Front Office Conference Call Agendas: American League by Kevin Goldstein May 4, 2021 Throughout the season, most teams hold weekly meetings with their baseball leadership group, usually involving those at a director level or higher. These are often done via conference call or Zoom, as sometimes there is an executive with the team on a road trip and various scouting officials can be spread across the country (or even internationally) checking out players. Sometimes it’s a brief check-in just to see what everyone is up to, but around once a month, it’s time to dig deep on the road ahead and talk about some specific tasks to address needs and issues. While one month in the books is still a small sample size, it’s enough to get a vibe of where your team is at, and where it at least might be going, so I put together some bullet points for each team’s call this week. Baltimore Orioles It’s a lot of fun being competitive, but let’s not start thinking about making a move that sacrifices the future for the present. We’re sticking to the plan of trying to create something that lasts awhile. Let’s focus on the draft. With the No. 5 pick, we have no guarantee that there will a player there we like enough for the full slot of just north of $6 million. Let’s get really buttoned up on any players we’ve put $3 million or more on and start feeling out for bonus demands in case we went to save money at five and trying to use the savings to upgrade the picks below that. Let’s also start identifying players who might fall due to bonus demands that we can use those savings on with later picks. If any teams call for a check-in, let them know we are open for business. Maybe we can get something small for Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, or even Matt Harvey. Let’s see if we can get more international money as a sweetener if a deal starts to unfold. The Rio Ruiz second base experiment isn’t working, so let’s closely monitor Jahmai Jones and Terrin Vavra now that we have minor league games to see if we want to take a look at one of them in Baltimore. I know he’s our closer and best story of the year, but should we reach out to teams to see if we can turn Cesar Valdez into something before the bloom is off the rose. Boston Red Sox This team is better that we thought. We’re playing well, and other top teams in our division are below expectations. We owe it to ourselves and our fans to try to do something to help our playoff chances. Garrett Richards’ last two starts have been highly encouraging, but there’s still some concern there. Let’s have our scouts and analysts keeping a close eye on Tanner Houck and Connor Seabold to figure out which one gets the call should the need arise. When is it time to say Bobby Dalbec needs some more time in the minors? The concern here is that he’s getting beat by velocity. Let’s see where Alex Cora and hitting coach Tim Hyers are with him. Should we look at picking up a safe veteran bopper? What do you guys think about C.J. Cron? Both Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe have been awful. Let’s see how he starts the year in the minors but be open to giving Jarren Duran a look if there are signs that he’s addressed his approach issues. The bullpen has been really good, but other than Matt Barnes, we are really leaning on some unproven commodities. Let’s identify some targets, begin some evaluations and be ready to start making some calls. Last year was no fun, but at least we have the fourth pick in the draft. We’re going to get a really good player. Who are our top four players in the draft and how do we line them up as of the beginning of May? Chicago White Sox Now that we know Luis Robert is going to miss some serious time, what do we want to do both in terms of immediately filling the center field gig and beginning a search for possible external options? Other than the injuries, we should feel good about the team. We are well over .500, the Royals are the only team in front of us, and neither José Abreu nor Yasmani Grandal has really gotten going at the plate yet. We should be very happy with our everyday lineup and very not happy about our bench. Let’s find some upgrade candidates in terms of infield and outfield depth. They shouldn’t cost us too much in terms of prospects and/or salary, and they’re out there. Like most teams, a bit more comfort in terms of bullpen depth would be nice. Let’s start identifying some potential targets. Who wants to talk to Tony La Russa and tell him that we need to play Andrew Vaughn nearly every day or he has to go to Triple-A Charlotte in order to play every day? No volunteers, huh? Cleveland It feels like this is what we are and we’ll be scraping around .500 at best for the season. Does anyone see a reason to go for it? Do we even have the resources to execute an improvement plan if so? Jose Ramirez has two exceptionally team-friendly options for 2022 and ’23 that add up to $24 million. That’s great for us, but also makes have very attractive on the trade market. Let’s be open to ideas and see if someone is willing to blow us away with a package that starts with an elite-level prospect, hopefully on the pitching side of things, because we don’t have a clear path to rotation depth right now. Even thought he’s not hitting, I’m sure there will be a market for Roberto Pérez based just off defense and intangibles. That said, what the hell would we do about catching if he wasn’t here? Let’s stick with the plan and keep throwing Andrés Giménez and Amed Rosario out there to figure out which one of them is our shortstop of the future — and it damn well better be one of them. Any ideas on what’s going on with Eddie Rosario? We were hoping he could net us something this July as a nice corner outfield option for someone. Detroit Tigers Nobody is having fun watching us lose, but we didn’t expect any miracles this year, so let’s keep using this season to evaluate our young players and figure out which are going to be part of the roster when the team is good. Let’s discuss where we are in terms of our workload plan for Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. We’d like them to pitch the whole season by limiting their innings here and there, as opposed to allowing them to reach some pre-defined innings number and shutting them down. In