Greg Holland

Lester, Kemp, Melky, Cespedes and Other Rumors and Factoids

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With the winter meetings commencing in San Diego Monday, there should be a handful of big named players that are dealt, signed, or talked about in the coming days.

Jon Lester and Matt Kemp are the two biggest names that are constantly creating a buzz on the line. It’s clear that Lester will set the bar for free agent pitching with his signing almost certainly to come before that of fellow free agent pitchers Max Scherzer and James Shields.

UPDATE – ESPN’s Buster Olney has reported that a decision by Lester is expected between Monday night and some time on Tuesday.

The only reported contract that has been offered to the left-hander is a six-year, $138MM deal that the Chicago Cubs have served up. On Saturday, Red Sox owner John Henry flew to Atlanta to meet with his former star to see if a deal can be struck to bring Lester back to Boston. You can be sure Henry flat out asked what will it take, and will certainly be looking for a hometown discount. Especially after the boatload of money given to free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

The Red Sox rotation for 2015 is, at the moment, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rubby De La Rosa, Alan Webster, and either Anthony Ranaudo or Brandon Workman. Even if Lester returns to the Red Sox, whom he played parts of nine seasons for until his trade to Oakland at the July deadline, the Red Sox will be looking to acquire another proven starter before Spring Training.

In dealing John Lackey and Lester, the Red Sox received outfielder/1st baseman Allen Craig and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.  Boston appears to be willing to move one or both to strengthen their starting pitching. Rumors flew on Sunday that the Red Sox and San Diego Padres were discussing a Cespedes for Ian Kennedy deal.

Kennedy bounced back from a rough 2013 season with 201 innings pitched, a WHIP under 1.3 and a 3.63 ERA in 2014. He finished 13-13 to remain 13 games over .500 in his career. Cespedes started hitting like a house afire when he joined the Red Sox (22 RBI in 24 games), but ended up with a .719 OPS in 51 games after a weak September.

The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to look for a new home for outfielder Matt Kemp. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma New Tribune reported Saturday that Dodgers and Seattle Mariners were close to a deal, but the Dodgers insisted that one of Seattle’s top pitching prospects – Taijuan Walker or James Paxton – be included in the deal. Seattle responded with a big “NO” to that.

According to FoxSports’ Jon Morosi, the Texas Rangers have now joined Seattle, Baltimore, and San Diego in pursuit of Kemp. Bob Nightengale of USA Today believe the Padres are the likely landing spot for the veteran outfielder.

Kemp isn’t the only Dodger being shopped. LA spoke to the Arizona Diamondbacks about a swap that would sent first baseman Andre Ethier to the desert for catcher Miguel Montero.  A potential deal was negated by Arizona ownership, per FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal. Trading within the division is always a tricky thing and it’s understandable that front offices get nervous about a player coming back to haunt them 15-20 times a year.

The market for Melky Cabrera is beginning to heat up. The Mariners are reportedly very interested in a Melky – Robinson Cano reunion. The contract could be similar to the four-year deal the M’s gave Nelson Cruz. The San Francisco Giants, who the Melkman played for in 2012, are also showing interest. Cabrera missed the last 50 games of the regular season due to his Biogenesis suspension and the Giants decided against bringing him back for the playoffs.

Pitcher Jason Hammel appears headed back to the Chicago Cubs, per the NY Post’s Joel Sherman. Hammel was dealt by the Cubs to Oakland at the deadline last season and subsequently bombed.

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported that the New York Mets, very much in need of a shortstop, have talked to the Mariners about Chris Taylor and Brad Miller. Wilmer Flores is the Mets shortstop in the meantime.

Rosenthal’s sources say the Milwaukee Brewers are open to dealing outfielder Gerardo Parra. The 27-year old was sent from Arizona to Milwaukee for a pair of minor leaguers at this past season’s trade deadline.

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun has the Blue Jays talking to the KC Royals about closer Greg Holland. The Royals need to replenish their starting pitching with the likely departure of free agent James Shields. The Royals have a number of hard throwing relievers, with Kelvin Herrera as the favorite to replace Holland if he’s dealt. The price for Holland would be steep after the 29-year old saved 93 games and blew just five opportunities over the last two seasons.

