Four teams have managerial vacancies and none of them are expected to interview Orioles bench coach John Russell.
Lots of names are surfacing as candidates for jobs with the Red Sox, Tigers, Mets and Phillies. Alex Cora is a popular one. It seems like only a matter of time before he gets an opportunity.
Meanwhile, Russell never seems to be given consideration despite annual endorsements from Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
Russell spent three seasons as Pirates manager from 2008-2010 and his teams compiled a 186-299 record. They weren’t good, finishing in last place every summer, but Russell oversaw a rebuilding project.
Showalter often points out Russell’s impact on the franchise, and the sacrifices made, as it became a winner again under Clint Hurdle. Doing the dirty work won’t usually get you a statue outside the ballpark.
In Russell’s case, it may not get him another opportunity. It may not get him another interview, which is a shame.
* José Bautista will become a free agent again and he’s still a villain in Baltimore. Let’s just assume that his agent won’t be pestering executive vice president Dan Duquette at the Winter Meetings.
The Blue Jays re-signed Bautista to a one-year deal worth $18.5 million that also included a $17 million mutual option in 2018 and $20 million vesting option in 2019. He played in 157 games and batted .203/.308/.366 with 27 doubles, 23 home runs and 65 RBIs.
Seems like a smart pass by the Orioles.
Bautista owns a career .362 on-base percentage in 14 seasons. The drop this year was startling.
* Anyone out there still disappointed that the Orioles didn’t make any attempt to re-sign Wei-Yin Chen?
The left-hander was 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA in four seasons with the Orioles. Easily one of Duquette’s finest acquisitions. A straight-up bargain at three years and $11.3 million, plus a $4.75 million club option.
The Orioles knew that Chen sought a four-year deal in free agency and would get it. They weren’t going to match such an offer.
Chen exceeded their expectations when the Marlins gave him $80 million over five years.
The deal included a vesting option for 2021 worth $16 million and a provision allowing him to opt out after the second season.
It’s hard to imagine Chen walking away from the $52 million remaining on his contract. He registered a 4.96 ERA in 22 starts last year and was limited to nine games (five starts) this summer due to left arm fatigue and his second platelet-rich plasma injection to promote healing of the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow.
Chen hadn’t pitched in relief since 2011 in Japan.
The Orioles may have gotten his best years in the U.S.
* The failure to re-sign Nelson Cruz, however, remains one of the club’s most glaring mistakes.
Cruz received a four-year deal from the Mariners. The Orioles wouldn’t go beyond three, expressing concerns about his age and history of leg injuries.
Maybe Cruz will break down next summer, but I doubt it. And I’d gladly take the first three years.
Remember how Cruz’s offensive production was supposed to decline while playing half of his games at Safeco Field? He’s crafted a .292/.368/.557 slash line with the Mariners, has hit 126 home runs and has driven in 317 runs.
Cruz also provides valuable leadership in the clubhouse. You know all the stories about his relationships with Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado, how they still view him as a mentor as well as a close friend.
The fourth year was worth it.
* Jim Thome’s name came up Saturday during “Wall to Wall Baseball” on MASN, which led me to look up the players that the Orioles traded to the Phillies in exchange for the veteran slugger.
I had some time to kill during a commercial break.
The Orioles sent minor league pitcher Kyle Simon and catcher Gabriel Lino to the Phillies on June 30, 2012. Remember them?
Thome appeared in 28 games and batted .257/.348/.396 with five doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs in 115 plate appearances. He went 1-for-3 in the wild card game in Texas and 1-for-12 in the American League Division Series against the Yankees.
Thome spent almost two months on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck.
I remember that there were some concerns in the organization about losing Lino, a promising catcher praised for his skills behind the plate.
So whatever happened to Lino and Simon?
Lino, now 24, is a career .234/.308/.350 hitter in eight minor league seasons. He spent this summer in the Cardinals organization after signing as a free agent and receiving a spring training invite, appearing in a combined 80 games with Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis.
Simon, 27, made it to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2014, posting a 9.42 ERA and 2.023 WHIP in 10 relief appearances. The former fourth-round pick out of the University of Arizona pitched for the independent Lancaster Barnstormers in 2015 and New Britain Bees in 2016-2017.