a perfect world some of those innings could go to Matt Manning. How did Spencer Torkelson look at the alt site? We know it’s a small sample and shouldn’t matter at all, but his spring showing created a few jitters over just how quickly he can move through the system. We pick third in the draft. We know all of the talk is the two Vanderbilt arms, and we shouldn’t draft for need this high, but let’s get some deep looks and deep dives on the two big high school shortstops in Jordan Lawlar and Marcelo Mayer. Houston Astros We’ve recovered from our rough patch, it looks like we are going to score somewhere in the neighborhood of one million runs, and the rotation has been great. This feels like a playoff team, so let’s discuss how to improve our chances in the postseason. There has always been debate as to whether Myles Straw is an every day centerfielder or a really good fourth outfielder. So far, it’s looking like the latter. Any external options? Let’s get creative on this one because our outfield group at the upper levels of the minors is extremely lacking. The only semi-weakness so far as been the bullpen. We have lots of internal options and only need one or two of them to work out, but at the same time let’s identify some potential trade targets to start some deep dives on. Kansas City Royals It’s May, we are still in first place, and it feels like this isn’t a fluke, especially if we can get Hunter Dozier and/or Jorge Soler going. Let’s figure out how we stay here in the standings. This is not something easy to address, but we need to do something about our walk deficit; our hitters don’t draw them, and our pitchers give up too many of them. We have two rotation issues: Brad Keller has been really bad, and Brady Singer will need to have his workload managed. Let’s wrap our heads around Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar to line up how and when we want to use them up here. Okay, so it’s Lynch first? Got it. Look, let’s not talk about Bobby Witt yet. We all love him, but he’s yet to play above the complex league. If he forces our hand with a hot start in the minors, we can revisit this subject. Adalberto Mondesi is taking BP and close to a rehab assignment. We’re not in a position to make a big move in July, but we can be smart with our small moves. Let’s look at some extra bats (maybe of the platoon variety), some depth starters, and extra bullpen arms with the hope that a series of incremental improvements can add up to one big one. How are we looking for the draft? We pick seventh and best player available feels like the smart play here. We’ve done well with college arms of late, but we need offense. Sal Frelick just feels like a Royal, no? Los Angeles Angels We haven’t been in the playoffs since 2014, and while this team is far from perfect, it still feels like the Shohei Ohtani/Mike Trout/Anthony Rendon triad gives us a puncher’s chance. Pitching is obviously the issue. That said, if you look at our six starters, this is a veteran group with weapons that deserves a longer leash. We should be encouraged at how every one of them has shown the ability to miss bats. The bullpen is a different subject. Not much of anything coming out of the ‘pen these days is providing any comfort. We have some veteran options at Triple-A in James Hoyt and AJ Ramos, but that feels a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Everybody will be looking for relief help this summer, and we should be one of those teams. We should feel really good about our every day lineup, but our bench is a mess. Jose Rojas and Scott Schebler just ain’t cutting it. We don’t want to call up a real prospect like Brandon Marsh or Jo Adell to be extra outfielders, so let’s find external options to start make initial calls on. Let’s get a quick draft update with our pick at nine. Big college arms like Ty Madden and Gunnar Hoglund seem like intriguing possibilities. Minnesota Twins I know we’ve had some COVID issues, but that doesn’t explain everything. We’re not this bad, right? We’re actually kind of good, right? Anyone? We need to figure out what to do about our catching. Mitch Garver’s 2018 season is starting to feel like one of the greater outliers in the history of the game, and we can’t keep putting him back there if he’s not going to hit, because the defense is below average. Ryan Jeffers didn’t hit, and thinking Ben Rortvedt is the answer feels like wish casting. Whatever the solution is, it doesn’t feel like that solution is currently on our depth chart, so let’s start lining up some trade targets. With Miguel Sanó coming off the IL this week, is everyone cool with him returning to first base and Alex Kirilloff becoming our every day leftfielder and Jake Cave moving to more of a fourth outfielder? Remember how great Kenta Maeda looked this spring? What the hell happened? Can we got our data and video guys on this one to see if there’s anything weird with his release points, spin, etc.? Was last night’s performance a step in the right direction? Anyone up for getting Jorge Alcala some more high-leverage innings until Alex Colomé straightens things out? New York Yankees Nobody is happy with our April, but the team finished the month hot and we’re already back at .500. There’s nothing to panic about. We thought we had a really good team entering the season and we should still feel that way. Luke Voit should be back in seven to ten days. He’ll assume first base duties, DJ LeMahieu will slide over to second base, and Rougned Odor becomes a bench bat. That’s a simple solution, but things get complicated with the next topic. Let’s start a full-court press on Trevor Story. (Does anybody even know who we call in Denver about him?) I want our own scouts and player development people delivering frequent reports on our prospects; we have to know them better than anyone. Even though Story is a rental, the cost is going to be high, but at least we will get an exclusive negotiating window with him in the quiet period after the season ends. We need to discuss lineup rotations, as acquiring Story would give us too many middle infielders (Story/DLM/Gleyber Torres), too many first basemen (DLM/Voit), or too many designated hitters (Voit/Giancarlo Stanton). With our focus on load management, this is a solvable problem, but we should