Major League Baseball
MLB News Wire
  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Giants aim to avoid previous post-title missteps
    By The Sports Xchange

    The San Francisco Giants were baseball's champs again in 2014.

    • Now begins the long wait for the 2016 World Series.

      That's right. History tells us the Giants not only will fail to repeat as champs in 2015, but they will not even be in the fight.

      Note the trend:

      --2009: Third place in National League West, no playoffs

      --2010: World Series champs

      --2011: Second place in NL West, no playoffs

      --2012: World Series champs

      --2013: Tied for third place in NL West, no playoffs

      --2014: World Series champs

      The start of the 2015 season is far away, but already many similarities between it and the Giants' two earlier failures as the defending champs are obvious.

      Begin with the fact that while the Giants dominated the postseason in their past three visits, they have hardly been regular-season champs. San Francisco tied for the fourth-best record in the NL this year and sneaked into the postseason with the second wild card.

      In 2011, the Giants finished with 86 wins, the sixth most in the NL, six fewer than the year before.

      In 2013, they won 76 games, tied for eighth most in the league, 18 fewer than 2012.

      This time around, they are coming off an 88-win regular season, four fewer than either of their previous championship seasons. Any kind of a drop-off -- let alone the 12-game average from previous attempts -- likely would send them on October vacation next fall.

      Then there is the loyalty factor. It is considered a Giants strength in good times, but it also can be a curse of sorts in bad times.

      On the last two occasions the Giants won a World Series, they rewarded veteran contributors such as Aubrey Huff, Marco Scutaro and Matt Cain with big-money, multiyear deals. They are still paying off the Scutaro and Cain mistakes.

      Now another of their fan favorites, Pablo Sandoval, enters free agency this offseason. The way he performed in the postseason, it is almost a sure thing somebody is going to make him fat and happy this summer.

      History says that team will be the Giants, whose ships in 2011 and '13 were sunk by similarly bloated contracts.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Unconventional Maddon a perfect fit for Cubs
    By The Sports Xchange

    CHICAGO -- Joe Maddon prefers an offbeat existence.

    • As the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, Maddon once addressed the media with a cockatoo perched on his left shoulder. He once paid tribute to Tommy Tutone's 1980s hit by filling the first seven spots in his batting order with 8-6-7-5-3-0-9 (0 represented the designated hitter). He even invited someone named DJ Fresh to spin records in the Rays' clubhouse before a game to help players relax.

      But this?

      Agreeing to manage the Chicago Cubs? The team whose World Series drought stands at 106 years and counting? The team whose last championship came with Theodore Roosevelt in office and the Ford Model T just rolling off of the line?

      Now, this is crazy.

      Which is why it is perfect for Maddon -- and perfect for the Cubs.

      According to multiple news outlets, the Cubs will announce Maddon as the 54th manager in franchise history in the coming days. Maddon, who opted out of his contract with the Rays with one season to go, will join forces with Cubs president Theo Epstein and a front-office team determined to build the Cubs into a perennial contender.

      For the past three seasons, the rebuilding project started to take shape. The trio of Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod took advantage of high draft picks to stockpile the farm system with elite hitting prospects. They presided over the big league development of blossoming stars such as first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro. They flipped veterans at the trade deadline to accrue even more young talent, always keeping in mind their long-term vision.

      Amid the acquisitions, a big question mark remained.

      When the parade of prospects started to arrive at Wrigley Field, and the Cubs were ready to return to relevance, which manager would be able to lead them? Who could guide a group of young players through all of the media hype, the fan expectations, the ups and downs that are inevitable during the grind of a 162-game season?

      Enter Maddon -- the best active manager not named Bruce Bochy.

      Ardent baseball fans know that Maddon is much more than a white-haired eccentric with dark-rimmed glasses. He also is a heck of a manager, particularly when it comes to developing young players and embracing baseball's new-school evolution. He will click with Epstein just as he did with another young mastermind, Andrew Friedman, who left the Rays this winter to become team president of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

      Think about this: When Friedman hired Maddon as Tampa Bay manager after the 2005 season, the franchise never had won more than 70 games in a season. After two more developmental seasons under Friedman and Maddon, the small-market Rays emerged as an improbable threat to their big-spending division rivals. In six seasons from 2008 to 2013, the Rays won 90-plus games five times, reached the playoffs four times, won the American League East twice and reached the World Series once.

      Imagine what Epstein and Maddon can do in a bigger market with a bigger budget.

      Of course, lifting the Cubs from a century of heartbreak will be easier said than done.

      By now, Rizzo and Castro are proven at the plate, but Castro allows his mind to wander too often at shortstop. Meanwhile, opposing pitchers will have a better sense of how to attack young right fielder Jorge Soler, second baseman Javier Baez and center fielder Arismendy Alcantara after their call-ups last season.

      Other prospects have yet to arrive to the big leagues. Third baseman Kris Bryant clobbered home runs at dizzying rates in the minors, but no guarantee exists that he will thrive right away for the Cubs. Shortstop Addison Russell draws comparisons to a young Barry Larkin, but how might he eventually fit into a crowded infield? Catcher Kyle Schwarber, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft, blasted 18 home runs in 72 minor league games, but Class A is a long way from Wrigley Field.

      Oh, and all of this prospect talk is missing something: pitching.

      The Cubs lack playoff-caliber workhorses at the front of their rotation, which means that Epstein must pay up for proven arms. At the top of the team's wish list should be Jon Lester, a 30-year-old starter who combined to go 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA this season with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's.

      Lester knows Epstein well from their days together in Boston, but don't expect the left-hander to offer any free agent discounts. If Lester heads elsewhere, veteran right-hander James Shields (a former Tampa Bay Ray) could step in to anchor a staff thin on aces. Epstein has had success taking short-term flyers on veteran pitchers, and he could bolster the depth with another reclamation project such as right-hander Justin Masterson.

      Maddon is no dummy. He is aware of the questions. He is aware of the pressure of the job, which chewed up and spit out many managers before him. He is aware of the 106-year drought and the tiny clubhouse and the soon-to-be immense expectations.

      But he is also a little bit crazy.

      And he is a perfect fit for the Cubs.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Chen, O'Day staying with Orioles
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Baltimore Orioles are bringing back two of their top pitchers from the 2014 season, exercising the contract options for next season on left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and right-hander Darren O'Day.

    • The 29-year-old Chen's 2015 contract is for $4.75 million, a bump from $4.072 million in 2014. The Orioles had the option of buying out his option year for $372,000.

      Chen posted a 16-6 record with a 3.54 ERA in 31 starts for the Orioles last season. In two postseason starts, he gave up seven earned runs in nine innings.

      The 31-year-old O'Day will receive a raise of about $1 million over his 2014 contract to $4.25 million. His option buyout was for $400,000.

      O'Day pitched in 68 games out of the bullpen last season and had a 5-2 record with a 1.70 ERA. He was the losing pitcher in two games in the American League Championship Series against the Kansas City Royals.

      "O'Day and Chen are solid, dependable veteran pitchers, and both had excellent years in 2014," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "We look forward to their contributions to a winning Orioles team in 2015."

      The Orioles are not expected to pick up the options on right fielder Nick Markakis and catcher Nick Hundley for 2015, according to reports. A decision could come Friday.

      Markakis' mutual option is for $17.5 million in 2015 with a club buyout of $2 million.

      Hundley has a $5 million option with no buyout. Both would become free agents.

      Markakis could stay in Baltimore at a lower salary. He has spent his entire nine-year career with the Orioles. In 2014, Markakis batted .276 with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs in 155 games.

      Hundley came to the Orioles in May from the San Diego Padres to back up Matt Wieters. The 31-year-old veteran batted .233 with five home runs in 50 games.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    MLB roundup: Youkilis calls it a career
    By The Sports Xchange

    Kevin Youkilis, a three-time All-Star known affectionately as Yoooouuuuk in Boston and "the Greek God of Walks" in the book "Moneyball," announced his retirement Thursday.

    • The 35-year-old was limited to 21 games in Japan last season due to plantar fasciitis.

      Youkilis spent most of his 10-year major-league career in Boston, where he was part of World Series champions in 2004 (as a rookie) and 2007.

      He was a three-time All-Star (2008, 2009, 2011) who finished third in MVP voting in 2008 and sixth in 2009.

      His best season came in 2008, when he hit .312 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs. From 2008 to 2010, he hit .308 with 75 homers, 271 RBIs and a .964 OPS.

      In 1,061 games, Youkilis hit .281/.382/.478 with 150 homers and 618 RBIs. In 29 playoff games, he hit .306/.376/.568 with six homers.

