Recapping the Winter Meetings and looking ahead to the rest of the offseason

18 Comments

A week in the sun and warmth is over. A week of the hottest hot stove action in recent memory preceded it. It’s pretty easy to say that a great bulk of the work teams needed to do before Opening Day 2014 has been accomplished since we tossed the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers. But there is still more to do, obviously. There are still many free agents out on the market and trade possibilities dancing along with the sugarplums in general managers’ heads.

So, first, let’s look at the big things that happened during the Winter Meetings:

So obviously there’s a lot left. For one thing, Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka is expected to be posted by his NPB team, and if that happens he will instantly be the most sought-after free agent of them all. Indeed, by HardballTalk’s reckoning, eight of the top 20 free agents plus Tanaka are still available, and that means a lot of heat still to come off the hot stove.

It’s a time when a lot of people are talking about the offseason’s winners and losers. But there is still a lot of offseason to go. While 20 years ago everything was pretty much done by Christmas, the baseball offseason has now come to be active all offseason long, with signings in late December, all through January and even after spring training begins. As many at the Winter Meetings say, there is no real offseason anymore.

And that’s why HardballTalk is here. For you to keep track of all the comings and goings and the state of your team and others as the new season approaches. Always keep a tab up dedicated to HBT and you’ll be the first to know what’s going on.

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.