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Watch New Red Sox Relief Pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe’s Insane Submarine Delivery

The Boston Red Sox have signed Japanese submarine pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe to a minor-league deal, according to a press release by the team.

While signing a Japanese player is not uncommon, signing one that pitches the way he does isn’t common:

According to the press release:

Watanabe, 37, has spent his entire 13-year career (2001-13) with the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. Primarily a starter, the submarine-style pitcher has posted a career record of 87-82 with a 3.65 ERA (640 ER/1578.1 IP), and 846 strikeouts in 255 games (240 starts).

When he does report to camp, Watanabe will work as a reliever, as opposed to a starter.

Here’s what the Twitter world is saying about him:

While it’s tough to say whether or not Watanabe will earn a spot in the bullpen, his pitching style will give fans something to come see during spring training.

And if he can prove himself in spring training and in the minors, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be with the Red Sox by midseason.

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MLB Will See All-Time Record Revenues for 2013 at More Than $8 Billion

Major League Baseball made history in 2013 as its revenues reached a new record high.

According to Maury Brown of Forbes, a league source said revenues will be between $8-$8.5 billion for 2013:

Last year, revenues were above $7.5 billion. While attendance has been ostensibly flat for the league, the continuing growth in television revenue is a key reason for the rapid escalation.

And, it’s very possible that MLB could see revenues in the $8.5-$9 billion range by this time next year. The league will see revenues double for new broadcast deals with their national network partners FOX, ESPN, and TBS that will add an additional $788.3 million a year to the league’s coffers.

This is big news for baseball, as it shows that MLB isn’t that far behind the NFL.

Here’s how the leagues compared to each other in 2012:

*Note: MLB salary cap numbers are for luxury-tax threshold.


And just as Brown says, television deals have a lot to do with MLB’s climb in earnings. From the top of the mountain (Dodgers) to the lowest on the totem pole (Marlins), all MLB teams are still getting a good chunk of change when it comes to television deals, although some are a lot better than others:

*Note: The Braves and Rockies also sit at $20 million per season.

Out of all of the teams listed on the low end, the Braves are in theirs the longest (2031). Others will see their deals expire soon and be able to re-negotiate something better.

So, what’s the advantage of the large revenue and soaring TV deals?


More Money For Players

Without television money, there’s no way the Seattle Mariners would have been able to pay Robinson Cano $240 million over 10 years. It’s also hard to fathom that the Los Angeles Angels would have given lucrative contracts to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in the last two offseasons without the benefit of their large deal.

These large deals allow teams to go head-to-head with the New York Yankees. History shows that every offseason, the Yankees always throw more money at big-name players. In turn, that takes smaller-market teams out of the bidding.

The Yankees finally got a taste of their own medicine when Cano signed with the Mariners, although they still forced the issue with Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

The infusion of television cash for the Los Angeles Dodgers is what is going to allow them to keep Clayton Kershaw and make him the highest-paid pitcher in the game. It will also allow the Dodgers to overpay for the pieces they need each year.

As far as why deals like the Dodgers take place, it’s because of demand from the fans, according to Dodgers’ controlling owner Mark Walter in a story by Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:

We concluded last year that the best way to give our fans what they want—more content and more Dodger baseball—was to launch our own network, Dodgers controlling owner Mark Walter said in a statement.

In short, salaries are going to continue to skyrocket with television deals.

Don’t believe me? Just wait until the question concerning Mike Trout’s contract comes up.

If you thought $275 million over 10 years for Alex Rodriguez was a high figure, just wait until the Angels have to pay Trout, who is arguably one of the best players in baseball.

As long as revenue continues to climb, so will salaries. 

We’re in an on-demand society, and television, sports franchises and athletes know it. They’re all taking advantage of it and taking a piece of the pie.

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Can Mark Mulder Return to MLB and Be Effective After Six-Year Layoff?

Former Major League Baseball pitcher, and current ESPN baseball analyst, Mark Mulder announced he is attempting a return to baseball, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick.

