I just watched the press conference introducing Terry Francona as the Indians’ new manager and there were a few interesting tidbits.
• Francona signed a four-year contract that runs through 2016 and said negotiations were very easy, which is noteworthy because some initial speculation wondered if he might be out of the Indians’ price range.
• Of course, after general manager Chris Antonetti gave him a very complimentary introduction Francona joked: “After that introduction, I don’t think I got enough money.”
• Francona’s father, Tito Francona was there. Tito played for the Indians from 1959-1964, making an All-Star team one year and finishing top-five in the MVP voting another year, and Terry explained that he “cried a little bit” when telling his father he was taking the job.
• Francona admitted that he “was showing some wear and tear” near the end of his time with the Red Sox, but assured everyone that he’s “fully committed” to the Indians and “didn’t come here to go to pasture.”
• On the roster that has fallen apart in the second half of back-to-back seasons, Francona said: “Every player starts with a clean slate.” Sort of fitting, considering Francona is basically doing the same by coming to Cleveland.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.