Posted on: December 1, 2011 4:41 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 9:57 pm

Geivett to interview for Astros GM job

Rockies executive Bill Geivett will interview in the next few days for the Astros' vacant general manager position, and one baseball executive said it's believed he has a "real legitimate shot" at getting the job.

Others familiar with the Astros search weren't so sure, cautioning that the team is still early in the process and is in the process of seeking permission to talk to many candidates.

Rays general manager Andrew Friedman is the Astros' preferred candidate, but one source familiar with the search said it remains "doubtful" that Friedman would make the move. Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine was also considered a strong candidate, but he pulled out of the running on Wednesday.

Just as happened with the Orioles GM job last month, some people in baseball are questioning how desirable the Astros position is, particularly given the awkward timing of the process.

Because Jim Crane wasn't approved as the team's new owner until mid-November, the Astros didn't fire Ed Wade until this week, and now they're in the strange position of searching for a GM in the days leading up to next week's winter meetings (with a certainty that the search will stretch past the meetings). That makes it tough for candidates to leave prior jobs, and will make it next to impossible for whoever gets the Astros job to assemble a staff of assistants.

Geivett is interested in the job, has the Rockies' blessing -- even though it would be tough for them to lose him -- and is by all accounts a qualified candidate. The one question, one person familiar with the search said, was whether Geivett is aggressive enough for Crane's liking.

The 48-year-old Geivett is a former minor-league player who has been with the Rockies for 11 years, running the minor-league and scouting operations and most recently serving as assistant GM. His success in running both scouting and player development should be a benefit with the Astros, who will need to acquire and develop plenty of new talent.

"He's done everything," said one veteran scout who knows Geivett well. "He's ready."

And, at least for now, he's interested.

Other potential candidates may not be, and there were even rumblings Thursday that the Astros' treatment of ex-club president Tal Smith (fired by phone Sunday) had helped turn some people off.

Levine won't say why he didn't want the job, and didn't even mention the Astros by name in his statement Wednesday. He focused instead on how much he wanted to stay with the Rangers, where he is part of a management team that has had great success and also gets along extremely well.

Levine will remain in his current job with the Rangers, after some talk earlier that he would shift to overseeing the farm system. The Rangers have had an opening since Scott Servais left to work for new GM Jerry Dipoto with the Angels. Now, it's possible that job could go to ex-Astros GM Tim Purpura.

Posted on: November 30, 2011 9:11 pm

Valentine falls into bed of Red Sox roses

For all the talk about how Bobby Valentine can change the Red Sox, let's remember that he's taking over a team that spent 4 1/2 months as the best team in baseball.

"He fell into a bed of roses," another big-league manager said Wednesday, the day the Red Sox made it official that Valentine will take over as their new manager.

Valentine will try to avoid the thorns. The Red Sox front office gets to spend the next couple of months finding a few more roses.

It can't be any harder (or as time-consuming) as finding a new manager, right?

Besides, the Sox got a good long look at what needs to be done, in the form of September's painful collapse.

The problem is that we're now two months into Boston's offseason, and rather than get a start on fixing what's wrong on the roster, the Red Sox added to their issues by losing free-agent closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies.

Somewhere, the Red Sox will find a new closer. One rival official predicted Wednesday that the Sox will be the team that ends up trading for Andrew Bailey, the very-available A's right-hander.

But where will the Sox find two or more new starting pitchers?

If there was one biggest key to sinking the Sox in September -- yes, bigger than clubhouse beer and fried chicken -- it was the failure to find or develop enough rotation depth. Aces Josh Beckett and Jon Lester were subpar in the final month, and Clay Buchholz was hurt, but the Sox were forced to use the overmatched Kyle Weiland or the over-age Tim Wakefield to start far too many games.

The Red Sox also need another outfielder. No, they need a right-handed hitting outfielder.

Boston's collapse was mostly pitching-driven, but Kevin Youkilis' injury also left the Red Sox lineup far too weak against left-handed pitching. The Red Sox tried to add a right-handed hitter at the July 31 deadline last summer, but couldn't get it done (just as they couldn't add enough pitching depth).

More roster depth all-around wouldn't hurt. One scout who saw the Red Sox in September said Wednesday that he was surprised by how much the team seemed to be affected, offensively and defensively, by the Youkilis injury.

The problems are obvious. The solutions are out there, and maybe front-office power-broker Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington won't have as hard a time agreeing on the answers as they did on a manager.

Just remember that the Red Sox are fixing a team that is already one of baseball's very best, despite what you saw in September (and despite the chaos you've seen since then).

"They're loaded," the rival manager said.

Yes, they are.
Posted on: November 30, 2011 7:03 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 8:56 pm

Rockies sign Hernandez, trade Iannetta to Angels

The Rockies have traded catcher Chris Iannetta to the Angels in exchange for pitcher Tyler Chatwood, and Colorado has signed free-agent Ramon Hernandez to replace Iannetta.