Mulder retired in 2009 after two surgeries on his left shoulder and after having realized he couldn’t pitch at a high level again:

But things changed in October when Mulder watched Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez on TV and found something in Rodriguez’s delivery that he could emulate. Mulder spent the month of November working himself into shape at a Phoenix-area facility run by former big-league catcher Chad Moeller, and recently threw off the mound for three unspecified teams near his home in Scottsdale.

Mulder said scouts clocked him at 89-90 mph, according to Crasnick‘s story, which makes him very excited—”I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am,” Mulder said by phone Tuesday. “To be honest with you, I never anticipated this five or six weeks ago. It was just a flat-out fluke that came from me trying to imitate Paco Rodriguez in my living room.”

But the question is, can Mulder return to MLB and be effective after a six-year layoff?


Mulder’s Career

During his career, Mulder went 103-60 with a 4.18 ERA and 834 strikeouts for the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics.

His best year came in 2001 when he went 21-8 with a 3.45 ERA and 153 strikeouts. It was also a year where he finished runner-up in the AL Cy Young race, losing to Roger Clemens.

He was a part of Oakland’s “Big Three” pitchers that included Barry Zito and Tim Hudson.

In 2004, fresh off a 17-8 season with a 4.43 ERA, Mulder was traded to St. Louis for Dan Haren, Daric Barton and Kiko Calero.

In his first season in St. Louis, Mulder was impressive, going 16-8 with a 3.64 ERA. The next season started out just as good, as Mulder won five of his first six decisions.

Then, the trouble started. He struggled the rest of the year and had two separate stints on the disabled list. In total, he finished the year 1-6 with a 13.64 ERA in his final eight starts.

Another surgery in the offseason limited Mulder to three starts at the end of 2007 in which he gave up 15 earned runs in 11 innings. By the end of 2008, the Cardinals bought out Mulder’s contract, and he hasn’t played a game since.


Bullpen is Best Place

The biggest question is, would you use Mulder as a starter or reliever?

With obvious shoulder issues in the past, the best bet for Mulder would be as a reliever. That would put less strain on his arm and wouldn’t force him to work as hard in any given day.

With that in mind, we’ve seen in the past that some of the best relievers are former starting pitchers. John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley are two pitchers that come to mind.

But unlike both of those pitchers, Mulder’s issue was with a shoulder, which isn’t always the easiest fix. Far more pitchers have come back successfully from Tommy John surgery than from multiple shoulder surgeries. Smoltz dealt with Tommy John, while Eckersley was moved to the bullpen due to poor performance.

Both thrived in the bullpen, but neither had to deal with a six-year layoff like Mulder is doing.


Mixed Reaction and Final Thoughts

There is a mixture of reaction on Twitter, concerning Mulder’s comeback attempt:

It’s hard to say whether Mulder will succeed or not. The only way we will find out is if a team gives him a shot to earn a roster spot in spring training.

Regardless of whether anyone believes he can come back or not, he will get that shot and have a chance to prove that he can still pitch at a high level.

A lot of people will be rooting for him to succeed. But even if he doesn’t, he’s going to inspire people to remember to never let their dreams die.

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Curtis Granderson Takes Subtle Shot at Yankees Fans in Mets Presser

Curtis Granderson has a parting shot for the New York Yankees. At least that’s what many people gathered from his press conference that introduced him as a member of the New York Mets on Tuesday:

It’s a small shot at the Yankees and their fans, but it’s one that will be remembered come May 12 when the Mets visit Yankee Stadium.

Here’s a look at some of his comments from the press conference, including his joke concerning the Yankees:

Of course, many New Yorkers didn’t take too kindly to that:

It’s understandable some Yankees’ fans would be angry. After all, he was a player the Yankees thought would help them win another World Series after posting 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2009 with the Detroit Tigers.

However, the Yankees never made it past the ALCS. With Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, a World Series was all but guaranteed with the center fielder. Once in pinstripes, Granderson continued to show his power, although his average suffered.

In his four years in pinstripes, Granderson batted .245, but had 115 home runs and 307 RBI. Over the last three years, Granderson has ranked among the best outfielders in terms of power, according to ESPN’s John Buccigross:

Granderson may have never brought the Yankees a World Series title, but he definitely held his own in the Bronx. In fact, outside of average, he had more home runs than Teixeira (99) and Rodriguez (71), and only two less than Cano (117) over a four-year period.

