Baseball’s Winter Meetings have become the day before Thanksgiving at O’Hare Airport. “I left our suite once in four days,” said one assistant general manager. “And, even then, it took me more than an hour to circle the lobby (of the Dolphin Hotel) and get back to the room.”
If the idea of the meetings is to have general managers and managers mingle with the media and do a little pe-Christmas promotion, it isn’t going to work until they unclutter the lobby, free officials from hangers-on, free the media from interruptions. It simply doesn’t work.
That said, we can see the writings on the walls. By now, we appreciate the risks players and agents take rejecting the qualifying offers, as Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez understand. And Matt Garza appreciates, since his value is higher to the Diamondbacks and Angels because there is no draft pick and slot money attached. Now, there are still the medical concerns that troubled the Cubs and Rangers in Garza’s case, but he has a history of innings and pitching well in the American League East.
Everyone should also appreciate the quick, stealth work by agents getting Bartolo Colon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Mike Morse, Corey Hart and Curtis Granderson signed without drama or attention. Sometimes waiting until February or March to sign can work, usually when Scott Boras convinced ownership of the plusses in signing his client.
Some random thoughts:
–When Jerry Dipoto and Peter Woodfork were the interim replacements as acting GMs between the firing of Josh Byrnes and the hiring of Kevin Towers, they traded Dan Haren to the Angels for Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin, a deal like many that haunt the Angels today because they gave away young talent and draft choices and ended up having to overpay for Joe Blanton and others simply to fill innings. Dipoto got Skaggs and, from the White Sox, Hector Santiago, in a three-way deal with the ‘Backs for Mark Trumbo in an attempt to begin to restore young arms and affordability to the Angels organization.
The question now remains: how good is Trumbo? He has big, big power. He also is 28, strikes out 180 times and has an OBP under .300. Arizona needs his power. He fits their preference for character guys; few come better. And Dipoto traded for David Freese, who has had issues, to play third and replace that power. But the Angels believe Freese can hit fourth or fifth with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, where they are adamant that because of Trumbo’s swinging history, he has to bat sixth or seventh.
Fascinating to watch. Low OBP, high strikeout players are theoretically hard to stick in the middle of the order, but Trumbo will somehow, some way try to make it work.
But I’m betting on the Angels and Marlins front offices, if their ownerships allow them to operate.
–Twins GM Terry Ryan is trying to reconstruct Minnesota’s starting pitching by signing Ricky Nolasco, Mike Pelfrey and Bronson Arroyo. “People early on were asking about the future of Ron Gardenhire, but that’s not fair because I didn’t give him players,” says Ryan. “I have to get him better players to have a chance.” That is all you have to know about Terry Ryan. When things go wrong, he always accepts the blame.
–The Dodgers still aren’t certain whether or not Cuban Alexander Guerrero will be their everyday second baseman, which is why they’ve stayed in touch with Mark Ellis. But despite speculation they were in on Stephen Drew and would move Hanley Ramirez to third—which Hanley does not oppose—they wanted Uribe, as much for what he does off the field, as on. “He was a huge stabilizing force for (Yasiel) Puig,” says one Dodger official. “Puig really wants to do the right things, and he listens to and leans on Uribe. The kid might not have made it through the year without him.”
–Much will be made of Jackie Bradley’s replacing Jacoby Ellsbury in center field for the Red Sox, but the Boston front office believes Bradley will get on base, be an elite defender who has a (rare) plus center field arm and will be a very aggressive baserunner. “The face that he played in the big leagues, went through the struggling process and never lost his enthusiasm will help him in the long run,” says one Boston front office figure. Is he going to be as electric as Jacoby right away? Of course not. But he’s through what Dustin Pedroia went through in 2006. He’s going to be 24 in April, which is what Jacoby was when he came up in 2007. Compare their minor league numbers.”
OK: Jacoby Ellsbury
2006: .303 .382/.425/.808
2007: .323 .387/.424/.811
2012: .315 .430/.482/.911
2013: .275 .374/.469/.842
–Jameis Winston got 119 at-bats last spring for Florida State, hitting .235 with a .377 OBP, .345 slugging percentage, no homers and two steals in four attempts.
One extraordinary scout’s baseball report on Winston, who was picked by the Rangers in the 15th round of the 2012 draft:”60 arm, 60 fielder. 70 speed that played an 80 on the bases. He could really run the bases. Both were draft projections, because he wasn’t as big when I scouted him then as he is now. He’s put on some good weight. Would take time with the bat. All other tools are plus.”