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.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.