Peter Gammons: GM Meetings, Red Sox off-season options, and more

There was a time when business was accomplished at the General Managers Meetings. They weren’t media events, covered by few, with quiet meetings and dinners when the official business of the day was finished.

Today, it is different. “It’s mainly the agents meeting, a sale conference,” says one American League general manager. “Frankly, we’d get more done by phone and text. One National League general manager says he plans to be in Orlando at the hotel for “a day and a half, then leave and do business. All you need to see now is all the roped-off areas and 50 media people surrounding an agent.”

These meetings have become the overture to the Sanscrit opera that is the off-season. But while it is fun to conduct logic tests on where Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Otani will end up, there is no there right now.

What makes Otani and Stanton fascinating is that while one can speculate about what the Marlins might or might not do in marketing Stanton, they hold no cards. Giancarlo will be traded, if he is, where he wants to go, or he will just stay in Miami and wait for the right place at the right time. After the MVP announcement, he, Ricky Nolasco and AJ Ramos will make their annual trip to Europe, and while media speculation can list St. Louis, San Francisco and Boston as most likely landing spots, each one of those teams would have to sell him, because there is a strong feeling among those who know Giancarlo that they’re not cities that fascinate him for different reasons.

So, too, with Otani unable to let C.A.A. put him up for bidding for another two years under MLB rules, it’s about where he wants to go, and as one official who has spent time following Otani the last two years says, “he has unusual confidence in himself.” Where he goes is going to have to be a place where C.A.A. can get huge marketing deals—in that city, but more so back home in Japan—and where he is most comfortable. That starts with the Yankees and Dodgers and what his five year incomes may grow with the market potential. Will the Yankees or Dodgers jump in? Probably. But how does a National League team guarantee four (or more) DH starts a week?

–Some in the Red Sox circle suggest caution with all the speculation that they will jump in on Stanton and/or go to $150-200M on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer, citing Dave Dombrowski’s realization that while they can go to $215-220M in 2018, that would rule them out of next November’s megamarket, especially with the arbitration numbers that will be inflating on young players like Mookie Betts. With no immediate starting pitching coming out of the organization on the immediate horizon, dumping veteran pitching salaries would mean opening further holes.

They see rookie production from Rafael Devers, especially with the spring training tutoring of Mike Lowell. After two years lost to ankle and hand injuries, Blake Swihart’s .407/.515/.481/.997 line for Escogido in the Dominican feeds to the hope the organization once had that he can be a significant contributor at first, third, left and role catcher. “He’s such a good athlete he might be able to get in the mix at second base this spring,” says one Sox official. “If Dustin Pedroia needs two months, he could fill, especially as a pinch hitter.”

If the Red Sox did decide to go after Eric Hosmer because of his defense, his experience as the leader of the Royals’ world championship team and his natural left-centerfield loft swing, re-engaging him with his close friend Deven Marrero could have an impact on Marrero’s self-confidence that has been a factor in holding him back offensively.

Michael Chavis will probably get reps at second this spring, so will Tzu-Wei Lin as they determine whether Brock Holt has recovered from his fearless battle back from concussion and Hernandez is recovering from should surgery. They want to see how Tim Hyers works with Sam Travis to refine his flatline swing.

–Yes, Alex Cora was once traded for his newest coach, Ramon Vazquez. The organization has a great deal of confidence that Vazquez and Steve Langone will be significant contributors in their daily preparation. Langone has been their principle advance scout, but, like Dana Levangie, who proceeded Langone, is regarded as a rising star in the organization. The concerns about how analytics were helping the team was never about Zach Scott and their in-house analytics staff; Scott is extremely smart and creative. It’s been how the information gets to players, and Langone and Vazquez will assume important roles—like Brian Bannister—in their daily preparation, getting players what they feel they need in language and manners they understand.

–Maybe the most interesting Boston pitcher in Arizona has been reliever Ty Buttrey, who has been clocked at 98-99 MPH with a solid change-up. Buttrey has a large presence on the mound, prompting one NL executive to compare him to Bullet Bob James. The lessons learned watching how the Indians and Dodgers have implemented their bullpens by lineup match-ups rather than innings is something to watch this year. They have to find a way to replace Dana Levangie’s assistant pitching coach role preparing relievers in the pen. They even reached out to Juan Nieves—like Levangie, a Chris Sale favorite when they were together in Chicago—but the Marlins refused permission to talk to Nieves. George Springer may be the World Series MVP, but he still ranks third on the all-time Avon Old Farms athlete roll after Nieves and his teammate Brian Leach.

–As one of the many who questioned Dave Roberts’ early hooks on Rich Hill, it has been pointed out that the last time Roberts did so, he went to Brandon Morrow, who retired Alex Bregman, who kills left-handed pitching. And that in the fourth game of the ALDS, Sale, pitching on heart, was left in to pitch to Bregman, who went yard.

Comments

  1. Peter – your pieces are like Christmas presents under the tree. I savor each and every one of them. Thank you for keeping us so well informed, especially concerning the Red Sox. (I saw my first Sox game in 1963; later on, the late Jack Lamabe was my college manager for four years).

  2. Hi Peter,
    Another great article…thanks for all your views…
    The 295 Million dollar question?…if Stanton were a Free Agent…do you think he could sign a 10 year…
    $295 Million contact? Is there any excess value in his current contract? And if there is…would 4 years of Eduardo Rodriguez be enough? Or do the Marlins want prospects only…because they are 5 years from any real chance to compete?

  3. Brian Leetch, AOF Class of 1986.
    Do not forget Jonathan Quick, LA Kings and Nick Bonino
    It is not Groton School, but still produces some great men

  4. John Donnelly says:

    Peter, I’ve been reading you for decades. Thank you. Great to read this column as in the hundreds of others. I have an idea for you.

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