports…maybe in the NFL they put players in hotels, they do something because it’s right before the game. This is more…I don’t want to say matter of fact, but the fact of the matter is you’ve got to do this like showing up to the office every day. So I think that’s probably what makes it different as opposed to telling guys they can’t drink beer for seven months, you know?”

Drink along with us and check out the beer-drinking saga.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:15 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 3:32 pm
 

Jays amend policy to prevent Farrell to Red Sox

FarrellBy Evan Brunell

In light of recent rumors that could have had Toronto manager John Farrell moving to a similar position with the Red Sox, the Blue Jays have altered their policy dealing with organizational change, the team said in a statement courtesy MLB.com.

"Due to the distraction caused by media speculation regarding our employee permission policy, the Toronto Blue Jays have amended their policy and will not grant permission for lateral moves," GM Alex Anthopoulous and president Paul Beeston said in a joint statement.

Previously, Toronto had no restrictions on anyone interviewing for another job in an organization, including lateral moves. Now, Toronto will not allow lateral moves, which cuts off Farrell's ability to become Sox skipper. Unless, as Angels broadcaster Victor Rojas jokes, the Red Sox name him "president of clubhouse operations," a joke as to how ex-Red Sox GM Theo Epstein became president of baseball operations in Chicago, instead of simply president.

Anthopolous later told Sportsnet.ca that the change wasn't made to combat the Red Sox specifically, but was also used to address future rumors on Farrell -- if not himself.

"Because of the way the policy was set up, we'll always be open to rumors and speculation and, ultimately, it has become a distraction for the club," he said. "In terms of fear to lose someone to a lateral move, there isn't a fear because again, I point back to what the policy is going forward. There's no fear at all because we have a policy in place."

Beeston told Anthopoulous that the previous policy, which allowed anyone to interview for any job at any time, "wasn't working," so a new policy was drawn up. It will allow the club to refer to the policy moving forward and not get into specifics, as well as avoid e-mails, which he said inundated the club over the last couple days following a Boston Globe report that Farrell might be hired as the new Sox manager.

Farrell addressed reports of moving to the Red Sox on Monday, saying he was "focused right now on preparing for what is best for the Blue Jays in 2012."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:03 pm
 

MLB says McCourt 'looted' $190M from Dodgers

McCourt

By Evan Brunell


In several filings by MLB on Monday, baseball has accused Dodgers owner Frank McCourt of "looting" the team for $190 million, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The exact price is $189.16 million, with $61.16 million in team revenue to pay off personal debts, $73 million sent to McCourt by way of Blue Land Co. for parking revenue, and $55 million for personal distributions. This is against baseball rules, but McCourt is no stranger to breaking rules as MLB alleges he has broken 10 rules.

"The Dodgers are in bankruptcy because McCourt has taken almost $190 million out of the club and has completely alienated the Dodgers' fan base," the filing reads. However, McCourt fired back by painting Selig as a "'furious' commissioner out to harm" McCourt, the MLB filing reads. McCourt's lawyers say that Selig is dealing in bad faith by refusing to consider any television deal for McCourt, believing that some of its funds would be diverted yet again to pay off personal obligations, such as $130 million to ex-wife Jamie in settling her contention she is co-owner of the Dodgers. (McCourt calls this claim "make-believe," but how can McCourt pay off his ex-wife without funds from the television deal?)

The beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow is expected to be a central component of the bankruptcy trial, as filings by both MLB and McCourt on Monday referenced the brutal beating on Opening Day. Stow spent the season in the hospital and was only recently released to outpatient rehab, with medical bills that could surpass $50 million. In the wake of the beating, in which no security guards intervened and fans watched, the Dodgers added LAPD officers to games and hired ex-LAPD chief William Bratton to supervise a long-range plan. Despite having a record 197 sworn police officers on hand -- "the highest number ever at a Dodgers game," the team alleges, MLB contends that security at Dodger Stadium was so inadequate, and it speaks to McCourt's failings. To no surprise, he disagrees.

"[Commissioner Bud Selig] set about fabricating the public misimpression that security at Dodger Stadium was somehow inadequate," the team's filing says, also noting that McCourt was the first Dodgers owner to hire uniformed LAPD officers. "This is, by far, the most unforgivable action taken by the commissioner during this entire saga, and has caused enorrmous and irreparable harm to the Dodgers, Mr. McCourt and the game of baseball."

