Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grady Sizemore's Fading Star

When Grady Sizemore re-signed with the Cleveland Indians last week it invoked memories of the sweet power and speed combo he possessed just a few years ago. Three injury riddled seasons later Sizemore is getting one last chance to reclaim his status as a baseball star in Cleveland.

There was a time when Sizemore smiled and all of Cleveland bowed at their knees. Now, Indians fans cringe when the words 'Grady Sizemore' and 'knees' are used in the same sentence. He has now had two knee surgeries, one on each knee, in the last two seasons. On top of that he had elbow surgery in 2009 and two separate sports hernia surgeries.

His injuries have sapped his power and his speed. The perpetual smile should be an annoyance but he continues to be a fan favorite. Enough so that the Indians were willing to give him one more season to prove he can remain healthy and be productive again. Apparently, his name in the lineup is enough to warrant the $5 million contract as he still puts fans in the seats. Make no mistake that this has to be the main reason they are giving him a shot, because there was nothing in the past two seasons which suggests he is going to be the same hitter he was four years ago.

Further, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti must feel that Sizemore can reach the incentives in the contract because if he does it means he is healthy and producing. This is something not seen in Cleveland since 2008. If Sizemore is not in the lineup his status as a fan favorite is worthless for gate revenues. If he is in the lineup and hits like 2010 and 2011, he is worthless to manager Manny Acta.

Check out Sizemore's dramatic fall from Cleveland's grace.

2004 21 43 159 138 15 34 6 2 4 24 2 14 34 .246 .333 .406 .739
2005 22 158 706 640 111 185 37 11 22 81 22 52 132 .289 .348 .484 .832
2006 23 162 751 655 134 190 53 11 28 76 22 78 153 .290 .375 .533 .907
2007 24 162 748 628 118 174 34 5 24 78 33 101 155 .277 .390 .462 .852
2008 25 157 745 634 101 170 39 5 33 90 38 98 130 .268 .374 .502 .876
2009 26 106 503 436 73 108 20 6 18 64 13 60 92 .248 .343 .445 .788
2010 27 33 140 128 15 27 6 2 0 13 4 9 35 .211 .271 .289 .560
2011 28 71 295 268 34 60 21 1 10 32 0 18 85 .224 .285 .422 .706
8 Seasons 892 4047 3527 601 948 216 43 139 458 134 430 816 .269 .357 .473 .830
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/29/2011.

Sizemore was never a player who hit for average (.290 was his highest in 2006). But he used to get on base at a very good clip. This combined with his once exceptional speed contributed to four straight seasons of 100+ runs scored. He struck out often but also drew a good number of walks to compensate.

The 2010 and 2011 seasons have been a complete turnaround. Understandably the speed is gone. But, is there a correlation with elbow and knee surgery and hand/eye correlation? The last two seasons would have you think so. He has drawn 27 walks in 435 plate appearances. What a hack job! Not the surgeries, Sizemore's recent approach at the plate.

In all seriousness he has had an inexplicably hard time making contact since the injuries started to mount. His swinging strike percentage (w/o contact) in 2010 and 2011 was 19% and 22% respectively. This is up from a 12-14% range in his previous seasons. Of course, this has in turn dropped his contact percentage to 73% in 2010 and 70% in 2011 down from 80-83% in his better years.

At this point, what does anyone in the Indians front office see in Sizemore other than he makes the turnstiles go round and round? Hope for a return to 2008? First, they have to hope he can stay on the field. If he can, they better hope Sizemore changes his approach at the plate by working the count more and begins making contact at the same rate as he did a few years ago. If he can't, he becomes nothing more than a former star clogging up a roster spot.

All stats courtesy of

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hot Stove Stance: Yankees Re-Sign Freddy Garcia

The New York Yankees took another step toward solidifying their 2012 rotation by signing Freddy Garcia to a one-year/$5 million contract. Garcia earns a nice raise from the one-year/$1.5 million contract in 2011. He acquired the new contract by having one of the more steady performances in the Yankees rotation throughout the 2011 season.

