Well, the season is officially over. As quickly as it came, the 60-game campaign has blown through onto the next town, and even an expanded playoff bracket has reached its conclusion before the globe spun its way into November. This week is the come-down: with excitement and controversy still fresh in our minds, we squeeze most of the juice out of rehashing the World Series. Fueled by immediate recollection as we may be, it won’t be long until we realize that baseball games are more or less gone from our lives for the next few months.
Still, that’s great news for the fine folks over here at Rival Roundup, Inc. All signs point to the forthcoming winter being one of the more unusual offseason periods in baseball’s long, topsy-turvy history. Now that the postseason has ended, we’re officially in Offseason Mode, where moves around the league will be picked apart at length, as teams chisel themselves a 40-man roster, and we find ourselves with nothing else to speculate about.
Already this week, we’ve seen highly-debated hirings and advanced through a pivotal period of the winter game. Today marks the last hours of a five-day stretch in which teams have exclusive negotiating rights with their free-agents-to-be. It’s also the deadline to hand out those finicky qualifying offers, which players may be more inclined to accept this season. And tomorrow, bright and early Monday morning, the free agency free-for-all begins with the ceremonial lighting of Curt Flood’s stove.
Let’s see what the familiar faces around the division are up to.
This is a long one, so here’s a lengthy jam with minimal words.
- It’s hard to use Cleveland as a barometer for the league’s financial climate. Their ownership group has developed a penny-pinching reputation, and Francisco Lindor trade rumors swirling back into vogue has done nothing to change that perception. Still, there is some truth to the fact that the club’s recent waiving of Brad Hand, and the declination of his $10m option, has at least something to do with the fact that no team knows exactly what next year will look like.
- Santanas Carlos and Domingo have also had their options declined by the club. A combined $22m+ that would have been on the books is reduced to a total buyout of less than a million dollars.
- Catcher Roberto Perez is the only one in the group who saw his option executed.
- Cleveland bench coach Brad Mills is out; after Francona’s recurring health issues saw first base coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. take over much of the managing duty, it would be a good guess to tab Alomar for a promotion to Terry’s right-hand man position.
- The headline of the week takes us express to Chicago, where the up-and-coming White Sox have made the controversial decision to bring Tony La Russa out of retirement to man the dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Tony La Russa, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, the third-winningest manager in baseball history, a three-time World Series champion and a four-time winner of the Manager of the Year Award, has been named the new manager of the Chicago White Sox. pic.twitter.com/RKP24rleHP— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) October 29, 2020
- It’s a decision that appears to have come directly from longtime owner Jerry Reinsdorf, leading many to lament that “White Sox gonna White Sock.” The interview process was demonstrably brief, with less than a month transpiring between the dismissal of Rick Renteria and the hiring of a man whose first major-league at-bats came before Renteria had turned three. According to Bob Nightengale (grains of salt can be collected at the coffee table), A.J. Hinch was never even interviewed. Respect...?
- The main source of discontent stems from the fact that it seems as though Chicago’s front office was denied an opportunity to modernize their coaching staff, with Reinsdorf using his position at the top of the chain of command to override general manager Rick Hahn.
The hiring of Tony La Russa has ruffled feathers in the White Sox organization. A number of employees have concerns about his ability to connect with younger players and how he will adapt to the field after being away 9 years.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 29, 2020
This was a Jerry Reinsdorf decision. Simple as that.
- As if to say, “No, come on guys, people think this is a great move,” the White Sox sent out an official release full of positive quotes they’d collected about Tony La Russa.
- Our friends at South Side Sox seem thrilled.
- Okay, maybe less than thrilled, given that before the announcement they considered our own Billy Heywood to be a better choice.
- To play devil’s advocate; La Russa is a championship-winning manager, fluent in Spanish, and is largely credited with helping revolutionize and modernize management, with specific regards to the bullpen. It’s not completely out of the question for him to have success with the White Sox in a contemporary baseball environment — especially given the assembly of talent which Chicago has already amassed on the field.
- Okay, but did you know that Tony La Russa has a law degree and once sued Twitter because of a Tony La Russa parody account? Boom. That’s what Rival Roundup brings you, baby. Knowledge with a capital Naw.
- In non-La Russa news, the Sox brought in one of baseball’s only non-Gordon Beckhams - that being Tim Beckham, who did not play during the 2020 season. Beckham is on a minor-league deal with the Sox now, with a $1.35m bonus should he crack his way onto “Tony’s Boys.”
- Amidst a league-wide flurry of declined options, the White Sox have elected not to retain the contracts of Edwin Encarnacion or Gio Gonzalez — Leury Garcia’s $3.5m option was executed.
- A couple of notes for Kansas City, who were certainly the division’s quietest team this week. Mike Montgomery and Kevin McCarthy cleared waivers and hit free agency; meanwhile, Houston right-hander Carlos Sanabria rides the wire up to Kauffman.
- Chicago’s decision to hire La Russa left the door wide open for the Tigers to hire A.J. Hinch, who was the most established manager on the free market, and the heir apparent in the Motor City after his interview on Thursday.
The Detroit Tigers today named A.J. Hinch as the 39th manager in franchise history, agreeing to terms on a multi-year contract. pic.twitter.com/AHALJU1wGw— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) October 30, 2020
- It could be considered a downgrade for Hinch, who with the White Sox would have inherited a win-now team at the outset of their window. On the other hand, hiring someone like Hinch indicates that Detroit wants him around for a while — overseeing the remainder of the Tigers’ rebuild, and then continuing to manage them through a contention window. Ultimately, there may be a greater sense of job security for Hinch in Michigan.
- It would be a strange twist of fate for the Tiger organization to enter 2021 as a more hateable team than the White Sox, but within a matter of weeks they’ve gone from one of the most likeable managers in the game to one of the most universally despised.
- Hinch could turn Detroit into a reasonable destination for free agent George Springer — or, looking even further ahead, Justin Verlander (when he’s recovered.)
- 58% of voters over at Bless You Boys said that the Tigers got the best man for the job. (An additional 22% cited reservations about Hinch’s history.)
See you next week!
Which new AL Central manager would you rather have?
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Tony La Russa