The Tigers just held Jim Leyland’s press conference. The highlights:
Leyland said he wanted it to be clear that he was not at all forced out. It was all his idea. And the idea had been in his head for longer than many may have expected.
On September 7th, after the game against Kansas City, he met Dave Dombrowski for coffee and told Dombrowski that he was going to step down after the season. Dombrowski wanted him to stay, but Leyland said that “it was time” and that “the fuel was starting to get low.” No players were told. Dombrowski told only owner Mike Ilitch. Leyland told his wife, Tony La Russa and Gene Lamont, each of whose advice he took on the matter. Leyland wanted to make the time frame of his decision — and the fact that only a couple of people knew — totally clear so that it could not be said that there was any sense on part of the players that they weren’t on the same page as he was. They had no idea that he was going to be gone.
MORE: Is Jim Leyland headed for Cooperstown?
He first informed his players Saturday night after the loss to Boston. There was first silence and then applause. He had nothing but good things to say about his players and reaffirmed, without hesitation, how he was proud of being thought of as a players’ manager throughout his career. He had nothing but the most glowing praise for owner Mike Illitch and Dave Dombrowski. For whom he will still be working, by the way, as Leyland announced that he will be accepting another position in the organization and said he “wanted to retire a Tiger.”
As anyone who has watched the Tigers closely knows, Leyland is an emotional man. He lasted longer in this press conference without crying than I figured he would. But about five minute in he thanked the people of the Tigers organization and then things got awfully misty. You just want to give the guy a hug.
MORE: Who replaces Leyland in Detroit?
Most of the questions/answers after his statements were what you’d expect. But one nugget did come out: Dave Dombrowski does not feel obligated to hire a guy with major league managing experience, saying he didn’t see the point in limiting available candidates.
Oh, and Leyland told a fart joke. Seriously. It had nothing to do with anything, but you can tell the guy is feeling good about his decision.
In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.
Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.
In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.
In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.
Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.
The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.
MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.
Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.
“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”
Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.
MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.
It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.