Dusty Baker, Reds sign a two-year extension

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Not all of today’s managerial news is carnage. Some of it is downright positive: like Dusty Baker and the Reds agreeing to a two-year extension, as the team just said in a press release.

It’s a deserved extension. Dusty led the Reds to their first playoff appearance and division title in 15 years, and their highest win total in 11. Despite his reputation for abusing young pitchers, he’s handled the staff pretty well in Cincinnati from what I can tell.

But maybe the thing that has earned him his extension more than anything is his rapport with his players. It has long been fashionable to bash Baker for various things, but his players seem to love him and respond to him.

I was particularly impressed by the way Baker handled Joey Votto’s struggles with anxiety disorder in 2009. Every statement Baker made about the situation came from an obvious and genuine place of empathy and concern for Votto the man, not Votto his first baseman. You can bet that Votto appreciated having a manager with the intelligence and sensitivity to understand his situation. You can bet that Votto’s performance in 2010 owes at least some part to the comfort he felt by having Baker in his corner and leading his team.

Yeah, we’ll all jump on Dusty in 2011 if he makes Aroldis Chapman a starter and throws him out there for 130 pitches on some cold rainy April night. But let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, let’s congratulate the Reds for making the smart choice in retaining Dusty Baker.

Yankees, Mariners expressing interest in J.A. Happ

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Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Yankees and Mariners are both expressing interest in Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ.

Happ is posting a 3.48 ERA and a 94/25 K/BB ratio in 82.2 innings across 14 starts and has been stingy with the hits as well. Between that, the Blue Jays’ lack of contention and the fact that Happ is in the walk year of his three-year, $36 million deal, all signs point to the Jays trading them.

In normal circumstances you might not expect the Jays to make a trade with the Yankees, but at this point it sort of doesn’t matter, does it? It’s not like Happ in New York on a couple month rental will impact the 2018 Jays too much. And, given his pending free agency, it’s not extraordinarily likely that he’d haunt the Jays from the Bronx long term either.

There’s not a ton of elite pitching currently available, but as the trade deadline approaches — a little over a month to go on that score — the talk about Happ, Cole Hamels, Francisco Liriano and others will heat up. Figure the Yankees will be linked with any and all available starters.