4:10 p.m. EDT update: Crasnick is still on the Willingham beat; he reports that the Rays are making a “serious run” at the free agent. He’d presumably replace Johnny Damon as their primary designated hitter, though they could try turning him into a first baseman, and he’d likely bat cleanup behind Evan Longoria in the order.
FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal adds that the nothing is close, but that the Rays are one of the three or four finalists for Willingham.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that nine teams have expressed interest in free agent Josh Willingham, including the Red Sox, Reds, Indians and Twins.
Willingham, who turns in 33 in February, was seeking a three-year deal at last check. He set career highs with 29 homers and 98 RBI in what was likely his lone season with the A’s in 2011, but his .810 OPS was actually his worst mark in his six years as a regular.
Willingham’s history of back problems make him a risk on a long-term deal, but he does have a more potent bat than fellow free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. A three-year deal worth about $8 million per season is realistic. He’d probably be the top candidate to step in as Boston’s primary designated hitter if David Ortiz left. The Reds would use him in left field, while the Indians could try him as a first baseman. Minnesota likely views him as a fallback option in case Cuddyer exits.
Former Yankees skipper Joe Girardi has reportedly withdrawn his name for consideration in the Reds’ managerial search, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Per Rosenthal, Girardi was considered the frontrunner for the position, but elected to keep his current gig as an MLB Network analyst for the foreseeable future.
The 54-year-old skipper holds a lifetime 988-794 record in 11 years with the Marlins and Yankees. He cut his teeth on the Marlins’ 2006 season, during which the team skidded to a fourth-place finish in the NL East, then helped the Yankees to 10 consecutive winning records and a World Series title. While Mark Feinsand of MLB.com adds that Girardi “absolutely wants to manage again,” it’s unclear when and with whom he might choose to do so.
Without Girardi, the Reds still have several candidates left in play, not the least of whom is retired MLB third baseman David Bell. Bell previously served as the Reds’ Double-A and Triple-A manager from 2008-2012 and racked up a cumulative 227-332 record during that span. His resume also includes several coaching positions with the Cubs and Cardinals, and most recently, a role as VP of player development for the Giants in 2018. As Rosenthal points out, however, the 46-year-old coach is hardly a lock for a managerial spot with the Reds, as he’s also made a strong impression on the Blue Jays, Rangers, and Giants this fall.