The Indians have found their man.
Sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com that Terry Francona will manage the Indians. The club is expected to make an official announcement Monday.
Francona just came in for an interview with the Indians yesterday, but he has been considered the favorite over the past week or two. According to Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 in Cleveland, the former Red Sox skipper said on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight last night that he was only considering whether to manage the Indians next season or return to his broadcasting job at ESPN. Sandy Alomar, Jr., who finished the season as the interim manager after Manny Acta was fired, was the only other known candidate for the permanent job.
Some may call the Indians an odd destination for Francona on the surface, as they don’t have the talent or the payroll that he was blessed with in Boston, but maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised. Francona worked as an advisor with the Indians in 2001 and has maintained a relationship with general manager Chris Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro. Of course, Francona’s father, Tito Francona, played six seasons for the Indians from 1959-64.
Francona owns a 1,029-915 record over 12 seasons as manager with the Phillies and Red Sox. He led Boston to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. The Indians admittedly aren’t close to the World Series after finishing this season at 68-94, but Francona’s hiring at least provides some reason for hope in the near future.
UPDATE, 18:23 PM: The Indians have confirmed the news through their Twitter feed.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.