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How to win the Manager of the Year Award: prove the pundits wrong

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I wrote this when Bud Black won the Manager of the Year Award in 2010, and Aaron touched on some of the same themes earlier today. I think it remains the most that can be said about the Manager of the Year Award:

As I’ve said in the past, no one has ever set forth a good measurement for what makes a Manager of the Year, so it usually ends up with a “who did the most with the least” analysis.  Bud Black likely won on that basis.  But really, it was probably more of a perceived least — perceived by the voters — than an actual least. Everyone picked the Padres to finish in last place this year.  They didn’t, and a lot of it had to do with a roster that turned out to be better than a lot of people expected.  Should Black be rewarded because of the so-called experts’ low expectations? In practice he was, but I’m not sure it should always work that way. If the expectations were a bit different, we could easily portray the Padres’ season as one that was great but got derailed by an ugly ten-game losing streak late in the year which ended up costing them the division.  Has a manager whose team fit that description ever won Manager of the Year before?

None of which is to slight Black.  He did do a fine job, and is by all accounts a fine manager.  But I can’t help but think that the Manager of the Year Award, generically speaking, tells us a lot more about the writers who vote on it than the managers themselves.

Still feels that way.  I’ll give a little more credit to Buck Showalter’s case because I tend to think that managers have more control over bullpen management than anything else and the clear strength of the Orioles throughout the year was both the deployment of and the performance by their bullpen. But really, Showalter could have managed the hell out of that pen just like he did and the O’s could have missed the playoffs or even not contended after July if there were a couple of key injuries and bad bounces and we’d probably not be talking about him as a favorite.

All of the guys who are finalists for Manager of the Year had fine years and did little if anything to hurt their team. Which, one only need look around a bit to see, may be just as important as bullpen management. But there’s no escaping the fact that several of the candidates for Manager of the Year — Showalter, Davey Johnson and Bob Melvin most notably — have to thank low pre-season expectations for their candidacy just as much as anything measurable — and that’s the key point I’m trying to make here, the dearth of measurable things — we can point to for their status as finalists.

Most us didn’t think the O’s or A’s would escape the cellar.  Most of us expected the Nats to be plucky, but thought of them as a 2013 or 2014 contender, not the choice to have baseball’s best record in 2012.  That, more than anything else, is why those guys are really in the conversation and, I believe anyway, two of those three guys will win the Manager of the Year Award tonight.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

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Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.

White Sox reportedly considering Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond
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Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.

After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.

Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.

Pirates sign reliever Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty
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Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.

O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.

It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.