Meeting Across the River
by Ed Botti
November 10, 2023
For many news starved Baseball fans, the annual General Manager Meetings are the first real post World Series event to take place in MLB.
This year the meetings were held in sunny and beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona from Tuesday November 7 through Thursday November 9.
Dissimilar from the Winter Meetings, (December 4 - 7 in Nashville, Tennessee.) which are an opportunity for teams and players’ agents to dig in on roster-building discussions for the upcoming season, the annual General Managers Meetings are held so the league’s top baseball executives can assemble to consider the game in general.
The hot topics this year were expected to be reviewing the rule changes from the 2023 season and discussing the postseason format, as well as other issues that impacted the 2023 version of Baseball.
This year’s meetings, because of the Rangers’ five-game win over the Diamondbacks in the World Series, began after the five-day period during which free agents are restricted to discuss financial parameters with their former teams. That ended Monday, formally opening the free agent market to all the teams ahead of the GM Meetings.
Other years, the World Series continues long enough that free agency doesn’t even start until the GM meetings have concluded.
That does not mean that free agents will actually begin signing with new teams. But what it does mean is that practically every agent will be in in the desert to begin tipping their toes in the water with teams to assess which teams may have interest in their clients’ services.
There is one league regulation for most free agents that must get completed before the real contract talks with other teams can begin.
Monday November 6 at 5 p.m. (EST) was the deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to their free agent players which would then provide for draft-pick compensation if the player signs with another team.
The 2024 qualifying offer is set at $20.325 million.
The draft pick compensation becomes another factor to be considered when a team signs a player away from another team.
Consider that when Cleveland signed Nick Swisher (more on Nick below), the Yankees received a compensation draft pick. The result: Aaron Judge selected by the Yankees.
When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, the Angels received a compensation pick: The Result: Mike Trout selected by the Angels (the Angels also had the pick right before taking Trout).
Our old friend Joba Chamberlain was a compensation draft pick when Tom Gordon left the team as a free agent in 2006.
So, as you can see, there is much to consider for a team before opening their wallets and signing a free agent, despite the opinions of many fans or talking heads.
On Day 1 of the Meetings, Yankee fans were treated with a media access press conferences from Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman. Neither one of these men did themselves any favors.
Mr. Steinbrenner, well over a month since the 2023 regular season ended, essentially told all of us that his staff who played a large part in an 82 win season will be back in their current jobs, even though he also was on record stating the 2023 season was “awful” and that the Yankees “accomplished nothing”.
My bad. I forgot, he also stated the Yankees are going to practice bunting more in the minors and promised us all that “big changes” are on the horizon.
By “big changes” I guess he means hiring a new batting coach ( Sean Casey left voluntarily) and bringing in a third party consulting firm (Zelus Analytics). Last I heard, the guys at Zelus haven’t started their big analysis yet.
Great news! Somerset will bunt more next year.
No disrespect intended but, when I listen to Mr. Steinbrenner speak, I hear man that tries to convey that he is pissed off and mad, but one who consistently fails to convince me he actually is.
A far cry from how his father owned the room when he spoke.
The more enlightening topic addressed by Mr. Steinbrenner was that Aaron Judge is now apparently acting as an assistant GM, and that that Nick Swisher, of all people, was part of a group with a voice on whether Aaron Boone should remain as manager or not.
This is a perfect example of what happens when you have poor leadership at the top.
Nothing against Nick Swisher, but how in the world is Nick involved?
The good news for Mr. Steinbrenner is that he was outdone for the day’s least insightful press conference. That honor goes to Mr. Cashman -- the 25 years and counting General Manager.
First of all, he stated with a straight face that “I think we're pretty f---ing good, personally, and I'm proud of our people"
Mr. Cashman decided to go with the hostile and argumentative approach towards his fellow man routine, laced with many expletives. I have said this before, but he appears to have very thin skin.
He immediately disputed any criticism aimed at him and his staff and pompously rejected his unambiguous recent failures.
At one point during his address I actually felt embarrassed for him by the self-indulgent manner in which he lectured.
A couple of example
"No one is doing their deep dives, they're just throwing bulls--- and accusing us of being run analytically. To be said we're guided by analytics as a driver is a lie."
"Since Joey Gallo's left us, who's picked him up? Two playoff teams”.
“Sonny Gray, he's currently in the competition for a Cy Young Award"
"If you don't make [injuries] a significant reason...it is. You want to say it's an excuse, it's a fact."
No mention of Frankie Montas, Jordan Montgomery, or Harrison Bader.
Respectfully, Brian; your team won 82 games last year, missed the now-expanded playoffs and nearly finished in last place in the division. Since 2017 your team has trended further and further away from the World Series. Your team has had circles run around them by all of their rivals, and you honestly still think your people are "pretty bleeping good"?
He was extremely defensive when asked about the Yankees use of analytics. He went so far as to slight the media group and reporter asking the questions.
It reminded me of a spoiled rich kid when he gets punished by his parents.
In business you don’t insult your customer’s intelligence. Yankee fans aren’t suggesting the team should abandon analytics. Most fans simply want them to utilize and underline different ones and take a different approach.
How much louder can people say it before it sinks in?
Even his new assistant GM Aaron Judge has publicly stated this on the record recently.