      The Red Sox traded him to the Chicago White Sox in July 2012 and his last stop in the majors was with the New York Yankees, although a bulging disk in his back cost him most of the 2013 season.

      He spent last season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan Pacific League, where he hit .215 with one homer and 11 RBIs before being shut down due to the foot injury.

      ---The Red Sox re-signed right-hander Koji Uehara to a two-year contract on Thursday.

      The deal was reported by WEEI.com to be worth $18 million.

      The 39-year-old reliever finished the 2014 season with 26 saves and a 2.52 ERA with eight walks and 80 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.

      In two seasons with the Red Sox, Uehara has 47 saves in 138 2/3 innings with a 1.75 ERA.

      ---Right-hander Yovani Gallardo will remain with Milwaukee next season after the Brewers exercised a $13 million contact option on Thursday.

      The 28-year-old Gallardo posted an 8-11 record with a career-best 3.51 ERA in 192 1/3 innings and 32 starts this past season. The option was part of a five-year, $30 million contract he signed in 2010.

      Gallardo has an 89-64 career record in eight seasons with the Brewers.

      ---The Cincinnati Reds picked up right-hander Johnny Cueto's $10 million contract option Thursday, keeping the 20-game winner for another season.

      The Reds reportedly opted against keeping outfielder Ryan Ludwick and infielder Jack Hannahan -- paying half the value to buy out Ludwick's $9 million option and Hannahan's $4 million option.

      Cueto, 28, went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA last season, leading the National League in starts (34) and innings (243 2/3).

      ---The Washington Nationals exercised a $9 million option on center fielder Denard Span for next season.

      Span, 30, is coming off his best season since 2009, when he was with Minnesota. In 2014, he led the National League with 184 hits, batted .302 with a .771 OPS and stole 31 bases.

      The Nationals declined the options of first baseman Adam LaRoche and reliever Rafael Soriano, making them free agents.

      ---Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will return to the Seattle Mariners next season on a $7 million option.

      After missing the first month of the 2014 season, he went 15-9 with a 3.52 ERA in 28 starts.

      Iwakuma, 33, signed with Seattle in 2012 after a 12-year career in Japan and has gone 38-20 with a 3.07 ERA with the Mariners. He has 440 strikeouts in 524 innings.

      ---Angels reliever Huston Street won't be hitting the street during the offseason after the team exercised a $7 million contract option for 2015 on Thursday.

      Street, who came to the Angels in a trade during the season with the San Diego Padres, finished 2014 with a career-best 41 saves between the two teams with a 1.37 ERA in 59 innings. He posted 17 saves and a 1.71 ERA for the Angels after the trade on July 19.

      In other moves, the Angels declined a $4.5 million option on reliever Sean Burnett and returned Rule 5 draft selection Brian Moran to the Seattle Mariners. Moran was out for much of the season after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery.

      ---John Lackey will be back with the St. Louis Cardinals for 2015 after the team exercised a one-year option in the veteran right-handed starter's contract.

      Lackey's 2015 contract calls for him to earn the veteran's minimum of approximately $510,000.

      The sixth year was added to a five-year, $82.5 million deal Lackey signed in December 2009 with the Boston Red Sox. The provision stipulates a "sixth-year team-only option" is triggered if the pitcher missed time due to injury. Lackey underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012. That season, he was paid $15.25 million without throwing a single pitch.

      He was acquired from the Red Sox in July and posted a 14-10 record with a 3.83 ERA.

      ---Alex Rodriguez is back on the 40-man roster of the New York Yankees.

      Rodriguez served a one-year suspension on the restricted list and the 39-year-old third baseman is owed $61 million for the next three seasons. His contract includes a bonus of $6 million if he ties Willie Mays on the all-time home run list, and Rodriguez is only six homers shy of that 660 mark.

      Manager Joe Girardi said at the end of the season that Rodriguez is likely to return at third base and perhaps as a designated hitter.

      ---FOX drew a 15.2 overnight rating for the San Francisco Giants' 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday, according to Sports Business Daily.

      The rating was 8 percent lower than the World Series Game 7 between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers in 2011, but the rating is expected to be FOX's best for a non-NFL program since that 2011 deciding game.

      FOX's 9.1 overnight rating for the entire Series this year was not as good as the 10.1 rating for the six-game Series between the Boston Red Sox and Cardinals last year, but it beat the record-low 8.8 for the Giants' four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in 2012.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Brewers pick Gallardo's contract option
    By The Sports Xchange

    Right-hander Yovani Gallardo will remain with Milwaukee next season after the Brewers exercised a $13 million contact option on Thursday.

    • The 28-year-old Gallardo posted an 8-11 record with a career-best 3.51 ERA in 192 1/3 innings and 32 starts this past season. The option was part of a five-year, $30 million contract he signed in 2010.

      Gallardo has a 89-64 career record in eight seasons with the Brewers.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Mariners retain Iwakuma on $7 million option
    By The Sports Xchange

    Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will return to the Seattle Mariners next season on a $7 million option.

    • After missing the first month of the 2014 season, he went 15-9 with a 3.52 ERA in 28 starts.

      Iwakuma, 33, signed with Seattle in 2012 after a 12-year career in Japan and has gone 38-20 with a 3.07 ERA with the Mariners. He has 440 strikeouts in 524 innings.

      He was an All-Star in 2013 and finished third in the American League Cy Young voting after compiling a 2.66 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

      Meanwhile, seven Seattle players became free agents Thursday: right-handed starter Chris Young; left-handed reliever Joe Beimel; outfielders Endy Chavez, Chris Denorfia and Franklin Guitierrez; designated hitter Kendrys Morales; and catcher Humberto Quintero.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Angels pick up Street's option
    By The Sports Xchange

    Angels reliever Huston Street won't be hitting the street during the offseason after the team exercised a $7 million contract option for 2015 on Thursday.

    • Street, who came to the Angels in a trade during the season with the San Diego Padres, finished 2014 with a career-best 41 saves between the two teams with a 1.37 ERA in 59 innings. He posted 17 saves and a 1.71 ERA for the Angels after the trade on July 19.

      The 31-year-old Street has 275 saves and a 2.83 ERA in 10 major league seasons with the Oakland Athletics, Colorado Rockies, Padres and Angels.

      In other moves, the Angels declined a $4.5 million option on reliever Sean Burnett and returned Rule 5 draft selection Brian Moran to the Seattle Mariners. Moran was out for much of the season after underdoing elbow ligament replacement surgery.

      Burnett pitched in 16 games for the Angels and only three in 2014 after he signed a two-year, $8 million deal in December 2012.

      Outfielder Tony Campana rejected an assignment to Triple-A and will become a free agent.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Reliever Uehara remains with Red Sox
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Boston Red Sox re-signed right-hander Koji Uehara to a two-year contract on Thursday.

    • The deal was reported by WEEI.com to be worth $18 million.

      The 39-year-old reliever finished the 2014 season with 26 saves and a 2.52 ERA with eight walks and 80 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.

      In two seasons with the Red Sox, Uehara has 47 saves in 138 2/3 innings with a 1.75 ERA.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Former Red Sox star Youkilis retires
    By The Sports Xchange

    Kevin Youkilis, a three-time All-Star known affectionately as Yoooouuuuk in Boston and "the Greek God of Walks" in the book "Moneyball," announced his retirement Thursday.

    • The 35-year-old was limited to 21 games in Japan last season due to plantar fasciitis.

      Youkilis spent most of his 10-year major-league career in Boston, where he was part of World Series champions in 2004 (as a rookie) and 2007.

      He was a three-time All-Star (2008, 2009, 2011) who finished third in MVP voting in 2008 and sixth in 2009.

      His best season came in 2008, when he hit .312 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs. From 2008 to 2010, he hit .308 with 75 homers, 271 RBIs and a .964 OPS.

      In 1,061 games, Youkilis hit .281/.382/.478 with 150 homers and 618 RBIs. In 29 playoff games, he hit .306/.376/.568 with six homers.

      The Red Sox traded him to the Chicago White Sox in July 2012 and his last stop in the majors was with the New York Yankees, although a bulging disk in his back cost him most of the 2013 season.

      He spent last season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan Pacific League, where he hit .215 with one homer and 11 RBIs before being shut down due to the foot injury.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Nationals exercise 2015 option for Span
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Washington Nationals exercised a $9 million option on center fielder Denard Span for next season.

    • Span, 30, is coming off his best season since 2009, when he was with Minnesota. In 2014, he led the National League with 184 hits, batted .302 with a .771 OPS and stole 31 bases.

      The Nationals acquired span in a trade with the Twins before the 2013 season.