While this is not the exciting addition to the rotation fans are hoping for (Yu Darvish, C.J. Wilson, or Mark Buehrle for example) it is an essential signing by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Garcia has never been an electrifying starter, but he was more than competent last season. When your team scores 5.35 runs per game, competence is about all a pitcher needs to deliver. He more or less lulls batters to sleep with a mid-80s fastball, a recently ineffective slider and a steady diet of plus curves, change-ups and split-finger fastballs.

What Garcia is able to do best is limit damage. He pitches to the game situation and hardly ever seems rattled. He does not implode ala A.J. Burnett (only four very poor outings in 25 starts) but seems to keep the Yankees in the game and often provides a better than average start (16 quality starts).

He was primarily a fly ball pitcher in 2011. This is probably not the best situation in Yankee Stadium, especially for a righty, but Garcia was able to keep the ball in the park for the most part. In a way, the ground ball to fly ball ratio he produced in 2011 (.88) played better to the Yankee's fielding strength in the outfield as compared to the infield.

Garcia turned in a 3.62 ERA, but his FIP mark was 4.12 and his xFIP was even higher at 4.36. This suggests that there may be an ERA adjustment coming in 2012, but nothing that should concern the Yankees too much. Since he has begun to throw more fly ball outs, he must maintain the low 8.2% home run/fly ball percentage he had in 2011. His career mark including 2011 sits at 11.1%.

For the Yankees this deal makes absolute sense. Garcia is not a worry for them when he takes the mound. With CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett back Garcia makes a solid 4th or 5th starter at a good price. FanGraphs shows Garcia with a 2.2 WAR in 2011 worth $9.9 million to the Yankees. Certainly a windfall for the $1.5 million in salary they paid to Garcia. Should he have the expected bump in ERA due to a correction and still maintain his other stats, Garcia can be looking at a 1.5 - 1.8 WAR season. Using a similar value for WAR of $4.5 per 1 WAR, the Yankees would still be on the positive side for the contract.

Some might suggest he loses his rotation spot if the Yankees are able to acquire a front line starter in the offseason, but bear in mind Phil Hughes was not the same last season after being injured and A.J. Burnett continues to be a complete enigma. Ivan Nova is going to have some growing pains as it will be his first full season in the majors. Beyond Sabathia no starting pitcher on the current roster is a sure thing. Expect Garcia to make 20-25 starts, regardless of a potential signing or trade which brings in a legitimate top flight starter, due to injury or ineffectiveness of another starter. The Yankees are hoping for a duplicate performance from Garcia and based on 2011 there is little to suggest this isn't a possibility.

All stats courtesy of

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hot Stove Stance: Middle Infielders Cashing In

We are just a couple weeks into the Hot Stove season and one thing is for certain, MLB teams have money to blow as witnessed by signings of average and aging middle infielders. Average is actually a generous adjective in some cases. The market for middle infielders is admittedly thin so why invest the dollar value in some cases and the length of time in others? Wouldn't it be wise to give one year contracts especially for teams where the player is really a role player or a stop gap? It would give teams the chance to reevaluate the position, the player and their system for the following season.

Here is a list of signings to date:
Apparently Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers felt he needed to shore up his middle infield before anything else this offseason. His primary shortstop Stephen Drew, who is set to earn $7.75 million in 2012, could open the season on the DL after having surgery on a fractured ankle. So, it was understandable to get some backup options. But was it necessary to give two-year deals to BOTH McDonald and Bloomquist for what could amount to a few weeks without Drew?

McDonald is an average fielder but a weak hitter. According to FanGraphs he has accumulated a career 2.2 WAR in eleven seasons with a career triple slash line (BA/OBP/SLG) of .238/.275/.326. Essentially the D'Backs are paying him to play only if absolutely necessary and as an occasional defensive replacement. Should he have gotten a two-year deal?

