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

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

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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?

Marc Rzepczynski signs two-year, $11 million contract with Mariners

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 9: Marc Rzepczynski #23 of the Washington Nationals looks on before pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning during game two of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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After rumors of the deal surfaced on Thursday, the Mariners officially signed veteran reliever Marc Rzepczynski to a two-year, $11 million deal on Friday night. Per a report by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the lefty is due $5.5 million in 2017 and 2018.

The signing marks the left-hander’s fourth trade since July 2015. He bounced from the Indians to the Padres at the 2015 trade deadline, then to the Athletics in the offseason, then to the Nationals in late August of 2016. Last season, he pitched to a career-best 2.64 ERA during 47 2/3 innings with the Athletics and Nationals, but hit an all-time low with 5.5 BB/9 that fed into a 1.59 K/BB rate. While the 31-year-old’s split against right-handed batters are underwhelming (a career .277/.377/.431 line with 123 walks and 24 home runs), he’s held lefties to a respectable .222/.291/.298 line with just 52 walks and eight homers.

Adding Rzepczynski to the bullpen should check off another to-do item for Mariners’ GM Jerry Dipoto, though FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman notes that the club is still likely to pursue an additional reliever and a No. 4 starter before the offseason comes to a close.

2016 Winter Meetings Preview

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is seen along the Potomac River February 26, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The baseball world will descend on Washington D.C. — well, the Maryland suburbs of Washington, at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor — this weekend for the 2016 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Twenty free agents from a class of 191 have signed thus far. Among the notable: Yoenis Cespedes, Edinson Volquez, Neil Walker, Josh Reddick, Bartolo Colon, and R.A. Dickey. That, of course, leaves a ton of notables left, including Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Turner, Jose Bautista, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Trumbo, Mark Melancon, Rich Hill and a host of others. Here is our rundown of this offseason’s top free agents if you’re curious. As you have come to expect from us, we’ll have a writeup of everyone who signs, faster than almost anyone else will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is an historically thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. We’ve seen a couple already, most notably the deals which sent Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks, Jaime Garcia to the Braves and Brian McCann to the Astros. Most experts believe there will be plenty more this winter, and the ball could really get rolling on that in the next week with guys like Andrew McCutchen, Chris Sale, Chris Archer, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Brandon Phillips on the block.

Another major activity of the Winter Meetings is the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote. Except, this year, there is no Veterans Committee, at least in name. It’s now the “Today’s Game” committee. Here are links to breakdowns of the candidacies of all ten men on the ballot the new committee will consider:

Harold Baines
Albert Belle
Will Clark
Orel Hershiser
Mark McGwire
George Steinbrenner
Davey Johnson
Lou Piniella
John Shuerholz
Bud Selig

Trade deals, free agent negotiations and Hall of Fame votes take place behind closed doors at the Gaylord Resort. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year’s new faces are Torey Lovullo with the Diamondbacks, Rick Renteria with the White Sox and Bud Black with the Rockies. Brian Snitker, now the permanent manager of the Braves, will get his first go-around at the managerial cattle call. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. And a lot of it. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings, though this year’s brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement should overshadow that. We’ve already discussed the major points of that and, yesterday, I speculated that, as time goes on, the way this agreement was reached could lead to some serious strife going forward, particularly on the union side. Expect to hear some anonymous rumblings about all of that in the next few days, from players, agents and other interested parties who may not be all that pleased with how it goes.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at National Harbor, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event. As they used to say in radio, tune in to us and rip off the dial. Or, at the very least, keep a tab open to us and refresh a lot.