      "We knew when we acquired Denard from the Minnesota Twins two years ago what type of player we were getting," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "And he's done nothing but bear that out the last two seasons.

      "Denard was arguably our most consistent offensive player in 2014, keying so much of our offensive production, and his defense in center field is Gold Glove-caliber on a nightly basis. We're excited to keep him in the fold for the 2015 season."

      The Nationals declined the options of first baseman Adam LaRoche and reliever Rafael Soriano, making them free agents.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Reds pick up Cueto's $10 million option
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Cincinnati Reds picked up right-hander Johnny Cueto's $10 million contract option Thursday, keeping the 20-game winner for another season.

    • The Reds reportedly opted against keeping outfielder Ryan Ludwick and infielder Jack Hannahan -- paying half the value to buy out Ludwick's $9 million option and Hannahan's $4 million option.

      Cueto, 28, went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA last season, leading the National League in starts (34) and innings (243 2/3). He became the Reds' first 20-game winner since Danny Jackson (23-8) in 1988. He can become a free agent after next season.

      Ludwick hit .244 with nine homers and 45 RBIs last season, and Hannahan was injured for most of the year, playing in just 26 games.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    FOX draws big rating for Game 7
    By The Sports Xchange

    FOX drew a 15.2 overnight rating for the San Francisco Giants' 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday, according to Sports Business Daily.

    • The rating was 8 percent lower than the World Series Game 7 between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers in 2011, but the rating is expected to be FOX's best for a non-NFL program since that 2011 deciding game.

      The game Wednesday earned a 58.3 local rating in Kansas City, marking the best figure for any baseball game in that market, SBD reported.

      The game earned a 38.8 rating in the Bay Area -- the best baseball telecast for that region since Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, which featured the Los Angeles Angels and the Giants.

      FOX's 9.1 overnight rating for the entire Series this year was not as good as the 10.1 rating for the six-game Series between the Boston Red Sox and Cardinals last year, but it beat the record-low 8.8 for the Giants' four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in 2012.

      Rating is the percent of total households with TVs, with one rating point equal to about 1,164,000 households.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Alex Rodriguez suspension over
    By The Sports Xchange

    Alex Rodriguez is back on the 40-man roster of the New York Yankees.

    • Rodriguez served a one-year suspension on the restricted list and the 39-year-old third baseman is owed $61 million for the next three seasons. His contract includes a bonus of $6 million if he ties Willie Mays on the all-time home run list, and Rodriguez is only six homers shy of that 660 mark.

      Manager Joe Girardi said at the end of the season that Rodriguez is likely to return at third base and perhaps as a designated hitter. The Yankees acquired Chase Headley, who is an unrestricted free agent, from the San Diego Padres at midseason to play third base.

      In the past, Girardi has also floated the idea of moving Rodriguez to first base. He was exclusively a shortstop before joining the Yankees and moving to third to play alongside recently retired Derek Jeter.

      Rodriguez, 39, has not commented publicly on his return.

      There are no reasonable expectations that Rodriguez will be released unless he fails his physical.

      General manager Brian Cashman is working with a hefty payroll, but $168.8 million is committed to 10 players for 2015, including nine making at least $11 million -- Martin Prado ($11M), Brett Gardner ($12.5M), Carlos Beltran ($15M), Brian McCann ($17M), Jacoby Ellsbury ($21.1M), Masahiro Tanaka ($22M), Rodriguez ($22M), CC Sabathia ($23M) and Mark Teixeira ($23.1M).

      Closer David Robertson is expected to receive at least qualifying offer to return, likely in the neighborhood of $12 million to $16 million.

      Cashman acknowledged there are specific needs to be addressed and perhaps beyond the obvious of shortstop and starting pitching.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    MLB free agency preview: Pitching pool is deep
    By The Sports Xchange

    Baseball free agency isn't what it used to be, if the just-concluded World Series is any indication.

    • The runner-up Kansas City Royals thrived with a roster that included just two players who arrived as free agents: second baseman Omar Infante and left-hander Jason Vargas.

      The champion San Francisco Giants featured more free agent acquisitions, but the heart of the team -- ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner, catcher Buster Posey and the entire regular infield -- consisted of homegrown players.

      While right-hander Tim Hudson and outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse arrived as free agents this year and contributed to San Francisco's success, the Giants know better than most teams the perils of the free agent market. See: Zito, Barry (seven years, $126 million); and Rowand, Aaron (five years, $60 million).

      The meat of this year's free agent class is pitchers -- both starters and relievers.

      The biggest paydays figure to go to a pair of 30-year-olds: Detroit Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer and Oakland A's left-hander Jon Lester. Scherzer won the American League Cy Young Award in 2013, and he followed up with another quality season in 2014. Lester was part of two World Series-winning teams with the Boston Red Sox, and he helped pitch the A's to the postseason this year after a July 31 trade.

      Other starting pitchers available include Royals right-hander James Shields, Baltimore Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and Giants right-hander Jake Peavy. Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda also could make a splash if he is posted by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

      Teams looking for a closer will have a number of free agent options. Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Francisco Rodriguez, New York Yankees right-hander David Robertson, Red Sox right-hander Koji Uehara and Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Casey Janssen all will be available.

      The free agent position-player pool isn't as deep as the pitching pool.

      The Brewers' Aramis Ramirez could join the Giants' Pablo Sandoval as one of the top available third basemen if Ramirez decides to pass on a $14 million mutual option. Sandoval is 28 years old, while Ramirez is 36, which figures to distinguish them in terms of the length of their new deals.

      Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez, 35, is another productive player whose payday might be limited by his age.

      The Orioles' Nelson Cruz and the Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera top the outfield list, but both come with the baggage of previous suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs. Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas also will field sizable offers.

      The Pittsburgh Pirates' Russell Martin is the lone elite free agent catcher. Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez heads the group of middle infielders, while the Nationals' Adam LaRoche leads the available first basemen.

      Free agency officially starts Thursday at 9 a.m. ET, though teams retain exclusive rights to their potentially departing players until Monday at 11:59 p.m. ET. During that period, clubs must decide whether to tender a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer to retain draft-pick compensation should a player sign with another club.

      Here is a team-by-team look at the players headed to free agency:

      NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

      ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

      FREE AGENT: OF Nolan Reimold

      Reimold refused the Diamondbacks' outright assignment to the minors and became a free agent.

      COLORADO ROCKIES

      FREE AGENTS: RF Michael Cuddyer, RHP Matt Belisle, RHP LaTroy Hawkins (club option), LHP Brett Anderson (club option), LHP Franklin Morales, RHP Nick Masset

      Cuddyer is 35, missed 99 games this season with three stints on the disabled list due to shoulder and hamstring injuries and made $10.5 million each of the past three seasons. He is still a very good hitter and provides veteran leadership. However, other outfielders emerged for the Rockies, who are likely to cut ties with Cuddyer. Colorado holds an inexpensive $2.25 million option with a $250,000 buyout on Hawkins, who contributed significantly on and off the field this season and turns 42 in December. Belisle and Morales are unlikely to return as the Rockies rebuild their bullpen. Masset provides solid velocity, but he will be gone unless the Rockies decide missing nearly all of 2012 and 2013 contributed to his command issues this season.

      LOS ANGELES DODGERS

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Josh Beckett, SS Hanley Ramirez, RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Kevin Correia, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Perez, RHP Jamey Wright, RHP Chad Billingsley (club option), RHP Dan Haren (player option), RHP Brian Wilson (player option)

      Aside from the players who control their options, don't look for anyone on this list to be in a Dodgers uniform next season. Beckett will retire. The rest of the pitchers will be discarded. The Dodgers also likely will part ways with Ramirez, letting some other team pay for his tantalizing offensive talent -- then deal with his constant injury issues and declining defensive ability.

      SAN DIEGO PADRES

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Tim Stauffer, RHP Josh Johnson (club option)

      Stauffer is the longest tenured Padre and was a first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2003 draft. He is very popular with the Padres. Stauffer, 32, who has been the long man in the Padres bullpen the past two seasons, still sees himself as a starting pitcher and will likely sign with a team willing to give him that opportunity. Johnson underwent a second Tommy John surgery in April. The Padres likely will decline his $4 million option.

      SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

      FREE AGENTS: 3B Pablo Sandoval, RHP Jake Peavy, LF/1B Michael Morse, RHP Sergio Romo, RHP Ryan Vogelsong

      The Giants will make a big play to bring back Sandoval. Peavy figures to leave after a half-season rental, but Vogelsong could find staying at AT&T Park to be attractive. Romo lost his closer role this year, so he might head elsewhere for a chance to return to ninth-inning duty.

      NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

      CHICAGO CUBS

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Carlos Villanueva (mutual option), RHP Kyuji Fujikawa (club option), LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (club option)

      Villanueva proved valuable as both a starter and in relief after signing a two-year extension worth $5 million annually in 2013. Villanueva was 5-7 with a 4.64 ERA and two saves over 77 2/3 innings pitched. The Cubs probably won't pick up the options on Fujikawa and Wada.

      CINCINNATI REDS

      FREE AGENTS: INF Ramon Santiago, LF Ryan Ludwick, INF Jack Hannahan

      Santiago was among the Reds' least-used players until injuries got him more playing time. He played well to put himself in consideration to resign, but the Reds' bench can be strengthened with prospects. Ludwick's career in Cincinnati is likely over with the Reds looking to pursue a more permanent and productive option in left field. The Reds declined contract options on Ludwick and Hannahan.

      MILWAUKEE BREWERS

      FREE AGENTS: 2B Rickie Weeks, RHP Francisco Rodriguez, RHP Yovani Gallardo (club option), 1B Mark Reynolds, 1B Lyle Overbay, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, LHP Zach Duke, 3B Aramis Ramirez (mutual option)

      It's safe to assume that Weeks' tenure has come to an end after 10 frustrating seasons. Gallardo, another home-grown talent and one of the Brewers' few organization-developed pitchers, has a $13 million option for next year that the Brewers are planning to exercise. Duke was a multi-role reliever early in the year but settled in as a specialist and could be invited back in 2015 while Reynolds and Overbay will likely give way to a free agent or trade to upgrade the position. The Brewers want Ramirez back, but he might decline the mutual option. Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, pulled off bigger shockers in the past, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the closer lands a multiyear deal somewhere ... or ends up back in Milwaukee again at the last minute.

      PITTSBURGH PIRATES

      FREE AGENTS: INF Clint Barmes, LHP Francisco Liriano, C Russell Martin, RHP Edinson Volquez

      Martin is the top priority and even frugal owner Bob Nutting says he is such a fan of the veteran catcher that he will likely allow Huntington to overpay him. Liriano and Volquez got their careers back on track with the Pirates while working with pitching coach Ray Searage, but the bad news is that they may have become too rich for Pittsburgh's blood. Barmes, who was leaning toward retirement for most of the season, has changed course and the Pirates would likely re-sign if he agrees to a low salary.

      ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Justin Masterson, RHP Jason Motte, RHP Pat Neshek, C A.J. Pierzynski, 2B Mark Ellis, RHP John Lackey (club option)

      The team won't extend $15.3 qualifying offers to any of the first five, but it would like to bring Motte and Neshek back. Neshek's spectacular season might earn him a multiyear contract and it's unlikely the Cardinals would be willing to fork out that kind of deal to an eighth-inning reliever. Masterson, Pierzynski and Ellis don't figure to return. The Cardinals will pick up Lackey's $500,000 option, a huge pay cut for the veteran due to a clause in his contract related to time missed because to injury.

      NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

      ATLANTA BRAVES

      FREE AGENTS: OF Emilio Bonifacio, OF Ryan Doumit (mutual option), RHP Gavin Floyd (club option), RHP Aaron Harang, C Gerald Laird, RHP Ervin Santana

      Santana has said he would like to come back to Atlanta, but he earned $14.1 million on his one-year deal and the Braves may not want to pay that -- or more -- again. Laird was a strong presence in the clubhouse and could return in the backup role he's played for two years. Bonifacio can play all three outfield spots, second base and shortstop and could be a nice piece for the bench.

      MIAMI MARLINS

      FREE AGENTS: OF Reed Johnson, 2B Rafael Furcal, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Brad Penny, C Jeff Mathis (club option)

      The only player the Marlins want to retain off this list is Johnson, a valuable pinch hitter and spare outfielder. But the Marlins will want him at a veterans-minimum-type salary.

      NEW YORK METS

      FREE AGENTS: OF Bobby Abreu, RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka

      This is pretty simple. Abreu is retiring and the versatile Matsuzaka -- who started, pitched in long relief, served as a set-up man and even recorded a save this season -- wants to start, which is an opportunity he won't get with the Mets.

      PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Mike Adams (club option), RHP A.J. Burnett (player option), RHP Kyle Kendrick, C Wil Nieves, OF Tony Gwynn Jr., RHP Sean O'Sullivan

      Burnett is the most interesting case as he can exercise a $15 million option to return next season but is also considering retirement after going 8-18 while pitching with a hernia that needs to be repaired surgically. Kendrick should draw significant interest as a 30-year-old coming off a 199-inning season. Nieves likely won't be back. The Phillies won't exercise Adams' $6 million club option for next season.

      WASHINGTON NATIONALS

      FREE AGENTS: 1B Adam LaRoche (mutual option), 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Rafael Soriano (club option), OF Nate Schierholtz, OF Scott Hairston, CF Denard Span (club option)

      While LaRoche hit a team-high 26 homers, the Nationals now need a position for former Gold Glove third baseman Ryan Zimmermann. His $15 million option probably won't be picked up. Cabrera could seek a move to a team that will allow him to return to his previous position, shortstop. Soriano, who lost his closer role in early September, most likely won't be back.

      AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

      HOUSTON ASTROS

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Jesse Crain, RHP Matt Albers, RHP Jose Veras

      Crain missed the entire season following offseason surgery, a risk the Astros were willing to take to shore up their historically inept bullpen. It seems unlikely that they will sink additional money into Crain.

      LOS ANGELES ANGELS

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Jason Grilli, LHP Joe Thatcher, INF John McDonald, C John Buck, LHP Sean Burnett (club option), RHP Huston Street (club option)

      Grilli and Thatcher both were acquired during midseason trades. Grilli enjoyed his time with the Angels but is an East Coast guy and may look to return there next season. Thatcher was a disappointment with the club, in part of because of an injured ankle, but he could be the lefty the club needs out of the bullpen. McDonald was a serviceable player off the bench for the Angels but is 40 and might retire. Buck isn't likely to return. The Angels hold a $4.5 million option on Burnett, but they are likely to give him a $500,000 buyout after he underwent a second Tommy John surgery in June. The team might exercise its $7 million option on Street.

      OAKLAND ATHLETICS

      FREE AGENTS: INF Alberto Callaspo, 1B Adam Dunn (retired), OF Jonny Gomes, RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Jason Hammel, LHP Jon Lester, SS Jed Lowrie, C Geovany Soto, INF Hiroyuki Nakajima (club option)

      Lester will be well out of the Athletics' price range. After a strong final month of the season, Hammel could command more money than the A's are willing to spend for a No. 5 starter. Gregerson posted a 2.12 ERA and made 72 appearances, tying Dan Otero for the most outings among A's relievers. Gregerson was a solid setup man, and the A's would likely want him back, but he's hitting the free agent market for the first time in his career and will have options. Lowrie batted .249 -- 41 points lower than in 2013 and battled multiple injuries. The A's might decide to find another shortstop with greater defensive skills. Callaspo hit just .223 and showed little range at second base.

      SEATTLE MARINERS

      FREE AGENTS: OF Endy Chavez, OF Chris Denorfia, 1B/OF Corey Hart, DH Kendrys Morales, LHP Joe Beimel, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (club option), RHP Chris Young, C Humberto Quintero

      Beimel gave Seattle a solid lefty specialist in the bullpen this season, and the Mariners are likely to make an effort to bring him back for another year. Chavez signed a minor league deal in each of the past two seasons and worked his way into a significant role on the team. The team figures to pick up the $7 million option on Iwakuma, but the others all could be gone.

      TEXAS RANGERS

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Colby Lewis, LHP Neal Cotts, RHP Scott Baker, OF Alex Rios, C/1B J.P. Arencibia

      Lewis' agent, Alan Nero, and GM Jon Daniels had very preliminary talks about a new contract. The Rangers share Lewis' preference to return to be the fifth starter, though Daniels said it would come down to money. Cotts has been a key piece as a left-handed setup reliever. He is expected to have appeal on the market and probably won't return, but it depends on what the team thinks of LHP Robbie Ross. Baker, a long reliever and spot starter, probably will get another opportunity as he demonstrated durability after dealing with injuries the previous two seasons. Arencibia elected free agency after he was outrighted to the minors in October.

      AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

      CHICAGO WHITE SOX

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Matt Lindstrom, 1B Paul Konerko (retired), RHP Felipe Paulino (club option)

      Lindstrom is likely to hit the market as a free agent, after going through a tumultuous season marred by ankle surgery and ineffectiveness. GM Rick Hahn said he's looking for "upgrades" in the bullpen and Lindstrom's spot might be one of those targeted. Paulino's $4 million option likely will be declined.

