Houston’s decision to fire Cecil Cooper with 13 games remaining left Dave Clark with a two-week stint as interim manager and the assumption seems to be that he won’t be offered the full-time job. So who will the Astros tab as their next manager? Alyson Footer of MLB.com and Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle both tackled that subject this morning.
Footer separated potential candidates into three groups consisting of 14 total names: Clark, Jim Fregosi, Bobby Valentine, Manny Acta, Willie Randolph, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Brad Ausmus, Jim Deshaies, Phil Garner, Bill Ripken, Tim Bogar, Kirk Gibson, Tim Wallach.
Not included on Footer’s list is longtime Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, who discussed his possible interest in the job with Ortiz:
Earlier in my career I think I had a desire to manage more than I do now. I don’t think that you go into the job like that without making a really strong commitment. And usually it has to have some length to it. So my interest right now, you know I’ve been around a long time, and I don’t know whether I’d have the same desire to make that type of commitment than I might have in years past.
Clark is Houston’s fifth manager in the past nine seasons and the job awaiting skipper No. 6 is a tough one, because the Astros don’t have much in the way of MLB-ready impact prospects coming up through the farm system and are 10 games below .500 despite spending over $100 million on the oldest team in the league. Among the 27 players who’ve batted 100 times or pitched 25 innings for Houston this season, only Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Felipe Paulino, Bud Norris, Alberto Arias, and Wesley Wright are in their twenties.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.