Posted on: October 29, 2011 11:07 am

Free-agent position rankings: No OF stars

Carlos Beltran

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Carlos Beltran was the hottest name at the trade deadline and he'll be the top name in free agency. Still, no outfielder will come close to matching Carl Crawford's seven-year, $142 million dollar contract -- the entire crop may not get as much as Crawford and Jayson Werth put together. 

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

Carlos Beltran1. Carlos Beltran:
Even though he'll be 35 early in the 2012 season, the switch-hitting Beltran is the top outfielder available on the market, thanks to a bounce-back (and mostly healthy) year in New York and San Francisco. Although he didn't jumpstart the Giants' offense after his trade tot eh Bay Area, he still produced his fair share, if not more. One player couldn't overcome the Giants' overall lack of offensive production. He hit .323/.369/.551 with seven home runs in 44 games in San Francisco and .300/.385/.525 with 22 homers overall. 
Possible teams: Giants, Yankees, Marlins, Cubs, Braves

Nick Swisher2. Nick Swisher: The Yankees have a $10.25 million option on Swisher, who hit .260/.374/.449 with 23 homers in 2011. The money million won't be an issue for the Yankees, who will most likely pick up the option. There has been a report that New York may exercise the option and try to sign Beltran, then trading Swisher.
Possible teams: Yankees

Michael Cuddyer3. Michael Cuddyer: Cuddyer's versatility could make him a hot commodity. He's primarily played right field, but also played first, second and has played third in the past -- he even pitched a scoreless inning this past season, hitting .284/.346/.459 -- close to his career numbers. He also hit 20 home runs this past season and hit 32 in 2009 before the Twins moved to the spacious Target Field.
Possible teams: Twins, Red Sox, Phillies, Braves, Giants, Angels, Athletics, Cubs, Cardinals, Rockies

Jason Kubel4. Jason Kubel: The 29-year-old enters free agency after playing in just 99 games due to foot problems, it was the first time since 2007 he didn't play at least 140 games, but whoever signs him will be giving that left foot a thorough inspection. Kubel can play either corner spot and give a team some pop -- and if you're into RBI, he did have 103 and 92 in his last two full seasons.
Possible teams: Twins, Red Sox, Cubs, Reds, Indians

Josh Willingham5. Josh Willingham: The right-handed hitting Willigham had career-bests in home run (29) and RBI (98) -- but saw his batting average (.246) and on-base percentage (.332) take a tumble from not only his lofty 2010 numbers, but also his career averages (.262, .361). Willigham is hardly a Gold Glover and there are also concerns about his durability.
Possible teams: Athletics, Reds, White Sox, Twins, Orioles

Coco Crisp6. Coco Crisp: The 31-year-old is the top center fielder available, so that should help his stock. After a hot start, Crisp struggled in 2011, putting up his lowest on-base percentage (.314) since his second season in the majors. He did lead the American League with 49 stolen bases. The A's have had some interest in re-signing Crosp, but the price could be too high. The Giants have said to have interest in him, as well.
Possible teams: Athletics, Giants, Marlins

Grady Sizemore7. Grady Sizemore: The biggest risk/reward of the free agent outfield class -- if he hits free agency. The Indians have a $9 million option on the 29-year-old, who has played just 104 games over the last two seasons because of various injuries. He hasn't played more than 110 games in a season since 2008. When healthy, he's as talented as any player in the game -- but that's a huge if. Either the Indians will gamble and exercise his option or someone else will roll the dice.
Possible teams: Indians, Mariners, Giants, Marlins, Cubs, Reds

David DeJesus8. David DeJesus: DeJesus' first year in Oakland was a serious disappointment, as he saw his average drop .078 and his on-base percentage dropped .061, both to career-lows of .240 and .323, respectively. However, his batting average on balls in play (.271) was 45 points lower than his career mark and his walk rate increased, so it may have just bit a bit of bad luck -- and playing in the Oakland Coliseum. 
Possible teams: Padres, Orioles, Braves, Red Sox, Phillies, Athletics

Andruw Jones9. Andruw Jones: At 34 (he'll be 35 in April), Jones is no longer the elite defensive player he once was, but he put up solid numbers as a platoon player for the Yankees, hitting .247/.356/.495 with 13 home runs in 77 games, but hit .286/.384/.540 against right-handers. He could make a decent addition as a bat off the bench and late-gaem replacement in a corner outfield spot.
Possible teams: Yankees, Braves, Rays, White Sox, Reds

