The heat is already on Jerry Manuel

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Jerry Manuel.jpgIt’s a month and a half before the games start and the tabloids are already poised to pounce:

David Wright, Jose Reyes and now Johan Santana all have said they expect the Mets to win the World Series. The Mets are turning the page on an injury-plagued 2009 by making one bold statement after another. That means the pressure is on Jerry Manuel like never before.

The manager has to produce. The Mets must get off to a good start.
Manuel will offer up his State of the Mets address today with his first
formal press conference of the 2010 season. He has made it clear the
Mets have to get off to that good start.

I’m not the world’s biggest Jerry Manuel fan, but to the extent this Mets team has had problems recently, I figure them to be about 50% injury-inflicted, 35% front office-inflicted and 15% on Jerry Manuel, if that.  Fact is a manager doesn’t make nearly as big a difference as most people like to pretend he does, even if he is the first to get the blame when things go sideways.  A manager’s primary job in my view is to manage the clubhouse, diffusing the strife and keeping everything on an even keel. You have to fire the skipper when he loses the clubhouse, but beyond that, personnel and health mean a lot more to a team’s chances at success than the manager.

I don’t doubt that Manuel will get fired if the team starts poorly, but unless players are fighting one another or something, that poor start won’t really be Jerry Manuel’s fault.

Dodgers sign Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million deal

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Rich Hill #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs in game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.

Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.

Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.

UPDATE: Giants agree to a deal with Mark Melancon

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Mark Melancon #43 of the Washington Nationals reacts after the final out as the Nationals defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-3 in game three of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 10, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.

12:15 PMKen Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.

Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.

The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.

What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.

Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.