Bloomquist, who will be 34 in less than a week, has a mind numbing 1.3 career WAR in 10 seasons. Bloomquist does have some speed (he stole 20 bases last season) but his career triple slash reads .264/.317/.337. He is also not a good infielder (0.4 UZR at SS and -0.2 at 2B). He is particularly bad in the outfield (-3.8 UZR) so Towers should not explain Bloomquist having any virtue there either. But, Bloomquist seems to have some sort of magical influence over teams (maybe it is his agent Scott Boras actually). He was apparently offered a two-year deal worth more from the San Francisco Giants before re-signing with the D'Backs. Unbelievable!

Carroll does not scare anyone at the plate. He has a total of 12 homeruns in his ten year career. His slash line is better than the players mentioned above, .278/.356/.348. He gets on base at a good clip and has a little speed with 10 SB in 2011. But at 38 years old once the season starts, you have to wonder if the Twins could have found someone with some upside versus a player who never had an upside for similar money. His age may have been the reason for his fielding decline in 2011 (even at 2B where he has had decent seasons in the field). Carroll, while enjoying the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers primarily starting at second base or shortstop is really a utility man who is being used and paid like a starter.

Another head-scratcher is the Dodgers' deal with Ellis. He turns 35 in June and his best seasons are well behind him. Had he not played the second half of his season in Colorado in 2011, who knows what his stat line would have looked like? He was hitting .214 with a .544 OPS with the Oakland A's prior to the mid-season trade. His career line of .266/.331/.392 with moderate speed places him a step above Carroll with the bat, but he is a much better fielder (5.4 UZR at second base in 2011). It looks like the Dodgers took the bait on what they saw in Colorado and neglected to review his last two seasons in Oakland.

Hill continues to be mentioned in conversations as an above average second baseman. In reality he has had one remarkable season (2009), one above average season (2007) and the other five should be considered average to below average. He did perform well with the Diamondbacks after being traded in 2011. However, for someone who hit 36 homeruns in 2009, he showed little power last season (8 HR total). This should be a concern for a player who will turn 30 at the beginning of the season. Do the Diamondbacks expect the power to come back? He is being paid for the memory of the 4.1 WAR he produced in 2009 and not his most recent seasons of 1.2 & 0.8 WAR in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Tower's made a comment above Hill's defense. Not sure which metrics he is looking at because his 0.7 UZR in 2011 suggests mediocrity with the glove.

Lastly, this afternoon yet another middle infielder, Barmes officially signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As of now Barmes becomes the highest paid Pirates player heading into 2012. Barmes put together his finest season in terms of WAR (3.1) in 2011 with the Houston Astros. He is a very good fielding shortstop (7.9 UZR which ranked 5th among all major league SS) which helps his cause. He has some pop but gets on base just over 30% of the time. He'll be 33 once the season begins so he seems to fit the profile of the others in terms of age too.

These deals bode well for some middle infielders left on the free agent list including Kelly Johnson, Yuniesky Betancourt and Rafael Furcal. Each of these players has similar qualifications to the players evaluated and could use these signings as an argument for why they deserve similar contracts. It also places a much higher value on two premier shortstops, Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes. Their performance is so much better than those described that they will get exceptional deals.

By no means are these outlandish salaries but at the same time are they worth it? The fact that each of these players was able to secure two-year deals is baffling. It is possible that teams are taking the risk and hoping the performance comes close to matching the cost of the contract. High hopes. It is another example of veteran players being given the benefit of the doubt instead of testing younger players in the system or in the trade market. Each of the these signings has the potential to fail this year and be a nuisance next season.

*All stats courtesy of

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Disproportionate Spending In MLB Bullpens

There has been much debate over the giant contract Jonathan Papelbon received from the Philadelphia Phillies last week. Some media analysts contend it is worth too much per season AND too long a contract for a 31 year-old reliever. The contract is worth $50 million over four years with a fifth year vesting option worth another $10 million. Earlier in the same week, the Phillies reportedly had a handshake agreement with their 2011 closer Ryan Madson worth $44 million over four years. It was later denied by Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., but no matter whom the Phillies chose they decided they were going after the "best" and more expensive relievers available in free agency.

