“Free agency began at 8 a.m. Monday, with teams retaining exclusive negotiating rights until midnight Friday,” wrote Jeff Blair in a piece chalk full of goodies in this morning’s Globe and Mail. “Other teams are not precluded from talking to free agents during these five days, but only the players previous team can re-sign him during the period.”
In other words, the Jays need to get on their damn horse with this managerial search, in order to make sure they don’t have too many balls in the air as the most ridiculously crucial free agent period this team has faced in a long time gets set to begin. And, at least according to Blair, it’s not going to be an easy decision, explaining that “one veteran baseball man, who knows Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays, said last week that he believed Anthopoulos would lean toward hiring a candidate with a background in player development as well as coaching – much like Farrell – which could hint of Wakamatsu,” however, he also believes that “finding someone who has proven that he can manage a Major League team and has demonstrated tactical nous would seem to be an important consideration.”
I tend to agree, which is why I’ve been looking so favourably on ex-manager of the Clevelands and the Nationals, Manny Acta, despite the fact that he doesn’t have a great record, and wasn’t able to keep a lid on disgruntled closer Chris Perez last year, among whatever other issues– beyond a shitty record reflective of a team with not a lot of talent– that caused his ouster from Cleveland at the end of the season.
But what do I know? Not enough, certainly, about the other candidates to really be able to gauge who they’d be as tactical managers– which is why it was ridiculously easy to be on Team Acta, given his reputation as a guy open to progressive, sabermetric ideas.
I say “was,” though, because according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Acta is “not believed to be in play right now.”
So… there’s that. Yet, with bad news comes good: Davidi also lumps Jim Tracy in with Acta as guys not being looked at, reporting late Saturday night that the “still-developing list of managerial candidates includes Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach but not San Diego Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus.”
He notes, however, that Ausmus may not be interested, having turned down interviews with both Houston and Florida, “and is thought to only be interested in the Padres or Red Sox for personal reasons.” If true, it leaves the list of candidates he gives us as Wallach, Brian Butterfield, Don Wakamatsu, DeMarlo Hale, and the name I, and a lot of people, keep coming back to: Sandy Alomar Jr.
No, he doesn’t have experience running a game, but his having a place on Acta’s staff is enough to make you at least hopeful that he’s go the right ideas, tactically. Of course, it’s not like watching Terry Francona work had a lot of impact on John Farrell, so we’d be looking at yet another leap of faith, and this time from a GM whose decision-making fans are a whole lot more wary of.
Fortunately, Anthopoulos doesn’t often seem to give a shit what the fans or the columnist trolls think when it gets in the way of running the Jays he wants them to be run, whether it’s staying mum on Yu Darvish, or letting the Farrell saga play out the way it did. Sure, if we get to April and he hasn’t succeeded in his task of improving the club, there’s going to be a lot of bluster about it– and rightfully so. Until then, that’s all it is.
Speaking of Farrell– and of columnist trolls– according to a tidbit from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, Anthopoulos may be more upset about having such a crucial off-season thrown into disarray than he’s led on, than those who think the Jays should have seen this coming since last year may believe, and than some of John Farrell’s parting comments have made it seem.
Regarding Farrell’s explanation of a conversation with Anthopoulos about the GM hypothetically wanting to leave for a “dream job” with the Expos, Simmons writes that “Anthopoulos insists he said nothing of the kind. According to the Jays general manager, he just wanted to end the conversation with Farrell, was disgusted by his lack of loyalty, and made an analogy about running the Baltimore Orioles and wanting to run the Blue Jays.”
“The inference was more like, ‘OK John, save the explanations and let’s figure out where we go from here,’ said Anthopoulos — and not in any way tacit approval of Farrell’s move to Boston,” he adds.
Where the Jays go, of course, is into yet another manager search, and into an off-season where, according to Blair’s piece, “the free-agent pitching market is thin – Ryan Dempster of the Texas Rangers and Edwin Jackson of the Washington Nationals are targets, sources say, but the Blue Jays are under no illusions that either is a No. 1 starter and have resolved that they will need to put together a package based around one of their big three pitching prospects (Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez and Justin Nicolino) if they are serious about getting a front of the rotation starter.”
He adds that he believes Yunel Escobar has more trade value than many people are acknowledging, given the scarcity of options at shortstop, and passes along last week’s rumour about JP Arencibia being linked with a move to Texas as well.
Makes sense. Now they just have to get it done. And fast– Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com notes that the club has until three days after the World Series (i.e. Wednesday) to decide whether to pick up their club options on reliever Darren Oliver, and outfielder Rajai Davis.
Picking up Oliver’s option, so long as he doesn’t want to retire, should be a no-brainer. The $3-million commitment to Davis, however, hangs in the balance. I’d expect the club to pick it up, but I have no idea, and I don’t deny that there are probably cheaper options as fourth outfielders. Yet there is definite value in Davis, if used correctly– he can hit lefties (wOBAs over .340 in each of the last three years), and is better on the basepaths and in the field than your memory probably suggests, making him a decent option as a pinch runner and a defensive replacement, depending on the defensive deficiencies of whoever the Jays do wind up going with as their regular left fielder.
Still, this year more than ever, every dollar towards core pieces counts, so… who knows what will happen?
You could say that about just about everything at this point, I suppose. I’d even be excited if I wasn’t so damn worried.