Now he moves to another borough and another league.

For fans who are angry about the comment, just chalk it up to him trying to please his new home fans. He no longer needs to concern himself with what Yankee fans think of him.

Plus, it’s not like he went to the Boston Red Sox. New York fans would be calling Granderson a traitor if he did what Jacoby Ellsbury did to the Red Sox.

Although the Mets and Yankees are rivals in a sense, they still play in two different leagues. They only play four times in the regular season. They compete for the same fans, but that’s about it.

Granderson’s comment added a little flair to the offseason, but in the end, it will be forgotten until the two games at Yankee Stadium in May. After that, nobody will remember it at all.

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Why Jarrod Saltalamacchia Is Great Value for the Miami Marlins’ Rebuild

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is taking his talents to South Beach.

The 28-year-old catcher has agreed in principle to a three-year deal that will pay him $21 million:

It’s a surprising move, especially considering the Marlins had a fire sale last offseason. It now brings up the question: Are the Marlins ready to compete?

For a team with a young core of good pitching, the move makes sense and provides great value compared to the other catchers signed this offseason.

And let’s not forget, Saltalamacchia is a huge upgrade over what the Marlins had in place last year:

Offensively, there’s no comparing Salty to Jeff Mathis and Rob Brantly. He’s superior in every offensive category, and the Marlins have a definite upgrade there.

Where the issue might be is defensively and his ability to throw out runners. But then again, all you have to do is look at who he will have on the mound. Jose Fernandez (2.19 ERA, 0.979 WHIP) and Henderson Alvarez (3.59 ERA, 1.140 WHIP) are just two of the young guns he’ll have as battery-mates. They’ll only get better in 2014.

Then you have Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi and a lot of other arms in the minor leagues that Salty will use to his benefit.

So, we know it’s a good move for the Marlins. But what makes it a good move compared to the other catchers that have signed?


Comparing Saltalamacchia to Other Recently-Signed Catchers

Salty was nowhere near the best catcher on the market. But looking at his deal, the Marlins have made off like bandits.

Here’s how he compares to other recently-signed catchers:

*Note: A.J. Pierzynski’s deal was reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney.


So, when you look at the numbers next to each other, it seems like the Marlins got a great deal when they signed Saltalamacchia.

There’s no question Brian McCann is one of the best catchers in the game. But is he worth $10 million more a year than Saltalamacchia? He compared well to McCann in 2013. But what about 2012?

McCann batted .230/.300/.399 with 20 home runs and 67 RBI, while Salty batted .222/.288/.454 with 25 home runs and 59 RBI. The numbers are very comparable, but yet McCann still makes a lot more than Saltalamacchia.

Of course, there will be those that point to McCann’s seven all-star appearances and five Silver Sluggers. But in a game where the “What have you done for me lately” mentality reigns supreme, McCann hasn’t been $10 million more per year impressive.

We can look at Carlos Ruiz’s numbers as well. He’s only hit double-digits in home runs once and, like Salty, has never thrown out more than 29 percent of base-stealers. Yet he’s worth $5 million more over three years than Saltalamacchia.

Nothing about the stats over the last few years scream those players are that much better than Saltalamacchia.


The Perfect Piece

While the Marlins needed an upgrade at catcher, they also needed someone who has won before in the locker room. Salty has won before.

As we’ve seen in years past, it’s not always about finding the sexiest piece, it’s about finding the right piece. The Red Sox found that with Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli this past season. The Giants found it with Marco Scutaro in 2012.

This is not to say the Marlins will win the World Series in 2014. There are still a few improvements needed offensively. But there’s no reason to believe they can’t make some noise in 2014.

After all, they won 62 games with their ragtag bunch last year. Imagine what having Jake Marisnick and Christian Yelich for a full season will do? Marisnick was one of the key pieces that came over from Toronto in last year’s blockbuster.

Anything can happen in baseball. As we’ve seen with the Athletics, as long as you have great pitching and a few solid veterans, you can have success.

