2011 World Series Game 4 -Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals

Joe Torre’s MLB job “informally offered” to Tony La Russa


When Joe Torre stepped down as Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations a couple of weeks ago, I said this, based on nothing other than me speculatin’ on a hypothesis:

If baseball is smart they’d give the job to Kim Ng full time because someone needs to break up the boys club. But if they don’t do that, the permanent replacement has to be Tony La Russa, right?

Last night, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted this:

The MLB job vacated by Joe Torre has been informally offered to Tony La Russa, but he has shown no inclination in taking the position.

Hey, if he doesn’t want it he doesn’t want it, but it makes so much sense for him.  My sense of that job is that it is sort of an, I dunno, royal position with a healthy does of p.r. being part of it. I don’t mean that to belittle it — important decisions like discipline and many key on-the-field issues flow through it — but it’s kind of a two-headed monster.

On the one hand you have the essential but kind of tedious work of the position. Reviewing precedent to see what happened in the last big beanball war to see what sort of punishment is necessary. Reading the reports from the umps following off-the-field incidents. Being on the phone with the National Weather Service for four hours to figure out if the playoff game is gonna get soaked or not. That job, I hear, is largely done by the second-in-command. Most recently that guy has been Sr. Vice President Peter Woodfork, who is said to do a hell of a job with all of that.

But that’s not the part we see. We see Joe Torre — or La Russa or whoever — meeting the press and saying so-and-so is going to happen as a result of the brawl or the playoff game is going to be postponed or that Joe West and his friends are gonna sit down shut up and accept the new robot umpires (allow me to dream).

I’m not saying they are figureheads — I’m sure Torre made the final calls and La Russa certainly would if he took the job — but they are definitely most useful for their gravitas and experience. They have to wade into controversial issues and give MLB’s official position, and it’s way more useful for seasoned, respected people who are used to dealing with a press gaggle doing that than someone of lesser public stature.

La Russa said when he retired as the Cardinals manager that he still wants to work a real job as opposed to being some whatever emeritus ambassador type.  If that’s the case, I couldn’t imagine a job he’d be more suited for than this one. He’s probably the most intelligent ex-manager going. He’s prickly, sure, but there probably isn’t anyone who is more capable of wading into the kind of controversial things the Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations has to wade into.  The job is made for him.

Plus, I don’t know what I’m gonna do if I can’t make Tony La Russa jokes next season. So do this for me, Tony. Will ya?

Report: Ben Zobrist’s price tag is currently four years, $60 million

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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Ben Zobrist will turn 35 years old early next summer, but that doesn’t seem to be putting too much of a dent in his free agent value.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the “sense among interested teams” is that Zobrist’s price is currently hovering around four years, $60 million and it “may go higher.”

There was a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on Sunday stating that the Mets have made Zobrist their “No. 1” offseason target, and over a dozen other clubs have linked to him since the World Series ended. That’s the kind of attention you command when you can both hit — Zobrist posted an .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 2015 — and also cover a range of positions defensively.

He makes sense for just about any club looking to contend in the coming seasons.

Wilin Rosario elects to become free agent

Wilin Rosario
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
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Wilin Rosario was designated for assignment by the Rockies late last month. Now, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com, the 26-year-old former National League Rookie of the Year vote-getter has elected to become a free agent.

Rosario is a bad defensive catcher and wasn’t much better when the Rockies tried him at first base, but he should draw some interest from American League teams looking for a bench bat and part-time DH.

Rosario slugged 28 home runs for the Rockies in 2012 and he’s averaged 26 home runs for every 162 games over the course of his five-year major league career.

He boasts a .319/.356/.604 career batting line against left-handed pitching.

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson

As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger. There is also a second player headed to Baltimore in the deal.

This feels like an admission from the O’s that they’re not going to be able to re-sign Chris Davis, who is said to be looking for more than $150 million in free agency.

Clevenger was out of options and the Orioles have both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph coming back at the catcher position. Wieters was due to become a free agent but accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Baltimore last month.

Trumbo has always been a low-OBP guy and he rates as a poor defender everywhere he has played, but the 29-year-old has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBI for every 162 games in his six-year major league career. Camden Yards is a much better place than Safeco Field for him to show that power.

Cardinals finished runner-up to Red Sox in David Price sweepstakes

David Price
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

These kind of after-the-ink-has-dried reports have to be taken with a grain of salt for a variety of reasons, but they’re fantastic conversation-starters …

Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the Cardinals “finished runner-up” to the Red Sox in the bidding for free agent left-hander David Price, who signed with Boston on Monday for a record seven years and $217 million.

There were reports early on that the Red Sox were going to have to overpay on Price because he wanted to either stay in Toronto or make the move to the more pitcher-friendly National League. And maybe they did go significantly above and beyond the next-best offer to land him.

But the report from Nightengale serves as an indication that the Cardinals are ready and willing to spend big money ahead of next week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. Does that chunk of change now get directed toward Jason Heyward? Or might the Cardinals pounce one of the falling dominos in this still-loaded starting pitching market? What about both?

St. Louis lost Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery last month and both Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha carry some injury concerns into 2016. There’s money to spend there with a new billion-dollar local television deal about ready to kick in.