get in front of it. Let’s revisit the Corey Kluber/Jameson Taillon situation. Both have been somewhere around expected, but we knew going into the season that we shouldn’t be sitting around expecting each to make 30-plus starts. The Clarke Schmidt injury doesn’t help here, as he was going to be a good depth piece before the arm problems. How do we address what will likely be a need to fill 10–20 starts for the pair? Anyone up for a shoot-the-moon strategy that involves us trying to pry Jon Gray from the Rockies in the Story deal? Let’s not focus too much on the pitching trade market, as Luis Severino and Zack Britton coming back in the second half can serve as our mid-season pitching acquisitions. Oakland Athleitcs From a miserable start to first place, we should feel good about where we are at. We can’t outspend the division, but we can continue to try to be smarter than them, so let’s hope some of the big bats get going and we should be competing for a playoff spot again. It’s our usual pesky offense filled with guys who work the count and can hit balls over the fence, but the offense is still scuffling in terms of actually consistently hitting the ball. If we are going to make any changes in the lineup, it going to have to be external, as the upper levels of our minor league system are bereft of position player prospects. We should feel good about the pitching, despite being in the middle of the pack in terms of results. Jesús Luzardo and Frankie Montas both deserve the time to figure it out, and we should end up feeling good about our starting pitcher every day. The bullpen looks really good and our manager has done an outstanding job in utilizing them in the right spots. We need guidance from ownership as to exactly how much room we have to make moves. We know it won’t be much, but need to know just how little it is. Seattle Mariners This is a sneaky good team. Hard to see us competing for a playoff spot, but 2021 is starting to at least feel like a step forward. Our offense is bad, and we need to address it. The obvious move here is keeping an eye on Jarred Kelenic’s start and bringing him up at some point as our every day leftfielder. Julio Rodriguez is not as ready as the public might think, and we can’t call up both of our top outfield prospects anyway because we are not going to bench one of Kyle Lewis or Mitch Haniger. Yes, we all love Evan White, and yes, we gave him the contract extension, but great defense alone at first base can only get us so far. We’re nearly 80 games into his career at the major league level, and his OPS is still well south of .600. We just can’t do this for much longer. We don’t have an obvious solution, but let’s at least get Ty France some more pre-game work at the position. Even with our offense being a mess, we need to discuss Kyle Seager. He’s been a big part of our offense, and his $15 million option for 2022 is not unreasonable, but it’s probably not the best use of our resources. We shouldn’t be looking to trade him per se, but we should at least be approaching any inquiries with an open mind. The rotation looked decent, but now guys are getting hurt. We need to be keeping a very close eye on Logan Gilbert. Like first base, our catching is an offensive nightmare. Does anyone in the room think Cal Raleigh would be worth a late-season look to see if he’s the answer in 2022? Tampa Bay Rays We’re a mediocre team without a clear path to improvement, and even if we wanted to make some moves, we’re certainly not in a position to add salary. There should be a market for Mike Zunino, but out catching depth would be gone without him. Willy Adames has seen his approach disintegrate, but he’s still a talented shortstop with three years of control left. Let’s continue to market him in order to save some cash and make room for Wander Franco. Michael Wacha and Rich Hill were nice one-year pickups, but we should be scouting the minor league squads of playoff contenders who we expect to be looking for starters in July so we can flip them for something we like. At what point do we just cut bait on Yoshi Tsutsugo and accept that whatever he was doing in Japan isn’t going to work here? Texas Rangers We’re a mediocre team that’s not especially fun to watch, so let’s talk about what we are doing with the second pick in the draft. Where are we on Jack Leiter’s recent relative struggles? What about Kumar Rocker’s up-and-down velocities? Do we like the high school shortstops more? Joey Gallo hasn’t been the Joey Gallo we know and love since 2019, and he still has one more year of arbitration after 2021. You’d think the extra year of control would make him a hot commodity, but his performance makes it feel like we’d be trading him at his lowest value point. It feels like we just need to ride this out for now. With the Gallo situation being what it is, maybe we should be actively shopping Kyle Gibson as our big move for this summer. We front-loaded his contract, so his 2022 salary hit is under $10 million, even if he earns all of his performance bonuses. If he keeps pitching like he has, we should have one of the better starting targets out there. Sure wish we could say the same for Jordan Lyles… We should be able to get a little something for Ian Kennedy, who has been quite good for us and has experience in high-leverage situations. In terms of trades this summer, we should get the best players we can, but let’s put some focus on outfielders. We don’t have much at the position either in the big leagues or the upper levels of the minors. Toronto Blue Jays We should be happy to be over .500, but we don’t really have a good feel for who we are as a team yet, as our big free agent spent most of the month hurt, and now our ace is on the shelf, but at least it’s not with an arm issue. Our starting pitching depth was a bit shaky to start the year, and injuries have absolutely killed us. We’re a bit desperate here, even if it’s just another Tommy Milone-type — someone who can just pick up some innings for us. Has anyone been in touch with Aníbal Sánchez’s agent? Any weird free agents with any attractive qualities still out there? The bullpen is pretty good, right? Can we get Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to talk to his older brother and ask about what he did to start drawing walks?