Astros owner Jim Crane took a break from answering Roger Clemens-related questions long enough to say that the team has narrowed down its list of managerial candidates and will interview 6-8 of them this week.
So far interim manager Tony DeFrancesco is the only known candidate, as both Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow declined to reveal any other names. DeFrancesco is 5-15 since taking over for Brad Mills, who was fired after going 171-274 (.384) in two-plus seasons on the job.
And what are they looking for in a manager? Previous experience managing in the majors is not a prerequisite and according to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com “the Astros want a manager who’s capable of taking the analytical information from the front office and then utilizing it to make better decisions on the field, as well as one who’s adept at working with young players.”
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.