      CLEVELAND INDIANS

      FREE AGENTS: DH Jason Giambi, INF Mike Aviles (club option)

      The 43-year-old veteran said he hadn't decided if he will retire or return to play one more year. If he chooses to continue playing, it is questionable whether the Indians would bring him back, because they have several other DH candidates. Cleveland holds a $3.5 million option on Aviles.

      DETROIT TIGERS

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Max Scherzer, DH Victor Martinez, RF Torii Hunter, LHP Phil Coke, RHP Joba Chamberlain, RHP Jim Johnson, RHP Joel Hanrahan, RHP Joakim Soria (club option)

      If club owner Mike Ilitch wants Scherzer and Martinez back, it won't be money that causes them to leave. Hunter could retire or could be back on a one-year deal as outfield/bench insurance, but Coke and Chamberlain probably won't be offered contracts. Johnson might get a minor league offer. The Tigers might pick up Soria's $7 million option.

      KANSAS CITY ROYALS

      FREE AGENTS: RHP James Shields, RF Nori Aoki, DH Josh Willingham, RHP Jason Frasor, RHP Luke Hochevar, LHP Scott Downs, DH Raul Ibanez, DH Billy Butler (club option)

      Shields' postseason struggles likely lowered his asking price. Hochevar could seek a make-good contract, as he is rehabbing after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March. Willingham was a bit player after his midseason arrival from Minnesota, so he could be easily replaced. Ibanez, 42, might retire. Butler's $12.5 million option might be too rich for the Royals.

      MINNESOTA TWINS

      FREE AGENT: RHP Jared Burton

      The Twins declined Burton's $3.6 million option for 2015, so the reliever likely will be pitching somewhere else next season.

      AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

      BALTIMORE ORIOLES

      FREE AGENTS: C Nick Hundley (club option), 2B/3B Kelly Johnson, OF Nelson Cruz, LF Delmon Young, RF Nick Markakis (mutual option), LHP Wei-Yin Chen, LHP Joe Saunders, RHP Darren O'Day (club option), LHP Andrew Miller (mutual option), LHP Johan Santana

      The Orioles would love to have Cruz back, but if he still wants a multiyear deal, he may be too rich for their blood. There is a mutual option on Markakis' contract, but the club likely will decline and hope to get him to a longer-term deal. The pitchers, aside from Santana, who missed the entire year, all will draw interest from Baltimore.

      BOSTON RED SOX

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Koji Uehara, RHP Blake Badenhop, LHP Craig Breslow (club option), C David Ross

      Uehara lost his closer job late in the season, and the Red Sox say they want him back. Do they make the $15 million qualifying offer to him? If they do, he likely would take it. Badenhop pitched well and could be brought back, Breslow is ... well, left-handed. Ross would like to return to continue to mentor Vazquez.

      NEW YORK YANKEES

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP David Robertson, INF Stephen Drew, 3B Chase Headley, RHP Brandon McCarthy, OF Ichiro Suzuki, LHP Chris Capuano, LHP Rich Hill, OF Chris Young, SS Derek Jeter (retired)

      Robertson has worked his way through the bullpen pecking order to become the closer. Re-signing him should be the Yankees' biggest priority. Kuroda has been on three one-year deals and is 38-33 as a Yankee. He did not experience fatigue down the stretch this year but will turn 40. The Yankees are old enough and if Kuroda wants to play again, it's possible they bring him back. The rest all could be headed elsewhere.

      TAMPA BAY RAYS

      FREE AGENTS: RHP Joel Peralta (club option), INF/OF Ben Zobrist (club option)

      The Rays likely will pick up the $7.5 million option on Zobrist. Peralta could become a free agent, as the team might decline his $2.5 million option. The veteran reliever hopes to remain in Tampa Bay. "I want to be here, but I don't know what's going to happen," Peralta said.

      TORONTO BLUE JAYS

      FREE AGENTS: LF Melky Cabrera, CF Colby Rasmus, RHP Casey Janssen, RHP Brandon Morrow (club option), DH Adam Lind (club option), LHP J.A. Happ (club option), RHP Dustin McGowan (club option), C Josh Thole (club option), RHP Sergio Santos (club option)

      Cabrera has expressed a desire to return to Toronto, but will the Blue Jays be able to match competing offers? Janssen, a career Blue Jay, likely will leave. Rasmus hardly played in September; he is on his way out. The oft-injured Morrow, who would get $10 million if his option is picked up, and Santos likely will be bought out and be allowed to become free agents. An attempt could be made to bring back McGowan at a lower rate than the $4 million he would get if his option were picked up. The options of Lind, Happ and Thole likely will be picked up.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Royals lament coming oh so close
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Back in the World Series after a 29-year playoff drought, the Kansas City Royals couldn't quite capture their second championship.

    • After sweeping through the American League playoffs without a defeat, the Royals came up just short in the Fall Classic, falling 3-2 to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 on Wednesday.

      "It's hard to put my emotions into words right now, got a lot of hurt right now in here," Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said in the clubhouse after the finale. "This unit wanted it. There is only one team that goes home a winner. We were real close. That's what hurts so much. Game 7, winner take all, and just to fall a little bit short ...

      "Right now, all I feel is what happened out there. I'll be able to process it more as time goes by and sit around and think about all we accomplished and the adversity we did go through.

      "We came out stronger from it, but just came up a little bit short. I couldn't be more proud of a group of guys in here. We left it all out on the field. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We'll go out with our heads up high."

      After winning eight straight against the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles, the Royals dropped four of seven to the Giants. They had left fielder Alex Gordon at third base when the game ended, with San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner induced a foul pop from catcher Salvador Perez.

      "As magical as our run has been, to end up losing the ballgame by 90 feet is tough," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I mean, it hurts."

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Giants ride Bumgarner all the way to championship
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The San Francisco Giants were not the dominant team in the regular season, winning only 88 games, failing to win their division and sneaking into the postseason with the National League's second wild card.

    • However, they had the dominant pitcher in the playoffs and World Series, Madison Bumgarner.

      The 25-year-old left-hander worked five scoreless innings and allowed just two hits Wednesday night to log a save in the Giants' 3-2, championship-clinching victory over the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 of the World Series.

      Bumgarner, who went 2-0 with a save and a 0.43 ERA, was an easy choice as World Series MVP. He pitched 21 of the Giants' 61 innings in the seven games, and San Francisco's other starting pitchers posted a combined 9.92 ERA.

      Wednesday's effort was stunning considering Bumgarner was working on two days' rest. He threw 117 pitches Sunday while shutting out the Royals in Game 5.

      "I can't lie to you anymore, I'm a little tired now," Bumgarner said with a laugh after Game 7.

      Giants manager Bruce Bochy kept his distance from Bumgarner in the dugout during the game, as the lefty retired 14 consecutive batters at one point.

      "I was staying away from him every inning because I was hoping he wouldn't go, 'I'm starting to get tired,'" Bochy said. "Because there's no way I would have taken him out unless he would have told me that. We just got on his horse and rode it.

      "Truly amazing, incredible what he did through all this postseason ... historic."

      Bumgarner was making his first relief appearance since the 2010 NL Championship Series.

      "It doesn't matter which way you come from (starting or relieving), when you get out there, it's the same thing," Bumgarner said. "I was just thinking about getting on the mound and trying to get some innings for our team and get some outs, and fortunately we were able to do that."

      The Giants have three championships in a five-year span, and Bumgarner is a large reason why. His 0.25 career World Series ERA is the best ever among pitchers who threw at least 20 innings in the Fall Classic. Over six starts and one relief appearance in this year's postseason, Bumgarner went 4-1 with a save and a 1.65 ERA.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    MLB 2015 power rankings: Nats on top
    By The Sports Xchange

    Yes, the World Series just ended. However, it is never too early to think about next season.

    • With that in mind, here is The Sports Xchange's early -- make that very early -- Major League Baseball power rankings for 2015:

      --1. Washington Nationals

      They have the most-talented all-round roster in the game with two players on the brink of superstardom: right-hander Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper.

      --2. Baltimore Orioles

      With catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado coming off injuries to join a solid core, they should be a tough team to beat.

      --3. Los Angeles Dodgers

      Winning the NL West wasn't quite enough to satisfy ownership, as Andrew Friedman was hired to replace Ned Colletti as head of baseball operations.

      --4. Los Angeles Angels

      Manager Mike Scioscia was prophetic when he said they are no guarantees in the playoffs, but the Angels' quick exit should make a talented team hungry.

