By: Holly Horning
Let’s face it – this Hot Stove season is going to be a snore-fest for Tiger fans. Al Avila is going to continue his attempt to trade Castellanos and potentially anyone else who is making above the MLB minimum salary. And he’s going to try to find a couple of journeyman pitchers and a SS to fill in for just one year.
So what’s a fan to do during the next 2-3 months? Other than read Totally Tigers every day that is……..
Realistically, there are a lot of great stories to follow this off-season. It’s just that they will involve other teams.
But trades and other moves involving teams-not-named-Detroit really could be very significant. Much like last year, they will be forecasters of the trends teams are adopting. Trends that will take hold and become regular patterns. Patterns that will help us gauge the speed (or not) in which the Tigers embrace these trends or cling to the past going forward.
We’ll discover whether teams are continuing to turn away from long-term expensive contracts. And whether the importance placed upon players with solid offensive and defensive stats – not just one-tool players – will command priority.
Teams will be hiring fresh (and young) faces for their Front Offices. Young dudes (and hopefully dudettes) with degrees in computer software, statistics and sports economics. And some organizations, who sniffed the playoffs but failed in their quests, will undoubtedly be making changes.
So what stories will I be watching most closely? I’m glad you asked……
1. WILL MIKE TROUT SIGN THE OFFERED EXTENSION? His contract expires in less than 2 years and the Angels have been trying to sign him for life. So far, he’s resisted. Is he waiting for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado to sign first so his agent can gauge the numbers? Is he contemplating whether the Angels organization can put together the missing pieces that will finally get him into the World Series? Is he waiting to see how well Brad Ausmus manages the team?
2. WHERE IS MIGUEL CABRERA? We’ve seen 2 very brief glimpses of Miggy during his DL stint. The papers have not been reporting on him other than the lawsuit brought against him for child support. A lawsuit that is continuing past expected dates with more court time now scheduled for December, no rulings yet made and the threat of interfering with his physical and mental prep for the 2019 season. He’s still got the herniated disks in his back and bicep surgery long completed. And unlike last year, Miggy is posting no updates nor any pictures that show him rehabbing in the gym and appearing dedicated to regaining his form.
3. WHAT DOES THEO EPSTEIN HAVE UP HIS SLEEVE? The Cubs were eliminated early in this past year’s playoffs and it didn’t take long for Theo to start making some moves. Some top players are rumored to be available for trade. Several coaches released. And Joe Maddon heading into his last contract year. Epstein has told the media that there are no plans on extending Maddon’s contract and that he will be evaluating his manager during the 2019 season. Theo has always been proactive, so expect him not to sit still.
4. WILL SCOTT BORAS RETAIN HIS VAST POWER AND INFLUENCE? We saw more and more teams backing away from the expensive long-term contracts for players during last year’s Hot Stove season. And Boras goes into 2019 with several top players, including Bryce Harper. Will he be able to negotiate that infamous $400 million contract he wants for his client? Will they settle for much less? Will Boras attempt to pull the same controversial schtick he did to the Tigers with Max Scherzer? The verbal contract agreement that he instead turned into point of leverage with other teams in order to drive up the price?
5. WILL FARHAN ZAIDI TURNS AROUND THE GIANTS? He recently left the Dodgers to become President of Baseball Operations with the arch-rival Giants. The same Giants who are ageing and have lost their regular odd-year pattern of World Series championships. How will he retool the team? What moves will he make to get them competitive once again? Will he decide to do a rebuild – or will a retool be enough?
6. WILL THE NATIONALS TURN INTO THE EAST COAST TIGERS? History can be a great teacher – if you allow it. And the Nats have followed the Tigers ill-fated strategy for years. Selling off the farm system….signing multiple expensive free agents………allowing Scott Boras to have a significant amount of influence with an ageing owner……..hiring a rookie manager……..not paying attention to the importance of leadership and team player centric skills. All of this while they’ve watched their window of opportunity gradually close over the past couple of years. Will they end up exactly like the Tigers?
7. WILL TALENT ALWAYS WIN OUT OVER ATTITUDE? I’ve watched Manny Machado since his rookie days with the Orioles. The attitude problem we saw during the playoffs is not just recent as many believe. He has a history of fighting with players both on his team and with others sporting different uniforms. He’s been suspended for fighting and known as a problem child for a while. And with his failure to run out a ball during the playoffs, which generated a lot of criticism, combined with his controversial comments that seem to support a selfish attitude, will a team decide to roll the dice and sign a player who may disrupt team chemistry?
All of these stories will impact teams over time. The smart teams will be watching and adopting the strategies that will help give them the edge. I can only hope and pray that the Tigers will be watching, too. And hopefully, implementing…
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