Who fired Trey Hillman, and what does it mean for the Royals?

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The dreaded vote of confidence. Trey Hillman got it just this past Monday when his GM, Dayton Moore, said this:

I think Trey’s done a terrific job . . . Trey is a tremendous leader. Somebody who is very consistent with who is he is day in and day out.
He’s exactly what our organization needs at this point in time.

I suppose technically speaking Monday was a different point in time than yesterday morning, so maybe things radically changed in Dayton Moore’s mind in the interim. I just kind of doubt it, though.  Something else is going on. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star says this was Moore’s decision, but really, it sounds to me like this was simply a matter of Moore being ordered to fire Hillman by the team’s owner, David Glass.

But let’s assume for a moment that Mellinger is right, and Moore did make the ultimate decision to fire Hillman. If so, what does that say about him as a general manager that his mind was changed so quickly and radically? That his words and deeds seem to have such a disconnect?  If his take on such important matters changes like the breeze, what confidence can Royals’ fans have in the players Moore drafts or the people he hires? Maybe they’re great on Monday but terrible by the end of the week too.

Alternatively, if I’m right and it was really David Glass who demanded that Hillman go, what does it say about Moore’s job security that he was allowed to put himself so far out there in defense of his manager, only to have the rug pulled out by ownership three days later?  If the owner isn’t going to let the GM make the call on these things, how much longer can we expect the GM to keep his own job?

To be honest, I kind of hope Glass is the one making the moves here, with all of the implications that entails. For starters, Hillman needed to be fired, no matter who did it.  Sure, he had little to work with in Kansas City,
but he likewise did
little to suggest that he would have been the right guy for the job if
he had.  He showed no ability to connect with his players — famously
alienating them during his first spring training game when he berated
them on the field in front of the fans and everyone — and perplexing
everyone else. He also very likely burned out Gil Meche’s arm and had a
habit of penciling in lineups that, for all of their creativity, didn’t
seem to have winning baseball games as their top priority.  I was cautiously optimistic about his chances when he was hired, but events proved that he just wasn’t the right guy for the job.

Second, if this all serves as a harbinger for Dayton Moore’s departure, all the better. Moore is a nice man. He was a fine assistant in Atlanta. He’s done nothing, however, to make the Royals better, and in many ways they’re worse off now than when he took over from previous GM Allard Baird.  Zack Greinke and Billy Butler are Baird guys. They’re also just about the only two decent players on the team. Everyone else is more or less a Moore product, and the team is presently older, more expensive and above all worse than it was just three years ago.

The ideal situation for this Royals team is for Ned Yost to play out the string as manager this year, while David Glass quietly and deliberately searches for a new general manager to take over after the season (ideally one could take over before the draft, but it’s too late for that now).  At that point Yost is thanked for his service and given a roving coaching job or a nice assistant to the whoever position, and the new GM can pick his own manager.

Yes, that was kind of what happened when Moore and Hillman were hired, and no, I don’t have a ton of confidence that Glass is capable of choosing the right guy for the GM’s chair, but there’s really no hope for this team unless they start all over again. Maybe Hillman’s firing — maybe at Glass’ direction — is evidence that process is getting underway.

A Mexican team wins the Caribbean Series for the third time in four years

Mexican players celebrate their victory in the Caribbean Series baseball final against Aragua Tigres of Venezuela, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Designated hitter Jorge Vazquez hit a game-winning home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, lifting Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory and the championship of the Caribbean Series. (AP Photo/Roberto Guzman)
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For those who aren’t familiar, Serie del Caribe, or the Caribbean Series, is the highest club level baseball tournament in Latin America, pitting the champions of the winter leagues in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela against one another in a bacchanalia of baseball that, if there was justice in the world, we’d all be watching instead of football.

This year’s installment ended last night with Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados beating Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres 5-4 in the final game at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jorge Vazquez — who Yankees fans may remember from a few years back — provided the winning margin when he hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.

This is the third Serie del Caribe title for a Mexican club in the past four years, with Naranjeros de Hermosillo winning in 2014 and Yaquis de Obregón winning in 2013. Pinar del Río from Puerto Rico won it last winter. This is the first time the Venados have won it.

As we noted yesterday, this was longtime MLB starter Freddy Garcia‘s last game. He gave up four hits and allowed two earned runs over five and a third innings for the Tigres, getting a no-decision.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.