Cody Ross10. Cody Ross: After playing a pivotal role in the Giants' run to the 2010 World Series title and winning the NLCS MVP, Ross struggled in 2011, hitting .240/.325/.405 with 14 home runs. Wherever he lands, Ross will likely have to take a pay cut from the $6.3 million he made in 2010.
Possible teams: Giants, White Sox, Braves, Reds

J.D. Drew11. J.D. Drew: The biggest question is whether Drew will want to play as a 36-year-old platoon or bench player. The days of Drew taking a starting spot seem to be over, as he hit just .222/.315/.302 i 81 games this season. He was close to useless against lefties, hitting just .167/.259/.292 with one homer against left-handers in the final year of his five-year, $70 million deal with the Red Sox.
Possible teams: Rockies, Pirates, retirement

Ryan Ludwick12. Ryan Ludwick: Ludwick has a chance to disappoint his third team in a year -- as the 33-year-old has just not performed since taking off a Cardinals uniform. He started the season hitting .238/.301/.373 with 11 home runs in 101 games for the Padres and .232/.341/.330 with two homers in 38 games for the Pirates. In four years with the Cardinals, Ludwick hit .280/.349/.507.
Possible teams: Pirates, Braves, Reds

Kosuke Fukudome13. Kosuke Fukudome: It's safe to say Fukudome's next contract will be a little smaller than the four-year, $48 million deal he signed with the Cubs before the 2008 season. Fukudome was burdened by high expectations, failing to live up to the contract, hitting .260/.361/.399 in four seasons in MLB. A pretty good on-base guy, Fukudome's best as a leadoff man, which may make him a little more valuable than his numbers suggest.
Possible teams: White Sox, Indians, Reds, Athletics, Japan

Eric Hinske14. Eric Hinske: The Braves have an option on Hinske, and it's just $1.5 million -- so it's likely they'll pick it up. Hinske can play both outfield spots, as well as first base, so he's a useful bench player. However, the Braves are already a little too left-handed heavy and Hinske was dreadful against lefties (.118/.167/.294). 
Possible teams: Braves, Pirates, Mariners

Raul Ibanez15. Raul Ibanez: The Phillies seemed to want to find anyone other than Ibanez to man left field all season, but could never find anyone that was an improvement over the 39-year-old. His average (.245) and OBP (.289) both tumbled this season, but he still hit 20 home runs and drove in 84.
Possible teams: Phillies, Pirates, Mariners, retirement

Jonny Gomes16. Jonny Gomes: Goems projects as a Type B free agent and has publicly said he'd likely accept arbitration if offered. Gomes struggled in 2011, hitting just .209/.325/.389 with the Reds and Nationals, but did see his walk rate increase, although his power too a tumble, hitting just 14 home runs. He's best in a platoon situation, crushing left-handed pitchers to the tune of .311/.407/.456.
Possible teams: Nationals, Braves

Juan Pierre17. Juan Pierre: Pierre stole 41 fewer bases in 2011 than he did in 2010, but he was caught stealing just one fewer time, leading the majors by being caught stealing 17 times. Pierre was once fast, but doesn't seem to be anymore, which means he has very few marketable skills. Well, he did lead the majors with 19 sacrifice bunts.
Possible teams: Giants, Reds, Pirates 

Magglio Ordonez18. Magglio Ordonez: Ordonez re-fractured his right ankle during the ALCS -- the same injury that caused him to consider retirement during the season. Rehabbing that injury could be more than he would like to do at 38, especially coming off of a .255/.303/.331 season. Ordonez did look good in the ALDS victory over the Yankees, but his health just wouldn't hold out. 
Possible teams: Tigers, retirement

Corey Patterson19. Corey Patterson: Somehow, some way, Patterson keeps popping up in the big leagues. He's kind of like a weed. He doesn't do much of anything well, but he's kinda fast. Other than that… yeah. A career .252/.290/.400 hitter, you never think you'll see him again, but ultimately, you do.
Possible teams: Any

Juan Rivera20. Juan Rivera: Rivera's 62 games with the Dodgers after being traded from Toronto showed he may just have a little something left in the tank, hitting .274/.333/.406 with five home runs for Don Mattingly. He's still likely a platoon player, but can play both corner spots and first base. The Dodgers have expressed interest in bringing him back.
Possible teams: Dodgers, Padres, Pirates

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

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 8:23 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 8:35 pm

New Padres GM Byrnes won't let team suffer


By Evan Brunell

In a move that could decimate the Padres for years to come, new Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is razing the Padres front office, sniping Padres GM Jed Hoyer and his assistant, Jason MacLeod, who will fill similar roles in Chicago. San Diego will get a player to be named later as compensation, expected to be a low-level minor leaguer.

