Once upon a time, the World Series provided the foreplay for major deals as general managers would gather at the Fall Classic, run into each another, and start the ball rolling. The World Series is no longer that place, replaced by the GM meetings, which begin about week after the World Series, usually at a warm location (this year here in Orlando), about a month ahead of the winter meetings, where some of the deals talked about here are consummated.
Agents peek in and out at these meetings, holding private sessions with teams interested in their client. By now, most teams have made contact with the agents of top free agents in which they have interest. The GM meetings are normally where the next phase occurs. You may even hear about an offer being made to a free agent, or trade talks in their preliminary stages.
But here are a few things to take away from the meetings:
■ Never believe it when a GM says a certain player isn’t going to be traded. New Marlins GM Dan Jennings already has said publicly that Giancarlo Stanton isn’t available. Everyone has a price. Any player can be traded, unless there is a contract clause that says he can’t, and even that’s negotiable. So, never believe a GM when he says he’s not shopping a player or a player is off-limits. It just isn’t so.
■ With the distribution of television money as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement going up from $25.53 million to $51.67 million per team, you can bet your assets that teams will extend themselves a bit more to achieve personnel goals. Don’t believe for a minute that the Tigers won’t re-sign Max Scherzer, who can be a free agent after next season, or that they’re not going to enhance the team, as we’ve read in certain circles. Why would you have Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Justin Verlander, Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez on a team that isn’t going for it? Or why would a team with an elderly owner such as Mike Ilitch suddenly decide, when all he wants is a championship, to pull back the reins? Don’t buy it.
■ Watch the copycatting of the Red Sox. Teams such as the Yankees will go after those “good value” free agents, not only the high-price items but the good-character, good-player types that Boston hit on last offseason but that most teams will strike out on if they try a similar approach. Why will they strike out? Because what the Red Sox did was a once-in-a-blue-moon success story. They hit on seven free agents. Seven. That won’t happen again.
■ Who will be this year’s Kyle Lohse, you know, the guy who doesn’t get signed when everyone else does and has to wait for a team to be desperate? Lohse was a Scott Boras client, so does Boras have another player like that? It’s hard to imagine that Boras’s two major outfield free agents, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, would fall into that category. Both are sought-after and should get $100 million-plus deals as the premier leadoff men in the open market, though they are different types of players. Ellsbury is a stolen base king and base-running menace, in addition to being a .300-type hitter who can hit for power. Choo is a right fielder, an on-base-percentage machine who will find himself in a great position. He’ll have big-market teams such as the Yankees, Phillies, and Giants after him. Meanwhile, the Yankees, Rangers, Phillies, and Tigers have checked in on Ellsbury.
■ The Red Sox submitted the winning posting bid ($51,111,111) on Daisuke Matsuzaka at the GM meetings in 2006, which was a big deal at the time. The Sox were viewed as a possible favorite with the addition of Matsuzaka. This time, the focus is on Masahiro Tanaka. It appears a team such as the Yankees could land the pitcher, who went 24-0 for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
■ The Red Sox will be a popular team. They have extra pitching — anyone in the starting rotation could be dealt because of their excess and their need to make room for younger starters. They also have extra positional players such as Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, and Jonny Gomes who could be targets in deals.
■ Cubs president Theo Epstein may be ready to pounce on major free agents. While 2015 is still seen as the launching point for the Cubs’ future as a contender, there may be pieces Epstein could pick off ahead of time. Would he, for instance, be interested in Ellsbury or Choo?
■ The Yankees’ Brian Cashman has a lot of work to do, and by all indications, Cashman and his staff have been aggressive in contacting agents for possible acquisitions — from Ellsbury to Stephen Drew to Curtis Granderson. The elephant in the room is the status of Alex Rodriguez. If the Yankees can shed about $34 million while he serves a 211-game suspension, they can do a lot more than planned. But the curse is not knowing for sure because of pending litigation.
■ The Nationals still believe they have a great core who will rebound in 2014, but GM Mike Rizzo is going to have to make that happen. The Nationals have the chips if they want to do something dramatic, such as trade for Tampa Bay’s David Price.