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Biggest Winners and Losers of 3-Way Diamondbacks, Reds, Rays Trade

The first three-team trade of the offseason has gone off, as the biggest name moving is closer Heath Bell to the Tampa Bay Rays.

As reported in a tweet by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Bell and catcher Ryan Hanigan will go to the Rays (along with cash considerations). The Arizona Diamondbacks will receive right-handed pitcher Justin Choate and a player to be named later, while the Cincinnati Reds will get left-handed pitcher David Holmberg.

It’s a trade that may not turn a lot of heads, especially considering the Baltimore Orioles recently traded closer Jim Johnson, according to ESPN.

However, the move will have a lot of implications on all teams involved.

Here’s a look at the winners and losers of the three-team trade between the Rays, Diamondbacks and Reds.

Begin Slideshow

Deadspin Buys BBWAA HOF Ballot, Will Let Readers Decide Hall of Fame Vote

For the first time in history, readers will get a chance to have a say in a single vote (at the very least) for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame vote.

According to Deadspin, the website has officially bought a ballot from a voting member for the annual elections:

Our idea was to make a mockery and farce of the increasingly solemn and absurd election process, and to take some power from the duly appointed custodians of the game’s history and turn it over to the public.

Well, with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America having released its official ballot today, we can happily announce that we have a vote. A member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America thought our plan sounded like a pretty (expletive) good idea and sold us his/her vote, making a stand against the idea that a somewhat random subsection of the baseball press should maintain the power to confer what is, regrettably, the game’s most prestigious honor. For obvious reasons, the voter will remain anonymous for now, but he/she will be filling out his/her ballot on behalf of Deadspin readers, who will be polled in binding elections. The voter will announce his/her name and motivations once his/her vote has been officially cast.

That’s right, one voter has agreed to let the website determine whom they will vote for. The website also noted that it is still buying votes.

This year’s ballot includes newcomers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent, joining holdovers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio and Jack Morris.

There’s a lot that comes to mind when it comes to this. Is it even legal? And, what do fans think about it?


Is It Legal?

While nothing specifically states it is illegal to sell your Hall of Fame vote in the BBWAA Constitution, there are a few bylaws that seem to make it frowned upon.

Article IV, Section 5 from the bylaws specifically states this:

1. Any member convicted by the Board of Directors of misusing or attempting to misuse his or her membership shall be expelled for five years and his or her membership card shall be revoked.

Selling your vote to a website could constitute misusing your membership. But, if the proceeds go to a charitable organization, then it gets even stickier, according to Article II, Section 2B:

1. The Association shall not sponsor or endorse any marketable physical product or suffer any unauthorized use of its insignia. It may, however, elect to make available to commercial television the presentation of its annual awards, provided that all net financial revenues obtained by the Association from such a presentation are distributed to legitimate charitable organizations of the Association’s choosing, at the earliest possible date, in order for the Association to maintain its not-for-profit status.

The biggest question is, does selling this vote fall under the category of annual awards? That’s likely something the lawyers would have to decide.

Regardless, this particular voter selling his or her vote is doing something no other journalist has done in history. Never have fans had the opportunity to cast a vote like this. Granted, hundreds or thousands of votes will be tabulated to create just one, but it’s still history in the making.


What Fans Are Saying

Since Deadspin announced it had bought a vote, a lot of fans have taken to Twitter:

And that is what a majority of fans are saying on Twitter. Most like the idea. 


In The End

Regardless of your personal beliefs on the system, no player has ever missed the Hall of Fame by one vote. The closest has been Nellie Fox, who missed the Hall of Fame by two votes in 1985. He was elected by the veteran’s committee in 1997, but never received enough votes from the writers.

However, Fergie Jenkins did come the closest to not getting elected in 1991. He received 334 votes when he needed 333 for election. Ralph Kiner experienced the same thing in 1975 when he received 273 votes when he needed 272. Willie Keeler was also elected by two votes in 1939.

So one vote didn’t make the difference, but two the other way could have.

In the grand scheme of things, one vote shouldn’t make the difference. Last year, there were 569 ballots cast with 427 votes needed for election.