This move has been expected for a while, but now that it's finally official, we can look at the shockwaves of this deal in San Diego. Lost in all the hubbub over Theo Epstein joining the Cubs and the Red Sox promoting Epstein's protege, Ben Cherington, is the impact these moves have on San Diego. The club is losing two of its top executives to what is now a "dream team" structure in Chicago, after Epstein went looking for lieutenants he trusted once Boston refused to allow any executives to follow Epstein to Chicago. While the move was done with the blessing of Padres CEO Jeff Moorad, who now gets to elevate Josh Byrnes into the GM seat, it's a major change that could derail the club.

GM Carousel
Byrnes and Moorad have previous ties, when Moorad steered the ship in Arizona and brought Byrnes to town from Boston. The then-35-year-old was hired in 2005 (allowing Hoyer to rise to the assistant GM role with the Red Sox) and was given an eight-year extension prior to the 2008 season Under Byrnes' watch, the Diamondbacks did improve the from the season before, but that's pretty easy to do when the 2004 team lost 111 games. The team did go on to win a division title, but floundered for three seasons before Byrnes was cut loose partway through 2010.

The Diamondbacks' philosophy upon starting its franchise in 1998 was to go hard after top free agents and pay money for them to come to town. It paid off in 2001, with a World Series victory in a series that hasn't been matched since. However, all the deferred cash coming due to aging veterans hit the team hard, and Byrnes came in to try to turn it around. Under his watch, the D-Backs worked their way up from irrelevancy to winning the division title in 2007 with 90 victories. However, the club slumped after that season, all the way to last place in 2009 with 92 losses. When Arizona got 2010 off to a similarly poor start, that was it for Byrnes in town. In the meantime, the farm system suffered, as the club ranked No. 22 heading into 2011, according to Baseball America. However, as BA notes, 'Zona's system is rich in the low minors, which could eventually bear fruit. And of course, the Diamondbacks won the NL West in 2011, in no small part due to Byrnes' contributions.

Meanwhile, Hoyer and MacLeod have brought the Padres along rather nicely in the two years they had to replace Kevin Towers, who is now Diamondbacks GM. The Padres have a fantastic farm system, strengthened by the trade of Adrian Gonzalez to Boston and have made several savvy moves to boost the major-league team, such as plucking Cameron Maybin from the Marlins and seeing him develop into a quality centerfielder like he was supposed to. There's no question that losing Hoyer and MacLeod will hurt San Diego, but Moorad is extremely confident in Byrnes, who is still highly-regarded may even be better than before, having seen how things transpired in Arizona and learning from it

It's near impossible to speculate how well the Padres will do under Byrnes, but fans shouldn't despair. Byrnes understands how to work in a small market and will cultivate the farm system. Fortunately, the club has a well-established manager in Bud Black to oversee the team, so there won't be a risk of Byrnes making a mistake on who to lead the team on the field, having hired a green A.J. Hinch in Arizona and drawing the ire and scorn of many in the game (and yet, there's none for Robin Ventura...), with Hinch and the club showing a lack of fire that destroyed the team. (Hinch remains well-regarded and should manage again or become GM one day.)

Given how Byrnes and Hoyer come from similar schools of thought and worked under Epstein, it's unlikely Byrnes will rip up the processes that have been installed in San Diego over the last few years. Rather, he'll continue them, while putting his own stamp on the team. The rise of Arizona in 2007 and 2011 should make Pads fans confident in Byrnes, even though the loss of Hoyer hurts.

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

Posted on: October 26, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 4:41 pm

Free-agent postion rankings: Thin crop at 2B

Brandon Phillips

By C. Trent Rosecrans

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

Second base is hardly a marquee position -- there are some good players at the position, but at its core, it's a position of deficiencies. Second basemen generally aren't good enough defensively to play shortstop, or hit well enough to be a third baseman or outfielder. That's not to say there aren't some great players who play the position like Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley, but it's not a marquee position, and it's even less so in this free agent market.

