My ballot: American League Rookie of the Year

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Later today the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce their choice for AL Rookie of the Year, but first here’s how my ballot would look:
1. Andrew Bailey, Oakland
2. Elvis Andrus, Texas
3. Jeff Niemann, Tampa Bay
4. Gordon Beckham, Chicago
5. Rick Porcello, Detroit
Honorable mention: Brett Anderson, Ricky Romero, Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters
I’m not all that keen on giving the award to a reliever, but Andrew Bailey was arguably the best relief pitcher in the entire American League this season. He went 6-3 and converted 26-of-30 saves with a 1.84 ERA and 91/25 K/BB ratio in 83 innings.
Among relievers with at least 60 innings Bailey led the league in opponents’ batting average (.167) and WHIP (0.88) while ranking second in ERA behind only Mariano Rivera. Bailey wasn’t on the field as much as the other top candidates, but he dominated like no other rookie, his 83 innings were the third-most of any AL reliever, and his outings came in higher-leverage situations than the rookie starters.
Gordon Beckham will almost surely get the most votes among position players because his raw offensive numbers are the best, but Elvis Andrus had a more valuable rookie campaign. Beckham hit .270/.347/.460 with seven steals, which made him five percent above average at third base. Andrus hit .267/.329/.373 with 33 steals, which made him almost exactly average at shortstop.
Beckham was slightly better than Andrus relative to their positions, but that edge quickly vanishes when you consider that Andrus had 25 percent more plate appearances and played spectacular defense at shortstop. I’ll take 541 plate appearances of average offense and great defense at an up-the-middle position over 430 plate appearances of slightly above average offense and average defense at a corner spot.
This season featured a high number of rookie starting pitchers making impacts, but Jeff Niemann stood out by going 13-6 with a 3.94 ERA and 125/59 K/BB ratio in 181 innings. Five rookies logged at least 150 innings, and Niemann had the biggest workload and a lower ERA than Ricky Romero, Rick Porcello, Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill. Niemann also tied for third in the AL with two complete-game shutouts, behind only Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.