BOCA RATON, Fla. — Trade for Aroldis Chapman, sign David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, or Johnny Cueto and be done. Simple, eh?
Probably not so simple when you’re Dave Dombrowski and you’re starting your first offseason with a new team. The good thing is that Dombrowski has a wealth of young inventory to deal, inventory that he’s not necessarily emotionally attached to because he didn’t sign or nurture them.
His first day at the GM meetings, he said, saw a flurry of activity, more than he’s seen here in a long time.
“We’ve met with a few teams,” Dombrowski said. “I really didn’t anticipate meeting with a lot of people but they reached out. We’ve met with some agents and we’ve met with some clubs and we’ve had conversations.
“Yes, there’s a lot of interest in our young players. I will say that unequivocably. They must be good because people ask about them.”
Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts have been the two players asked for the most, according to one major league source. Dombrowski admits the majority of his trade discussions revolve around the front of the rotation. Obviously, the Mets have it in Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, etc. The Indians have it in Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber. The A’s have it with Sonny Gray. The White Sox have it with Chris Sale.
But all of the above may be pie in the sky.
When Dombrowski was asked if he had untouchables, he said, “I have always tried to phrase it that I don’t try to have untouchables. I’ve also said if you have Miguel Cabrera and he’s the best hitter in the game and somebody offers you two Miguel Cabreras, you have to be open-minded about it.
“Does it usually happen? No. There are some players we have that are less apt to be dealt than others.”
And so, Dombrowski won’t be saying no as often as Ben Cherington did about Boston’s best prospects. If he can acquire a top pitcher, he’ll likely pull the trigger. He believes the team has enough depth that, if he has to give up a couple of players to get a starting pitcher, he’ll do it.
Dombrowski also said there’s been a lot of interest in Boston’s pitching depth “three through eight.” So he’s getting interest in Wade Miley, Joe Kelly, Clay Buchholz, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, etc.
Dombrowski said he’s also exploring the reliever market. He said he will seek protection for closer Koji Uehara, who is not only on the other side of 40, but is coming off a cracked bone in his throwing hand.
Dombrowski was thinking more of someone who can be a setup man, but can close if Uehara needs to miss time. But Dombrowski didn’t rule out going after a full-fledged closer.
Chapman would be the prize and he would have to give the Reds some of those good young players to get him. San Diego may also move Craig Kimbrel. Dombrowski’s right-hand man, Frank Wren, had him in Atlanta.
Dombrowski also alluded to a deal he thought he had ready to go in the last few days, when the GM he was talking with came back and nixed it.
Dombrowski won’t have a shortage of inquiries. The fact that teams are being aggressive right off the bat is surprising to him.
“I think part of it was that the playoff teams were identified early and that allowed clubs to set their planning,’’ he said. “Agents are aggressive because there are a great number of pitchers out there. People speculated that a lot of new GMs are not tied to the players in their organization as much. I’ve had many more serious conversations early than is normal.”
And he said that some of the conversations “are more advanced. It doesn’t mean anything. I have had advanced talks that mean nothing. More people are throwing things out there in a serious vain.”
On Sunday night, Dombrowski met with Hanley Ramirez’s agent, Adam Katz. He also represents righthander Hisashi Iwakuma, who is seeking at least a four-year deal.
Dombrowski thinks one starting pitcher could be enough “depending who it is and what you do to help your bullpen,’’ he said. “With Buchholz coming back, that’s a good addition to our staff that we didn’t have [the second half] of last year. So you’re really adding two people.”
He thinks he could use two bullpen arms. One, a setup/closer guy and possibly another lefty.
Oh yes, that leads us back to Chapman.
Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty and GM Dick Williams will hear a lot of proposals for the closer who throws 100 miles an hour. He could be worth every prospect expenditure.
Yeah, it’s easy: Sign a big-name starter for huge money, trade for Chapman, and take your chances in 2016.