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Royals hire Mike Matheny as their new manager

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That the Royals wanted Mike Matheny to replace the retiring Ned Yost as their manager was one of the worst-kept secrets in baseball. It is a secret no more: Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that the Royals have hired Matheny for the job. A press conference could happen as soon as today.

Matheny joined the Royals as special advisor for player development a little less than a year ago. This a few months after he was fired by the St. Louis Cardinals in the middle of an uninspiring 2018 campaign. He was 591-474 as the Cardinals manager, which included a trip to the World Series in 2013 and four straight postseason appearances in his first four seasons at the helm. His teams missed the postseason in his final three seasons, however, and at the time he was fired there were serious questions about the tone he set in his clubhouse and his ability to work with young players. That his successor, Mike Shildt, turned the 2018 Cardinals around on a dime and almost made the postseason with them did not make Matheny’s firing seem like anything approaching a bad idea.

In Kanas City he’ll have a very different job than the one he took over from Tony La Russa in St. Louis back in 2012. Rather than taking the reins of a contender, the Royals are still in the early stages of a rebuild. There will be a lot of losing in the near future and a lot of young players who will need to be acclimated to the bigs. For Matheny to be successful in his new job, he’ll have to show some skills and qualities he was not asked to exhibit much in St. Louis. Skills which, when he was asked to use them, he didn’t seem to have in spades.

Which, hey, from Casey Stengel to A.J. Hinch, baseball history is littered with managers who stumbled initially but then changed their approach and went on to much greater success in subsequent jobs. The Royals are banking on Matheny being one of those guys.

Yasiel Puig is still a free agent

Yasiel Puig
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Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.

There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.

The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.