Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star writes that Trey Hillman is basically a dead manager walking, with the only question being whether the Royals will fire him during the season or simply let his contract run out.
I’m of the opinion that general manager Dayton Moore deserves a bigger share of the blame than Hillman, because he’s actually responsible for building a roster full of veteran mediocrity. With that said, the list of Hillman’s flawed decisions is a mile long and seemingly growing with each game, and as Mellinger points out regardless of the quality of the roster he simply hasn’t done what he was brought in to do:
He’s in charge of a roster that fits his tendencies and style better than either of the previous two. He likes speed and athletic ability, and the Royals finally have some. Judging a manager’s worth is endlessly tricky. Most times, it’s probably overrated. But here, where has Hillman improved the Royals?
He arrived as a hope to improve fundamentals. Before he ever managed a game, he talked about playing good defense and finding ways to manufacture runs. People would mention that he puts a lot of focus on the little things, and he’d quickly correct them. There are no little things, he’d say.
Well, in his third season and managing his kind of roster, the Royals rank last in defense and base running. Their run production doesn’t match up to their level of hitting, let alone exceed it. These are the areas Hillman was supposed to help. At best, he’s been ineffective.
Ultimately firing Hillman isn’t going to fix the Royals, because Joe McCarthy, John McGraw, and Earl Weaver together couldn’t manage this collection of scrubs to 75 wins. However, there’s little to indicate Hillman is pushing them in the right direction and plenty of evidence that he’s hindering the already shaky rebuilding process. His overall record as manager is 151-205 (.424), including 58-107 since last year’s 18-11 start.
Plus, as always the first step to an organizational overhaul is for the general manager to fire the manager. Once the Royals push Hillman out the door, whether by firing him now or opting not to renew his contract, then the pressure will be placed solely on Moore’s shoulders and the franchise might be ready for a more meaningful change.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Diamondbacks spoke with Bryce Dixon, the agent of free agent starter Johnny Cueto. However, Rosenthal notes that Cueto’s price tag is expected to exceed the Diamondbacks’ comfort level.
Cueto, 29, is one of a handful of highly touted starting pitchers in this offseason’s free agent class. He is joined by David Price and Zack Greinke, among others. Jordan Zimmermann inked a deal in the neighborhood of $110 million over five years with the Tigers on Sunday morning, which will serve as a barometer for Cueto.
Cueto finished the 2015 regular season, between the Reds and the Royals, with a 3.44 ERA and a 176/46 K/BB ratio over 212 innings. He made 13 shaky starts with the Royals, but outside of a shellacking in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, pitched well in the post-season. Cueto pitched a complete game in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, helping put the Royals up two games to none at the time.
As a result of switching teams during the season, Cueto was not eligible to receive a $15.8 million qualifying offer. This means that Cueto, unlike Zimmermann for example, does not come attached with draft pick compensation.
Nick Cafardo provides this interesting nugget in his Sunday notes column at the Boston Globe …
Hanley Ramirez, 1B-DH, Red Sox — There’s now talk in the front office that Dave Dombrowski is trying to move Ramirez in a deal. The Mariners, Orioles, and Angels seem to be the targets, and all three make sense.
Cafardo notes that “there are huge hurdles to cross” before a trade could happen — like how much of Hanley’s remaining salary the Red Sox would have to eat and what positions the soon-to-be 32-year-old is able to play defensively at this point in his career.
Boston’s higher-ups have asked Ramirez to learn first base and drop 20 pounds this winter. Whatever team is looking to acquire him would probably have to be comfortable with him serving primarily as a designated hitter.
Hanley is owed $68.2 million over the next three seasons and he carries a $22 million vesting option for 2019. He batted just .249/.291/.426 in 105 games this past year.
Ben Zobrist posted a cool .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 126 games this summer between Oakland and Kansas City while appearing defensively at second base, third base, and both corner outfield positions.
His steady bat and defensive versatility make him a fit for just about every club in Major League Baseball, and the defending National League champions are among the teams in hot pursuit …
It’s a little odd to see the rebuilding Braves listed there given that Zobrist is 34 years old, but Rosenthal says the interest stems from a “desire for him to serve as [a] model for younger players” as the club prepares to open a new ballpark in 2017. Wasn’t that supposed to be Nick Markakis‘ job?
Zobrist and his agent Alan Nero are believed to be seeking a four-year deal.
Hey, the hot stove is finally generating some real fire …
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Tigers have agreed to terms on a contract with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. It’s a five-year deal worth around $110 million, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.
This should have a domino effect on a loaded starting pitching market. David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Jeff Samardzija are just a few of the names still out there.
Zimmermann, 29, posted a 3.66 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 164/39 K/BB ratio in 201 2/3 innings this past season for the Nationals. He had a 2.66 ERA in 2014 and threw a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.
Zimmermann’s free agency is tied to draft pick compensation because he rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Washington, but the Tigers finished with one of the 10-worst win-loss records in 2015 so their first-round pick in 2016 is protected. Detroit will give up its second-round pick instead.