The filing says the Dodgers "were on top of the situation" and that Selig only announced a task force to review Dodger Stadium security until after McCourt had taken his own steps to address the security problem at the stadium. MLB, naturally, disagrees.

"McCourt, however, omits the fact that he removed uniformed officers before the 2011 season, including the opening game when Stow was so seriously injured," MLB says in its filing, also accusing McCourt of inadequate lighting in stadium parking lots, a lack of executives with knowledge of ballpark operations and security, as well as the ability to easily slip into the stadium without authorized access.

In April, when Selig appointed the task force to look at Dodger security and also appointed a trustee to review L.A.'s policies and finances, the team says that was a crushing blow for the club, who immediately saw a downtick in attendance and finished the season 18 percent under.

"Not surprisingly, the commissioner's one-two punch ... was followed by a dramatic reduction in attendance at Dodger games," the Dodgers' filing reads. "That drop in attendance reduced revenues and, of course, worsened [the Dodgers'] already difficult liquidity situation."

One thing's clear: each side really, really dislikes the other. It's still unclear when a resolution is pending, but the filings were a major step forward in the case and will be used during a hearing next week that could determine the outcome of the case. The Dodgers are asking for a delay until April 25 to present their reorganization plan, which could leave McCourt in charge of the club through the beginning of the 2012 season.

Can't get enough of the Dodger Divorce saga and the troubles surrounding Dodgers owner Frank McCourt? Click here.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:20 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 5:32 pm
 

Theo Epstein announced as new Cubs president



By Evan Brunell


Theo Epstein was introduced as the new leader of the Cubs during a news conference at 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday as Cubs' president of baseball operations.

"It feels truly great to be a Cub today," Epstein said in his opening remarks. "I'd like to thank Cubs fans for being so incredibly welcoming to me and my family already. ... I was ready for the next big challenge, and this is the ultimate challenge."

Prior to the conference, owner Tom Ricketts said the club sought commitment to player development, a strong analytical background and someone from a winning culture with a strong record, Alex Speier of WEEI relays. Epstein himself concurred, saying he wouldn't be in town without Rickett's "commitment to the fans and long-term vision for the organization."

In Ricketts' opening remarks, he said, "The major goal is to win a World Series. Today we take a major step towards acheiving that goal with the hiring of Theo Epstein."

"We look forward to going to work, because we have the best fans and the bast ballpark in baseball," Ricketts added, also noting that Cubs president Crane Kenney was "critical" toward bringing Epstein to the team. Kenney is expected to transition to overseeing the business aspect of the team with Epstein's arrival. "We look forward to saying that we have the best team in baseball," Ricketts said.

When Epstein began his remarks, he gave a shout-out to his former employers on top of his brilliant his op-ed piece published in the Boston Globe Tuesday morning.

"[A] quick thank you to [ex-Red Sox manager] Terry Francona and all the players and fans [in Boston]," Epstein said. "I'm really proud of what we accomplished, and I wish you all the best. ... I wouldn't trade my time with the Red Sox, but it was time to move on, and they're in great hands."

At the end of the press conference, Epstein admitted he would probably still be with the club if Francona hadn't left. That's interesting, given reports that he recommended to ownership in the late summer that Francona had lost the team and it was time for a new voice.

But this press conference was about his new role with the Cubs, and much of the conference was based on what is to come in Chicago.

"Baseball is better with tradition, baseball is better with fans that care, baseball is better during the day. Finally, baseball is best of all when you win," Epstein started off saying. He also promised the Cubs would be playing in October "regularly" and will win a World Series, a lofty goal that Epstein will be judged by his entire tenure in town. He promised "sustained success".

"When we win a World Series, It won't be because of any one person. It'll be because of all of us," Epstein said. "It'll happen because a scout drove the extra six miles to see a prospect. It'll happen because a minor league pitching coach took the extra time to work on a young pitcher's change-up... it will happen because of all of us."

Epstein spoke about "The Cubs Way," which should certainly mirror "The Red Sox Way" he instituted in Boston that led to two World Series rings. That way should be expected to include strong defense, a discerning eye for hitters and a strong bullpen along with a rotation that minimizes walks.

When asked "What makes you think you can do what nobody has done in 103 years?" Epstein didn't blanch. (Naturally -- it's not as if he had any opportunity to win with Chicago in 1940.) "It'll be all of us doing it," Epstein responded. "When I got to Boston, they hadn't won in 86 years, and we didn't run from that. We embraced it. And part of that is bringing in players that care more about each other, and more about winning, than any of those external voices."