      --5. St. Louis Cardinals

      They never totally gained their footing in 2014, but they won the National League Central and are still clearly the best team in the division.

      --6. Oakland Athletics

      They still haven't reached a World Series during the Billy Beane Era despite the GM's wheelings and dealings, but they will make another run at it in '15.

      --7. Pittsburgh Pirates

      They showed that their first postseason berth in 21 years in 2013 wasn't a fluke by getting back to the playoffs this year, and they aren't going away.

      --8. Kansas City Royals

      It is easy to think a franchise that hadn't made the postseason since 1985 is a one-year wonder, but the pitching and defense are not a fluke.

      --9. Detroit Tigers

      After going three-and-out in the postseason, it is clear that this franchise needs to make some changes, notably finding reliable relief pitching.

      --10. Cleveland Indians

      They possess one of the game's best managers in Terry Francona and, more important, a rotation of hard throwers that can dominate, led by Corey Kluber.

      --11. San Francisco Giants

      The Giants are always better at the end of the season than they are at the start -- especially in even-numbered years -- but we are looking at an odd-numbered year.

      --12. Seattle Mariners

      They overachieved in Lloyd McClendon's first season as manager and have one of the game's best pitchers, Felix Hernandez, but they need a big bat.

      --13. Toronto Blue Jays

      Now that the Royals made it to the postseason, the Blue Jays have the longest playoff drought, stretching back to 1993, and it needs to end.

      --14. New York Yankees

      Just about any other franchise in this situation would sell off its veteran players and rebuild, but that will never happen as long the Steinbrenners are owners.

      --15. Tampa Bay Rays

      The departure of Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon leaves a brain drain within the organization, though GM Matt Silverman understands the limitations he is under.

      --16. New York Mets

      Presumptive young ace Matt Harvey should be ready by Opening Day to head up a young rotation and lead a surprise team.

      --17. San Diego Padres

      Another team that possesses the type of young pitching to make it dangerous, but new GM A.J. Preller must get some offensive help to contend.

      --18. Milwaukee Brewers

      No manager starts next season with a hotter seat than Ron Roenicke following this year's late-season collapse, and that could be a big distraction.

      --19. Atlanta Braves

      The ax fell on GM Frank Wren after a series of bad moves, notably signing Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton to bad contacts. New team president John Hart must come to the rescue.

      --20. Miami Marlins

      The growing pains are lessening, and they will get right-hander Jose Fernandez back early in the season. The biggest question is whether they can lock up slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

      --21. Cincinnati Reds

      Injuries killed any playoff hopes this season, but there is a question about Joey Votto's long-term durability and Bryan Price's transition to managing.

      --22. Boston Red Sox

      After going from worst to first in 2013, they will try to do it again, but GM Ben Cherington needs to do well in free agency.

      --23. Philadelphia Phillies

      They finally admit that it is time to rebuild, but the big problem is that they have too many overpriced players whom nobody wants.

      --24. Chicago Cubs

      Maddon inherits a talented group of young hitters, and club president Theo Epstein says the organization is willing to spend for pitching this winter.

      --25. Texas Rangers

      This is a team that has a chance to outperform its ranking it if stays healthy and makes the right offseason moves.

      --26. Chicago White Sox

      Jose Abreu and Chris Sale are outstanding players to build around, but they can't do it alone, leaving GM Rick Hahn to add pieces on a budget.

      --27. Houston Astros

      GM Jeff Luhnow is a polarizing figure within the game, but the new manager, A.J. Hinch, is a better fit.

      --28. Minnesota Twins

      It is going to seem odd not having Ron Gardenhire around, but his successor will inherit a team with some young, albeit raw, talent.

      --29. Colorado Rockies

      Promoting farm director Jeff Bridich to GM can only help after Dan O'Dowd long outlived his expiration date. Still, Bridich inherits plenty of problems.

      --30. Arizona Diamondbacks

      Tony La Russa wanted a new challenge following his Hall of Fame managerial career. Arizona's new chief baseball officer has one, trying to revive a struggling franchise.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Giants rookie Panik contributes key fielding gem
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner received loads of accolades for his performance in the 2014 World Series, as he should.

    • Bumgarner was an easy choice for Most Valuable Player, but an assist could go to rookie second baseman Joe Panik, who made a stunning defensive play Wednesday in the Giants' 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 7.

      Panik played a key role for the Giants, who claimed their third World Series championship in five years.

      Hitting in the second spot in the lineup, Panik batted only .222 with two doubles and a triple against the Royals. However, his defense was stellar, including a gem in the bottom of the third of a 2-2 game Wednesday.

      Kansas City center fielder Lorenzo Cain led off with a single. First baseman Eric Hosmer hit a scorching drive up the middle, and Panik tried to knock it down and possibly get the lead runner. He did more than that.

      Panik speared the ball, then, while on his stomach, flipped it from his glove to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who threw to first baseman Brandon Belt for the double play.

      Originally Hosmer was called safe, but San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy challenged the ruling, and it was overturned.

      "(Hosmer) hit it well, kind of shot it through the middle," Panik said. "I told myself to dive and try to knock it down and try to get one. The way Crawford turned it over was great. I thought (Hosmer) was out (at first). I pumped my fist."

      Panik said that the middle infielders don't practice that play, at least not the diving and flipping parts.

      "No, it was instinctual," he said. "It's the first time I've ever done something like that. I was a shortstop growing up, and it's a different kind of play from there. You work on it standing up, but on the ground, you just try to get one."

      Panik is one of seven Giants who made their postseason debuts in 2014. He said the veterans on the club helped him get acclimated to the majors, and they made him feel a part of things from the beginning.

      "It's a great clubhouse with a great bunch of guys," he said. "They made it easy for me. They know what they're doing, and they showed me that I just had to do my thing."

      Much of that veteran leadership came from the manager's office. Bochy became just the second manager in New York/San Francisco Giants history to win three World Series championships (John McGraw in 1905, 1921 and 1922). He told his players before the game that they could make history.

      The last team to win Game 7 of the World Series on the road was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who defeated the Baltimore Orioles in 1979. Nine consecutive road teams lost Game 7 before the Giants' victory Wednesday night.

      "He told us, 'You've done it before,'" Panik said of Bochy's pregame speech. "'You did it in Pittsburgh (in the National League wild-card game), you won two in Washington (in the NL Division Series), and you took Game 1 in St. Louis (in the NL Championship Series). There's no reason you can't win it here.'"

      Panik did not arrive on the scene in San Francisco until June 21. He started slowly but finished the season on a .345 tear (67-for-194) beginning Aug. 4.

      He impressed his teammates from the beginning. Wednesday night proved no different.

      "It was a pretty outstanding play, especially by a rookie," Belt said. "I know the grass was wet and the ball could skip. (Panik) did an unbelievable job. Then Crawford turned it. It was a great play."

      Now the rookie, who turns 24 on the day after the World Series ended, is a world champion.

      "Words can't describe it," he said. "It was intense. It was a great atmosphere. Kansas City fans were great. Every little thing mattered. It really helps to have experienced guys.

      "It's unbelievable. To call yourself a world champion is something you always dream of as a kid. It hasn't settled in yet."

      It will soon, just as Hosmer's hard shot settled into his glove.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Giant relief: Bumgarner leads San Francisco to title
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One Giant performance won the World Series.

    • Madison Bumgarner came out of the bullpen in Game 7 and threw five scoreless innings to pick up a save, and the San Francisco Giants held on for a 3-2, title-clinching victory over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.

      San Francisco's ace left-hander went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in two World Series starts, and he finished with a 0.43 ERA in three appearances.

      Bumgarner, who pitched Wednesday on two days' rest after throwing a shutout in Game 5, was selected the Most Valuable Player. There was no other choice.

      "I knew if something happened early, it was probably a lot better chance of me getting in there, and it did," Bumgarner said. "I wasn't thinking about finishing the game or how many pitches I was going to go or pitch count. I was just wanting to get outs, and we were able to do that for the most part."

      The Giants became the first road team to win a World Series Game 7 since the Pittsburgh Pirates won in 1979 at Baltimore. The last nine home teams prevailed in Game 7.

      San Francisco captured its third World Series title in five years, the first National League team to accomplish that since the St. Louis Cardinals in 1942, 1944 and 1946. The Giants also became the first team to win 12 games in a single postseason.

      After Kansas City second baseman Omar Infante led off the fifth with a single, Bumgarner retired 14 straight until left fielder Alex Gordon singled with two outs in the ninth. Gordon raced to third as the ball scooted past center fielder Gregor Blanco for an error and rolled to the wall.

