Minnesota gave zero indication that general manager Bill Smith’s job was in jeopardy despite a 99-loss season, with ownership publicly issuing a vote of confidence last month, but today the Twins fired Smith and replaced him on an interim basis with former general manager Terry Ryan.
Smith replaced Ryan as GM in late 2007 and has made a series of unsuccessful big-picture moves, including trading Johan Santana, Matt Garza, Wilson Ramos, and J.J. Hardy for very underwhelming returns.
When Ryan stepped down from the job in 2007 he cited a desire to focus on baseball rather than the off-field responsibilities that come along with being a GM, whereas the perception of Smith is that he was far more suited to handle those off-field responsibilities than he was making personnel decisions. He made several nice low-wattage free agent signings, but the bigger the move the worse Smith fared.
It’s unclear how long Ryan plans to stay on as GM this time around, but last week the Twins brought back his former right-hand man, Wayne Krivsky, who left Minnesota to become Cincinnati’s GM in 2005. They also denied the Orioles’ request to interview vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff. This isn’t so much a front office shakeup as it is admitting a mistake and turning back to the clock to the previous regime.
UPDATE: Smith did a local radio interview with 1500-ESPN and was an organizational soldier to the end, refusing to say a bad word about anyone. He’s been offered another role in the organization, but said he’s undecided. It was a very weird post-firing chat and Smith cited “philosophical differences” while making it pretty obvious that he was surprised by the firing.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.