If this “fan vote” ballot does keep a player from being elected, that still means there would be at least 142 other ballots that kept a certain player off the ballot.

However, until the writer who sold their vote is revealed, there’s not much to dissect. While some will have a major problem with it, especially those who paid their dues in the media, the bottom line is that he or she can vote however they like.

The only major issue that may come from this is if the writer personally profits from selling their vote. If that’s the case, then there are major conflict of interest issues that will have to be approached in the future.

If the money goes to charity, then it doesn’t hurt to try something new. Baseball gives fans a vote when it comes to the All-Star Game. Sometimes players elected aren’t deserving, but that’s the fans’ vote.

At least with the Hall of Fame, it’s only one vote (so far) and has no true bearing on a player being enshrined. It will take hundreds of more ballots to elect a player.

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Atlanta Braves’ Starting Pitching Options After Tim Hudson’s Departure

Tim Hudson has signed with the San Francisco Giants, per John Shea and Henry Schulman of, and now the Atlanta Braves are in a position where they need to replace the veteran righty.

After having gone 113-72 in nine years with the Braves, Hudson is returning to the West Coast after he and the Giants agreed on a two-year, $23 million deal.

For Braves’ fans, it’s just another big name that has gone elsewhere, something that will happen again this offseason when Brian McCann signs with another team.

With Hudson gone, this is how the Braves rotation currently looks (2013 stats):

  1. LHP Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21 ERA)
  2. RHP Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11 ERA)
  3. RHP Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20 ERA)
  4. RHP Brandon Beachy (2-1, 4.50 ERA)
  5. LHP Alex Wood (3-3, 3.13 ERA)
  6. RHP David Hale (1-0, 0.82 ERA)

There’s a lot of confidence in the top three in the rotation, but after that, things aren’t as clear.

Here is a look at the options the Braves have with the departure of Hudson:


In-House Options

Wood seems like an easy pick to fill one of the rotation spots in 2014.

As a starter, he went 3-2 with a 3.54 ERA and 54 strikeouts. He seemed to have good control and was able to handle a good workload.

The one thing that people may point to is that he had a 2.08 ERA in 21.1 innings coming out of the bullpen. If Jonny Venters struggles coming back from Tommy John surgery, and other relievers struggle as well, Wood could be moved back to the bullpen to solidify that area.

Then there’s Beachy. After having had Tommy John surgery in 2012, Beachy made five starts last year before being shut down due to more elbow trouble. Then there is this tweet by’s Mark Bowman:

Although Beachy is expected to be ready for spring training, there are some question marks there as well. And there will continue to be question marks until he can pitch a full season.

Hale is another option and someone who had a lot of success in the minor leagues. In 22 games in Triple-A (20 of which were starts), Hale went 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA and 77 strikeouts.

Top-pitching prospect J.R. Graham could be another option, but as Bowman notes in a mailbag post, he’s more likely to start 2014 in the minors:

Graham has made significant strides since his right shoulder sidelined him for the final 3 1/2 months of this past season. Still, while there is a chance he could end up in Atlanta’s bullpen or rotation at some point next year, it seems safer to assume Graham would begin the 2014 season back at the Minor League level.

Obviously, Wood and Beachy will be on the roster to start the season, as should Hale in the bullpen. But what if something goes wrong. Shouldn’t the Braves have some insurance?


John Lackey

It seems crazy to think this, but David O’Brien of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution believes the Braves should look at Boston starter John Lackey in a potential trade:

Lackey is owed $15.25 million in 2014, while he will be due the league minimum in 2015 because of a weird clause in his contract, according to Dave Cameron of Fan Graphs:

So, they (or maybe his agent) came up with a pretty creative solution, adding a league minimum club option to the end of the deal if Lackey missed significant time due to an elbow issue. Sure enough, Lackey’s elbow became problematic, and after the 2011 season, he underwent Tommy John surgery and spent the entire 2012 season on the DL, triggering the club option for 2015.

As a result, the Red Sox now own the rights to Lackey’s 2015 season at a salary of around $500,000. 

For the Braves, that would be an extremely good deal considering Tim Hudson’s $9 million and Brian McCann’s $12 million will be off the books. 

