July is for trades, and for the frenzy of trade talk that precedes the deadline at the end of the month.
September is for pennant races, and for the frenzy of playoff possibilities and tiebreaker scenarios.
August evokes the phrase "dog days," those antsy days waiting for the postseason, or for the next season. As we await the playoffs, here are six California baseball vacancies that need to be filled this off-season, and one that just might be:
1: Angels general manager: Bud Black is the hot name on the rumor circuit, and not just because he can get along with Mike Scioscia. Black's resume is far deeper than pitching coach for the Angels and manager for the San Diego Padres; he worked for five years in a Cleveland Indians front office that nurtured future general managers Neal Huntington (Pittsburgh Pirates), Josh Byrnes (Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks), Paul DePodesta (Dodgers), Dan O'Dowd (Colorado Rockies) and Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro (Indians). Angels owner Arte Moreno liked the work of Jerry Dipoto, who resigned last month as general manager. Moreno could offer the job to Matt Klentak, Dipoto's well-regarded assistant, rather than clean out the front office for the second time in four years. Dipoto and Klentak have been linked to what probably will become a vacant general manager's job with the Philadelphia Phillies.
2. Dodgers starting pitchers: The 2016 starting rotation: Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and three mystery guests. The Dodgers have gone through 16 starting pitchers, the most since the team moved from Brooklyn in 1958. Zack Greinke can opt out of his contract, and it is difficult to imagine the Dodgers extending his deal into his late 30s, and just as difficult to imagine Greinke settling for $71 million when Max Scherzer got $210 million last off-season, and Jon Lester got $155 million. Brett Anderson can file for free agency, Hyun-Jin Ryu is coming off shoulder surgery, Brandon McCarthy is coming off elbow surgery, and prospects Jose DeLeon (23) and Julio Urias (19) might fit late next season. A bumper crop of free agents could be highlighted by David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Jordan Zimmermann, but the Dodgers' front office did not spend more than $48 million on any major league free agent last off-season. The second-tier options could include Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, Jeff Samardzija, Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada.
3. Padres shortstop: There is only so much A.J. Preller can do in one off-season. The Padres' general manager imported five starters in trade — at catcher, third base, and all three outfield spots — and decided to go with utility player Alexi Amarista at shortstop. So long as the Padres stay most of the course, their top priority needs to be a legitimate shortstop to support starting pitchers Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, James Shields and closer Craig Kimbrel, although the latter two still could go to any club offering prospects and/or financial relief in return. Amarista, who is flirting with the Mendoza Line, can neither hit nor field well enough to play the position every day. That makes it all the more painful that top prospect Trea Turner might play shortstop every day for the powerful Washington Nationals next season, because Preller included Turner in a trade for Wil Myers, who cannot play center field well enough to play there every day.
4. Angels position players: This is all the Angels should count on: Mike Trout in center field, Kole Calhoun in right field, Albert Pujols at first base. Maybe C.J. Cron at designated hitter, but the Angels are platooning him now. Shortstop Erick Aybar will be 32 next season, in his walk year. Third baseman David Freese is a free agent, and the Angels can let minor league players Kaleb Cowart and Kyle Kubitza compete to replace him. Second baseman Johnny Giavotella might be fine batting ninth, but not leading off; the Angels' leadoff batters have the worst on-base percentage in baseball. Their catchers are batting .201, through Friday. The banished Josh Hamilton has as many home runs as all the Angels left fielders, in one-third the at-bats. The top-ranked prospect among the Angels' position players before the season, second baseman Alex Yarbrough, has a .275 on-base percentage and three home runs at triple-A Salt Lake, a hitters' haven.
5. Charter Cable sales guru: With the Dodgers' television blackout expected to extend through a second full season, how do you sell SportsNet LA to customers who have gotten used to living without it? After Charter announced its agreement to buy Time Warner Cable in May, Charter cable systems added SNLA. That means most of the market, pretty much everyone outside the Cox Cable area, can get SNLA by switching to TWC or Charter. Recent conversations between TWC and the newly merged AT&T/DirecTV went nowhere, indicating consumer demand is not great enough to force a deal. Assuming federal regulators approve the Charter/TWC merger — before the start of next season, the companies hope — Charter will have to deliver quite a compelling pitch to get the Dodgers on the air all over town. Dodgers fans without SNLA have missed two no-hitters so far, with the prospect of missing another every time Kershaw delivers his compelling pitches.
6. Athletics new ballpark: In the never-ending search for a new A's stadium, an end might reveal itself this off-season, and not because of anything the A's did. The Raiders, their co-tenants at the O.co Coliseum, want a new stadium too, but their best options appear to be in Southern California, sharing in Carson with the Chargers or in Inglewood with the Rams. The A's owners have pledged to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the San Francisco Giants remain adamant about exercising their right to veto an A's move to San Jose. Commissioner Rob Manfred would like the A's to stay in Oakland. So the Raiders might go, and the A's might have nowhere else to go. Indeed, they might take more than a decade to move next door. Better very late than never.
There are other vacancies worth noting — Dodgers setup men, Padres manager, Giants starting pitchers — but none as compelling as the potential opening to manage the Dodgers.
Manager Don Mattingly has the Dodgers on pace to reach the postseason for the third consecutive year, a feat that would be a first in franchise history. Mattingly has a strong bond with Mark Walter, the Dodgers' controlling owner, but that might not keep him safe in the event of another October disappointment. The Dodgers have the first $300-million payroll in sports history, and they are paying more than $80 million to players not to play for them this season, so they would not blink at paying Mattingly not to manage for them next year.
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations, inherited Mattingly and has been cautiously supportive of him in public comments. However, in the first year of the Friedman regime, the balance of power has tilted overwhelmingly toward the front office and away from the manager and coaches.
That means that, while we cannot say whether Mattingly will manage the Dodgers next season, we can say that Mike Scioscia will not.