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Ishikawa’s Blast Solidified Bochy’s Hall Of Fame Entry

Champagne showers or not, Bruce Brochy belongs in Cooperstown.

Champagne showers or not, Bruce Brochy belongs in Cooperstown.

by Drew Sarver

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy can easily identify with Travis Ishikawa, his sparingly used first baseman. Bochy appeared in just 358 games during a nine-season Major League career. Ishikawa has played in 444 games in his seven-year Major League career. Bochy hit 26 career home runs, while Ishikawa has hit 22 career home runs during the regular season.

But last Thursday night Ishikawa sealed Bochy’s entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager. Ishikawa, who played one game with the Yankees last year, struck out twice and was booed off the field, smashed a walkoff three-run home run to give the Giants a 5-2 NL pennant winner over the St. Louis Cardinals. The blast off of St. Louis Cardinals reliever Michael Wacha sent the Giants to their third World Series in the last five years.

The Bochy-led Giants won the championship in 2010 (vs. Texas) and 2012 (vs. Detroit) and will now face the Kansas City Royals, who have become America’s darlings. This is the first time a Bochy squad has made it to the finals as a wild card entrant. Madison Bumgarner pitched a complete game in the Giants 8-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the one game NL wild card showdown.

As a player, Bochy was best known for the size of his head. Whenever the Houston Astros, New York Mets, or Padres were on television and Bochy was in the lineup at catcher, the conversation would invariably lead to the larger than normal sized pate atop Bochy’s neck and the custom made batting and catching helmets and cap he needed. Apparently the, reportedly, 8 1/8-size baseball cap holds a lot of brains beneath it. You don’t get to the World Series three times in five seasons merely on talent alone. There’s been plenty of teams with talent that never get to the World Series.

The career .239 hitter was hired to skipper the Padres in 1995, eight years after he had retired as a player. Bochy took over a team that had finished a combined 63 games under .500 with manager Jim Riggleman in 1993-1994 and led them to a 70-74 in his first season, which was shortened by the strike that overlapped from the prior year. A year later, the Padres won 91 and the NL West, and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since the team won the NL pennant in 1984.

They were swept in three games by the Cardinals, losing a one-run game and a pair of two-run games. After a subpar 1997 season, the Pads won 98 games, beat the Astros in the NLDS (4-1), and the Braves in the NLCS (4-2) to capture the second NL pennant in club history. The Padres had the unfortunate task of then going up against the New York Yankees, who had won 114 regular season games. After  blowing a 5-2 lead in Game 1, the Padres were swept by the Yankees in four games.

San Diego didn’t make it back to the playoffs until 2005, where they were swept in the NLDS and lost three of four in the following year’s NLDS as well. After the 2006 season and 12 years at the helm in San Diego, and with one year remaining on his contract, the then-51-year old Bochy decided it was time to move on. The Padres granted permission to the Giants to talk to Bochy about their managerial opening and he agreed to a three-year deal to move to northern California.

The Giants had lost the 2002 World Series to the Angels in seven games, but made the playoffs just once more in the next four seasons under manager Felipe Alou. Bochy kept Alou’s pitching coach Dave Righetti, bullpen coach Mark Gardner, hitting coach Joe Lefebvre, and bench coach Ron Wotus. All four remain in their position today (Lefebvre moved to the front office as a senior advisor and serves as an assistant hitting coach to Hensley Muelens) as does Tim Flannery, who joined Bochy as third base coach in 2007 after having served in the same position for part of Bochy’s time with the Padres.

After 71- and 72-win campaigns, the Giants won 88 games in 2009 and were World Series Champions a year later. Two years later they captured 94 victories and their second title under Bochy. Though he has won only one Manger of the Year Award, he certainly has been deserving of more (perhaps this year he’ll add a second).

Bochy has compiled a 1618-1604 regular season record (18th all time in wins) in 20 Major League seasons, 2 World Series titles so far and four pennants. 12 of the 17 managers that have won more games than Bochy have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Of the five not in the Hall, only Ralph Houk matches Bochy’s two World Series titles. None of the five can match the four pennants that Bochy-led teams have won.