Brandon Phillips1. Brandon Phillips: If the Reds were to decide against exercising Phillips' $12 million option, he'd certainly be in demand. But that's not happening. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has said he's planning on picking up Phillips' option, while Phillips prefers an extension. Phillips has said the Reds simply picking up the option on his contract would be a slap in the face -- but maybe one day I can be slapped in the face for $12 million. Phillips said the Reds won't get the "homeboy hookup" (otherwise known as the "hometown discount") in any extension talk. So while Phillips will be in a Reds uniform on opening day, the end of the season and beyond, that may be a question.
Possible teams: Reds

Jamey Carroll2. Jamey Carroll: Yep, Jamey Carroll is number two on this list -- which should tell you as much as you need to know about the remaining 11 names on this list. Carroll is a fine player, but nothing more than that. He hit .290/.359/.347 for the Dodgers this season and hasn't hit a home run since 2009. He did put up a .383 on-base percentage as a leadoff man, something that could make him much more attractive to potential suitors. Carroll could be a good second baseman (or shortstop) for somebody, but he's not exactly the type of player that's going to turn around the team or get a fanbase fired up.
Possible teams: Dodgers, White Sox, Royals, Diamondbacks, Rockies

Jerry Hairston Jr.3. Jerry Hairston Jr.: Hairston is one of the more versatile players in the game and also had a very good postseason, so good that someone may consider him an everyday player. Hairston played second, third, shortstop, left field and center field last season, but started each of the NLCS games at third base. He played 45 games for the Brewers and 75 for the Nationals in 2011, hitting .270/.344/.383 with five home runs overall.
Possible teams: Brewers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Mets, Royals

Ramon Santiago4. Ramon Santiago: Santiago could play shortstop as well, increasing his value. This year was the first year he played mostly second base, starting 40 games at second and 22 at shortstop for the Tigers. Still, he doesn't exactly project as a first-division starter at either spot. He hit .260/.311/.384, not too far off his average in his 10 seasons in the big leagues with the Tigers and Mariners. He's most likely a utility infielder at this point in his career.
Possible teams: Twins, White Sox, Diamondbacks, Padres, Dodgers

Mark Ellis5. Mark Ellis: Ellis certainly earned brownie points for teams watching from afar when he gracefully stepped aside for the arrival of second baseman Jemile Weeks in Oakland and was then traded to Colorado. Ellis, a good defensive second baseman, struggled offensively in Oakland before the trade but hit quite a bit better in Colorado (imagine that). Ellis is likely to return to Colorado.
Possibile teams: Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers

Aaron Hill6. Aaron Hill: The Diamondbacks have options for the next two seasons on Hill, but there's close to zero chance the team will pay him $8 million for next season. Still, Arizona has expressed interest in bringing back Hill, whom the Diamondbacks got in a change of scenery trade with the Blue Jays. Hill hit .315/.386/.492 with two homers in 33 games for the Diamondbacks after hitting just .225/.270/.313 for the Blue Jays.
Possible teams: Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Cardinals

Aaron Miles7. Aaron Miles: After his disastrous turn in Chicago, Miles has rebounded pretty well the last two seasons. For the Dodgers in 2011, Miles hit .275/.314/.346 in 136 games. Miles will be 35 next season. The Dodgers have expressed some interest in bringing him back. Miles made $500,000 last season and should get a little bump, but don't look for anyone giving him a long-term deal.
Possible teams: 
Dodgers, Cardinals, Nationals

Jack Wilson8. Jack Wilson: Wilson finished last season with the Braves, playing shortstop and third base. he played mostly second base for the Mariners to start the season, but that was because the team had Brendan Ryan at short. Wilson, who has never had much of a bat, may be entering the stage of his career where he can serve as a late-inning defensive replacement at any of the infield positions.
Possible teams: White Sox, Royals, Brewers, Dodgers, Cardinals

Carlos Guillen9. Carlos Guillen: Let's just say Guillen will take a pay cut in 2012 after his four-year, $48 million contract with the Tigers has run out. In those four seasons, the Tigers got a .266/.345/421 hitter with 30 home runs and 12 stolen bases. At 35 in 2011, Guillen hit .232/.265/.368, playing second base and first base in just 28 games.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Cardinals, Rockies, retirement

Kelly Johnson10. Kelly Johnson: Johnson was the other half of the Blue Jays-Diamondbacks underachiever swap. And like Hill, he responded well in his new home, hitting .270/.364/.417 in 33 games in Toronto, while hitting .209/.287/.412 with 18 homers in 114 games with Arizona. The Blue Jays are likely to offer Johnson arbitration, so he can take it or hit the free agent market. He's likely on the borderline between Type A and Type B, if a Type A, he'd almost be forced to take arbitration because his value on the free agent market would take a huge hit if a team had to give up a draft pick. But the class of second basemen is so weak, he may be able to go anyway. It's an interesting situation.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Royals, Dodgers

Nick Punto11. Nick Punto: Punto hit .27 8/.388/.421 in a bounce-back year for the Cardinals, but was limited to just 166 plate appearances, so take that with a grain of salt. Punto's no longer an everyday player (if he ever really was), but is instead a utility player and there's always a place for that. He does add defensive value at most spots he plays, so there will be some demand.
Possible teams: Cardinals, White Sox, Mets, Nationals, Dodgers, Padres