■ The Twins have made it known they are going to be relentless when it comes to acquiring two starting pitchers. They’re likely not going to break the bank on both, but may extend themselves on one. They will likely be in on anyone from Matt Garza and Ervin Santana to Ricky Nolasco and Bronson Arroyo.
DiSarcina moves on to be with his ‘family’
Gary DiSarcina loves living on the South Shore, but two jobs he was interested in were that of Mariners manager, for which he interviewed, and of Mike Scioscia’s third base coach with the Angels.
DiSarcina was not offered the Seattle job, but a few days later the Angels called the Red Sox to ask permission to speak to him, and soon after he was their third base coach.
DiSarcina has a good shot at managing the Angels someday. A longtime shortstop with the Angels, he enjoys a good relationship with owner Arte Moreno, Scioscia, and general manager Jerry Dipoto, who hired DiSarcina to be one of his special assistants, before DiSarcina decided to take the Pawtucket managerial job last season.
“I played 14 years in the organization and they are like a second family to me,” DiSarcina said.
“In 2004-05, Mike Scioscia asked me to come back as a guest instructor during camp. And then in 2010, Tony [Reagins, Dipoto’s predecessor] asked me to come back and help out, and I’ve been in the mix ever since.”
DiSarcina played in Anaheim with John Farrell and Torey Lovullo in 1993. They remained friends, which is how Farrell convinced DiSarcina to take the Pawtucket job. DiSarcina likely would have been hired to Farrell’s staff had Lovullo, the Red Sox’ bench coach, been hired to manage somewhere.
DiSarcina, a Billerica native, felt he had to pounce on the opportunity to return to the Angels.
“John completely understood,” DiSarcina said. “He knows how much I respect him and believe in him.”
As for the Seattle job, DiSarcina, who interviewed with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik for three hours, said, “‘I thought I did well. I was asked a wide range of questions by Jack. I was nervous at first, but after three hours of talking baseball, I thought my personality came out.”
Apropos of nothing
1. It would be shocking if any Scott Boras client accepted a qualifying offer.
2. Remember the first round of the June 1980 draft? Rich Renteria (20th, Pirates), Terry Francona (22d, Expos), Billy Beane (23d, Mets) and John Gibbons (24th, Mets) were all compensation picks. Three are managers. Beane is a GM.
3. New Tigers manager Brad Ausmus signed up Dave Clark to be his third base coach. Clark is a superb outfield coach and great addition, but he didn’t work out so well in Houston on the basepaths. That’s one area where the Tigers will have to cross their fingers.
4. A few GMs already are lamenting the cost of free agent pitching. If guys such as Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco are costing in the $80 million-$100 million range, imagine what front-line starters will make. The Orioles, Blue Jays, and Yankees are AL East teams that are dealing with those numbers already. Which is why the Yankees’ pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka, a potential No. 2 starter, makes sense rather than paying all that money for a No. 3 or 4.
5. The Blue Jays feel with a few moves (two starting pitchers, catcher, second baseman) they’ll have the talent to compete in the AL East. The biggest job for Gibbons and his staff? Attitude adjustment. The Jays need to bring in winning players with winning attitudes, like the Red Sox did. The feeling there is they need 24 more Jose Reyeses — guys who want to win. That will be the big emphasis in spring training. That’s why Jarrod Saltalamacchia is intriguing to them. He comes from a winning program and is a great chemistry guy in the clubhouse.
6. The Rockies need to change their mojo and the best way to do that is to deal their star shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, for a boatload of players. If you need a franchise shortstop, he’s there on a silver platter. You’d have to give up a lot of talent, and the contract (another seven years at $130 million) is huge. If you’re the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cardinals, you should have interest. The Sox could then move Xander Bogaerts to third and they’d have a productive offensive infield. In any case, the Rockies would have to eat some money.