Other than the ’98 Padres, which featured Greg Vaughn, Kevin Brown, Tony Gwynn, and Trevor Hoffman, Bochy’s teams in San Diego were not talent laden. Ownership was more into keeping a low payroll than obtaining/keeping talent. The 2000 San Diego roster was drastically different than the 1998 squad despite just two years between.

Bochy has had more to work with in San Francisco, especially when it comes to the Giants’ pitching staff. He also has an ownership that will spend a little extra money here and there, and a front office, led by GM Brian Sabean, that has done a good job of development of home grown talent.

Whether Bochy wins or loses this year’s “Fall Classic”, he should have already earned his place in Cooperstown.

Perhaps on a larger plaque.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

KC’s 2014 Goal: Baseball Royalty

yventura

Fireballer Yordano Ventura is ready to take on the AL

by Alli Baker

Key Acquisitions: Norichika Aoki, Omar Infante, Danny Valencia, Jason Vargas

Key Losses: Will Smith, Chris Getz, Ervin Santana, David Lough

For the past few decades, the Kansas City Royals haven’t exactly been regarded as the team to beat. They’ve tended to stay toward the bottom of the pack during the regular season and then remain quiet in the ensuing offseason. 2013, however, was a completely different year for the Royals, as the team had a legitimate chance to make the playoffs in the final month of the season. Although the postseason didn’t happen for the Royals, an 86-76 mark was their best record since 1989 and was good enough for a third place finish in the AL Central.

This past season put some faith back into the organization and gave Royals fans something to hope for. With young stars Eric Hosmer (.801 OPS-17  HR-76 RBI-Gold Glove)), Mike Moustakas (12 HR), Salvador Perez (.757 OPS-13 HR 79-RBI-Gold Glove), Alex Gordon (.749 OPS-20 HR-81 RBI-3rd straight Gold Glove) and veteran Billy Butler (.757 OPS-15 HR-82 RBI), the Royals have an offense and defense to build around. They’re also looking for a breakout year from center fielder Lorenzo Cain.

The organization made moves this offseason to keep that faith alive among the fans and the team’s progress moving forward. Two of the biggest problems faced by GM Dayton Moore were right field and second base. Both Chris Getz and David Lough left the club, leaving these spots vacant. The Royals did exactly what was needed, signing free agent second baseman Omar Infante and acquiring Norichika Aoki from the Brewers for pitcher Will Smith to take over the spot in right field.

Infante, considered to be one of the best second basemen in the league, should be able to help the Royals both defensively and offensively during the upcoming season.

With the departure of free agent starter Ervin Santana and ace James Shields entering the final season of his contract, the Royals were also faced with a pitching problem. They filled the void left by Santana when they signed veteran Jason Vargas, though he isn’t going to give the Royals the same type of performance that Santana did.2 Luckily for the Royals, not all players have to come from trades in the big leagues. The Royals minor league system is deep in starting pitchers, most notably Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura.

Zimmer, who is known for his strong fastball, pitched for the Royal last season, but had his season shortened by bicep tendinitis. However, the injury shouldn’t impact Zimmer’s chances of making it to the majors this season. The Royals still have high hopes for the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft. The right-hander is expected to join the team around mid-season and is being counted on to become a permanent part of the rotation.3

The 22-year-old Ventura is currently competing for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation, joining Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Vargas, and Bruce Chen. The native of the Dominican Republic, who made his major league debut last season with the Royals, is “ready for the major leagues,” according to  Moore. Throwing upwards of 100 mph, Ventura is likely to find a place in the bullpen if he doesn’t win the fifth spot in the rotation.

Zimmer and Ventura are at the top of the Royals promising future and both were ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects List.1  Moore hopes they’ll be joined by talented prospects, including Raul Mondesi and Jorge Bonifacio, give the Kansas City Royals hope that their future is looking favorable.

After their best season in over 20 years, the Royals know that the team has a chance to do something amazing. With their offseason acquisitions and development of prospects, it appears the Royals now have the tools to make 2014 a defining season.

1 – Baseball America.com 

2 – si.com

3 – sbnation.com

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23