"I wouldn't say [we are] overloaded. I think it's just looking at the right numbers. I think maybe we might be looking at the wrong ones. We need to value some other ones that people might see as having no value."
If your “people” (as Judge referred to) were doing such a great job, why then does your boss need to hire Zelus to look over their shoulders?
I said it to 2+ years ago and I will say it again today. Michael Fishman, being the brains and engineer behind their “approach”, is a massive problem for this team.
He is the man that contended for years that the Yankees weren’t too right handed or weak on defense (i.e. Gleyber to SS) and slow on the bases because his analytics said it didn’t matter.
We all know that was wrong, or did I miss a few World Series parades up Broadway?
As far as soft tissue injuries go, has Mr. Cashman or his staff ever considered the possibility that it's the process that leads to injuries year after year?
They entrusted Eric Cressey, a part timer, to deal with this issue. Cressey does a great job for many athletes out of his training facility(s). But, he is not a full time, 100% employee of the Yankees.
Do they not recognize every team deals with injuries? Just look at Tampa Bay. Their entire pitching staff was decimated in 2023 and Wander Franco didn't play in the 2nd half. Yet, they won 99 games on a $75 – $80 MM payroll.
The Astros lost Yordan Alvarez for 50 or so games and Jose Altuve played in only 90 games in 2023, and they still won 90 games and made it to the ALCS.
Texas won the World Series without their ace, Jacob DeGrom.
Baseball is not the NBA. One player’s injury shouldn't ruin your entire roster’s production. With their payroll they shouldn't have dropped to nearly the worst offense in baseball because their star hitter was out for a few months.
No doubt Aaron Judge's bat is irreplaceable, but for the amount of money they are budgeted to spend, they should have plenty of other guys picking him up.
That’s not a health issue. It’s a roster issue.
When the GM believes spending $25M a year on Josh Donaldson to be his 3rd baseman is a good idea, you don't have the luxury of rescuing a payroll.
I am not even going to bring up the reckless and irresponsible manner in which they treated Anthony Rizzo and his concussion for nearly two months!
To put it mildly, they might be better off if Michael Scott and Dwight Shrute ran this operation.
Photo: Huffington Post
Another piece of information that is starting to surface at the meetings is about Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the highly publicized Japanese righty starter that seems to be the flavor of the month among many fans looking to grab an ace for their teams’ rotation.
It seems that there is a divide and legitimate concerns amongst baseball executives regarding his potential as an MLB starter.
Many now are questioning the accuracy of his representative’s claims about his actual size.
Yamamoto is listed at 5-foot-10. One scout, who projected him as a No. 3 starter, said, “There should be questions if Yamamoto is legitimately 5-10.”
Another MLB executive said, “Tell me the 5-10 pitchers who a major league team has ever given big money — there is a reason for it.”
How these concerns are manifested by MLB teams remains to be seen.
I can remember we had a similar issue regarding Deivi Garcia just 2 years ago. Remember him? The “Next Pedro Martinez” we were told.
I never bought that one, either.
When it comes to pitchers, there have not been too many built like Pedro Martinez that have succeeded like he did.
Others, including ex Yankee farm hand and current Hiroshima Toyo Carp, Ryan McBroom, rave about his stuff and makeup.
I have always had some concerns with Japanese pitchers coming over to MLB for a few reasons. They are moving from a contact-oriented league to a power oriented league, the ball is tackier, lighter and smaller, and the added stress from pitching once a week to pitching every fifth day here in the States.
As we all know, even the great Masahiro Tanaka suffered elbow problems almost immediately after starting his Yankee career. We also see now that Shohei Ohtani is expected to have his 2nd Tommy John since making the move to MLB.
Yes, there have certainly been some exceptions, without a doubt. But the success rate is not nearly as high as some would want us to believe.
Some have concerns that the tackiness of the ball is a big factor.
As reported in the New York Post “Yamamoto’s Kershaw-esque curve might lose spin with a less tacky ball — and in Japan most travel maxes out at 1 ¹/₂ hours without constant time-zone changes”.
So when it comes down to dollars and “sense” (some project a minimum of 6 years and $120-$150MM) you better do your homework and have all the information possibly available.
As an aside, I get a kick out of watching Baseball Night in New York. With the exception of the MLB veteran’s that are guests on the show from time to time, the cast of “experts” look at Japanese baseball and American Major League baseball as the same thing (or close to it), and are so quick to irresponsibly spend someone else’s money.
It is not. There is only one MLB.
I really wonder how some of these talking heads got these jobs.
I have not seen him pitch, besides a few highlights that the rest of us have seen. So, I really can't opine one way or the other.
On Wednesday evening reports began to surface that over 30 of the approximately 300 MLB and team officials in attendance at the GM Meetings have come down with an undetermined stomach ailment. As one writer put it “the GM meetings have become the GI meetings”.
From what has been reported the origin of the disease is not clear, nor is its type. It could be a foodborne illness, in which case it likely originated with Tuesday’s lunch buffet, apparently the only common meal among those stricken.
The Yankee staff suffered four illnesses. When asked about it Mr. Cashman said with a grin that he was skipping the buffet on Wednesday. “I’m getting a burger,” he said.
We can say what want about Mr. Cashman’s GM track record of late, but he always seems to have a good sense of humor!
The remainder of the annual MLB General Manager Meetings have been canceled.
Feel better everyone!