Craig Counsell12. Craig Counsell: After the NLCS loss to the Cardinals, the Brewers utility man said he wasn't whether he'd return for a 17th season, but he'd certainly listen to offers. "When you're hitting .170 and you're 41 years old, you question yourself, there's no doubt," Counsell told me after the Brewers' loss to the Cardinals. It's a good question. He's had a very good career, but he did hit just .178/.280/.223 and tied a big league record with a 45 at-bat hitless streak.
Possible teams: Brewers, Diamondbacks, retirement

Jose Lopez13. Jose Lopez: The Marlins out righted Lopez to the minors in July, before calling him back up in August. With the Rockies and Marlins in 2011, he hit a combined .216/.245/.373.He did hit .273/.296/.597 with six home runs in 32 games (16 starts) after being called back up. He played third, second and first base. An All-Star in 2006 with the Mariners, Lopez will likely sign a minor-league contract to get into camp with someone, but he's no team's idea of an answer to any question other than who is on the travel roster for a split squad game.
Possible teams:
Nationals, Dodgers, Padres, White Sox, Royals, Mets

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

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

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

Posted on: October 25, 2011 6:38 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 8:20 pm

Report: Boston unlikely to hire a current manager

Ben CheringtonBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Although there have been whispers about the Red Sox trying to hire Toronto manager John Farrrell to replace departed manager Terry Francona, the Boston Herald reports that it's a "longshot" the Red Sox would hire a current manager.

The Blue Jays changed a policy allowing its employees to interview for any opening, meaning Farrell won't be a candidate in Boston. But if the team isn't going to hire a sitting manager, that means the Rays' Joe Maddon, Padres' Bud Black and Indians' Manny Acta are out as well.

The Herald lists the Blue Jays' Don Wakamatsu, Dodgers' Tim Wallach, Indians' Sandy Alomar Jr., Phillies' Pete Mackanin, Brewers' Dale Sveum and Yankees' Tony Pena as possible candidates. Of those names, only Wakamatsu and Pena have held full-time managerial positions before. Mackanin has twice been an interim manager.

During his news conference on Tuesday, new Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters he expects to begin interview soon and has a list of candidates. He did say the team would like previous managerial experience, but wouldn't require it.

"Previous managerial experience would be a benefit, but we're not going to put ourselves in a box by requiring that," Cherington said. "We'll certainly consider those that have previous managerial experience, but also those who don't. We need the right person. I don't think we can afford to put ourselves in any sort of box in our effort to find the right person."

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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 22, 2011 3:28 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:51 pm

Free-agent position rankings: Papelbon leads RP

By C. Trent Rosecrans

With the free agent reliever market, it always seems to be buyer-beware, but every year teams overspend for closers and setup men. While not exactly a bumper crop this year, there are some good arms available, even if the top closers would all prefer to stay with their current teams. Still, we all know those preferences can go out the window when a higher offer comes.

Jonathan Papelbon1. Jonathan Papelbon: After a disappointing 2010, Papelbon returned to form in 2011, despite recording his lowest save total (31) since becoming the Red Sox closer. Not only was his ERA (2.94) down from 2010, he had his best strikeout rate (12.2 per nine innings) since 2007 and lowest walk rate (1.40 per nine innings) since 2008. His xFIP was 2.16, the lowest of his career. At 31, he's still an elite closer and the best available on the market. The Red Sox had been said to be interested in bringing him back and they still have the payroll to absorb a high-priced closer. Still, don't expect Papelbon to take a home-town discount.
Possible teams:  Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Phillies

Heath Bell2. Heath Bell: When the Padres decided not to trade Bell during the season, it appeared he would be staying in San Diego. However, when the season ended with Bell not getting an extension, things became less sure. Now, Jed Hoyer is off to the Cubs and Josh Byrnes is in as the new GM. With this much change, things could easily change for Bell, who has said all along he'd prefer to stay in San Diego. The Padres may prefer to spend their money elsewhere. Bell is 34, but coming off his third straight 40-save season. One thing that could be troubling for a team is his falling strikeout rate. After striking out 10.2 per nine innings in 2009 and 11.1 in 2010, he struck out a career-low 7.3 per nine innings in 2011. His strikeout-to-walk ration was a career-low 2.43, although that was due to the lower strikeout numbers instead of more walks. Any team considering spending big money on him will have to seriously think about his age and if he's worth what he may command based on gaudy save numbers. He's also been aided by pitching at spacious Petco Park. The Padres may decide they don't need an All-Star closer and their money could be better spent elsewhere. Bell has said he would accept arbitration if offered.
Possible teams: Padres, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Orioles

