SAN DIEGO — The annual Rule 5 Draft, which wraps up the Winter Meetings, is a study on how to dress comfortably for air travel without looking like a slob.
Baseball executives in their finest quarter-zip pullovers and sneakers masquerading as dress shoes gathered in a Grand Hyatt ballroom to chat one final time before fleeing for the nearby airport as soon as the draft is complete.
Unlike recent years, the exodus this time followed some actual accomplishments.
Fourteen of the top 20 free agents as determined by the indispensable MLB Trade Rumors website have already signed. That group includes Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, and Zack Wheeler.
Agent Scott Boras, once notorious for working at a slow pace, is closing in on $1 billion worth of deals this month alone after getting Cole, Rendon, Strasburg, and Mike Moustakas signed.
Boras can now turn to finding teams for Nicholas Castellanos, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
“These Winter Meetings were the fast and furious,” Boras said.
This weekend could bring more action as Rendon signing with the Angels has clarified the market for third baseman Josh Donaldson.
The Rangers have backed off Donaldson, but the Nationals, two sources said, see him as a lower-cost alternative to Rendon who can still provide substantial lineup punch. The Braves could make a move to bring Donaldson back, too.
Texas, which wants to build a contender as it moves into a new ballpark, is focused on Castellanos and rotation upgrades.
With Cole, Strasburg, and Wheeler no longer available, Madison Bumgarner is the best free agent starter remaining. He is seeking $100 million, which seemed outlandish a few days ago but not as much now after Cole landed a $324 million deal with the Yankees.
The Twins, Dodgers, and Reds are possibilities for Bumgarner, who does not want to drag out the process.
The word is out this winter — don’t wait around.
The trades made in recent days have involved mostly helpful players, not stars. The White Sox got Nomar Mazara from the Rangers. Jake Marisnick went to the Mets, who could regret they didn’t try harder for Jackie Bradley Jr. Omar Narvaez is Milwaukee’s new catcher.
The big names are coming. Kris Bryant, Corey Kluber, Josh Hader, Francisco Lindor, and David Price were among the players discussed in trade talks within the suites of the Hyatt.
This is good for baseball on several fronts. The slow-paced offseasons the last two winters infuriated fans, especially when compared to how quickly the NBA and NFL work in their offseasons.
Transactions can be entertainment and promotion, and baseball finally got in on that action this week.
What seems like a reinvestment in free agency by teams also bodes well for the sport. Moustakas, who settled for a one-year, $7 million deal with the Brewers last season, landed four years and $64 million from the Reds.
Rick Porcello, coming off the worst season of his career with the Red Sox, was able to get a one-year, $10 million deal with the Mets.
Brett Gardner very much wanted to return to the Yankees, but they didn’t turn that leverage against him. He has a one-year, $12.5 million contract at age 36.
Blake Treinen was non-tendered by the Athletics, who didn’t want to pay him $7.5 million. The Dodgers signed him for $10 million and several other teams offered roughly the same.
Drew Pomeranz, Kyle Gibson, and Tanner Roark also did better than expected.
The Red Sox got involved on Thursday, signing lefthander Martin Perez for one year and $6 million, and utility player Jose Peraza for one year and $3 million plus incentives.
The signing of Perez could be a step toward trading David Price to clear at least some of his salary off the payroll.
Perez has a 5.49 ERA the last two seasons; Peraza was non-tendered by the Reds and Arauz was left unprotected by the Astros. These are not exciting moves, but that’s where the Red Sox are as Chaim Bloom works to bring their payroll under control.
Perhaps the most positive news of this week for the Red Sox was the complete absence of Mookie Betts in trade rumors. The Sox appear determined to hold on to Betts and continue trying to sign him to a long-term deal.
“It’s a non-starter with [Betts] right now,” one assistant GM said.
Any extension for Betts would almost certainly have to start with the 2021 season; otherwise the Sox would sail over the luxury tax threshold again next season. So this will be a drawn-out process.
But it beats the alternative of letting their best player get away without a better fight.
Once Bloom wrestles the payroll down, the Sox can get back in the headlines at the Winter Meetings next year in Dallas.