When asked about incumbent manager Mike Quade, Epstein said that the manager, coming off his first full season as skipper, "seems like a great guy," and the two will speak in the coming week.

As for the question of compensation, Epstein seemed to skirt the issue and admitted a third party would probably be needed to finalize compensation.

Ricketts jumped back into the fray to note that he "talked to about 20 people in baseball who I trust -- people who could tell me who I should be looking for. And at the end of the process, it was apparent that Theo was the right man for the job." The owner also made it clear that Epstein is reporting directly to him.

In further remarks, Epstein referenced his op-ed piece and brought up Bill Walsh again.

"I mentioned in the article, and I cited Bill Walsh, on the theory that he and others have had that says that most coaches or executives gets about 10 years to make an impact. After that... it's time for a new challenge," Epstein said. "And that happens accross the board. You'll see that university presidents see their peak effectiveness in the first 10 years before they move on."

The discussion then shifted to how Epstein will approach putting together a team.

"My personal approach is that it's best to use non-traditional scouting and objective analysis," he said. "When you can use these at their best, you can view the player in an accurate lens... but when you put both together, that's when you get a really accurate picture." He did refuse to speak specifically about payroll and a couple of onerous contracts, such as Alfonso Soriano's. "I have a personal policy never to comment on player payroll issues," he said.

But Epstein did speak as to the best age to have a player in the fold.

"I think that there's a prime age for players. Maybe from 26 or 27 to 32, when you get the best production and bang for your buck," Epstein said. "If we do our job in the right way, we should have the most players in their prime, hopefully home-grown players moving in to their prime. And there's certainly a role for veterans, but we'll pay for future performance, not for past performance."

One could argue Epstein didn't do this in Boston, when he handed out large contracts to John Lackey and Carl Crawford. Crawford will only get two of his prime years in town and one of them was a disaster. However, Epstein didn't say he was going to follow that line of thinking completely -- only have an overall emphasis on it. That remained true in Boston, even with the signings of Lackey and Crawford, among others.

You can expect Wrigley Field to eventually undergo changes much like Fenway Park. Epstein hinted that upgrading the stadium would lend itself to more revenue.

Near the end of the press conference, Epstein references the movie Office Space as to what his last two weeks were like in Boston. "I felt like the guy in the movie Office Space, who kept showing up and nobody told him he didn't work there anymore," Epstein said. "So, I did end up in the basement with my cubicle and stapler, and I knew it was time to go to Chicago."

Stay tuned to Eye on Baseball as Boston will have its own conference at 3 p.m. ET to announce the ascension of Ben Cherington to Epstein's vacated GM spot.

Read up on the Theo Epstein madness here.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:00 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 4:49 pm
 

Free-agent position rankings: Top-heavy 1B

Fielder, Pujols

By Evan Brunell


For all news, check out the CBSSports.com free agency tracker.

The first-base crop of free agents is extremely top-heavy, boasting the best player in the game in Albert Pujols. Even without Pujols, the first-base list would still be star-studded, as 27-year-old Prince Fielder is also hitting the market and should command a sizable deal. However, after that, it drops off significantly, and by the end of the top 10 list, we're looking at someone who hit .194.

Pujols1. Albert Pujols: What more can you say about Pujols that hasn't been said already? He's the best hitter the 21st century has seen, and he may hold that mantle for quite a while. Pujols may be 31, but that shouldn't stop him from commanding a hefty contract given his strong bounceback after starting the year poorly, plus his dazzling defense. There's been a lot of talk about Pujols' failings in dealing with the media, but neither Pujols nor whichever team he ends up with will care much about his approach to the media. The team will care about homers. Pujols will care about money and winning. The media is just a sideshow.
Potential teams: Cardinals, Cubs, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Mariners, Nationals, Orioles, and because they have money: Yankees, Red Sox

Fielder2. Prince Fielder: Fielder is four years younger than Pujols, but he'll struggle to match what Pujols gets -- not just because Pujols is an elite, once-in-a-generation hitter (which, admittedly, Fielder could become), but because there are conditioning issues with his weight that lend comparisons to a late-career breakdown like Mo Vaughn. However, the lefty has appeared in 485 of a possible 486 regular-season games over the last three years, so it's hard to get too worked up about it. He's going to have a robust market and may even sign in advance of Pujols.
Potential teams: Same as Pujols -- Cardinals, Cubs, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Mariners, Nationals, Orioles, and because they have money: Yankees, Red Sox