      "I wasn't sure what happened," Bumgarner said, "but I was starting to get a little nervous. He can run a little bit and that's a big outfield, so I was just wanting someone to get it and get it in, which they did in plenty of time. But it was a little nerve-wracking, though."

      Bumgarner picked up Blanco by retiring catcher Salvador Perez on a foul pop to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, setting off the Giants' celebration.

      "I knew Perez was going to want do something big," Bumgarner said. "I had a really good chance, too. We tried to use that aggressiveness and throw pitches up in the zone. It's a little bit higher than high, I guess, and fortunately I was able to get some past him."

      Sandoval, right fielder Hunter Pence and first baseman Brandon Belt -- the Giants' Nos. 4, 5 and 6 hitters -- combined to go 7-for-11 and scored all three runs. Sandoval's three hits hiked his total to 26, a major league record for a single postseason.

      Neither starter lasted long. Giants starter Tim Hudson was gone before the second inning ended. Royals starter and losing pitcher Jeremy Guthrie failed to make it out of the fourth.

      The Royals' three-headed bullpen monster of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland combined to throw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out nine, after Guthrie departed.

      However, the Bumgarner Beast bested them.

      "He had a tremendous playoff," Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said. "He put his team on his back and carried them in this World Series. He was definitely the difference-maker for them. He came back on short rest. He dominated every time he was on the mound. That's what true aces do. That's what sets him apart from everybody else."

      Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain said of Bumgarner, "He dominated us the first game and then got it done Sunday and again tonight. We probably would have won if they didn't have him. But they do have him."

      The Giants struck first with two runs in the second, both scoring on outs.

      Guthrie began the inning by hitting Sandoval with a pitch and yielding singles to Pence and Belt to load the bases with nobody out.

      Designated hitter Michael Morse and shortstop Brandon Crawford got Sandoval and Pence home with sacrifice flies.

      The Royals promptly answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning, but they would not score again.

      Butler led off with a single and rumbled home from first on Gordon's double to center that rolled to the wall. Gordon was hitting a paltry .094 in the previous nine games.

      Next, Perez was hit by a Hudson pitch near the left knee and was down in pain for several minutes while trainer Nick Kenney and manager Ned Yost attended him. Perez remained in the game.

      Gordon advanced to third on third baseman Mike Moustakas' flyout to left field and scored on Infante's sacrifice fly to center.

      After Hudson yielded a single to shortstop Alcides Escobar, Giants manager Bruce Bochy replaced him with left-hander Jeremy Affeldt.

      Hudson, who at 39 years, 107 days was the oldest Game 7 starting pitcher in history, retired only five of the 10 batters he faced and threw just 28 pitches. That was the shortest Game 7 start since 1960, when the New York Yankees pulled Bob Turley after one inning.

      For the second night in a row, San Francisco's starter failed to make it through two innings. Jake Peavy retired only four batters in a 10-0 Giants loss on Tuesday.

      It was the first time since 1984 that World Series starters failed to make it through two innings in back-to-back starts. Ed Whitson and Tim Lollar of the San Diego Padres each failed in Game 2 and 3 to get six outs in the World Series against Detroit.

      Guthrie, 35, did not last much longer than Hudson. He was yanked after 15 batters and 3 1/3 innings. Sandoval and Pence opened the fourth with singles. Sandoval moved up 90 feet on Belt's flyout.

      Yost replaced Guthrie with Herrera. Morse fell behind in the count 0-2 before singling to right to score Sandoval, putting the Giants up 3-2.

      Affeldt, who broke in with the Royals in 2002, worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings to pick up the victory. He was a major bullpen component on the Giants' three championship clubs.

      "This is probably the one that means the most to me, with being back in Kansas City," Affeldt said. "I've been telling my wife for 10 years now, 'I hope the end is better than the beginning.' To see the end right now, knowing I began here, I couldn't have been more prophetic. It couldn't have come to a better close for me."

      He extended his consecutive scoreless outing streak to 22 in the postseason. Only Mariano Rivera, 23, has a longer streak in major league history.

      "I don't know if they'll say the word dynasty or not. But to be a part of this and do it the way we do it, I'm very honored to be part of it," Affeldt said. "To me, it's one of the best bullpens I've ever seen. We're not normal; we don't all throw it 100. We can mix and match. This bullpen, for the most part, has been part of three rings."

      Affeldt turned over a one-run lead to Bumgarner in the fifth. Bumgarner took it from there.

      "I never felt like it was over, especially with that team over there," Belt said. "But I have a lot of confidence when he comes in. He's the big guy. He's the MVP. That's what we expect out of him every time, and he delivers every single time.

      "I knew they would have to drag him off the field if they were going to get him out of there. He wasn't going to go voluntarily. Once he settled in, he was great."

      Herrera was removed after 2 2/3 scoreless innings in which he threw 28 strikes in 33 pitches, but he allowed one of Guthrie's runners to score, and that was the difference. Davis replaced Herrera to start the seventh.

      NOTES: Royals 1B Eric Hosmer went 0-for-4 in Game 7. He finished with 20 postseason hits, tying CF Willie Wilson's franchise record for most hits in a postseason, set in 1985. ... San Francisco 1B Brandon Belt drew 11 walks in postseason play, second in single-season franchise history, but far off the club record. Barry Bonds walked 27 times in the 2002 postseason. ... RHP Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' top pick in the 2012 draft who underwent shoulder surgery Tuesday, was at Kauffman Stadium for Game 7 with his arm in a sling. ... Bret Saberhagen, who shut out the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Royals Hall of Famer Mark Gubicza, who was also in the 1985 rotation, delivered the official game ball to the mound. ... Joyce DiDonato, a 2012 Grammy Award winner for best classical vocal solo who went to high school in Kansas City, performed the national anthem.

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    Report: Maddon, Cubs close to deal
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Chicago Cubs are set to hire Joe Maddon as their manager, CBSSports.com reported Wednesday.

    • Maddon and the Cubs are close to reaching a deal that should be wrapped up within days, according to report, which also indicated the former Tampa Bay Rays manager is seeking at least $5 million per year.

      If that is the case, Maddon would become one of the highest-paid managers in the major leagues. Angels manager Mike Scioscia is paid $5 million annually.

      Up to 10 teams have expressed interest in Maddon, according to his agent, Alan Nero, since he opted out of his contract with the Rays last week after general manager Andrew Freidman left for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

      It's not the first time the Cubs have tried to hire a big-name manager. The Cubs made a run at Joe Girardi last winter before he re-signed with the New York Yankees.

      Meanwhile, still employed as Cubs manager is Rick Renteria, who is aware that the team is pursuing Maddon for his job. Renteria has two guaranteed years remaining on his contract.

      Maddon would be the latest big-name manager to try to help the Cubs win their first World Series title since 1908. Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella led the Cubs to the playoffs in recent years but never as far as the World Series. The Cubs' last playoff appearance came in 2008.

      This past season, the Cubs finished with a 73-89 record, but there is lots of optimism because the roster is stocked with young talent that could make the team a contender next year.

      Maddon served as Rays manager for nine seasons and posted a 754-705 record. Tampa Bay won two American League East titles, reached the playoffs four times and advanced to the World Series once under Maddon.

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    World Series notebook: Ventura pays tribute to Taveras
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura, who pitched seven scoreless innings to win Game 6 of the World Series, inscribed "RIP, O.T., #18" on his cap before the start.

    • Ventura said "this game was dedicated to Oscar Taveras, my good friend." Taveras, a St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, was killed in a car accident Sunday in the Dominican Republic.

      "I'm very proud to be Dominican, and that's why I brought my flag out here," Ventura said with teammate Christian Colon acting as his interpreter. "I carry my emotions on my sleeve, and I did it for the whole country of the Dominican Republic.

      "If he (Taveras) was still here, I would for sure be talking to him, and Oscar would be very happy for me and very proud. Oscar was a very humble guy and very likable, and I'm going to miss him a lot. I'm grieving, and I want to send my best thoughts to his family. I know that I'm going to miss him a lot, and this is hard for me."

      The cap Ventura wore Tuesday night is bound for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

      Other artifacts already donated to the Hall of Fame from the 2014 postseason include:

      - The cap worn by Royals rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan in Game 3 when he became the first player to appear in the College World Series and the World Series in the same year.

      - Travis Ishikawa's bat for his walk-off homer in Game 5 of the NLCS.

      - Ned Yost's jersey in Game 4 of the ALCS when he became the first manager to win his first eight postseason games.

      ---Ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner was available in the bullpen if the Giants needed him in Game 7.

