Tony La Russa hired as White Sox manager
The first managerial opening has been filled, and its a doozy. About a decade since the end of his last manager job, Tony La Russa is back in the game, having been hired as the White Sox to manage in 2021. This is not a huge surprise as he has been connected to this job after they fired Rick Renteria following the season. It is not exactly a hiring that has been met with a lot of praise, though. The White Sox are perceived as one of the most new-school teams in the league in terms of personalities, and La Russa doesn’t really jive with that notion. There is some anticipation that this could lead to some conflict in the clubhouse, particularly with players of color given La Russa’s past comments regarding Adam Jones. For what it’s worth on that front, though, Bruce Maxwell, the former A’s catcher who was the first in baseball to kneel for the National Anthem, had positive things to say about La Russa.
On the other hand, it seems there is already some strife in the White Sox front office with this move. The perception is that this came down from ownership and the front office didn’t really have a say in any of this. To me, the biggest issue here is that we are once again just recycling old names instead of giving chances to new candidates. With the Tigers rumored to be close to a deal with A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora remaining the favorite in here Boston, that would appear to be a trend this year.
As far as the connections to Boston, for one thing La Russa was not on their list of candidates, which can only be a good thing. When this White Sox job first opened up Cora was seen as a clear fit with that roster. That Chicago didn’t hire him or any of the other candidates interviewed by the Red Sox is a positive. There’s also some Boston connection here with La Russa having recently filled an advisory front office role under Dave Dombrowski.
Indians place Brad Hand on outright waivers
The offseason has only been two days, but it’s already clear that some big names are going to be hitting the open market rather than being paid options or in arbitration. Brad Hand could be the next to hit that list. The left-handed reliever was placed on outright waivers on Thursday, as Cleveland was not planning to pick up his $10 million option for 2021. Hand has been one of the better relievers in all of baseball in recent years, and it would be pretty surprising if he made it through waivers without being claimed, even in this weak market for players. He’s coming off a year with a 226 ERA+ with 29 strikeouts and four walks over 22 innings. Dating back to 2016, he has a 157 ERA+ while averaging 61 appearances per season and striking out over 12 batters per nine innings and walking three per nine.
The Red Sox should be all over this, and have a solid chance of actually getting the lefty. Waiver order is based on league and record, with the worst records in the American League getting first dibs. That puts only Texas and Detroits ahead of them on that list. Boston obviously needs a ton of pitching help this winter, and a top-tier reliever is on that list of needs. Getting that out of the way with someone who has been as consistently great as Hand for just $10 million for one year should be a no-brainer if he makes it that far.
Roberto Osuna placed on outright waivers
Another top-tier reliever has been placed on waivers, though this is clearly a different kind of situation. The reliever is Osuna, who was put on outright waivers by the Astros on Thursday. The former Blue Jay closer is arbitration-eligible and was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make about $10 million in 2021. In a strictly baseball sense, Osuna would be an attractive player for teams. Injury kept him off the field for most of this past season, but prior to 2020 he’s been one of the most effective relievers in baseball for his entire career.
The difference, of course, is that Osuna has more than just his baseball skillset that teams are concerned with. He has had major off-the-field problems, having been charged with assaulting his then-girlfriend and mother of his child in Toronto back in 2018. Those charges were eventually dropped due to the woman refusing to go back to Toronto to appear in court, and Osuna being given a peace bond. MLB still found enough to levy a 75-game suspension against him. The Red Sox need a reliever, but there is no roster opening that would be bad enough that I’d want them to add someone like Osuna.
Brewers decline Ryan Braun’s option
This one wasn’t a major surprise, though it’s still a bit jarring given the player’s meaning to the organization. The Brewers declined their half of a $15 million mutual option with Ryan Braun, making the veteran a free agent. He’s certainly not the player he once was when he was winning the MVP and consistently finishing in the top five in that award in the first half of his career. That said, he’s still a solid hitter and should be able to find a job somewhere. It wouldn’t be totally surprising if he went back to Milwaukee on a cheaper deal, either.
Braun also does come with some baggage, though. It’s not the same as Osuna’s and is certainly something I could more easily get past, though Braun was busted for steroid usage and handled it horribly, at one point throwing the test-taker under the bus. There’s not a great fit with the Red Sox here anyway, as Braun is best fit for a DH, left field or first base role. If Boston traded Andrew Benintendi perhaps there could be a fit, but even then there are other options.
Yankees bring back Zack Britton
In a rare instance of a player not having their option declined, the Yankees are bringing reliever Zack Britton back into the fold. He had an interesting contract wrinkle as New York had to decide this offseason whether or not to pick up the lefty’s $14 million option for 2022. If they declined to do so, Britton would have had the opportunity to opt-out this winter and hit free agency. New York picked up that option, and he will be under contract for the next two years. Britton isn’t the strikeout arm he once was, but the southpaw’s ground ball abilities have allowed him to continue to be extremely effective in the back of the Yankees bullpen.