The closer position is not as stable as teams would like it to be. Seventy-four players recorded 2 or more saves last season. Forty-nine had 5 or more. Some were short-lived fill-ins due to injury or unavailability of the dubbed closer. However, eleven players lost their opening day role as closer. Only six players who took over the role held it from that point until the end of the season. Two players who lost the role (Joe Nathan & Joakim Soria) regained it later in the year. The World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals had eight players record saves in 2011. Five of those players were given at least five true save opportunities. Jason Motte, who ended the season as closer, recorded his first save on August 28th.

The only consistency regarding closers is the flux of the position and Major League Baseball teams' continual pursuit of veteran pitchers to be closers, requiring large contracts in both average annual salary and length of contract. Teams obviously feel they need an established reliever in the closer role and subsequently pay handsomely for it. What confuses me is that some of these teams have incredibly reliable arms sitting on their roster which cost much less and provide less risk (typically based on age alone). When are teams going to realize they are paying exorbitant amounts of money to "closers" who are sometimes no better than the players setting them up?

The Phillies may not be the best example because they are among a handful of teams who will spend well over $100 million on their 2012 roster. But, their mindset shows what can be a huge disparity between the salary of the experienced reliever and the reliever on the rise. Take the Phillies' 25 year-old lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo, who saved 8 games in 2011. Bastardo made $419K last season and is not eligible for arbitration until 2013. The Phillies could have utilized the money invested on Papelbon to tender an offer to Jose Reyes or assure themselves of re-signing Jimmy Rollins to fill their vacancy at shortstop. They would have enough to lure Michael Cuddyer to take over the vacancy in the outfield. Plus, the leftover cash could be spent elsewhere on the roster or utilized to handle future contracts with position players in the future. Isn't that a better use of resources?

Teams may want to consider utilizing the draft to build depth in their systems with the role of the reliever. The major point of staying in house with development of the closer role (or any bullpen role for that matter) is weighing the cost of a player with his worth to the team. Take Madson and Bastardo. Madson had a 2.2 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) according to and Bastardo generated a 1.4 WAR. The difference is hardly worth the extra $4.4 million they paid to Madson last season, let alone the over $10.5 million swing had the Phillies stuck with Madson. Instead, they signed Papelbon whose WAR for 2011 was 2.0. He will cost the Phillies $12.5 million this season. Get my point yet?

On a grander scale, in relation to WAR rankings, six of the top ten relievers in 2011 were not "closers" but the eighth inning set up man. David Robertson of the New York Yankees led all relievers with a 3.9 WAR in 2011. He set up Mariano Rivera, who had a 3.5 WAR. Rivera incidentally was the highest ranking closer in terms of WAR.

Another metric which should have a bearing on how relievers are paid is WPA (Win Probability Added). Eleven of the top twenty relievers in this category were predominantly eighth inning pitchers (some occasionally pitched the ninth inning). The average dollar value of the contracts for the eleven 8th inning relievers was just over $1.2 million and for the eight closers was just over $5.8 million. The disparity is further evidenced with Madson and Bastardo. Each had a 2.6 WPA in 2011.

Further, of the eleven players who pitched the eighth inning mentioned above, five are not arbitration eligible until the 2013 season. In other words they are inexpensive. Two closers in the top twenty in WPA, Milwaukee Brewers' reliever John Axford and Washington Nationals' reliever Drew Storen are also not eligible for arbitration until 2013. The Brewers and the Nationals decided to utilize young talent in the closer role allowing for spending elsewhere on the roster. The Los Angeles Dodgers rolled with a rookie, Javy Guerra, from the middle of July and he posted 21 saves in 23 chances. Guerra registered a 1.4 WAR and 1.3 WPA and was not on the major league roster until May 15th.