The teams announced the trade Wednesday night, and Rockies later announced that Hernandez had agreed to terms, pending a physical. reported that Hernandez will get $6.5 million on a two-year contract.

The 35-year-old Hernandez hit .282 with 12 home runs in 91 games last year with the Reds. Iannetta, 28, hit 14 home runs in 112 games for the Rockies with a .238 batting average but a .370 on-base percentage.

The Rockies have been looking to add starting pitchers this winter.

Posted on: November 30, 2011 5:46 pm

Two names to watch for Tigers: Crisp and Cespedes

Barring a late intervention from owner Mike Ilitch, the Tigers aren't going after Jose Reyes. It's unlikely that they would make a strong bid for Aramis Ramirez, sources say.

And while they need a starting pitcher, it's more likely that they fill that need through a trade than through free agency.

So where do they look next, now that they've re-signed infielder Ramon Santiago to a two-year deal for a little more than $4 million?

Two names to watch: Coco Crisp, and Yoennis Cespedes.

Both come with risk, but either one would fit the Tigers' desire to get faster and more athletic.

Cespedes, the Cuban soon-to-be free agent, interests the Tigers enough that general manager Dave Dombrowski is making an rare scouting trip to the Dominican Republic. But Cespedes is drawing huge interest from many teams (and sending many GMs to the Dominican), and it's too early to know how high his price will rise and what chance the Tigers have of signing him.

The Tigers have also been in contact with Crisp's agent, and their interest is believed to be strong. Crisp has expressed a preference to stay on the West Coast, but it's believed that the chance to win could help lure him to Detroit.

Crisp is thought to prefer the Giants, but they're so financially limited that he may not be an option. reported that the A's have interest in re-signing him.

If the Tigers sign Crisp, he would likely replace Delmon Young in left field, and would take Austin Jackson's spot as the leadoff hitter (with Jackson moving to the bottom of the order). The Tigers like Young, but Crisp is a better fit for their needs at this point.

Young would have some trade value. The Tigers offered him to the Braves for Martin Prado last month, but those talks died.

Posted on: November 30, 2011 4:37 pm

On 2012 Hall ballot, it's no, no and no

The first (and easiest) part of the Hall of Fame voting process is crossing off the names that obviously don’t fit.

This year, it's far too easy.

I counted 13 new names on the 2012 ballot that was announced Wednesday. It took me about 13 seconds to realize that I won't be voting for any of them.

Jeromy Burnitz? Bill Mueller? Tony Womack?

No, no, no.

Vinny Castilla? Brian Jordan? Bernie Williams?

No, no, no.

And here's my problem: I only voted for two guys last year (Robbie Alomar and Jack Morris), and one of them (Alomar) got in.

That leaves me with one holdover (Morris) and no newcomers. That leaves me with one name on my ballot, and it leaves me with one big question:

If I'm only voting for one guy (voters can pick up to 10 names), am I being too picky?

I don't know the answer yet. I've got a month to figure it out, because the Hall ballot must be postmarked by Dec. 31 (with results announced Jan. 9).

If I decide that my standards have been too strict, the two guys I'm most likely to add to the ballot are shortstops Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell. Both have good (and similar cases), and they were the last two players I eliminated a year ago.

I'll look at other names, too.

I'm not sure yet. It's going to take a lot of time, and a lot of thought.

A lot more than 13 seconds.

Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:44 am

After 35 years, Astros fire Smith by phone

Nobody uses fax machines anymore, so the Astros fired Tal Smith by phone.

I suppose they could have sent him a text, or tried to direct-message him on Twitter.

Look, it's hard to blame new owner Jim Crane for wanting a fresh start. As one long-time Astros person said to me Sunday night, Crane needs to look forward rather than back, and needs to start building something new.

Hiring George Postolos to replace Smith as club president and hiring a new general manager to replace the fired Ed Wade (Rangers assistant Thad Levine was a hot name Sunday night) are defensible moves, even inevitable moves.

But why do these firings have to be so messy?

When I heard from a source that Smith had been fired by phone, it brought back memories of August 1992, when Mike Ilitch officially took over the Tigers from Tom Monaghan.

Monaghan's last act, reportedly ordered by Ilitch as part of the same, was to fire club president Bo Schembechler and longtime club executive Jim Campbell.

Campbell, if I remember it right, was fired by phone. Schembechler (I'm sure of this) was fired by fax.

Campbell was 68 years old, and he had been with the Tigers for 43 of those years. Schembechler had been with the Tigers just 2 1/2 years, but he was a legend in the state.

Smith is 78. He just finished his 35th year with the Astros. He doesn't need to be club president anymore. But you'd think a new owner and new president might want to sit down and talk to him about the challenges ahead (who knows more about baseball in Houston?).

You'd even think that they wouldn't mind having him around in some capacity as the Astros celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2012.

Smith was there at the start, when they were the expansion Colt .45s. He was there when the Astrodome opened, and when the Astroturf went in, and he was there when Minute Maid Park opened.

He was there in 2005, when the Astros won the National League title for the only time in their history.

