Who replaces Jim Leyland as Tigers manager?

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With Jim Leyland gone there is likely to be no shortage of men wanting his old job. The Tigers have star power, an owner who is willing to spend money and they look poised to remain competitive in the AL Central for the foreseeable future. In short, this job opening is one of the best to hit the classifieds in some time.

So who will replace Leyland?  Some off-the-top-of my-head ideas, heavy on candidates with Tigers connections:

Tom Brookens: The former Tigers third baseman and current Tigers third base coach, Brookens has worked his way up through the Tigers system managing at multiple levels since joining the big league coaching staff in 2009.  Brookens has infuriated some Tigers fans with some of his decisions on sending base runners home, but that’s not part of a manager’s job so maybe it helps the club!  That aside, Brookens would be a “stay-the-course” kind of candidate, likely to maintain much of the same style and to demonstrate the same temperament as Leyland, who you’d have to assume is his primary managerial mentor. The biggest drawback: no big league managing experience. Of course, since he knows this team well, it’s not as big a problem for him as it would be for outside candidates (see below).

MORE: Is Jim Leyland headed for Cooperstown?

Lloyd McClendon: The Tigers hitting coach has been with Leyland since he took over the Tigers as manager in 2006, first serving as bullpen coach then hitting coach. Leyland didn’t have a bench coach until this past season, but McClendon was thought of as serving in that capacity when the Tigers were at bat (and Gene Lamont was coaching third). McClendon has routinely been the Tigers’ fill-in manager following Leyland ejections as well.  Like Brookens, McClendon would be a continuation of what’s been going on as opposed to a departure. Unlike Brookens, McClendon has major league managerial experience, serving as Pirates skipper from 2000-05.

Gene Lamont: Leyland’s long-time coach and close friend, Lamont is also an experienced major league manager, guiding the White Sox and Pirates. He was also a candidate for the Red Sox job in the winter of 2011-12 but lost out to Bobby Valentine of all people.  One drawback: Lamont is 66. Which, fine, but with Leyland saying that he thought a younger guy should take over, you have to wonder if going more than two years younger isn’t more preferable for the Tigers at this point.

Alan Trammell: Tram is not just a Tigers legend, he’s also a former Tigers manager. Although he really did get a bum deal his first time around, being handed a team with little talent no hope of contention, which led to a 119-loss season his first year in the top job. He lasted two more seasons with Detroit — he was replaced by Leyland — and since then has served as bench coach for the Cubs and the Diamondbacks. It’s not often teams give a guy a second chance, but Trammell is not just any guy in Detroit and now has a lot more experience under his belt.

Kirk Gibson: Another Tigers legend and a former Tigers hitting coach under Trammell. However, he’s under contract in Arizona through next season with team options in 2015-16, and it’s unlikely the Diamondbacks would be willing to let him go, assuming he’d want to. Why the Tigers would want to give up talent to get him is another question. How his “gritty” style would play on a team of high-priced veterans is a final problem. This one seems more like wishcasting of Tigers fans more than anything.

Dusty Baker, Ozzie Guillen or someone like them: This is a place-holder for Experienced Manager Who Can Win Now. Dusty just happens to be the most notable guy who fits that description looking for a job. Not that I think the Tigers would be terribly interested. While they wouldn’t have fired Leyland for his tactical/bullpen brain locks, they probably wouldn’t mind getting a guy who isn’t as prone to the same sort of problems, and Baker clearly is.  Another one — and this one would be all kinds of fun — Ozzie Guillen. Unlike Baker, Guillen has a World Series ring. He also happens to be good friends with Miguel Cabrera, not that that tends to be a big factor when job openings happen. Of course Guillen fostered a LOT of hate among Tigers fans over the years for various reasons. So while it would be hilarious to see him take over the job, it would require a P.R. offensive by the team to get fans on board with a Guillen hire. Please sign me up for the P.R. job if it becomes available.

Brad Ausmus or someone like him: Let’s call this a place-holder for ALL inexperienced managers. Ausmus, known to be as smart as a tack and a guy who many think will one-day be a good major league manager. He also has zero experience, and like so many other possible names folks can throw out there, it’s hard to see how a team in the Tigers’ position — World Series contenders — would gamble on a newbie for a win-now job.