Ryan Madson3. Ryan Madson: After several attempts earlier in his career to serve as a closer, Madson finally showed the ability to close out games in 2011, finishing with 32 saves in 34 opportunities. He's said he'd prefer to stay in Philadelphia, but that's easy to say during the season. A Scott Boras client, the Nationals have to be considered in the mix for Madson, who struck out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings, while walking just 16 batters.
Possible teams: Phillies, Nationals, Red Sox

Jose Valverde4. Jose Valverde: The Tigers hold a $9 million club option on Valverde, which is pretty reasonable for a guy who led the majors with 49 saves and didn't blow a single save all season. Valverde's last outing was far from ideal, allowing four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of Game 4 of the ALCS, but he's still an elite closer (if not exactly the most comfortable guy to watch). Valverde would command big bucks on the open market, but it seems highly unlikely he'll be there.
Possible teams: Tigers

Francisco Cordero5. Francisco Cordero: The Reds probably won't pick up his $12 million option, but he could still stay a Red. Cordero's been a stabilizing influence on the Reds bullpen in his four years in Cincinnati, but for a team like the Reds, it makes little sense to have a closer as the highest-paid player. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and Cordero have both publicly said they'd like to work out an extension for him to stay in Cincinnati. It's similar to what the Reds did with Bronson Arroyo last offseason. The team is moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, so there's no real in-house candidate to fill in for Cordero if he leaves, so it makes sense to work out a deal. That said, someone could still pop in and make a bigger offer. The Brewers thought they had a deal with Cordero before he left for the Reds, so history could repeat itself.
Possible teams: Reds, Nationals, Mets, Orioles, Blue Jays

Francisco Rodriguez6. Francisco Rodriguez: After being traded to the Brewers, Rodriguez was not used as the team's closer, and said as a free agent, he'd like the opportunity to close again. That's not going to come in Milwaukee, where John Axford has established himself as the Brewers closer. However, after the Brewers' loss in the NLCS, owner Mark Attanasio made sure to point out just how important Rodriguez was to the team's bullpen and how much the club appreciated what he brought to the team. Although he's clearly not going to be the closer in Milwaukee, money talks -- and enough money and he may decide he can set up Axford. Sure, he spoke of being frustrated about not closing in Milwaukee during the year, but seeing the market could open his mind to other propositions.
Possible teams: Brewers, Cardinals, Orioles, Nationals, Phillies

Kyle Farnsworth7. Kyle Farnsworth: Fransworth more than lived up to his one-year deal last season, rewarding the Rays for taking a chance on him with 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA. He struck out 51 in 57 2/3 inning and had a career-best 0.988 WHIP and also his lowest walk rate of his career (1.9 BB/9). He made $2.6 million last season and the Rays have a $3.3 million club option (with a $650,000 buyout). It's basically a no-brainer to pick it up. Even if he doesn't repeat his 2011 numbers, he has the type of arm some team will want at the deadline to fortify a bullpen.
Possible teams: Rays, Mets, Marlins

Joe Nathan8. Joe Nathan: It's unlikely the Twins pick up Nathan's $12.5 million option -- that's just too rich for a guy pitching in just 48 games after missing the entire 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery. Still, both the Twins and Nathan are said to have interest in the closer returning to Minnesota. The 36-year-old has 260 of his 261 career saves in a Twins uniform and it's hard to imagine the two sides not working something out.
Possible teams: Twins

Kerry Wood9. Kerry Wood: The 34-year-old has already said he will either return to the Cubs in 2012 or retire. Count on the former. Wood was steady in the bullpen in 2011, striking out 57 in 51 innings and also showed no need to be the closer. Steady set-up men are something every team needs, and the Cubs as much as any other team. Wood took a below-market deal to return to the Cubs last season, earning just $1.5 million, and he may be open to doing it again. If so, it seems like a no-brainer to bring him back.
Possible teams: Cubs, retirement

Jeremy Affeldt10. Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt is a left-handed reliever, but he's not just a left-handed specialist. Sure, his numbers against lefties are better (they hit just .144/.206/.200 against him), but he can also stay in and do a good job against right-handers. That versatility adds to his value on the mariet. He's been part of the very good Giants bullpen and expect him to stay there. San Francisco has a $5 million option on him after he earned $4.5 each of the past two seasons. He's earned the pay bump with his solid numbers. If the Giants don't exercise his option, they'll likely work out a multi-year deal with the team.
Possible teams: Giants

