Because people naturally look for a fall guy in such instances, the question that was only simmering over the past few days has blown up today: should the Red Sox fire Terry Francona? It’s the subject of columns. And a survey. And I presume it’s going to be all over talk radio. But does it make any sense?
Not from where I’m sitting. Terry Francona didn’t injure Clay Buchholz, Diasuke Matsuzaka, Kevin Youkilis and — I’m guessing to an extent more than anyone has let on — Adrian Gonzalez. He didn’t cause Carl Crawford and John Lackey to take collective dumps all season and Jon Lester and Josh Beckett to do the same through much of September. He wasn’t the steadiest hand on the rudder with the bullpen down the stretch, but then again, no one down there gave him any reason for confidence.
A ton of stuff led to this Red Sox collapse. So many things that it’s easy to throw up your hands and say that, given the total failure, the guy who is in charge of everything — Terry Francona — should be held responsible. But I say that’s baloney. Maybe he cost a team a win here or there with a questionable decision, but tons of games were lost simply because a lot of highly-paid professionals didn’t do their jobs. Or were hurt. Or both. Blaming Francona may make you feel good for a little while, but I really don’t see how he’s even in the top five of blameworthy Boston Red Sox.
Now, Fredi Gonzalez on the other hand …
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.
The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.
Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.
As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.