      "This could be a pen day for him, second or third day," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Normally, he throws 40 to 50 pitches, so he could give us at least that, if we needed him. He's set to go. He should be good for 50, 60 at least."

      ---Juan Perez replaced Ishikawa in left field and batted ninth for the Giants.

      "He steps in last night and gets another hit," Bochy said. "I just thought about it and said, 'You know what, we're going to put our best defense out there.' He can do some things with the bat, whether a base hit, get a bunt down for you, gives you speed.

      "So that's why I made the change because not only his defense, but he has been swinging the bat better."

      ---Kansas City's Salvador Perez made his 158th start Wednesday, the most by a big league catcher in history.

      "He's a real threat offensively," Yost said. "But for our pitching staff, that's where his vast importance comes. His main focus is to get them through the game any way that he can.

      "His attitude and his competiveness, I guess, is the right word for it is a little bit contagious. He is a guy that never gets down, ever."

      ---Justin Timberlake tweeted out before the game: "Good luck to my buddy, @TheRealJGuts (Jeremy Guthrie) tonight. Get out there and paint, boy!!!! #WorldSeries"

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    Reds pick up Cueto option
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Cincinnati Reds exercised a $10 million option on right-hander Johnny Cueto on Tuesday and declined options on infielder Jack Hannahan and outfielder Ryan Ludwick.

    • Cueto had an outstanding season in 2014, posting a 20-9 record with a 2.25 ERA in 34 starts with 252 strikeouts in 244 innings. He held opponents to a .192 batting average.

      In the past four seasons, he has a 53-25 record with a 2.48 ERA in 102 starts.

      The 28-year-old Cueto will be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season along with Reds starters Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon.

      Hannahan's option was for $4 million and he'll receive a $2 million buyout. Ludwick's option was for $9 million and his buyout was $4.5 million.

      The 34-year-old Hannahan batted .188 in 26 games for the Reds in 2014. His batting average hasn't climbed above .250 in the past three seasons.

      The 36-year-old Ludwick hit .244 with nine home runs in 112 games for Cincinnati this season. Ludwick hopes to play in the major leagues next season, possibly in a bench role, but the Reds balked at the $9 million option as too steep.

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    Royals' Dyson visualizes title celebration
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Center fielder Jarrod Dyson has been fairly quiet in the World Series.

    • He entered as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning Tuesday and went 0-for-1 in the Kansas City Royals' 10-0 shellacking Tuesday of the San Francisco Giants in Game 6. Dyson is 2-for-10 in the World Series. He has not stolen a base nor even attempted one.

      But Dyson is outspoken. After the Royals won the first two games of the American League championship against the Orioles, Dyson announced that the series would not return to Baltimore for a Game 6.

      He was right. The Royals completed a four-game sweep.

      Fast-forward to Kansas City clubhouse Tuesday night after the Royals forced a decisive Game 7. Is he visualizing a World Series parade?

      "Who don't?" Dyson said. "We've got one game left. Everybody visualizes a parade in here, but we've got to take care of business first."

      The winner of Game 7 on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium will be crowned champions.

      "It means everything," Dyson said. "We can make history right now. A lot of guys here have never been in the World Series. We're trying to take advantage of it. That's the main goal in here. We won a lot of games in the minor leagues, won a lot of championships together in the minor leagues, but it is not going to be like winning it up here, man. So that's the goal is to win up here.

      "We're going to make history. The only way to make history is to win. We've got to win tomorrow. That's our goal to win. If we win, we can be in the history books."

      Then Dyson walked away with a parting comment.

      "Ya'll are trying to get a headline," Dyson said with a laugh.

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    Giants' Hudson excited about Game 7 start
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tim Hudson will draw the starting assignment for the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, not ace Madison Bumgarner on two days' rest.

    • "It's important, it's exciting," Hudson said. "When you're a little kid in the backyard, you always think of World Series games and hitting home runs to win a Game 7 of the World Series or pitching in a big game, a Game 7 of the World Series.

      "So I'm no different than anybody else. It's something that as a kid growing up you think about it. As a big-league player you think about it. And you wonder if you're ever going to have the opportunity to do it.

      "Sixteen years in the big leagues, and I finally have that chance. I'm really, really excited about it. I can't wait. I can't wait to get out there tomorrow and have some fun."

      Hudson was the losing pitcher in Game 3 at San Francisco, yielding three runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out two as the Royals won 3-2 Friday.

      It was the only close game of this World Series, with the other five games decided by five or more runs.

      "I feel very calm about the task at hand," Hudson said. "I've waited a long time for this."

      Should he falter, manager Bruce Bochy will have plenty of options, including Bumgarner. The left-hander threw a shutout Sunday in Game 5, but he and Bochy said he will be available for relief duty in Game 7.

      "The guy is human," Bochy said, dismissing any thoughts of starting Bumgarner. "You can't push him that much. He's going on two days' rest. He'll be available if we need him, but to start him, I think that's asking too much. I have a good pitcher going tomorrow, who has done a great job for us."

      San Francisco also did not use any of its top four relievers in Game 6: left-handers Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt and right-handers Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    World Series: 5 things we know entering Game 7
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A second inning that included a franchise-postseason-record seven runs and eight hits guided the Kansas City Royals to a 10-0 win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 6 on Tuesday, tying the World Series at three games apiece.

    • The Royals will try Wednesday night to become the ninth team in last 11 opportunities to win Games 6 and 7 at home to capture the championship. No road team has won Game 7 since 1979 when the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Orioles in Baltimore.

      Here are five things we know about the World Series entering Game 7:

      --5. Teams need breaks to win the World Series, and the Royals are getting plenty. Game 6 loser Jake Peavy said he doesn't remember breaking three bats in an inning and not recording an out on any of them, as occurred in the second inning Tuesday.

      However, Kansas City manager Ned Yost said he is confident his team can keep finding the breaks in Game 7.

      "I've never been so convicted about a game in my life, seriously," he said. "I've never felt more strongly about us winning a ballgame than I did this game. I had a strong, a very, very strong feeling that whoever won Game 6 was going to win Game 7. But we have to wait until tomorrow to see if my theory is correct."

      --4. Giants right-hander Tim Hudson needs a big game Wednesday. He made his World Series debut in Game 3 and lost a 3-2 decision. Hudson finished the regular season 9-13 with a 3.57 ERA, but he lost his last four decisions. His ERA in September was 8.72, and he is 0-1 with a 3.72 ERA in the postseason. He says he is ready for the big stage.

      "You should be," he said. "This is why you play the game. This is why you compete. This is why you work so hard throughout your career to get to hopefully have this opportunity. I'm going to have some fun. I've waited a long time for this."

      --3. The Giants used five pitchers in Game 6, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy still feels as if he has the tools to win Game 7. He used five pitchers, but only Jean Machi pitched more than two innings. He did not use his top four relievers: left-handers Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt and right-handers Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla. Bochy also has ace lefty Madison Bumgarner available to pitch a couple of innings after having two days' rest. Bumgarner is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in the World Series.

      "You hate to have a game go like (Game 6 did), but no question it does allow you to do some things you probably normally wouldn't do," Bochy said. "So we're loaded tomorrow, I feel, and they are, too. So we're just looking forward to the game."

      --2. The Royals' bullpen is rested. Yordano Ventura pitched seven innings of shutout ball, and relievers Jason Frasor and Tim Collins pitched the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. That means that Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland have another day of rest heading into Game 7.

      "To get us through seven innings, and then Frasor coming in and Collins getting through that, that keeps all of our big guns fresh and ready to go tomorrow," Yost said. "That was the intent once we scored the seven runs (in the second inning) to try to get through that game without using (Brandon) Finnegan, without using Herrera, without using Holland and Wade Davis."

      Jeremy Guthrie, the Game 3 winner who will start Game 7, will aim for a six-inning effort to hand the ball to Kansas City's talented relief corps.

      --1. The last team to win Game 6 at home to force a Game 7 and then lose the World Series was the Red Sox in 1975. Boston won Game 6 in the bottom of the 12th inning on Carlton Fisk's famous home run before falling 4-3 to the Cincinnati Reds in Game 7. Despite the history stacked up against them, the Giants are loose and confident.

      "There's no other team I would rather be on for Game 7," said designated hitter Michael Morse, who is in his first year with the Giants. "They're ready for this. We knew it wasn't going to be easy today. Ventura came out and pitched a really good game; you have to tip your hat to him. Tomorrow we're going to go out and do what we do best, and that's play good baseball. I don't have a confidence meter. I can't tell you how confident, but this is the same thing we've been doing. This is awesome. It's been a great ride, and we're going to be ready for tomorrow."