Do MLB teams need to step back and review where they are spending their money in the bullpen? I would say so. I'm not suggesting the general manager work with a fully loaded pen of relievers who have less than 3 years of major league experience. But, I am suggesting that they take a long look at how they draft and work players through the minor league system and into the major league roster. They could develop notch pitchers who are able to fill roles as end game relievers at a relatively inexpensive cost. Teams may argue that they are saving enough already by utilizing their younger arms in middle relief. They may say that experience in the closer role is worth the extra money. Possibly, but not 10 times the amount of money!

If the team feels they have a gem on their hands, they could sign the player to a low cost contract that eats up some arbitration eligible seasons much like Sergio Santos' deal with the Chicago White Sox. Santos closed out 30 games for the White Sox last season and was signed to a 3-year/$8.25 million contract through 2014 with club options through 2017 (his second year of free agency). The White Sox can stick with him when he turns 30 (2014) or buyout the contract and then rotate in the next reliever(s) they developed.

This process could limit the amount of money teams invest in relievers hitting their 30's due to the inherent turnover that will ensue as players become eligible for free agency. Instead of overpaying for experience, relievers' salaries would level off by the time free agency rolls around. The top young and inexpensive relievers would be holding closer roles based on performance alone. This ensures teams do not dole out large contracts to the older arms in the bullpen. It would limit the salary disparity between relievers based on their true worth to the team. Teams could set new standards for the pay scale of relief pitchers. The player dubbed the closer will still get paid well and maybe more compared to other members of the bullpen. But, he won't saddle the team with a 'break the bank' salary a 31-year old reliever doesn't deserve when there are similar or better options already on the roster.

All stats courtesy of

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hot Stove Stance: Phillies Reversing Course on Madson?

On Tuesday, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, tweeted the Philadelphia Phillies had come to an agreement with Ryan Madson on a 4-year/$44 million contract with an option for a 5th year at $13 million. Yesterday, Jon Heyman reported via Twitter, the same 4-year deal but that the contract still needed approval from Phillies President and CEO David Montgomery. Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phillies general manager certainly believed he had authority to offer contracts as he sees fit? Madson and his agent Scott Boras also felt this was the case. Ownership is showing otherwise.

The problem Phillies ownership may have with the deal is that there are two prominent and much more experienced closers on the market, Jonathan Papelbon and Heath Bell. Their experience, success and previous pay scale actually better fit the contract terms offered to Madson. Ownership may be asking Amaro where discussions went with these two players before they sign off on the Madson deal.

There is much debate over whether closers should be offered this sum of money and lengthy contracts. In my opinion, even Papelbon and Bell should not receive four-year deals. Closers come and go. The fluctuation of the position is very volatile. We see it every year when a closer is hurt or under performing. On comes the next guy in line and he runs away with the role.

While I do not agree with the contract length, let’s say that the dollar amount per season is representative of their worth. How do the three players stack up against each other? The tables below represent the last three seasons for each player.

Ryan Madson
2009 28 3.26 79 10 77.1 1.228 0.8 2.6 9.1 3.55
2010 29 2.55 55 5 53.0 1.038 0.7 2.2 10.9 4.92
2011 30 2.37 62 32 60.2 1.154 0.3 2.4 9.2 3.88
9 Seasons 3.59 491 52 630.0 1.294 0.9 2.7 7.8 2.86
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/10/2011.

Heath Bell
2009 31 2.71 68 42 69.2 1.120 0.4 3.1 10.2 3.29
2010 32 1.93 67 47 70.0 1.200 0.1 3.6 11.1 3.07
2011 33 2.44 64 43 62.2 1.149 0.6 3.0 7.3 2.43
8 Seasons 3.06 435 134 482.0 1.197 0.6 3.0 9.2 3.07
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/10/2011.

Jonathan Papelbon
2009 28 1.85 66 38 68.0 1.147 0.7 3.2 10.1 3.17
2010 29 3.90 65 37 67.0 1.269 0.9 3.8 10.2 2.71
2011 30 2.94 63 31 64.1 0.933 0.4 1.4 12.2 8.70
7 Seasons 2.33 396 219 429.1 1.018 0.6 2.4 10.7 4.43
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/10/2011.

