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Posted on: November 10, 2011 5:39 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 6:40 pm

Cespedes could top Chapman's $30 million contract

Aroldis Chapman's big contract surprised some people as much as his 105 mph fastball.

Get prepared to be surprised again.

Cuban outfielder Yoennis Cespedes, currently working out for teams in the Dominican Republic, will likely match or even top the six-year, $30.5 million contract that the Reds gave Chapman two winters ago, two veteran scouts who follow the international market predicted Thursday.

"I'd take him over Chapman," one of the scouts said.

Cespedes defected from Cuba over the summer. He has yet to be declared a free agent, but that's expected to happen soon. Scouts familiar with the market say it's hard to pick a favorite to sign him, but the Yankees and Marlins are both known to have strong interest, and the Red Sox, Rangers, Cubs and possibly even the Pirates and A's could be heavily involved, as well.

Cespedes was one of the stars of the Cuban national team, and scouts drooled over him when he played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

They still do now.

"He's a five-tool guy, built like an NFL running back," one scout said. "He has tremendous raw power, with all the tools to be a 30-30 guy in the big leagues. His mother pitched on the Cuban national softball team, so he has athleticism in the family."

Asked for a comparable player who has played in the big leagues, the scout first suggested Bo Jackson, then back away, but only slightly. If you want to judge for yourself, there's a YouTube video that has already made the rounds.

The question, as with all international players, is how quickly Cespedes can adjust to American culture and to American baseball. He's already 26 years old (five years older than Chapman was when he signed), so it's not as if he is some young prospect.

Chapman, even with the 105 mph fastball, has yet to live up to expectations.

Then again, if Cespedes is a 30-30 guy in the big leagues, he's worth Chapman money and even more.

And he'll probably get it.

Posted on: November 5, 2011 7:19 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 7:25 pm

Orioles set to take a chance with Duquette

The Orioles are close to naming a general manager, and Dan Duquette is close to getting back in baseball.

It's taken them a while. It's him a while, too.

They're taking a chance, and so is he.

Sources confirmed to late Saturday afternoon that Duquette is indeed the Orioles' latest choice to replace Andy MacPhail, and that team officials were working with the former Expos and Red Sox general manager to finalize a deal that could be announced within the next couple of days.

ESPN's Tim Kurkjian first reported that the Orioles were close to a deal with Duquette.

Duquette will be returning to professional baseball after a nine-year absence. The Orioles' GM search has only seemed to take that long.

The Orioles settled on Duquette only after interviewing five other candidates, and only after first offering the job to Blue Jays executive Tony LaCava, who turned it down. Several other possible candidates also either pulled out of the running or made it clear that they weren't interested in joining an organization that has appeared dysfunctional.

That said, the 53-year-old Duquette could give the Orioles exactly what they were looking for. He had a good track record in both Montreal and Boston, and he has the scouting and player development background that they said was a prerequisite.

Duquette has a particular strength in Latin American scouting, an area where the Orioles have been particularly lagging.

The biggest concern is whether Duquette has lost touch with professional baseball after being out of the game so long. Fired by the Red Sox soon after the current ownership group took over, he has spent the last nine years running the Dan Duquette Sports Academy in Massachusetts, and also running a sports consulting business.

The Orioles' job is a challenge for many reasons, the first being that owner Peter Angelos can be difficult to work for. The presence of strong-minded manager Buck Showalter is also seen by some as an issue, and one of the many things that made the Orioles' GM search unusual was that Showalter sat in on the interviews and had a strong voice in the process.

Too often, the process seemed to be a total mess.

Now, it seems to be reaching the end. The Orioles seem to have found their man, and it's even possible that they found the right man.

It just took them a while.

Category: MLB
Posted on: November 4, 2011 9:11 pm

Baird won't pursue O's GM job

Some day, the Orioles will find a general manager. It won't be Allard Baird.