Cantu3. Carlos Pena
: Pena can hit balls a long way. It's too bad he can't make contact regularly. But there are far worse first-baseman one could have, and getting a 30-homer player with strong defense and leadership skills is something most teams will kill for; Pena will get a healthy contract this year wherever he ends up. Whichever teams lose out on Pujols and Fielder will gun for Pena, so his market figures to be late-developing and it may be into January before he signs anywhere.
Potential teams: Cubs, Dodgers, Rays, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Orioles, Indians, Twins

Lee4. Derrek Lee
: It looked as if Lee was heading the way of Vladimir Guerrero and the other aging power-hitters as of late after beginning the year in a tough spot with Baltimore. Fortunately for Lee, he got dealt to the Pirates at the trade deadline and that reinvigorated him to the point where he should be able to scrape up a starting job somewhere this winter, although Lee may struggle to land with a top-flight contender. The Pirates would like for Lee to return to the team, but unless the Pirates offer one of the only starting jobs in the game, it's tough to see the righty returning.
Potential teams: Dodgers, Pirates, Rays, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs

Kotchman5. Casey Kotchman
: Kotchman was once a promising up-and-coming first baseman that was part of a Mark Teixeira trade, heading to Atlanta from Los Angeles. That's where his career frayed, and the Red Sox picked him up on a lark. No go. After a forgettable 2010 in Seattle, Kotchman somehow bounced back in Tampa Bay to rake up a .308/.372/.422 line. However, batting average seems to be what's driving Kotchman, and that's one of the least predictive statistics anyone can use. This upcoming season will determine a lot for Kotchman and his future, but no one should invest heavily in him. Unfortunately, after the year he had and with the poor free-agent class, he could haul in a sizable deal.
Potential teams: Rays, Dodgers, Pirates, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Astros, Indians, Orioles

Giambi6. Jason Giambi
: Giambi had a fantastic season as a pinch-hitter for the Rockies, helping to soften the blow when Todd Helton needed out of the lineup. Giambi smashed six doubles and 13 homers in just 152 plate appearances, an absolute wrecking ball off the bench. Who really knows what teams Giambi would sign with, but he'll certainly get plenty of offers to choose from. Wherever he lands, it'll be as a bench player although depending where he ends up, he could be in line to get at least 200 at-bats for the first time since 2009.
Potential teams: Rockies, Yankees, Athletics, Phillies

Overbay7. Lyle Overbay
: Overbay looked cooked as a starting first-baseman, but a resurgence in Arizona after leaving Pittsburgh will help matters significantly, even if he played in just 18 games for the Diamomdbacks. A team desperate for a stopgap at first base could entice Overbay, but it figures that his biggest market will come as a platoon first-baseman. A return to Arizona to mentor and play behind Paul Goldschmidt makes sense. If he wants a shot to start, it'll be with a team that doesn't quite harbor postseason aspirations -- but things have a funny way of working out once options dwindle.
Potential teams: Rays, Orioles, Phillies, Mets, Brewers, Cardinals, Pirates, Astros, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres

Gload8. Ross Gload
: Gload, whose career got a late start, has been plying his trade in the NL the last three seasons, primarily as a pinch-hitter for Philadelphia over the last two years. The first-baseman actually led the NL in pinch-hits in 2011, although you wouldn't know it given his poor statistics. Gload should have no problem getting a pinch-hit gig somewhere in the senior circuit this offseason and might even be enticed back to the AL if he can get a decent amount of playing time. Gload and the remaining names on the list could conceivably end up with any team, as their role would fit virtually anywhere as a backup.
Potential teams: Any team

Branyan9. Russell Branyan
: Branyan is a retirement candidate. At age 35, he took a significant step back as his trademark power was missing all year. While his .197 batting average isn't all that far from his .232 career average, that's not why teams kept playing him. No, Branyan got at-bats because of his power, but he only banged five homers and seven doubles in 146 plate appearances all season. Branyan hit 56 homers combined from 2009-10, so teams will still be willing to give him a shot. He could be entering the phase of his career where he hangs on for a few more season as a pinch-hitter in the NL.
Potential teams: Any team

Cantu10. Jorge Cantu
: Cantu's going to have a lot of trouble securing a major-league deal after the awful season he had, appearing in just 55 games for the Padres and hitting .194/.232/.285 before mercifully being released and finishing out the year in the Rockies' minor-league system.  It's quite the fall for the 29-year-old who hit 29 homers in 2008. Over the last two years, Cantu has regressed significantly and will have to play his way onto a team this spring on a minor-league cont
Potential teams: Any team

Others that could be first basemen: Mark DeRosa, Edwin Encarnacion, Eric Hinske, Conor Jackson, Xavier Nady Juan Rivera, Nick Swisher, Josh Willingham.