Ultimately: could be anyone for such a great opening. But I’m sure we’ll hear the names of these men tossed about a fair amount until the candidates are narrowed down.

Jeurys Familia’s domestic violence suspension to be announced today

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Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the announcement of Jeurys Familia‘s domestic violence suspension is expected some time today.

Familia was arrested in October following an incident at his home. Criminal charges were dropped in December. As we know, however, MLB’s domestic violence policy does not require criminal proceedings to be commenced, let alone completed, before the leveling of league punishment. MLB has been investigating the incident for the past several months.

Billy Witz of the New York Times reported Monday that the suspension is “almost certain” to be lighter than the 30-game suspension Aroldis Chapman received one year ago. However much time Familia misses, the Mets are expecting Addison Reed to fill in at closer until he returns.

2017 Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. 

Let’s look first at the strengths. There’s Mike Trout, the undisputed best player in the game. That’s always a good start. I could bore you with a bunch of stats and historical comparisons here but we’re friends here and, let’s be honest, we don’t need or even want that. The guy is good, ’nuff said.

Indeed, I had an impulse to simply photoshop Trout’s head on this poster and be done with the entire Angels preview:

 

You could almost stop reading now and know what’s up in Anaheim this year.

But honestly, Trout isn’t the only strength here. The Angels have the best defensive shortstop in the league in Andrelton Simmons and a lot of other good defensive players as well, from Kole Calhoun in right, Cameron Maybin in left, Luis Valbuena at first (or wherever he’s slotted once he comes back from a hamstring injury) and Danny Espinosa at second. Their catching corps — Martin Maldonado and Carlos Perez — are solid too. When you lack team depth and have pitching challenges like the Angels do, not kicking the ball all over the field is a good thing. The Angels have kicked the ball a lot in recent years but they’ll be pretty good with the leather in 2017, and that can make up for a lot of faults.

But I ain’t gonna lie, there are a lot of faults here.

Garrett Richards is back from a UCL injury that sidelined him most of last season. He didn’t get Tommy John surgery — he went with stem cell treatment — so the recovery time is lower. Still, it seems like a lot of guys who go the rehab route end up going under the knife eventually anyway, so everyone will have their eye on the Angels’ ace as the season goes on.

Beyond Richards the rotation is suspect. Matt ShoemakerRicky NolascoTyler Skaggs — also coming back from injury — and Jesse Chavez do not, as a group, strike fear into anyone’s hearts. I guess the hope here is that Nolasco’s pitching after he came over from Minnesota is more indicative of what he can do than what he did earlier in the year. Or, for that matter, for the past three seasons. If Richards is healthy he’s an ace. The rest of these guys are basically average at best.

The pen has issues. Cam Bedrosian had a fantastic 2016, but it was definitely a huge step up for him and may have been an aberration. closer Huston Street did not have a fantastic 2016, is recovering from a strained lat now and it’s fair to ask whether he’s got what it takes to close in the bigs anymore. Even if that’s too pessimistic an assessment, he’s missed a lot of time this spring. Andrew Bailey, like Nolasco, pitched well after coming to Anaheim last summer but poorly before that, with the poorly looking more like his true level than the well. Otherwise Mike Scioscia has a lot of young arms but not a lot of particularly good ones. Look for his bullpen to feature a cast of thousands.

As for the lineup: Trout is Trout. Albert Pujols is recovering from yet another foot issue. He still has old man strength and can hit some dingers, but he’s a shell of his former self and it’s fair to ask how many lower body maladies a guy whose primary value is tied up in power can tolerate. Yunel Escobar, Kole Calhoun and C.J. Cron are useful and predictable, even if they’re not game-changers. The Angels were 10th in offense in the AL last year. It’s hard to see them making a big leap from that level this year, even if they’re not likely to be too much worse either.

Ultimately, there’s not enough pitching here and there’s not a scary enough secondary or tertiary offensive threat behind Trout to make the offense difficult to deal with. If you play the Angels you’ll score some runs and you can pitch to everyone who isn’t wearing the number 27. That’s not gonna cut it in the AL West this year.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League West.