Baird said Friday night that he has decided against interviewing for the job, and will instead remain with the Red Sox. He cited his strong relationship with new Sox general manager Ben Cherington as the main factor in his decision. Baird has been heavily involved in the Red Sox' search for a new manager to replace Terry Francona.

Baird's decision is great news for the Red Sox, and especially for Cherington, who as a first-time GM will benefit from having an experienced baseball man at his side. Baird, a former GM with the Royals, is very highly respected in baseball circles.

The decision is another blow to the Orioles, who were turned down by Tony LaCava, saw Jerry Dipoto accept the Angels job, were denied permission to talk to Mike Radcliff, watched DeJon Watson pull out of the running, and have seen any number of other executives signal a lack of interest in even pursuing the job that Andy MacPhail left at the end of the season.

The Orioles have interviewed former Expos and Red Sox GM Dan Duquette, and are expected to interview Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer. Earlier, they interviewed John Stockstill, an internal candidate who was believed to have had just a courtesy interview, and Scott Proefrock, the Phillies assistant GM.

Baird said he would still like to have another shot as a GM. But despite long ties to Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who he once interviewed as a possible Royals skipper, Baird decided to pass on this one.

Cherington has shown an interest in expanding Baird's responsibilities with the Red Sox. The Sox have been looking to hire another experienced baseball man, and offered a job to Larry Corrigan before Corrigan chose instead to go work with Dipoto with the Angels.

Posted on: November 3, 2011 5:42 pm

The perfect fit for Tigers? It's Reyes

The free agent who fit the Tigers best last winter was Victor Martinez. They got him.

The trade target who fit the Tigers best this summer was Doug Fister. They got him.

And the free agent who fits the Tigers best this winter, without a doubt, is Jose Reyes.

Will they even pursue him?

The topic is certain to come up when the Tigers hold their organizational meetings next week, and it's one that could have a big impact on their future and also that of other teams. And the answer may come down to whether owner Mike Ilitch is prepared to tell his baseball people to look past the budget, as he has so many times before.

In a meeting with local media this week, general manager Dave Dombrowski played down the possibility of signing a shortstop and moving Jhonny Peralta to third base. Dombrowski suggested that the Tigers would search instead for a second baseman and probably a third baseman.

Perhaps they will, but they won't find a Reyes available at either spot.

And for a team that badly needs to add speed, and would be helped by having a true leadoff hitter who would push Austin Jackson to the bottom of the batting order, Reyes could be the difference-maker.

Not only that, but Tigers people say that the opposing player who made the biggest impression on them this season was Reyes, when he went 8-for-13 with two doubles and a triple in an interleague series at Comerica Park in June.

Now, can they afford him?

Under their current budget, they probably can't. The Tigers have two $20 million a year players signed to long-term deals (Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera), and worry about adding a third player who could command $15-20 million a year. Also, they worry about giving a long-term contract to a player dependent on his legs (which is why they shied away from Carl Crawford last winter).

But Tigers people always remind you that the owner has the final say, and also that Ilitch is never afraid to spend big for a player who could put them over the top. In every big signing the Tigers have made (and even some of the smaller ones), Ilitch was the driving force.

Will he see Reyes as a similar difference-maker?

That's a great question. But don't be surprised if he does.

Two more things to think about, one regarding Reyes, one regarding the Tigers.

The Giants are another team where Reyes would seem to be a perfect fit, but the word in baseball is that at this point, they are unlikely to pursue him (or to pursue free-agent shortstop Jimmy Rollins, either).

The Giants' budget is tighter than the Tigers', and their ownership is believed to be less likely to bust that budget. After committing money to keep the pitching staff together for another year, it's believed that the Giants have just about $10 million to spend for 2012, and that they intend to spend the bulk of it on a center fielder (very possibly Coco Crisp).

As for the Tigers, here's another thought: What if the Red Sox decide that Crawford just isn't a good fit in Boston, and are willing to eat some of the contract in order to trade him?