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 25, 2011 10:53 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 12:35 pm
 

Ex-Red Sox GM Epstein speaks on departure

Epstein

By Evan Brunell


On the day that Theo Epstein will be named president of the Chicago Cubs, leaving the Red Sox after 10 seasons, he wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Boston Globe, in which he addressed questions as to why he left -- and in the process, may have shaped his upcoming press conference at 12 p.m. ET announcing the move to Chicago to be more about the Cubs, not the Red Sox, with many answers provided in the piece.

"The reason I am leaving has nothing to do with power, pressure, money, or relationships. It has nothing to do with September, either," Epstein wrote, noting that he felt Boston should have an explanation for why he was leaving -- and felt his own 12-year-old self would appreciate such an explanation too, relaying a story of how crushed he was when the Red Sox lost the 1986 World Series.

Among Epstein's notes are that he was planning on leaving Boston after 2012 and grooming Ben Cherington for the role, but found the challenge of the Cubs too enticing, thereby leaving a year earlier than intended. Epstein says he never would have made the move if he didn't believe Cherington was qualified to step in, saying "If not for the complete confidence I have in Ben to address these issues, I could not in good conscience leave the organization at this time. But there is no one in baseball more qualified to be the next general manager of the Red Sox." Epstein also said Cherington was "infinitely" more prepared to be GM than Epstein was in 2003, noting the many varied roles Cherington has held with the Red Sox since 1999.

Epstein also drew parallels between his own search for a new manager after Grady Little was let go following the 2003 season and the current search, saying that his bonding experience with eventual hire Terry Francona, who left the organization as well after 2011, was huge and Epstein did not want to deprive Cherington of that same connection with the eventual manager. Given that the plan was already in place to have Cherington succeed Epstein after 2012 -- a discussion that began in earnest in the summer when the Red Sox were in the midst of a 81-42 surge that left them with the best record in baseball for an extended period of time.

A major reason why Epstein felt comfortable leaving the Red Sox -- both after the season and after 2012 -- is due to Bill Walsh, one-time head coach of the San Francisco 49ers who passed away in 2007 as one of the greatest football coaches in the history of the sport.

"Football legend Bill Walsh used to say that coaches and executives should seek change after 10 years with the same team," Epstein wrote. "The theory is that both the individual and the organization benefit from a change after so much time together. The executive gets rebirth and the energy that comes with a new challenge; the organization gets a fresh perspective, and the chance for true change that comes with new leadership."

Epstein had incredibly glowing words for the organization on the way out, saying that the 7-20 September that destroyed the season for the Red Sox will serve "as an anomaly in the midst of a decades-long run of success for the franchise. Some good may even come from it." Some of that good is already on display, Epstein saying that the players he spoke to after the season are "predicating" themselves this winter while management plans to raise several standards. "September happened despite [the owners], not because of them," Epstein said of principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president Larry Lucchino. Some have speculated as to whether Lucchino's relationship with Epstein was part of the reason the GM left. Lucchino mentored Epstein in Baltimore and San Diego before bringing him to Boston, but the two had a public fallout in 2005 when Epstein briefly resigned as GM at the end of October before returning a month later with more power. Epstein says he has "close" relationships with Henry and Werner, but put Lucchino in another category, saying his relationship with Lucchino was "complicated but ultimately productive and rewarding."

These words doesn't sound like a man desperate to leave Boston, but as Epstein explains, the reason he left one year earlier than intended was simply because the opportunity was too good to pass up.

"The Cubs -- with their passionate fans, dedicated ownership, tradition, and World Series drought -- represented the ultimate new challenge and the one team I could imagine working for after such a fulfilling Red Sox experience," Epstein wrote.

"I won’t be there, but the 12-year-old in me will be rooting for the Red Sox (except, of course, when they play the Cubs in June)."

Read up on the Theo Epstein madness here.

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