It’s Monday, the Winter Meetings are over, it’s freezing cold — at least where I am — and nothing is happening. As we continue to wait for the spark of the hot stove, you can warm your hands to the glow of some Monday links. There is baseball news to discuss. It just doesn’t involve the Detroit Tigers.
Not looking to win
It would seem that General Manager Al Avila, prior to the conclusion of the 2020 calendar year, is ready to punt on the 2021 season. In comments over the weekend Avila is quoted as saying
“I look at it as being disciplined this year and resisting an urge to really try to step up,” Avila said Friday. “The last thing we want to do is go out and spend some money that we’re trying to get rid of next year or the year after that.”
This comment has been met, unsurprisingly, by a mixture of confusion and anger from Tigers fans. Avila cites COVID-19 financial issues as part of the reasoning — the validity of that is extremely questionable — but perhaps the greater driving force behind waiting one more year is a mixture of talent development within the organization and a better free agent class next off season.
On the other side of that is a team that some think has the potential — if a few things break the right way — to be competitive in 2021, and signing a long term deal with a bigger name free agent with an eye toward 2022 can’t hurt in the off chance that 2021 turns into something worthwhile. There’s also the simple fact that good teams don’t happen overnight and the Tigers aren’t exactly making good progress despite improvements in the farm system. When your GM’s chief concern appears to be a fear of screwing up badly in free agency, well, let’s just say it doesn’t inspire fans to have any more confidence in his abilities than Avila himself appears to have.
What the organization will actually do remains to be seen, but all signs point to some perfectly average one year deals and an eye on 2022. At least that’s the story for now.
Banking on flexibility
AJ Hinch is looking for a flexible group of infielders heading into next season. Willi Castro and Jeimer Candelario are both prepping to be able to cover multiple spots. For Candy it’s the corners and Castro is working up the middle. With the versatile Niko Goodrum in the fold and young Spencer Torkelson trying to be comfortable with both first and third base, there are a lot of options. Let’s not forget Isaac Paredes floating around out there as well.
Although it’s looking very strongly like Candelario will be manning third for the upcoming season, the final amalgamation of the infield unit is going to depend largely on what the Tigers do in the free agent market.
AJ Hinch and Al Avila both find themselves in uncomfortable positions. Hinch is a manager getting a second chance after a temporary ban for a cheating scandal I don’t need to explain the details of to anyone who is reading this, and Avila is a GM who finds himself in position where things need to start getting better or his days will likely be numbered. In this sense, the future of both of these men are most definitely intertwined. Pedro Gomez at ESPN takes an in depth look at the decision to pull the trigger on Hinch, what he brings to the organization, and what success might look like for Hinch and the Tigers.
A long time coming
It was announced over the weekend that the Cleveland Indians have finally arrived at the party and decided that changing their name is an appropriate thing to do. A decision that most would agree is long overdue. The announcement did not come with any information on the new name.
The Cleveland Spiders seems to be a pretty popular choice. The team is discussing going with the Indians name through the 2021 season and changing in 2022, or going by The Cleveland Baseball Team like the Washington Football Team has done. I’m a subscriber to Craig Calcaterra’s newsletter Cup of Coffee — if you aren’t I would suggest it — and he has me kinda sweet on this idea from a man named Nick Kendall to name the team the Cleveland Forest City, with some pretty slick uniform mockups to go with it.
James McCann is a Met
If you would have told me at the end of 2018 that James McCann would sign a four year $40 million deal with the New York Mets in two years I probably would’ve chuckled and shook my head, but here we are. After leaving the Tigers McCann has put up some streaky, but overall solid numbers. Solid enough to earn the 30-year-old a brand new 4 year deal in New York.
He’s an immediate upgrade over what they have been working with at the position. Good for McCann to go out and get paid, but it’s not going to surprise me if the Mets don’t end up regretting the back end of this deal. But as is shown by the first sentence of this paragraph, I don’t appear to be a great predictor of the value of James McCann.
Around the horn
Country music legend and former Negro League player, Charley Pride, passed away from complications of COVID-19 over the weekend. Old friend Dave Dombrowski plans to take a patient approach in his new role with the Phillies. What’s lost when minor league baseball leaves.