Jonathan Broxton11. Jonathan Broxton: Coming off a disappointing 2010, the hard-throwing right-hander appeared in just 14 games and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in September to remove a bone spur and loose bodies. Once an All-Star, Broxton's first year of free agency will likely end with a one-year, incentive-laden contract. Broxton is just 27, but if he's no longer throwing 99 mph, what exactly is his worth? It's unlikely he'll get a job as a closer, but will have the opportunity to prove himself in the spring. The Dodgers appear ready to wash their hands of Broxton, despite the right-hander's statements he'd like to return.
Possible teams: Anyone but the Dodgers

Arthur Rhodes12. Arthur Rhodes: Rhodes has said he wants to pitch one more season and then retire. Rhodes has pitched for nine clubs in his career, including two this season -- the Cardinals and Rangers. While disappointing in Texas, Rhodes has rebounded with the Cardinals after being designated for assignment by the Rangers. Tony La Russa loves playing matchups, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him stay in St. Louis. 
Possible teams: Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Blue Jays

Jon Rauch13. Jon Rauch: Rauch had 11 saves for the Blue Jays, pitching in 53 games for the Blue Jays this season. Toronto has a $3.75 million option on the 6-foot-10 right-hander, which is affordable enough. Rauch gave up 11 home runs, the most he's allowed since 2008. While a former closer, he's not exactly anyone's idea of a closer going forward. 
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Twins, Braves, Nationals

Darren Oliver14. Darren Oliver: The 41-year-old left-hander has said he'd like to pitch one more year. His 2011 proves he can still do it, appearing in 61 games and putting up a 2.29 ERA. His splits against left-handers and right-handers weren't too far off, with only his strikeout rates really spiking against lefties. He had 23 strikeouts of lefties in 94 plate appearances and 21 against right-handers in 121 plate appearances. Righties had an OPS of .594 against him, lefties .587. He's spent 10 of his 18 seasons in Texas in three stints. It seems like a perfect fit for him to return.
Possible teams: Rangers, Cardinals

Jason Frasor15. Jason Frasor: The White Sox hold a $3.75 million option for 2012, but the right-hander struggled after being part of the trade that sent him to his hometown at the trade deadline. Frasor was part of the massive three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays and Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel to St. Louis. In 20 appearances for the White Sox, he had a 5.09 ERA, but did strike out more than a batter an inning (20 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings). He had a 2.98 ERA in 44 appearances for the Blue Jays. 
Possible teams: White Sox, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks

Brad Lidge16. Brad Lidge: The Phillies declined a $12.5 million option on their former closer, giving him a $1.5 million buyout. Lidge missed most of the season with a shoulder strain, but did pitch well upon his return, putting up just a 1.40 ERA in 25 appearances, striking out 23 in 19 1/3 innings. Lidge has said he's open to returning as a set-up man, but it appears his days of closing for the Phillies are done, even with Ryan Madson as a free agent. Still, Philadelphia needed several closers to get through the season and having Lidge back could be a good backup plan. Neither side has ruled out a return for Lidge at Citizen's Bank Park.
Possible teams: Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels

Dan Wheeler17. Dan Wheeler: The Red Sox hold a $3 million option on the right-hander who will be 34 next season. After coming over from the Rays, Wheeler put up a 4.38 ERA out of the Red Sox bullpen. Wheeler spent some time on the disabled list with  a calf strain and then was unavailable down the stretch with forearm stiffness. His health will be major issue Boston's decision to bring him back. If deemed healthy, it would seem he'd have a good chance of returning to the Red Sox. Wheeler had a better xFIP (3.71) than ERA, with a high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) than he did in either of the past three seasons (.272).
Possible teams: Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Angels

Frank Francisco18. Frank Francisco: Francisco is a Type B free agent, and the Blue Jays will likely offer him arbitration. The 32-year-old right-hander came over in the Mike Napoli trade and picked up 17 saves for the Blue Jays, putting up a 3.55 ERA in 54 games. He struck out 53 in 50 2/3 innings, walking 18. He's not exactly anyone's first choice for a closer, but he could go into a camp and compete for that job, or at least be a fill-in while some team's closer is injured.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Nationals, Astros, Padres, Phillies

Chad Qualls19. Chad Qualls: San Diego is expected to decline the $6 million option on Qualls. Qualls appeared in 77 games for the Padres in 2011, putting up a 3.51 ERA in San Diego. The Padres are reportedly interested in bringing him back, just not at $6 million. He thrived at Petco Park, earning a 2.09 ERA at home and 5.05 on the road, so it's not a stretch to expect that he would have interest in returning to the Padres.
Possible teams: Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Angels