Crawford could take Delmon Young's spot in Comerica Park's spacious left field, and would give the Tigers much-needed speed.

Crawford, though, has never liked batting leadoff. Reyes loves hitting there.

Reyes is the better fit for the Tigers -- but only if Ilitch decides to make the money fit.

Posted on: November 2, 2011 9:07 pm

Let the Gerrit Cole hype begin

The Gerrit Cole hype will never match the Stephen Strasburg hype.

Unless . . .

Well, the word out of the Arizona Fall League is that Cole, the top pick in the June draft, is everything the Pirates could have hoped for. The buzz is that Cole has . . .

"As live a fastball as I've ever seen, and I'm going back to Nolan Ryan," one veteran scout (who doesn't work for the Pirates) said after returning from Arizona. "The first time I saw him, he was sitting at 100, 101 [mph]. He had a better fastball than Strasburg.

"They knew it was coming, and they still couldn't start fast enough to crank it up. He could have struck out big-league hitters with his fastball that day."

Cole's numbers in Arizona are good, but not stunning. In four games, he has pitched 12 innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits, with three walks and 12 strikeouts.

The scout said that Cole's secondary pitches need work, and that even the velocity on his fastball could be inconsistent. The game after he pitched at 100-101 mph, Cole was throwing his fastball at 95 mph.

"But the life on his fastball was so impressive," the scout said.

The same scout also came away impressed with Danny Hultzen, the Mariners prospect who was taken just behind Cole in the June draft.

As for Bryce Harper, the first pick overall in 2010, the scout said the Nationals shouldn't be counting on him as a major-league difference-maker in 2012.

"He's not that bat they're missing, not yet," the scout said. "He's about a year away. He reminds me of a young J.D. Drew, but he loves to play."

Posted on: November 2, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2011 8:05 pm

O's still need a GM, but who wants that job?

Now that Tony LaCava has turned down the Orioles' general manager job, who will get it instead?

Better question: Who would want it?

LaCava was very kind in his public remarks Tuesday, claiming in an interview with the Baltimore Sun that his decision "was about the Toronto Blue Jays more than it is anything about the Baltimore Orioles." And it's true that LaCava is very comfortable in his job with the Jays, where he has the title of vice president and works closely with general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

It's also true, according to multiple sources inside and outside the Orioles organization, that this was very much about the Orioles, and that it helps expose some of the problems that exist in owner Peter Angelos' regime at Camden Yards.

Specifically, those sources said, LaCava wanted to clear out some long-term front-office people whose jobs have been protected by Angelos. Angelos refused to do that, even though he was willing to pay LaCava a competitive salary and to bring in other front-office people that LaCava wanted to hire (including Mike Berger, currently the director of pro scouting with the Diamondbacks).

The Orioles GM job is a difficult one, one rival executive said, because Angelos is such a force from above, manager Buck Showalter exerts strong influence from below, and the Orioles play in the tough American League East. People who know LaCava said that Showalter (who has taken part in the interview process) was never an issue, and LaCava already works in the American League East.

That leaves Angelos.

So who gets the Orioles job now?

It won't be LaCava, and it won't be Jerry Dipoto, who interviewed with the Orioles before taking the general manager job with the Angels. And, according to sources, it's very unlikely to be either De Jon Watson or John Stockstill, the only two other candidates interviewed before LaCava was offered the job.

One official said that the Orioles have already set up more interviews this week, but he wouldn't say who was coming in. Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reported that the O's have asked permission to talk to officials from the White Sox, Rays, Phillies and Twins, and Dan Connolly of the Sun reported that Phillies assistant Scott Proefrock (a former Orioles assistant) will interview Thursday.

With the free-agent signing period beginning Thursday, and with the major-league general managers scheduled to meet starting Nov. 15 in Milwaukee, there's more pressure than ever on the Orioles to get someone in place quickly.

