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October 8, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Managerial Movement

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Re-signed C-R Chris Iannetta to a three-year extension worth $15.5 million. [10/5]

Iannetta’s old contract promised him the right to become a free agent this winter were he traded beforehand. Even so, the Angels liked Iannetta enough to acquire him, and still like him enough to sign him to a pre-free agency extension a year later.

The biggest difference in Iannetta’s outlook is an in-season wrist surgery. Said operation cost Iannetta most of May-through-July, though he did boast an improved slash line upon his return. Iannetta hit .240/.332/.398 overall, and his production remains predicated upon drawing walks and hitting for better-than-average power. One other concern, beyond Iannetta’s wrist, is an increased strikeout rate. Whether Iannetta’s fanning issues stem from his introduction to the American League, or simply random fluctuation, is unknown. Barring the worst-case scenario, neither side should regret this deal.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Hired Terry Francona as manager. [10/6]

After spending a year in the television booth, Francona returns to the dugout and to a messy situation. The Indians’ offseason plans are not apparent. Few could blame Cleveland for tearing apart the roster and starting over, but doing so would make the Ubaldo Jimenez trade more puzzling. Indeed, hiring Francona seems to be about competing now, or at least soon; a two-time World Series-winning manager doesn’t typically leave a comfy television gig to manage a bunch of kids to losing records for the next two or three years.

But let’s not pretend this is the normal situation. Francona has a level of familiarity and comfort with Cleveland based on his time with the organization; getting away from the media and expectations that come with Boston’s payroll (higher than Cleveland’s) and roster (better than Cleveland’s) might be a perk, too. It’s also possible that the Indians are banking on an improved roster under Francona. Unlike Manny Acta, who carried a strong analytical reputation, Francona is known for his interpersonal skills. Between hiring Francona and interviewing Sandy Alomar Jr., you could say the Indians put an emphasis on hiring Acta’s opposite; for good reason, as communication and connection with the players seems to have proved problematic for Acta.

There’s another reason this isn’t a normal situation: The future of Cleveland’s front office might depend on Francona succeeding. Francona is the third Cleveland manager since the start of the 2009 season. At some point, and perhaps the Indians aren’t there yet, the front office, and not the umpteenth manager, is the one being handed a pink slip. Evaluating Cleveland is difficult due to the modest payrolls, but fairly or not the Jimenez trade changed expectations and intensified the spotlight. If Francona is fired from the Indians within the next two or three years, he probably won’t be the only one. 

COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Announced the resignation of manager Jim Tracy. [10/7]

In a February 20th interview on MLB Network Radio, Tracy explained his contract extension by saying that he would have “an opportunity to manage this club, basically …  as the way I understand it, until I don’t want to manage it anymore.” Eight months later, Tracy no longer wants to manage the Rockies.

Tracy’s resignation is the latest in a string of power changes in Colorado. During the season, GM Dan O’Dowd had his duties altered, leaving Bill Geivett to take a greater responsibility in day-to-day operations. Geivett took the promotion seriously and moved his desk into the clubhouse. One can imagine why a manager might find this intrusive; one can also imagine an executive unconcerned with what a manager with a 220-266 record since 2009 has to say about his operating techniques.

To think, Tracy’s stay in Colorado may have ended after the 2009 season if the Rockies had not reached the postseason after going 74-42 underneath his guidance. This is the third time Tracy has lost a managerial job in the past eight years. Just as there is a reason why teams keep promoting him to manager, there is a reason why teams keep firing him. The rap on Tracy paints him as a great person but a lousy tactician. Look no further than the Rockies’ tendency to bunt with position players this season. A team that plays in arguably the best offensive ballpark in the league should not have the fourth-most sacrifice bunts by positional players.

If Tracy wants to continue his career, he should find work as a bench coach.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Jim Tracy,  Chris Iannetta,  Terry Francona

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