The number of saves is irrelevant. There are too many factors in play which determine the number of save chances a player receives. It is safe to say closers are expected to suppress or limit damage when they enter the game. As such, the best closers strike out a lot of hitters, exhibit very good control and do not allow home runs. For the most part each of these players has shown this ability druing their careers.

The tables tell us a few things. Papelbon has the most experience closing games. Throughout his career Papelbon has a far superior WHIP, allowed the least home runs allowed per nine and has the highest SO/9 and SO/BB ratios. Papelbon maintains these numbers even with a major hiccup season in 2010.

Further, the tables tell us that something could be wrong with Bell based on his performance in 2011. His SO/9 ratio fell way off and he gave up more home runs. Bell is also 33 years old. Madson, in his only season as a full-time closer had very respectable numbers, but at 30 years old won't get better. He has thrown just over 200 more innings than Papelbon and 148 more than Bell.

The Phillies have created issues if they decide to change direction. They have already established they would give a four-year contract to a player who has one year of closing experience and more miles on his arm. Papelbon is going to want at least $12 million, if not $13.5 million or $14 million per season based on his 2011 salary. A smart GM would bring up the 2010 season as cautionary and possibly keep the salary on the lower end of the scale. Bell would probably have to be satisfied with a similar deal offered to Madson considering his age and evident drop-off last season. Prior to the offer made to Madson, I don't think Bell would have gotten more than $10 million per season.

Amaro, in an effort to solidify a priority jumped the gun on Madson's deal in terms of salary and length. He could have offered Madson a three-year $27 million dollar deal. This would have almost doubled Madson's annual salary and shown faith in the player. Such a deal equates to $14 million less than the total Madson was offered, not including the option year. What if ownership believes Amaro's estimate on Madson is sound, but would rather have Papelbon? They are looking at a $48-$56 million contract over the same duration. Either way, the Phillies overpay and over commit. Sometimes it is best to let the market come to you versus create the market too quickly. Ruben Amaro Jr. may have learned that lesson the hard way.

Monday, November 7, 2011

MLB Franchises In State Of Flux

Big changes are in store for some franchises like the Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, and others.

The MLB offseason is typically a time of change for many organizations. There are usually some managers replaced, a general manager or two moves on and obviously numerous players sign contracts with new teams. Turnover is typical in the offseason.

However, this year we are witnessing something a bit out of the ordinary. The changes are affecting some of the marquee (and borderline marquee) franchises in the sport. The Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the most popular franchises in the game, is for sale. The New York Mets another big market team would love to have someone make a large investment in their team to alleviate some financial pressure their current owners are under because of the Barry Madoff scandal. Several teams have completely overhauled their baseball operations departments from the president down to the field managers. Even more unusual, is that some of the teams that are in a transformation process are teams with recent success and/or the money required to succeed. Simply put, some prominent MLB front offices are in a state of flux.

The sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers has been in the making for quite some time. Once Frank McCourt's divorce took center stage it became apparent that he would be unable to maintain control of the club. Despite McCourt's every effort to secure funding, MLB and Bud Selig saw to it that the measure would be struck down. Finally last week, it was announced that the team was officially on the market. New ownership will have to be approved by MLB and Delaware federal bankruptcy court. McCourt must clear $1 billion in order to break even and it has been reported that he is looking for $1.2 billion. Once new ownership takes form, there is always the chance that they will break up the baseball operations department. While general manager Ned Colleti has done a fair job with what little he has been given the last couple of seasons, some owners just want to create their own operations team. It will be difficult to make changes this season given the timing (it could take months for the new ownership to take hold), but at the very least expect Colleti and his staff to be on a short leash once the team is in new hands.