The Braves could reasonably pay Lackey the money he is owed this year and then have him for a league-minimum salary next year.

Lackey was 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA and 161 strikeouts this past season. He was a key cog in helping the Red Sox win the World Series.

If he continues to pitch the way he did this past season, two years and $15.75 million is a great deal.

The Red Sox have even gauged other teams’ interest in Lackey, according to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston:

Obviously, the trade chips would be another aspect of a potential deal. While not wanting to give up a lot, the Braves could conceivably give up Cody Martin and Matt Lipka (or Todd Cunningham) in exchange for Lackey and a lower-level prospect.

That would allow the Red Sox to clear out some room in their rotation and also give them pieces for the future.


Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay hasn’t been the same over the last two years, combining for a 5.15 ERA in 38 starts the last two seasons.

However, now a free agent, what if Halladay could be even a shade of his former self.

If that’s the case, O’Brien suggests the Braves should look at signing him:

The Braves would do something like sign Halladay only if they were reasonably certain, after looking at the medical reports, that such a pitcher might be ready to compete at a high level again.

The fact remains, before those past two painful seasons, Halladay was the game’s best starting pitcher, piling up 78 wins and 35 complete games during a remarkable four-year stretch (2008-2011) in which he posted four consecutive sub-2.80 ERAs and had seasons with 20, 17, 21 and 19 wins.

O’Brien makes a good point. Imagine if Halladay can compete at a high level again. How much of a steal would it be for the Braves (or any team) to sign him? Here’s how he looked in the previous four seasons before the shoulder issues:

Halladay would also bring a veteran presence in the rotation, something the Braves lost when Tim Hudson left for San Francisco.

Obviously, the Braves would need to get Halladay at a decent rate. Like many players have done in the past, Halladay could sign a one-year deal to rebuild his value for 2015, in which he could seek the final two- or three-year deal of his career.

It’s a gamble. But it’s no more of a gamble than what the Braves are dealing with when it comes to Beachy.


What Should the Braves Do?

As we saw late in 2013, having Hudson out of the rotation hurt the Braves. There was no veteran leader to set the tone for the rest of the staff.

Minor, Medlen, Teheran and others are more than capable of doing the job. But the Braves need a leader on the pitching side of things. Bringing in someone like Lackey, Halladay or even another veteran starting pitcher would be beneficial for the Braves.

It would help come September as the team looks to grab the top seed in the playoffs. Imagine if Hudson wasn’t injured last year. Would the Braves have lost the No. 1 seed to the Cardinals?

The Braves need veteran leadership with Hudson gone. Lackey or Halladay could provide that leadership. They have the experience and a proven track record. If either can be had for the right price, it’s something the Braves need to pull the trigger on.

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Terry Francona Manager of Year Win Result of Remarkable Indians Turnaround

The results are in and Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has been named the AL Manager of the Year:

Francona beat out Boston skipper John Farrell by 16 points, with Oakland‘s Bob Melvin coming in third. Here’s a look at the full results:

The Indians went 92-70 in 2013, a year after they went 68-94 and finished with the fifth-worst record in all of baseball. They qualified for the playoffs this year, thanks in large part to a 10-game winning streak at the end of the season. It was also the Indians’ first playoff appearance since 2007.

Although they lost in the Wild Card playoff game, it didn’t take away from what the Indians accomplished.


Angry Fans

Some fans didn’t take kindly to the news, as they feel like Farrell was robbed of the award:

It’s understandable why some fans would be upset. After all, the Red Sox were only one game better than the Indians in 2012, and five games better during the 2013 regular season. Not only that, but they won the World Series.

One fan did put it into perspective, however:

For a team that went from worst to first, it’s understandable why fans would be angry. But there’s a little history behind the AL Manager of the Year.


Top-Manager History

Recent history hasn’t been too kind to AL managers who guided their teams to the World Series. Joe Maddon won it in 2008 after guiding the Rays to the World Series, while Jim Leyland (2006) and Ozzie Guillen (2005) won the awards and went to the World Series. Out of those three, only Guillen’s team won the World Series.