Matt Capps20. Matt Capps: Just 28, the right-hander is a former closer for the Pirates, Nationals and Twins, but saw his strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) and fastball velocity (92.9 mph) drop this year and his ERA rise to 4.25, hardly the way you want to enter free agency. Capps made $7.15 million last season, earning 15 saves for Minnesota. He'll take a pay cut in 2012, likely signing another one-year deal, hoping to re-establish his worth. 
Possible teams: all of them

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

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 11:31 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 11:50 pm

Epstein leaving? Don't worry, Red Sox


By Evan Brunell

The Red Sox empire was torn asunder Friday night as Boston, in a joint press release with the Chicagop Cubs, officially announced that GM Theo Epstein was resigning in Boston and signing on in Chicago.

No one could have imagined this when the year began: the Red Sox's disgraced team stumbling to the end, capping in a sullen Jonathan Papelbon departure from the mound, claiming the lives of Terry Francona, who aged 50 years in eight seasons, and boy wonder Epstein, who is hightailing it to Chicago, desperate for a challenge. The Red Sox, who had once won two rings in a four-year span and looked like a superfranchise for a while there, couldn't hold together under explosive circumstances and, and have detonated spectacularly. Beer drinking. Clubhouse problems. Conditioning issues. Then, Francona, a manager who may or may not have had ownership backing walked away, followed by the greatest architect in BoSox history. Epstein, departs for a challenge that could land him in the baseball annals for life ... if he makes good.

And yet, funny thing is, the Red Sox will be just fine.

There is rightful doom and gloom in Boston these days. This Red Sox team will be rememberd for a long time, and not in a complimentary way. But despite the beating the Red Sox have sustained this offseason, there is still plenty of light, too. For one, the ownership is still here -- the people who have poured bag of money after bag of money into the club and let the baseball people do what they do best. Their brain trust is so strong, they resisted any overtures to allow baseball operations folks to follow Epstein to Chicago. And that could have saved a serious amount of talent -- just look at who Epstein swiped instead... current Padres GM Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Josh Bynes. No, really.

That's because there's a lot to like about the new front office, which will have Ben Cherington heading the department. Mike Hazen, Craig Shipley and Amiel Sawdaye are all rising stars. When's the last time that happened in Boston? When Epstein's regime began. And these men have studied at the feet of Epstein from the ground up, and assistant GM Allard Baird has developed into a valuable confidant. They are part of a front office that has a player-development machine humming along quite nicely, and despite Epstein's rather copious free-agency missteps as of late, are still learned from one of the best in player acquisition. That's not to say that there won't be changes. Cherington is known to be more patient than Epstein, and we don't know how that might impact the team.

Whatever patience Cherington has, Boston's farm system is starting to show signs of fruit once more, after the high minors slumped the last two seasons. The prospect tree is led by third baseman Will Middlebrooks, and incumbent third baseman Kevin Youkilis can already hear Middlebrooks' stampede coming.

So, while Epstein's departure creates a huge void, the right processes are already in place to continue winning.

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 10:08 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 10:55 pm

Epstein resigns from Red Sox, takes over Cubs

Theo Epstein

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Cubs and Red Sox have released a joint statement to announce Theo Epstein has resigned from his position as the general manager of the Red Sox to become the President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs, effective immediately. An official press conferences will be held on Tuesday, both in Chicago and in Boston. Epstein will be introduced in Chicago, while the Boston news conference will be to name Epstein's successor, expected to be current assistant GM Ben Cherrington.

While the teams have not agreed upon compensation, they have "reached an agreement regarding a process by which appropriate compensation will be determined for the Red Sox and that issue will be resolved in the near term."

Epstein drama

While it's been expected for about a week that Epstein would take over the Cubs, but the issue of compensation has held up the deal. Although the deal may be done, it won't be announced until Tuesday because Major League Baseball will not allow teams to make major announcements during the World Series, or at least on the same day as games. Tuesday will be the next travel day, if the series isn't wrapped up in five games -- and if it is, Tuesday would be the first day after the World Series.

Epstein is expected to be joined in Chicago by Padres general manager Jed Hoyer, who will hold the same title with the Cubs. Former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes is expected to take over in San Diego. There's still the question of whether the Padres will require compensation for Hoyer's departure, something CBSSports.com senior writer Scott Miller reported earlier was expected. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Friday that the Padres have granted the Cubs permission to speak to Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod. Dan Hayes of the North County Times tweets that the Padres and Cubs have already agreed to a list of Cubs prospects for the Padres to choose from for compensation and that besides Hoyer and McLeod, no other Padres officials will be headed to Chicago.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com