Updates on nine
1. Mark Trumbo, 1B, Angels — If the Red Sox don’t re-sign Mike Napoli, who is five years older, the 27-year-old Trumbo will be on their list of players to pursue. Trumbo, who would come at half Napoli’s price, cannot become a free agent until after the 2017 season, has tremendous righthanded power (34 homers, 100 RBIs this season), and is considered an above-average first baseman. Yes, he strikes out a ton (184 times in 2013). The Angels could use a third baseman (Will Middlebrooks?) and a pitcher (Felix Doubront?). The Pirates and Rays could also be fits.
2. Stephen Drew, SS, free agent — There are enough teams who need a shortstop that the Red Sox will likely not bid more than a couple of years for his services. Drew would seem to be able to get more elsewhere. The Yankees could go big on him with Derek Jeter in the final year of his contract and likely to see more DH time. The Cardinals are also a good fit.
3. Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers — One or both could be dealt this offseason. Kemp had an injury-plagued season and might now be considered injury-prone, but his talent is undeniable. The Mets, in search of a big-name player, could be in the hunt. Don’t rule out the Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Blue Jays, and others.
4. Carlos Beltran, OF, free agent — The Red Sox are confirmed to have made contact with Beltran, per a New York Post report, as have the Yankees and Orioles. The Red Sox have long coveted Beltran, who was on their list the offseason in which they acquired Carl Crawford. The plan would be to move Shane Victorino from right field to center and play Beltran in right or even left, a bit risky at an age (36) where he should be DH-ing more. That’s why New York or Baltimore would be more ideal for Beltran, unless he can play some first base.
5. A.J. Pierzynski, C, free agent — After Brian McCann (who loves Texas), Saltalamacchia, and Carlos Ruiz, Pierzynski will fall. If the Red Sox don’t re-sign Salty, would they prefer a lefthanded complement to David Ross? Pierzynski had a good year in Texas, can still catch and hit, and scouts believe he would make good use of the Green Monster. There hasn’t been contact yet. He could also be pursued by the Yankees, if McCann signs with the Rangers. The Sox have also contacted Ruiz, but he could go back to Philly. The Blue Jays are also likely to get one of these guys as they try to upgrade from J.P. Arencibia.
6. Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays — The Jays don’t know what to expect from Cabrera, even after a spinal tumor that had caused leg pain much of the season was removed. The Jays never expected Cabrera to be the hitter he was in San Francisco before his 50-game PED suspension in 2012, but they expected much more than they got — .279, three homers, 30 RBIs, and a .682 OPS in 344 at-bats. While the Jays have other priorities, they’ll also dip into the outfield market if they feel Cabrera can’t give them what they expected.
7. Tim Hudson, RHP, free agent — About eight teams, including the Red Sox, have inquired about Hudson, who is recovering from an ankle injury. The Red Sox would love to have him on a two-year deal similar to Ryan Dempster’s. The Sox must feel they can deal Dempster (Milwaukee has always had interest) and Jake Peavy if they have to, but the pitcher teams have begun to ask about is John Lackey. Lackey has that desirable minimum salary coming up in 2015, which he agreed if he ever had to have Tommy John surgery. Thank Dr. Thomas Gill for that one.
8. Bronson Arroyo, RHP, free agent — Arroyo reports that the Giants, Phillies, and Twins have called his agents but no offers have been made. Arroyo is the most durable pitcher in baseball and is likely to receive more interest.
9. Adam Lind, 1B/DH, Blue Jays — The Jays picked up his option but don’t be surprised if they try to move him. There’s some sentiment in the organization that he doesn’t fit what the Blue Jays are trying to build in terms of attitude. Lind, you’ll remember, was critical of John Farrell when he was the manager.
From the Bill Chuck files — “At age 30, Jacoby Ellsbury has a .297 lifetime batting average and 241 steals. At 30, Johnny Damon had a .284 lifetime bating average and 244 steals. In his last nine seasons, Damon hit .284 with 164 steals.” Also, “Shin-Soo Choo was hit by 26 pitches, four times when he had three balls on him. Shane Victorino was hit by 18 pitches, but only twice with three balls on him.” Happy birthday, Butch Huskey (42), Jack Clark (58), Bob Stanley (59), Larry Parrish (60), and Gene Conley (83).Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.