And as Francona and Boston fans know, just because you win the World Series (or make it there), it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to win the top managerial award.

In 2004 and 2007, when Boston won its previous titles, Francona was edged out in the voting as well. In 2004, Francona finished fifth, despite leading the Red Sox to lift “The Curse of the Bambino.” Buck Showalter (Rangers), Ron Gardenhire (Twins), Mike Scioscia (Angels) and Joe Torre (Yankees) all finished ahead of him.

Then, in 2007, Francona finished fourth behind Eric Wedge (Indians), Scioscia and Torre. 

History has shown that the manager who wins the award is the one who has done more with less, and that doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a world champion. This year, that was Francona.


Why Francona Is the Right Choice

For those who wonder why Francona is a better choice, all you have to do is look deeper into the numbers:

The first number is the most important. With almost half the payroll of the Red Sox, the Indians were still able to be close in every category; Francona did more with less.

The Red Sox had seven players making more than $10 million, while the Indians had one—Nick Swisher ($11 million). Cleveland also did it with a patchwork rotation that included Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. Boston did it with the likes of Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster and Clay Buchholz.

Simply put, Farrell had more to work with in Boston than Francona did in Cleveland.


What His Players Are Saying

It’s interesting to get Cleveland players’ perspective on who was the heart of the team:

Francona brought a winning attitude to Cleveland, and it’s a mindset that gives players and fans hope for the future. 


He Deserved It

Despite your beliefs, it’s hard to argue that Francona didn’t deserve the award. He’s been worthy of the distinction for a long time, but somehow never was able to finish better than fourth.

Managing a team that lacked the star power that Boston had, it’s safe to say Francona and the Indians overachieved.

They improved by 24 games from a season ago. The last time Cleveland had a turnaround of that magnitude was in 1995, when it won 100 games, 34 more than the previous year. And it just so happened to coincide with their first World Series appearance in 41 years.

Francona turned around a team without the aid of a huge payroll, and did it with a bevy of players who had been written off by the rest of baseball.

The Indians gave Cleveland hope once again. It’s a hope that is almost 50 years in the making since the city last won a title in any sport. It’s been close a few times in baseball, but came up short. In basketball, it was thought that LeBron James would surely bring a title to his hometown. But that didn’t happen. And the Browns are…well, the Browns.

Cleveland is relevant again in the sports world and it’s thanks in large part to Francona.

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Jose Bautista Trade Rumors: MLB Teams Best Positioned for Blockbuster Deal

A year after being major players on the trade market, the Toronto Blue Jays are at it again, except from the other side of the aisle.

According to the Boston Globe‘s Nick Cafardo, the Blue Jays are getting inquiries about star outfielder Jose Bautista:

While general manager Alex Anthopoulos has balked at trading his star slugger in the past, there have been no guarantees of that this offseason.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Blue Jays are focusing on improving their rotation this offseason:

The Blue Jays traditionally are willing to listen on anyone, so there’s been speculation they could even move Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion.

The big focus, though, is on starters. It’ll help that Brandon Morrow appears to be back to full health. But they know they still need help. Toronto’s 4.81 rotation ERA was second worst to Minnesota‘s 5.26.

Heyman also mentioned that Toronto would look at getting better at second base and catcher as well.

Bautista has had his share of injuries over the last two seasons, playing in only 210 games. Still, even with the injuries, the power has been there with 55 home runs and 138 RBI. He also has a club-friendly contract that will pay him $28 million over the next two seasons, and a $14 million team option in 2016.

While it would take a lot for the Blue Jays to give up Bautista, especially considering their lack of outfield depth, the team will pull the trigger on the right deal.

So, which MLB teams have the right pieces and are best positioned for a blockbuster deal with the Blue Jays?


Texas Rangers

The Rangers inquired about Bautista prior to the trade deadline this year, according to CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler:

The Rangers are looking for outfield help after Nelson Cruz declined their qualifying offer, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. And the Rangers just so happen to have help at second base and pitcher.

