I want the Cubs to hire their new GM quickly. Why? To spare us from speculation pieces with passages like this one from Olney’s column this morning:
And here’s another big name to keep in mind: Theo Epstein, the general manager of the Red Sox … Keep in mind that Epstein has carved out a strong position under Red Sox owners Henry and Tom Werner, and friends say he has a deep loyalty to the Boston organization — and keep in mind that Boston is his hometown, and that Epstein is in the middle of his current contract … There’s no telling how Henry would react, or how Ricketts would handle that situation, or what Epstein would want, until those conversations take place.
So there’s no suggestion that the Cubs are interested in Epstein, no suggestion that Epstein wants to go anywhere and he’s locked up for several more years? Well hell, you may as well start clearing out a new office for him already.
Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman are great GMs who make a load of money, have near-infinite resources at their disposal and, time after time, say they’re not interested in going anyplace else. In light of that, it seems like we should demand more than “[Epstein or Cashman] would be a good fit” stories. Of course they’d be good fits. They’d be good fits anyplace. But it strikes me that there’s gotta be some there there before we go there, ya know?
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.