Yes, it's that favorite time of the year when just before getting to the free agents and trades that theoretically culminates at the Winter Meetings (this year in Dallas), we get the roulette wheel of managers and GM's losing and getting new jobs. Let's take a look at the openings with my bold and sure-to-be-wrong picks:
Yankees: Joe Torre looks safe. He's an icon and has a big contract. It does look like Brian Cashman will be leaving. It wouldn't surprise me to see a late, high-dollar offer from Steinbrenner to keep Cashman in pinstripes, but Damon Oppenheimer is universally believed to be the next GM in the Bronx.
Marlins: Once Lou Piniella decided to be Torre's replacement-in-waiting, Joe Girardi realized that it wouldn't pay off to wait for the Yankees job to open. Instead, he'll take what Piniella turned down, an interesting Marlins club. There's plenty of pitching and Miguel Cabrera, so winning - even in this division - is possible quickly. Some are saying that Josh Beckett's recent checkup might be prelude to a big trade.
Devil Rays: The Rays (or whatever they're called by the time spring training rolls around) will be all new. The GM position is open, kind of. New owner Stu Sternberg had a "shadow team" in place all year, but they're more operations than on-field focused. Andrew Friedman could be named GM, though the team is expected to give him a mentor. John Hart would be ideal, but even though he turned the Rangers over to Jon Daniels, it isn't expected that he would move to Tampa. One name you'll likely hear is Gord Ash, now Asst GM with the Brewers. You'll also probably hear Gerry Hunsicker's name a lot. As far as manager, it's up in the air. Joe Girardi will likely take the Marlins over the Rays, leaving Ken Macha and Joe Maddon as candidates with a couple internal options. The interesting move might be to bring Bobby Valentine back from Japan, something he seems interested in.
Phillies: Billy Wagner is the big name free agent, but who's there to sign him? Ruben Amaro, the AGM under Ed Wade, will handle those negotiations for now, but do you let an AGM make that decision unless he's going to get the job long term? Possibly. Amaro is the leading candidate right now, though Gerry Hunsicker and Brian Cashman would be good fits as well.
Nationals: Bud Selig still says "soon." Getting a new owner in Washington has been a monumental task, supposedly now slowed by the post-season. MLB sources indicate that there's a lot of factors slowing things down, but the biggest is that the bidders keep topping themselves, finding new money, consolidating groups, and strengthening the bids. If MLB completely screwed up the handling of this deal from four years ago until now but still makes a couple hundred million bucks in the deal - much of which will stay in the Commish's fund - then who are we to say they were wrong? At least two of the groups say they don't want Jim Bowden back and have asked the Commissioner to "tie his hands" during these final negotiations. That shouldn't complicate things unless Selig and DuPuy drag the sale beyond the post-season awards timeframe. Once a new owner is named, the real speculation begins. Brian Cashman is the choice of one group while Boston whiz-kid Josh Byrnes is the choice of at least one other. Frank Robinson will be back as manager if he chooses.
Cubs: Everyone's back. Dusty Baker should have his contract extension announced shortly after the World Series. Seriously.
Diamondbacks: Jeff Moorad is pulling the strings here, so a GM might not have quite the power that most have. This isn't a bad thing, but a former GM like Dan Evans or Kevin Towers might not like the downgrade. Bob Gebhard is in the role and is believed to be a key to keeping Mike Rizzo, the Snakes' well-regarded Scouting Director on board. Any new GM is not only going to have to watch Moorad over one shoulder, they'll be tutoring Matt Williams to take the job at some point.
Mariners: Bill Bavasi will survive the winter, though some of my Japanese sources tell me that there's a move afoot to bring Bobby Valentine back from Japan and into the GM's role. We'll see if the M's use their Japanese connections to try and bring Kaz Matsui, Hideki Matsui, and Daisuke Matsuzaka into the fold. The Japanese team for the World Baseball Classic - to be led by Sadaharu Oh - could look like the M's Triple-A roster. The other interesting note here is that with Bryan Price out as pitching coach, we have our first major change in variables for the Mariners' Pitching Puzzle. Price will likely land in Arizona. We'll know soon if it was Price or something else.
Reds: Dan O'Brien gets another year to do something. The team is in the midst of a sale, so changes anywhere are unlikely. Yes, that means that the Reds will likely not make many moves and probably will head to spring training with the same roster they have now, four solid OFers and all.
Royals: Allard Baird seems safe for another year, but many said that about Ed Wade just a few days ago. While some like Baird and blame the problems on stingy ownership, he certainly hasn't shown much during his tenure. The question is, who would be better? Perhaps David Glass could hire Rob & Rany to Run the Royals. That's not such a bad idea.
Orioles: With Mike Flanagan now in sole control, he'll quickly sign Sam Perlozzo as manager, taking the interim tag off. His next task will be to spend the money that Peter Angelos is going to throw at the free agent market. It was Dallas where Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez signed their massive deals. Angelos is likely to sign at least one massive deal and the rumored "Boston Three" of Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, and Bill Mueller actually fits with the O's needs, assuming they can also grab a pitcher or two.
Pirates: Jim Tracy is in here and Dave Littlefield has another year left before the team is sold. Both will need progress from the core of young players that came up this season. How Tracy fills out his coaching staff will be very interesting.
Dodgers: The Dodgers let Jim Tracy go and I'm sure there were reasons. Pittsburgh looks to be a nice fit and gives Paul DePodesta a chance to get his own guy in. Terry Collins has been with the Dodgers for a couple years and seems to be the leading candidate for the job. He'll look like a genius if the Dodgers just stay healthy, making them a favorite in the NL West.
Tigers: No more rah-rah. The Tigers now have Jim Leyland and no one knows what to expect. His experienced staff is expected to have more latitude than most, especially Lloyd McClendon who was brought in just in case Leyland burns out as he did in Colorado. Leyland won't have much say in personnel, but that's not such a bad thing. Figuring out Ivan Rodriguez will be the team's biggest priority.
Rangers: Don't expect big changes from Jon Daniels. He was mentored well by John Hart and has been handling contracts and trades anyway. They may lose Orel Hershiser, who wanted both the GM job and to be interviewed for the Dodgers managerial opening. He got neither. Hershiser seems to be a great pitching coach, so I hope he stays.
Red Sox: Theo Epstein is young, smart, good looking, and plays in a band. Oh yeah, he has a World Series ring too. I hate that guy. Expect him to add "rich" to his resume as well when John Henry re-signs Epstein as GM.
A's: Everyone is assuming that Bob Geren, once Billy Beane's best man, will get the job as manager. They also assume that Beane and his merry band of moneyballers don't value a manager. They do, but like everything else, they have a price and Ken Macha - who wanted more influence on personnel - wanted more than the price they had in mind. Geren is the lead candidate, though whispers that Bud Black is a Beane favorite have been heard. Pitching coaches seldom make good managers, so this might be more classic Beane contrarianism. Then again, it could just be trying to weaken the Angels.