With former top MLB prospect Jurickson Profar waiting for his starting spot at second base, Ian Kinsler would be a perfect target for the Blue Jays. Over the last three years, he’s batted .262/.341/.438 with 64 home runs and 221 RBI. Add in the fact that he’s owed $57 million over the next four years and you have a club-friendly contract.

Then there’s all the pitching the Rangers have. Out of all of their pitchers, Yu Darvish is the only real untouchable. But that leaves players like Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Neftali Feliz available for the taking.

If I were the Blue Jays, I’d go after Holland or Harrison, considering how well they’ve performed over the last three years:

The Rangers could also throw in a mid-level prospect as well in the deal to help entice the Blue Jays. Maybe someone like outfield prospect Lewis Brinson or second base prospect Rougned Odor would do the trick. Both players would help add depth in the minor leagues and be ready to contribute in a few years.

A few players could easily be switched out in the deal, but Kinsler and either Holland or Harrison would have to be a part of any deal.


St. Louis Cardinals

With how good their farm system is, the Cardinals are always in position to make a blockbuster deal. They have the pitching and the hitting that could satisfy the Blue Jays’ needs.

With Carlos Beltran being a free agent, the chances of the Cardinals re-signing him don’t look good, especially if big-market teams enter the mix.

That leaves Matt Holliday and Jon Jay as starters in the outfield. Another power bat is exactly what the Cardinals would need to replace Beltran. In fact, here’s how the two players compare over the last two seasons:

In 86 more games played, Beltran only has a big advantage in average. One would think Bautista could get the 43 RBI in that amount of time to equal Beltran’s total in that category.

The point is, the Cardinals have to replace Beltran’s numbers and Bautista can be that guy. And they play the same position, which is even better.

So, who would the Blue Jays be interested in?

For starters, Shelby Miller has to be in the mix. Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly will take up four spots in the rotation. Then there’s also Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia, who will compete for the fifth spot.

The Cardinals have depth in the rotation and Miller would definitely pique the Blue Jays’ interest.

Kolten Wong is another player who could be a part of the deal. The Cardinals already have Matt Carpenter in place at second, making Wong expendable. 

If you pair up Wong and Miller, along with a few low-level prospects on each side, this deal would get done. Both teams would fill needs on the roster and get better immediately.


New York Mets

The Mets would be an odd team to get into the mix, but as Mark Simon of ESPN New York opines, it’s a move GM Sandy Alderson should seriously consider:

Bautista is exactly the type of hitter that manager Terry Collins was describing when he made an end-of-season wish for someone who could hit behind David Wright

Bautista has the best home run rate in the majors over the past four seasons, averaging one every dozen at-bats, and he’s equally adept at hitting them on the road as he was in hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. Bautista doesn’t hit many cheap home runs.

Simon added that he asked ESPN insider Jim Bowden what it would cost the Mets, and he said a potential trade would have to start with Jonathon Niese:

He came up with the idea of a package that included Jonathon Niese and two prospects, one being Cesar Puello (the idea being to return a power-hitting prospect to the Blue Jays). We imagine the other prospect would have to be one of the Mets’ higher-end youngsters, though that’s just a guess.

While Niese is a good pitcher, he’s not the piece of the puzzle the Blue Jays need to make it to the top of the AL East. He has a combined 3.9 WAR over the last three seasons, according to ESPN, and has given up 46 home runs in that same timeframe

While Puello would be a nice addition for 2015 or 2016, the fact remains the Blue Jays are trying to compete now. R.A. Dickey will be 39 next year and doesn‘t have too many years left in the gas tank—even if he does throw a knuckleball.

Now, if the Mets threw Travis d’Arnaud into the mix, then it’s a different story. The Blue Jays could build around the young catcher and have a centerpiece to the franchise for many years to come.

Then again, the Blue Jays already got rid of d’Arnaud once and it’s unlikely the Mets will part with him.


Who’s Best Suited?

In the end, if any team makes a deal for Bautista, it’s going to be the Cardinals. Like all of the other big names that teams are listening to offers for, the Cardinals have enough depth to soften any type of blow a trade would have.

St. Louis could give up Miller, Wong and another prospect and still be set for the future.

But stranger things have happened during the offseason and this one should be no different.

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