The problem, more obvious than it ever was before, is that too many potential candidates regard the Orioles job as a bad one. And the way the general manager search has been conducted has only added to that perception.

It was clear that Dipoto strongly preferred the job with the Angels, and it's now clear that LaCava preferred remaining in Toronto as an assistant to getting the bigger title (and better pay) with the Orioles.

Eventually, the Orioles will find a general manager. But how far down their list will they need to reach?

Posted on: November 2, 2011 4:38 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2011 4:39 pm

Quade got one chance -- and it had to be the Cubs

Sometimes, it's just not fair.

It's not supposed to be, mind you. The Cubs aren't supposed to keep Mike Quade around, just because it's not fair that a guy who waited so long for a chance to manage in the big leagues got stuck with a bad team and a bad hand.

The Cubs are supposed to be starting in a new direction with their Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer front office, and keeping Quade around for the final year of his contract only stalls that process. He's not the guy they want -- we know it, he knows it, the world knows it -- and moving on right now is absolutely the right thing to do.

Fair or not.

Take a moment, though to think about Mike Quade.

He's 54 years old. He managed 2,397 games over 17 minor-league seasons, in places like Macon, Rockford, Ottawa and Huntsville. He's a baseball lifer, and baseball lifers everywhere were thrilled when he got a chance with the Cubs.

But what kind of chance was it?

He had a flawed roster. He had a team that fought in the dugout four games into spring training. He had a general manager who found out at midseason that he was getting fired.

He had Carlos Zambrano, for heaven's sakes.

He lost 91 games, but I don't think anyone suggested that the Cubs would have done better if only they'd had a better manager.

I don't hear many suggesting that Quade was such a good manager that he should immediately get another job, either.

He'll get another job in baseball, that's for sure. His reputation is too good for him not to.

But this may well have been his one chance to manage in the big leagues.

He waited years for this chance, and they gave him the Cubs.

And now they've taken them away.

Category: MLB
Tags: Cubs, Mike Quade
Posted on: November 2, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2011 3:36 pm

Cubs fire manager Mike Quade

The Cubs have fired manager Mike Quade, the team announced Wednesday.

Quade managed the Cubs for just over a year, taking over when Lou Piniella left midway through the 2010 season and then leading the team to a 71-91 finish in 2011. Quade was close with former general manager Jim Hendry, and his future was always in doubt once Hendry was fired and ultimately replaced atop the Cubs' baseball hierarchy by Theo Epstein.

The Cubs said that Epstein traveled to Florida on Wednesday to tell Quade in person that he will not be coming back. Quade's contract ran through 2012.

Quade, a 54-year-old baseball lifer, was something of a controversial choice last winter, with many Cubs fans favoring Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second baseman with the Cubs, left the organization and spent this season managing the Phillies' Triple-A team in Lehigh Valley.

Sandberg now becomes the fan favorite to replace Quade, but Epstein said in a press release that the new manager "must have managerial or coaching experience at the major-league level." Sandberg has neither.

Terry Francona, who worked under Epstein with the Red Sox and won two World Series, is a name that will come up. Some baseball officials were predicting Francona to the Cubs even before Quade was officially out, but some who know Epstein seriously doubt that an Epstein-Francona reunion will happen.

In his statement, Epstein praised Quade for his "passion, knowledge of the game, commitment and integrity." But that wasn't enough for him to keep the job.

"While Mike is clearly an asset to any organization and any major-league staff, [general manager Jed Hoyer] and I believe the Cubs would benefit long-term from bringing in a manager for 2012 who can come in with a clean slate and offer new direction."

Epstein said the search process will begin immediately.

"We are looking for someone with whom and around whom we can build a foundation for sustained success," Epstein said. "The next manager must have leadership and communication skills; he must place an emphasis on preparation and accountability; he must establish high standards and a winning culture; he must have integrity and an open mind; and he must have managerial or coaching experience at the major-league level."

Category: MLB
Tags: Cubs, Mike Quade
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