General Managers Traveling in Different Directions
Some could wonder why Shohei Ohtani and his agent Nez Balelo of CAA asked 30 teams to submit responses to their questionnaire then pared it down to a final 7 when Ohtani knew he did not want to play for an East Coast team. Maybe that was out of respect for everyone. We believe the final grouping of 7 is part of Japanese numerology where the Shichi-fuku-jin (七福神) represents the 7 “Gods of Luck” in Japanese folklore. In the end, there will only be 1 lucky GM and 6 very disappointed GM’s who have traveled to Los Angeles to wait out what could be 17 more days that Ohtani has to choose a team from this final 7 as there is a December 22nd deadline. The final 7 teams that Ohtani has chosen is now between the Angels, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres, and Rangers.
While the New York Yankees’ beat writers are rationalizing that Ohtani spurned the Yankees to seek a smaller market team as their headlines read in the NY Times — uh, they would be wrong at this point in time. The final 7 includes mega market teams out of Los Angeles and Chicago which rank behind New York City as the 2nd and 3rd largest cities in population in the United States. On top of that, Chicago and Texas are not west coast teams.
The Baseball Spectacle
Baseball has seen spectacles before — but nothing like this Ohtani show. Expect the first documentary in the near future chronicling this sideshow. This could be why Ohtani chose Balelo of the Creative Artists Agency which is Hollywood based because this production has more drama then Days Of Our Lives. Hearts are being broken, dreams are being dashed, and kids are crying in cities that were turned away.
The other sideshow is the Giancarlo Stanton drama. That too is a soap opera with all the plot twists and villains and heroes. We just are not sure which part Derek Jeter is in all of this yet. The Stanton trade scenario has taken a back-seat to Ohtani.
While 7 general managers are in Los Angeles for Ohtani, 23 other general managers will be leaving soon for Orlando, Florida. Some will travel early to the Winter Meetings to get ahead of the inclement weather headed to the northeast. While the Winter Meetings don’t officially start until Sunday, there are side-sessions beginning in 3 days for the strength coaches meeting and the trainers and medical staff. There is also the groundskeepers meetings and other goings-on.
Hot Stove Action other than Ohtani and Stanton
There was finally some significant hot stove action last night. A free agent signing happened last night. Yes, this is supposedly true. The Rangers have reportedly agreed in principle on a deal with lefty pitcher Mike Minor, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter link). The twist in this is that the Rangers want Minor to return as a starter not a reliever which was how he thrived with the Kansas Royals last year. Minor was the former oft-injured starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves.
A lot of action will happen next week during the winter meetings, but we must wonder if Stanton and Ohtani will have their new destinations resolved by then. Today’s action will be the signing period for the recently released players from the Atlanta Braves who received free agent status and most noticeably Kevin Maitan who is going to the Angels.
Most are saying this will be the most watched and talked about Winter Meetings in history. MLB Network will be broadcasting hours of “live” segments from inside the Disney resort.
GM Rizzo and the Washington Nationals Plan
As far as the Washington Nationals are concerned, they are quietly accumulating free agents on minor league deals that do not need to be readily disclosed as these players will not go on the 40-man roster. Teams usually wait on announcing their Minor League deals although the Orioles seem to not protect that information.
As we know, Mike Rizzo usually does his big moves during the Winter Meetings and up until mid-January even though Rizzo made late deals last year with Enny Romero, Adam Lind, Joe Blanton and then signed Matt Wieters after pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. Patience is a virtue in Mike Rizzo’s world even though fans want something big to cheer about now.
We have mentioned in several articles the negative catcher’s WAR in 2017 for the Nationals and the need for a catching upgrade and in our fan poll which was the #3 priority. Yesterday, Fangraphs wrote an article about “The Nationals’ Glaring Need” about upgrading at catcher. Other names mentioned to consider in trade were Yasmani Grandal and Tyler Flowers who are both excellent pitch framers and Flowers was special with the bat also. Flowers just had his team option picked up by the Braves who now have Kurt Suzuki and Flowers locked up for 2018. There is a good chance new Braves GM Alex Anthopoulus will trade one of them at the Winter Meetings if he gets a good offer.
One of the more creative ideas is trying to do what Mike Rizzo did with Matt Capps when he traded for Wilson Ramos in 2010 as Ramos was blocked on the depth charts by Joe Mauer much the way Francisco Mejia is with the Cleveland Indians. It is a long-shot and as we know Mike Rizzo is good at long-shots.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez is set for his starters if Daniel Murphy is able to come to spring training at 100% and that is a question mark as he is recovering from a knee debridement and microfracture surgery on his right knee that bothered him much of the season.
The distinct holes for Mike Rizzo is replacing some of the departed key players like Howie Kendrick, Brandon Kintzler, Adam Lind, and Matt Albers who all are free agents as well as adding starting pitching depth. It is quite possible that Rizzo will bring in a legitimate starting pitcher to compete for the remaining spot alongside Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark and Gio Gonzalez.
As always, stay tuned as the Hot Stove heats up quickly. Updates will follow as we have them — but don’t expect much from Mike Rizzo for a few more days unless he really wants to surprise us.