UPDATE: It’s done. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves will name Fredi Gonzalez as their next manager on Thursday.
6:00 PM: There has been almost zero speculation about who will be the next Braves’ manager. Why? Because everyone agrees that it will almost certainly be former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez. Indeed, the fact that none of the Braves writers are even playing the “who are the potential candidates” games to fill column inches leads me to believe that everyone knows it’s a done deal already but that the team has been holding off until the Braves season is over and Bobby Cox got his formal good-bye. Braves writers are pretty good at keeping an information embargo.
Well, the season is over now, so all bets are off. That has David O’Brein of the AJC is saying that Gonzalez will be named the Braves’ next manager right around the World
Series, either right before or right afterward.
It’s probably the best choice under the circumstances. Not that Gonzalez is the best managerial candidate full stop. Just that, given where the team is right now — competitive, loaded with players who are Cox’s guys — it was inevitable that the team would pick one of the many Cox proteges around the league.
Gonzalez was Bobby Cox’s third base coach for several years and Cox is quite fond of him. He’s available. When you add in the fact that unlike, say, Terry Pendelton or some others, Gonzalez has big league experience, the choice is pretty obvious.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.