The baseball off-season is still off, with big free agents waiting to sign less than a month before spring training begins.
Many free agents on lower tiers are waiting on the big guys to sign. It’s a vicious cycle for players, and it wasn’t just a one-off last year in the first year of the collective bargaining agreement.
The owners have leverage and are taking advantage of it.
They didn’t get rich enough to buy an MLB team through dumb luck. Or maybe not entirely through dumb luck.
But the players weren’t the only ones who were on hold this off-season. Several managers were fired after as season, leaving the coaches on those staffs in limbo.
Some were retained. Others became free agents.
One of those teams was the Texas Rangers, who waited more than a month to hire Chris Woodward as manager and a little longer to decide to keep four coaches, in some capacity.
(Former hitting coach Anthony Iapoce didn’t play limbo, deciding in mid-October to join the Chicago Cubs.)
Over the past few weeks, a handful of 2018 Rangers players and coaches have found employment elsewhere. Some haven’t. Here’s a look, starting with the biggest change from last season.
The 2015 American League Manager of the Year was fired with 10 games remaining in 2018 and waited from the sidelines as the other managerial vacancies were filled one by one.
But the team where he spent his first 29 years in professional baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates, officially found a role for him earlier this month as a special assistant in baseball operations.
John Perrotto with dkpittsburghsports.com said that Banister will be spending much of his time around the big-league team, which is a tad unusual for a special assistant, and speculated that Banister might be the manager-in-waiting when Clint Hurdle resigns or is shown the door.
The Pirates’ decision when hiring a new manager for 2011 came down to Banister and Hurdle. The outsider got the job, and Banister later served as bench coach. He was in that role when the Rangers plucked him to replace Ron Washington after the 2014 season.
To an outsider, it appeared as if Brocail would spend 2019 either out of the game or in an adviser’s role after the Rangers didn’t keep him as pitching coach.
But, voila, the last team to hire its manager, the Baltimore Orioles reportedly will hire Brocail as their pitching coach.
While the performance of the Rangers’ pitching staffs the past two season suggested Brocail wasn’t great, he also wasn’t dealing with, oh, the 1971 Orioles.
That team had four 20-game winners. The Rangers traded away their two best pitchers – Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels -- over Brocail’s final two years and replaced them with Matt Moore, Doug Fister, Adrian Sampson and Drew Hutchinson, and others.
The bullpen? Not much better with Sam Dyson’s abysmal showing in 2017 and with trades of Jake Diekman, Jesse Chavez and Cory Gearrin in 2018.
The left-hander once believed to have a long future toward the top of the Rangers’ rotation signed a one-year deal last week the Minnesota Twins. The deal, for $3.5 million, includes a club option for 2020.
His final season with the Rangers, who signed him in 2017 as a 16-year-old, was cursed before it even started. Remember that bull thing that resulted in a broken right elbow?
Perez tried to do the right thing, come back earlier than expected, and that backfired. Once he was fully healthy, or was healthier than he had been, the leash was short and the bullpen beckoned.
The Rangers also informed him that they wouldn’t be picking up his option. Fortunately for Perez, a member of the Rangers’ front office when Perez was signed, Thad Levine, is the Twins’ general manager.
Perez is still young, 27, and perhaps a change of scenery is what jump-starts his career again.
The feel-good story of 2017 didn’t feel as good in 2018 as the journeyman who waited 12 years before his MLB debut struggled in his second season.
His best offer, apparently, came over the weekend from a team in Taiwan. ABD has pitched all over the world, so a trip overseas won’t be the end of the world for the right-hander.
Here’s hoping his paycheck is large and he finds his footing and pitches in the majors again.
Still looking for a home
Not a short list here, though getting shorter.
Diekman, traded at the July 31 deadline, is still looking for work, and so is Tony Barnette, whose injured shoulder kept him out the second half of the season.
Diekman expressed an serious interest in returning to the Rangers shortly after the trade, and the Rangers have been in contact with his agent. They could use a veteran left-hander to add to a stable of lefties that includes rookies Jeffrey Springs and C.D. Pelham.
Outfielder Ryan Rua, who twice won the left-field job out of spring training only to lose it, is still on the market. A change of scenery might serve him as well as Perez, though Perez has more upside.
Of course, the biggest, no pun intended, is Bartolo Colon. He became the career leader in wins for a pitcher from Latin America last season with the Rangers after being their best pitchers early in the season.
It didn’t last, and he started to show his age (45) after the All-Star break. He still wants to pitch, but it won’t be with the Rangers.