Around the Majors: 2013-14 off-season week 1

All the news from around MLB as the 2013-2014 off-season of activity is already in full swing.

Major League Baseball announced in a press release Monday that Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano and New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera have been named the 2013 Comeback Players of the Year. The 30 teams' beat reporters from MLB.com selected the winners from an original list of 30 candidates (one per MLB team), awarding the players for their successful reemergence to the game after a season of injury or hardship.

Liriano, who also won the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2010, is now the first ever to win the award twice, and once in each League, since the award's inception in 2005. After posting a 6-12 record with a 5.34 ERA in 2012 and dealing with injuries for most of his young career, Liriano bounced back in 2013 to set a career high with 16 wins in his first season with the Pirates, helping lead the club to its first playoff berth since 1992. Liriano held lefty hitters to a .131 batting average, which led the NL and ranked second in the majors. The 30-year-old finished just one inning shy of qualifying for the NL ERA rankings, otherwise his 3.02 ERA would have been 10th.

Rivera, who missed most of the 2012 season with a torn ACL suffered while shagging fly balls during pre-game batting practice, returned in 2013 to save 44 games, passing Robb Nenn (43 in 2002) and Jeff Shaw (43 in 2001) for the most saves in a final season. The 43-year-old Panamanian right-hander went 6-2 with a 2.11 ERA in 64 appearances with just nine walks and 54 strikeouts. The 13-time All-Star was named the Most Valuable Player after the 2013 All Star Game at CitiField, where his American League team took home a 3-0 victory and he received an emotional and deafening standing ovation.

There cannot be any bigger news this week than the Boston Red Sox winning their first World Series at Fenway Park since 1918, taking out the St. Louis Cardinals in six games, can there? Not unless you count Red Sox slugger and beard connoisseur Mike Napoli patrolling the streets of Boston, shirtless and unabashedly drunk, celebrating in the best possible way. Wouldn't it be funny if he did it several more times that weekend? Well, that is precisely what he did. I guess it could be worse. He could have bought a half-car, half-boat.

The Alex Rodriguez mudslinging competition, which some call an arbitration battle, continued this week and saw the third baseman file an official complaint with arbiter Fredric Horowitz. Rodriguez's complaint alleges that Major League Baseball is the source of the leaked information regarding his failed drug test in 2006. It also denies that he tested positive. Rodriguez, who still has four years and $86 million left on his contract, is appealing his 211-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis doping scandal.

Monday was the deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to their impending free agents. The qualifying offer of $14.1 million for one year was determined by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the 2013 season. If a player who is offered a qualifying offer declines it and signs with another team, that player's previous team receives a compensatory draft pick in return. The following players were given qualifying offers by their respective teams: Carlos Beltran (Cardinals), Shin-soo Choo (Reds), Nelson Cruz (Rangers), Ubaldo Jimenez (Indians), Brian McCann (Braves), Kendrys Morales (Mariners) and Ervin Santana (Royals).

The Yankees made qualifying offers to Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Hiroki Kuroda while the Red Sox made offers to Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew. Neither team expects Cano or Ellsbury to accept their offers. Cano has expressed interest in becoming baseball's first $300 million man while Ellsbury figures to secure a sizeable increase as the cornerstone outfielder that many desperate teams seek in free agency.

The following players were not given qualifying offers and figure to be wearing new uniforms in 2014: Bartolo Colon (Athletics), Grant Balfour (Athletics), Bronson Arroyo (Reds) and Josh Johnson (Blue Jays). Balfour will be the top closer on the free agent market this summer, likely making him the focal point of several teams' off-season efforts, while Arroyo has already garnered interest from the Mets, a team for which his agent says he would definitely consider playing.

Jim Leyland stepped down as manager of the Detroit Tigers just two days after their early playoff exit against the Red Sox, but it did not take very long for the franchise to move on. Detroit will look to 2014 and beyond with former catcher Brad Ausmus at the helm. Ausmus, making his managerial debut in the majors, played for San Diego, Houston, Los Angeles and Detroit from 1993 to 2010 and was the manager of Israel's national squad for the 2012 World Baseball Classic.

Other managerial changes so far this offseason: Washington hired former third baseman Matt Williams as manager, taking over for Davey Johnson; Cincinnati gave the lead job to former minor league pitcher and Reds pitching coach Bryan Price after the departure of Dusty Baker; the Chicago Cubs are expected to hire a manager some time this week after firing Dale Sveum and the Seattle Mariners are in a similar situation after letting Eric Wedge go.



John Lopiano can be reached at johnlopiano@gmail.com. Follow John on Twitter: @johnlopiano.

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