Award season is here, folks. Breathe it in.
We started on Monday with the American League and National League Rookie of the Year, and neither winner is a surprise. Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Devin Williams is the winner in the NL, while Kyle Lewis takes home the AL Award.
While it’s not surprising that Lewis took home the award in the American League, there’s a bit of one in how this one wasn’t close. Lewis was unanimous in voting, with White Sox OF Luis Robert finishing second and Astros right-handed hurler Cristian Javier finishing third. While the outfielder slumped towards the end of the year, he still finished with an .801 OPS, 11 homers, 28 RBI, five steals and 37 runs scored in 58 games while playing quality defense in center. It goes without saying, but all three finalists have very bright futures, and are worthy fantasy targets for the 2021 campaign. Robert should probably be first in the queue because of his speed and upside, however.
In the NL, Williams took home 14 of 30 votes, with Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm getting nine, Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth receiving six and Tony Gonsolin finishing fourth with one first-place vote. It’s rare for a middle reliever to win awards, but Williams is a worthy exception with a ridiculous 0.33 ERA, an equally good 53/9 K/BB ratio and 0.63 WHIP. His ability to miss bats makes the 26-year-old fantasy relevant going forward, but unless Josh Hader is dealt, his appeal does take a hit without saves. Of the finalists, Bohm has the most relevancy.
The AL and NL Manager of the Year will be announced on Tuesday, with the Cy Young Award in both leagues on Wednesday and the Most Valuable Players on Thursday.
Jays bring back Ray on one-year deal
The hot stove has been lukewarm at best early on, and even that seems like an overstatement. That being said, we did see one interesting move over the weekend, with the Blue Jays bringing back left-handed hurler Robbie Ray.
Ray agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal. That’s right around a 15 percent pay decrease from the $9.43 million he was scheduled to make in 2020 (that figure turned into $3.49 million in prorated salary because of the shortened season). The 29-year-old was awful in his seven starts for the Diamondbacks with a 7.84 ERA, 1.74 WHIP and 43/31 K/BB ratio over 31 innings, and he wasn’t much better after a trade to the Blue Jays with a 4.79 mark in five appearances -- four of those starts.
Ray’s swing-and-miss stuff is still readily apparent, and it’s worth pointing out that he is just a year away from striking out 235 hitters in 174 1/3 innings with a (more) respectable 4.34 ERA. When you can miss bats at that level, there’s the potential to succeed as a fantasy hurler. That being said, control has always been an issue, and it was never worse than it was in 2020. He’s worth a late-round flier because of the strikeouts, but you have to weigh the bitter with the better before making any kind of tangible investment.
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Red Sox bring back Cora as manager
The Red Sox have their new manager, and it’s a familiar -- and a bit of a controversial -- name.
On Friday, Boston announced that they had hired Alex Cora as manager. He receives a two-year contract, and the Red Sox can bring him back in 2023 and 2024 with club options. The 45-year-old managed the Red Sox in both 2018 and 2019, and he won a World Series with Boston in 2018 with a 108-54 record. He was infamously fired before the 2020 season, however, due to his suspension for his role with the Astros in their cheating scandal. The Red Sox named Ron Roenicke interim manager for the season, and things did not go well with a 24-36 record. How much of that blame belongs to Roenicke is questionable, but Boston decided not to bring him back, and Cora immediately became the favorite for the job.
Boston’s roster doesn’t rank with the best teams in the American League, but with some spending and some improved performances from some of the stalwarts -- J.D. Martinez, for example -- they could contend for a playoff spot with Cora in 2021.
Morton seeing interest in free agency
Even for a team that has one of the smallest payrolls in baseball, it was a little surprising to see the Rays decline their $15 million club option for Charlie Morton. It is not even a little surprising to hear that teams have already shown interest in him. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that Morton is drawing at least some level of interest already from “at least” 8-10 teams.
The question now is not only what team ends up with Morton, but what kind of contract he’s looking at. He will turn 37 on Friday, so it’s obviously unlikely that he’s signing a long-term deal. He also wasn’t very good in 2020 with a 4.74 ERA and 1.395 WHIP in 38 innings. That’s an awfully small sample size, however, and Morton was excellent in the postseason with a 2.70 ERA. It would be foolish for clubs to discount a hurler who was among the best in baseball over a sample of nine starts.
Feinsand reports that Morton wants to return to the Rays, but it seems plausible that another team that can win in 2021 will offer him a one-year deal that is significantly ahead of what Tampa Bay is willing to offer.
Quick Hits: ESPN's Jeff Passan and Paula Levine report that new White Sox manager Tony La Russa was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after he allegedly ran his car into a curb in the Phoenix area in February … Padres acquired RHP Matt Waldron from the Indians as the player to be named later in the Mike Clevinger trade … According to Bob Elliott of the Canadian Baseball Network, the Blue Jays have interest in free agent shortstop Andrelton Simmons ... Rockies signed RHP Dereck Rodriguez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Angels' search for their next general manager "has narrowed to no more than three candidates …” Nick Burdi has elected to become a free agent … Former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is suing the club for breach of contract … Buster Olney of ESPN writes that the universal designated hitter being used in 2021 is a safe bet … Pirates released RHP Dovydas Neverauskas … Rob Bradford of WEEI reports that the Red Sox have approached Jackie Bradley about returning.