The Major League Baseball landscape was shaken on Friday afternoon, and I’m not talking about the upstart Kansas City Royals taking a 2-1 lead in the World Series. No, the Fall Classic was upstaged in true A-Rod fashion when it leaked that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon shocked the world by opting out of his contract, setting himself up as the winter’s top available free agent.
Let the games begin.
MLB Trade Rumors has a great round-up of the various news, notes and rumors that are surrounding Maddon’s decision, including some possible landing spots. Once thought as the favorites after luring GM Andrew Friedman from Tampa, the Los Angeles Dodgers have apparently declared they are not in the running, instead sticking with manager Don Mattingly. Likewise, the Mets have said they are not making a managerial change, as have the Los Angeles Angels. That leaves the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago Cubs as the perceived favorites, with the Cubs feeling more and more like the possible destination. However, they are some tampering whispers being floated if he lands in Chicago, even though Maddon didn’t know of his opt-out clause until the new GM told him about it.
As for the Toronto Blue Jays, there is a ton of hope the team would make a move there, but Joel Sherman notes that the Blue Jays have already declared they aren’t in on Maddon, via Twitter.
That won’t stop the speculation until Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos comes out and formally says that John Gibbons is his man, even in the wake of Maddon-fest. Richard Griffin at The Star provides some of that speculation, noting the pros and cons of possibly luring Maddon to Toronto, but he’s at least spot on in the fact that the Blue Jays should do their due diligence in the matter. Maddon would be a solid presence in a clubhouse that sometimes gets a bad rap and he’s shown an ability to win despite the hurdles of mediocre financial commitments from ownership.
Further down the speculation trail, this time outside the Maddon story arc, we have some talk of the offseason, with Scott Ferguson of TSN saying that the Blue Jays need to bring in at least one Cabrera next season. We already know the Blue Jays are negotiating with in-house free agent Melky Cabrera, but Ferguson takes us a step further and discusses how the Blue Jays need to push for free agent Asdrubal Cabrera to fill their second base needs as well. I’ve got mixed feelings there, mostly centered around Cabrera’s mediocre defensive play, his eroding offensive production, and his potential price tag, but that’s me.
That said, and as repeated by Gregor Chisholm at MLB.com, the Blue Jays need to do something at second base. Standing pat after the 2013 season proved ill-fated and the Blue Jays were forced to relive the mistakes of the past when 2014 turned into a revolving door at the keystone position. Solidifying the infield is key to the Blue Jays having a successful offseason, and translating that into a bigger, better 2015 season.
Finally, we’re going to check in with old friend Kyle Matte at Drunk Jays Fans who discusses the Melky Cabrera situation in Toronto and notes how that should put Baltimore Orioles’ free agent Nick Markakis on the Blue Jays radar. Markakis is certainly an intriguing option, especially if he could be had cheaper. That said, he’s played exclusively in right field during his career, a position that is already taken in Toronto, but he also seems the kind of player that would line up wherever you told him too. Still, he’s a solid fallback option.