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OC Register: Alexander: One guy – guess who – turned Winter Meetings into a snoozer


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The world according to Jim, Winter Meetings edition:

• And so we have discovered one more of Shohei Ohtani’s skills.

This week he put all of baseball on hold, because while he pondered his next professional home, most of the rest of baseball spent the week at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville reluctant to make moves while waiting for a decision. The Yankees-Padres deal involving Juan Soto, which was said to be in the final stages of negotiation late Wednesday afternoon – even as the Yankees decision-makers were reportedly headed for the airport and a flight home – was an anomaly. …

• Not to play the “things were better in the old days” card, but this session could have used a Bill Veeck setting up shop in the lobby of the headquarters hotel, the way the late owner-promoter-irreverent soul did at the 1975 meetings in Hollywood, Fla.

Veeck had just re-purchased the Chicago White Sox, and in fact, the vote to approve the sale took place at the meetings. Later that day, Veeck and General Manager Roland Hemond set up shop at a table in the lobby of the Diplomat Hotel, and Hemond placed an “Open for business” sign on the table. Then they made six trades involving 22 players.

This was, mind you, the winter before free agency changed baseball forever. There was no need to wait on one set of negotiations. …

• Maybe we’re spoiled, or maybe the sport just needs to reconvene at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego every December. The last two meetings in 2019 and 2022, with a two-year gap in between because of the pandemic in ’20 and a lockout in ’21, featured eight nine-figure signings (including Gerrit Cole and – shudder – Anthony Rendon in 2019, and Trea Turner and Aaron Judge last year).

Or maybe Nashville just caught a bad break because everyone was waiting for Ohtani. It’s said he may have a decision by the end of the weekend, but that wasn’t much help this week. …

• For all of its regional and local popularity, baseball continues to give ground on the national stage to the NFL, NBA and the organizational lunacy that is college football. The sport’s winter convention is an opportunity to recapture some of those headlines with big deals and big signings, but this one was a dud.

So maybe a set of artificial deadlines is in order to prod teams and executives into action, much like the artificial deadline in 2021 before the owners staged a lockout. Remember, that management-provoked work stoppage was for the cause of getting the sport’s economics in order, yet in the days leading up to the lockout Corey Seager and Max Scherzer were among a flurry of big-money signings. …

• Having attended those last two meetings in San Diego, I can only wonder what would have gone through the mind of someone checking into the headquarters hotel unaware that an entire sport’s winter convention was taking place. The executives might hunker down in their suites and do their business via cell phone, but the lobbies are still jammed with baseball people, media members and hangers-on. …

• Fans do have a way of making themselves heard at the meetings. For instance, there’s the guy in the St. Louis Cardinals jersey who positioned himself in the background of MLB Network’s shot on Wednesday and unfurled a sign demanding that the Cardinals fire GM John Mozeliak. …

• What MLB’s TV network should show during the meetings, but never does and likely never will: Scott Boras’ annual media briefing.

Yes, it’s self-serving, and yes, some of Boras’ puns can be painfully bad. But his take is often an important one, as a counterbalance to the economic views of the owners and Commissioner Rob Manfred. And the reason it will never appear on the in-house network is the same reason why, in San Diego, it took place in an alcove off the lobby instead of the MLB-branded media workroom – it’s been known to contradict the official MLB message. …

• As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, here’s what Boras had to say on Wednesday about free agent Cody Bellinger: “You can take Corey Seager, for example, or Bryce Harper – when you win an MVP at a young age, there are a lot of challenges that occur after you win that MVP. They had injuries and in Cody’s case, a broken leg and (shoulder). All those things occur which affect your performance.

“But the one thing you do know is that all those MVP-type players, great players, what have they done after they’ve signed when they’re 28? Harper got better. Seager’s gotten better. So it tells you that those kinds of players who can do that at such a young age actually get better beyond what they did at any other age once they’re healthy and return to play.” …

• It’s also worth noting that a year ago, after the Dodgers had non-tendered Bellinger three years removed from his MVP season, Boras told us at the San Diego meetings he would pursue a one-year contract, saying: “Belli is a player I think a lot of teams are surprised is available: a 27-year-old MVP-type guy who suffered an injury, is getting his strength back. I think there’s a lot of teams that are looking at that as a very serious upside.”

He called it. And you’d better believe Bellinger and Boras aren’t settling for a one-year deal this time, after a 2023 season with the Chicago Cubs in which he hit .307 with 26 home runs, 97 RBIs and a 133 OPS+. …

• Boras also represents Blake Snell, the best free agent not named Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Or, as Boras put it, “… the most dominant talent in this financial market.” Yeah, there’s going to be some cha-ching! Just not right away. …

• Pro tip, not just for the meetings but throughout the winter: If you’re obsessing over, or at least trying to keep up with, your favorite team’s roster decisions, the MLB Trade Rumors site is worth bookmarking for timely information. (The NFL, NBA and NHL Trade Rumors sites too, for that matter.)

jalexander@scng.com

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1 hour ago, Blarg said:

This is silly nonsense. There are only 4 teams that are in the Ohtani sweepstakes, so if all 30 teams were sitting on their hands because of one player, that's on them for being lousy businessmen. 

Thats not the reality though. Where Ohtani goes impacts Bellinger, Yamamoto, Snell and it impacts the trade market for Glasnow, Burnes, Cease and Bieber. 

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No, it really doesn't. There are 30 teams, not 4, and each has independent needs that have really nothing to do with Ohtani. It's a crappy market right now but there still were deals that were made and many more that could have been. But somehow there is some dumb idea circulated that the winter meetings is some sort of deadline, which it isn't and never was. 

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3 minutes ago, Blarg said:

No, it really doesn't. There are 30 teams, not 4, and each has independent needs that have really nothing to do with Ohtani. It's a crappy market right now but there still were deals that were made and many more that could have been. But somehow there is some dumb idea circulated that the winter meetings is some sort of deadline, which it isn't and never was. 

Sure we will ignore the agents wanting to wait out Ohtani to drive up prices for their players. We will also ignore teams waiting it out to drive up the prices of their players they are willing to trade. Supply and demand exists.

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