The New York Mets ownership group led by Fred Wilpon has been trying to secure a minority owner since early 2011. They once had an agreement with hedge fund manager, David Einhorn, to buy in at $200 million for 33% interest in the club. The contract language also stipulated that Einhorn's stake could reach 60%. This of course could have been and probably would have been blocked by the Wilpons. The deal eventually fell through. While I don't see this particular instance as one which has immediate repercussions on the front office in terms of employment, it does have the ability to turn into something much more if the Wilpon's legal issues become worse and they are forced to either sell the entire team or give a larger stake with the option of control down the road. Regardless of how it plays out in the near future, the financial issues have severely limited the Mets ability to spend on their roster. General manager Sandy Alderson has already stated that the Mets will have a hard time signing shortshop Jose Reyes to a new contract due to the sizable contract he is seeking and the limited funds the Mets have at their disposal.

Some franchises have immediate issues to handle which began with the collapse of the 2011 Boston Red Sox. The moment the Red Sox were eliminated from postseason contention on the last day of the season, a wicked spiral effect took hold over them and one other marquee franchise. Within a week Red Sox manager Terry Francona 'decided' not to return. Simultaneously, whispers grew louder of the Chicago Cubs' interest in Boston's general manager Theo Epstein, to become president of their baseball operations department. This quickly gained steam after Francona left and word got out of poor player preparation on off days and questionable clubhouse antics in Boston. Before long, Epstein and the Cubs reached an agreement. Epstein took little time in hiring then San Diego Padres GM, Jed Hoyer as the new Cubs GM. Epstein and Hoyer worked hand in hand in building the 2004 and 2007 championship teams in Boston. The next day they fired Mike Quade who managed the Cubs to a 71-91 record in 2011 and opened up a position coveted by baseball managers.

The Red Sox in turn promoted Ben Cherington, an Epstein apprentice, to the general manager's position. Cherington has the dubious responsibility of taking over for a very popular general manager at a time when player personnel habits are in question. Cherington and Epstein must now hire managers to run two of the most popular franchises in MLB. But, these may not even be the biggest surprises of the manager carousel so far this offseason. Three days after winning the World Series, Tony LaRussa retired as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Make it three of the most sought after managerial positions in baseball up for grabs.

To a lesser extent, changes in the Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles front offices have been made due to poor choices by the predecessor in the Angels organization and the dysfunction of the Orioles ownership. Terry Reagins resigned before he could be fired and Angel's owner Arte Moreno hired Jerry Dipoto, the former senior vice president of scouting and player development with Arizona Diamondbacks. Some of Reagins moves the last couple years have severely stifled what was typically a very competitive team under long time manager Mike Scioscia. Dipoto is seen as incredibly intelligent and hard working. Expect many changes in the Angels roster to go along with front office movement.

Lastly, in there is change again in Baltimore. While maybe not a marquee franchise, it could be argued it was on its way to becoming one not too long ago and that they have the ability to spend money like one. However, up until Sunday night, no one but no one wanted the general manager position vacated by Andy MacPhail.  The Orioles had several options they either interviewed or hoped to interview. Some flat out turned down the offer to interview. Tony LaCava, interviewed, went back for a second time, was offered the position and then turned it down to remain assistant GM with the Toronto Blue Jays. Finally, it was reported Sunday night that the Orioles have secured MacPhail's replacement, former Boston Red Sox GM, Dan Duquette. Thing is, Duquette last worked in the major leagues in 2002. Duquette's style, which got him in trouble in Boston, could immediately become an issue in Baltimore with either or both their majority owner Peter Angelos and manager Buck Showalter. Anything less than turmoil would be a surprise when it comes to the Orioles organization.

This offseason, there are several great storylines still waiting to unfold. The MLB collective bargaining agreement will hopefully be signed soon ensuring labor peace for at least a few more seasons. There are three premier free agent hitters are on the market (Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Jose Reyes) and where they will sign is uncertain. But, so far the league has been gripped by upheaval in the front offices and clubhouses of some of the preeminent teams in the game. It remains to be seen which of them benefits most from their respective overhauls. One thing is for certain, baseball is a game of fluidity. The teams which react quickly and positively to the changes will have the most success.