Now he's gone, and that's fine. Nobody deserves a job forever.

But anybody who did all that Tal Smith did deserves more than to be fired on a phone call.

Posted on: November 23, 2011 2:10 pm

New CBA hurts 'balance' more than it helps

They keep talking about "competitive balance."

Then they make it harder for the less competitive teams to get that balance.

They tease them. But it's just a tease.

I didn't like the new rules on draft and international bonuses last week, when they were still sketchy and unannounced.

It's no better now that we know most of the details.

This isn't going to help teams like the Pirates and Royals. It's not going to hurt teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.

It's not going to help Theo Epstein, who came to Wrigley Field preaching the wonders of player development, only to find out that baseball just made player development less costly but more difficult.

It's not going to help baseball, because lower signing bonuses could chase away talented two-sport athletes.

Bud Selig didn't get the hard-slotting system he wanted for the June draft, but what he did get in the new collective bargaining agreement announced Tuesday might well be worse.

Here's why:

The last few years, teams like the Pirates, Nationals and Royals have realized that they can build a farm system quickly by spending big in the draft. The draft and the international market have become the one place where teams like that can realistically compete with the big boys for the best talent.

Now, if they exceed their assigned "signing bonus pool," they'll lose future draft picks, or the right to sign future international stars.

Baseball would remind you that the "signing bonus pool" will be higher for teams that pick higher in the draft (the teams that finished lower in the standings the previous year). That's true, but the cost of losing a future pick is far greater for those teams than for teams like the Yankees.

I'm not advocating a hard-slotting system, which would assign a specific bonus to each draft pick. But it sure would be a lot harder for the Yankees to take advantage of that system than this one.

The Yankees have been more than willing to surrender their first-round pick to sign free agents. They did it last winter to sign middle reliever Rafael Soriano.

So wouldn't they be just as willing to surrender a future pick to overspend on a big-time talent in the draft?

In most cases, the pick they'd be surrendering would be somewhere in the 20s. If the Pirates did the same, the pick they'd be surrendering might well be in the top 10.

And believe me, the new system makes it very easy to lose a pick. You only need to exceed your assigned "bonus pool" by five percent in any one year to lose the following year's first-round pick.

Baseball would explain that teams can choose to divide the "bonus pool" any way they wish, spending more on their first-round pick and going cheap on the second and third rounds, for example. But by the current rules, the Pirates overspent by a ton in both the first and second rounds in 2011.

Baseball would remind you that picks surrendered by teams that overspend will be distributed in a lottery that favors teams that need the most help (i.e. finished lowest in the standings). But to qualify for the lottery, you need to stay within your limit, and potentially allow the best talent to go elsewhere.

There's no way this rule helps "competitive balance," even with provisions that provide extra sandwich picks (between the first and second rounds) to low-revenue teams.

There's a reason that most baseball people don't like this new system, even though many of their owners pushed hard for it.

It should accomplish Selig's goal, which is to severely limit the amount of money teams spend on the draft and on international free agents. Truth be told, he'd love to limit the amount they spend on major-league free agents, too, but that wasn't going to happen.

It will not help "competitive balance."

Other parts of the CBA are big pluses. The fact that the CBA got done without even the smallest threat of a work stoppage is a huge plus.

This new draft and international system? It's a minus.

Category: MLB
Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 4:23 pm

Kemp shoots for 2012 MVP ... and 50-50

Matt Kemp fell one home run short of 40-40, and he fell just short of winning the Most Valuable Player award in the National League.

His solution?

"50-50," Kemp said on a conference call Tuesday. "I'm going to go 50-50. You all created a monster."

No player in baseball history has ever had 50 home runs and 50 steals in the same season. Alex Rodriguez came the closest, with 42 home runs and 46 steals with the Mariners in 1998. Only three other players have had a 40-40 season: Jose Canseco with the 1988 A's, Barry Bonds with the 1996 Giants and Alfonso Soriano with the 2006 Nationals.

"Anything can happen," Kemp said. "I'm going to set my limits high. Yes, I'm serious. I know you're thinking I'm crazy, but I'm going to take it to another level."

Kemp said finishing second in the MVP vote would serve as motivation, but he didn't criticize voters for selecting Braun, and said that he felt Braun was a deserving winner. Braun received 20 of the 32 first-place votes, with Kemp getting 10 and Prince Fielder and Justin Upton splitting the other two.

"I'm happy for Braun," Kemp said. "He's one of my favorite players. He's a great player."

Then, referring to his new eight-year, $160 million contract with the Dodgers, Kemp added: "I've got eight more years in LA to try to win one."

Kemp led the National League in home runs and RBI, and finished third in the batting race behind Jose Reyes and Braun. But Kemp's Dodgers were a non-factor in the pennant race, at 82-79, while Braun's Brewers won the NL Central.

"I respect the decision," Kemp said. "I just have to have an even better season next year, and make the playoffs, so I can make the decision easier for them."

And 50-50 wouldn't hurt.

Category: MLB
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