Terry Francona

Who is better than Terry Francona?

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Terry Francona leaves his starters in too long, he’s too prone to pinch-running for his best hitters and not aggressive enough in pinch-hitting for his worst.

But so what? He’s 744-552 with two World Series championships in eight years with the Red Sox. To believe he needs to go is to believe that pretty much all managers have a shelf life and that eight years is about as long as anyone can last in the same role.

I don’t buy that. And I’m not sure where there’s an upgrade on Francona to be found. None of the retreads are attractive at all. Bobby Valentine is interesting, but it’s doubtful he’d be as open to front-office input as Francona was and that fact alone would probably rule him out for the job.

The Red Sox have also lost their two internal candidates to step in.  Brad Mills left to take over as Houston’s manager two years ago, and John Farrell was hired by Toronto prior to the 2011 season. Bench coach DeMarlo Hale is likely too close to Francona to survive a regime change. Current third-base coach Tim Bogar may be a candidate to manage someday, but he’ll need some time as a bench coach first.

So, the Red Sox would almost certainly have to look outside the organization, possibly to the Triple-A ranks. Ryne Sandberg’s name could come up. His stock continued to climb after a fine year with the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, though I’m not sure his ideas would mesh with Boston’s. Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is a likely candidate; he’s likely to get an interview with the White Sox. The Twins’ Scott Ullger is another bench coach with managerial potential.

There just isn’t anyone out there screaming “I need to be a major league manager.” The Red Sox will really be rolling the dice when they make the move to replace their most successful manager in franchise history. Unless he’s truly lost the clubhouse, Francona should be welcomed back.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.