Commissioner Rob Manfred  (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Commissioner Rob Manfred (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Speaking at the general managers’ meetings Tuesday morning, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred touched on a variety of subjects currently impacting the game.

Included in the conversation was the topic of whether or not netting would be implemented in stadiums after numerous incidents this past season in which fans were severely injured by flying equipment.

Manfred pointed out, however, that there is no guarantee any changes will be made to the areas closest to home plate.

“I think as you go out and look at ballparks it becomes evident that a simple, uniformed net to the edge of the dugout is not workable given the variation in the designs of the stadium,” he said. “It’s going to be a little more complicated than that if in fact we move ahead. We’re going to have a full conversation about this at the owners’ meeting next week. I don’t want to prejudge the outcome beyond that. But I do think a simple rule is probably difficult given the variations that exist in our stadiums.”

– Manfred was very adamant that the strike zone, as it is being called, is more satisfactory that it’s ever been thanks to improved technology.

“The umpires calling of the strike zone is probably more consistent that it’s ever been in the history of the game,” Manfred said. “I think the application of technology, going back to when Sandy Alderson was running the umpiring department, has overall time brought consistency in that area.

“The issue of the affect on offense, what I said at the beginning of the year was that I thought we needed, before we made a judgement and started talking about changes, another year of data. Every once in a while even I get to be right. What I mean by that was that we had a really interesting uptick in offense late in the year this year. A increase in scoring. We’re not going to jump too quickly on this one. We really want to understand what’s happening in the game. Our game is too great to be willy-nilly making changes thinking you’re going to address a problem that may not be a problem at all.”

– Manfred is still supportive of the qualifying offer system, which is in it’s fourth offseason:

“We were trying to identify a group of players that were significant enough where the loss merited the team that lost the player getting compensation, and that the player would be in high enough demand that the compensation availability would not ruin his market,” Manfred noted. “The fact that players who say, ‘No,’ go out into the market and get contracts even though the signing club has given up a draft choice kind of says to me we got it right. I don’t think you need somebody to accept. I think that so far we have successfully identified a group of players who were significant losses to the teams they were leaving and were high enough quality that they could bear the burden of draft choice compensation in the market and still get a good contract.”

– In regards to the news that Colorado shortstop Jose Reyes has been arrested for domestic abuse, Manfred cited the recently-implemented domestic violence policy (enacted in August).

“We felt good about the policy when we negotiated it. This will be the first test, and I think it will stand the test,” he said.

Here are the guidelines of the policy:

The Commissisoner’s Office will invesigate all allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse involving members of the baseball community. The Commissioner may place an accused player on paid administrative leave for up to seven days while allegations are investigated. Players may challenge any decision before the arbitration panel.

The Commissioner will decide on appropriate discipline, with no minimum or maximum penalty under the policy. Players may challenge such decisions to the arbitration panel.

Training, Education and Resources:
All players will be provided education about domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse in both English and Spanish at regular intervals. Resources to players’ families — including referral information, websites, hotline numbers and outreach facilities — will be made available, along with a confidential 24-hour helpline.
An annual program of community outreach will be developed. It may include public service announcements featuring players, domestic violence awareness days at ballparks and other activities designed to spread awareness on the issues.

– Manfred insisted MLB is doing everything it’s power to stay ahead of possible advances in performance enhancing drug use.

“We are constantly vigilant on the issue of the using of performance-enhancing drugs. It’s not just that we have a testing program that’s now on auto-pilot. We spend an inordinate amount of time working with groups to make sure we know what is the very latest developments that are going on in respect to performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t know how to say it more clearly is that whether or not we have an uptick in offense, we are constantly vigilant on this topic.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Join Rob Bradford of for a noon chat, live from the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. Bradford will be talking all things Red Sox offseason, baseball and life in the land of iguanas on the side of the road, so get your questions in now. It is a great way to get ready for Tuesday night’s Hot Stove Show on WEEI, which kicks off at 9 p.m.

Live Blog GM Meetings live chat

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BOCA RATON, Fla. — Maybe this year will be different. Dave Dombrowski thinks it’s certainly trending that way.

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Maybe this year will be different. Dave Dombrowski thinks it’s certainly trending that way.

When asked about his perception of the initial few hours of the usually mundane general managers’ meetings, the Red Sox president of baseball operations noted that, “It’s actually been a busier first day than normal.”

Dombrowski went on to relay that he actually thought the Red Sox might be able to complete a trade, but the other party cooled off on the idea.

Still, it sure seems like things are trending toward something happening in the coming days.

“I do,” said Dombrowski when asked if he believed there was more activity than normal at this young stage of the offseason. “People have asked me why, and I’€™m not really sure of that answer, but I do find that.

“We had some of our guys, I asked them to fly in this afternoon to sort of sit down. A couple of our guys said, ‘€˜Wow, we just got here and we’€™re behind,’€™ because we had so many discussions already. I’€™m not really sure why that is. People have speculated different thought process. New general managers being aggressive. I think part of it is the playoff teams were pretty much identified early, except for a couple, so that allowed some of the other clubs to start planning. I think some agents are probably aggressive because they see there’€™s a big number of pitchers out there. Some people speculated yesterday that perhaps it was a situation there’€™s a lot of general manager who aren’€™t tied to the players in their organization as much. I don’€™t know if it’€™s some or all of that, or really what. But I’€™ve had many more conversations, and more serious conversations, earlier than would be the case.”

The Red Sox primary focus thus far? Pitching.

The free agent market is flush with starting pitching, with some organizations (such as the White Sox and Indians) also carrying the kind of controllable, potential top-of-the-rotation guys the Red Sox might be looking for.

It all adds up to everybody in baseball seemingly trying to get out ahead of the curve.

“There are more people out there,” said Dombrowski of the pitching market. “There are more quality guys. More premium type guys. But there is also a situation where there’€™s a lot of clubs who need those types of guys too. We’€™re in a position where we’€™re exploring both. That free agency area is just starting to take place. I’€™m sure we’€™ll meet with some agents while we’€™re here. We’€™ve made some phone calls to express some interest in individuals and that will be followed up now and heading out of here. Also some relievers, too. I think there are more free agent starting pitchers than there are bullpen guys. But there’€™s both scenarios out there and we’€™re open to trying to acquire them in any way we can.”

When asked about the interest in what figures to be the Red Sox’ key in acquiring pitching via trades — their minor leaguers — Dombrowski was adamant that there is a significant demand for these youngsters throughout baseball.

“There is a lot of interest in our young players, I’€™ll say that unequivocally,” he said. “They must be good because a lot of people ask about them. And not just from our own people but from other organizations.”

– Dombrowski said that Travis Shaw, who was expected to play third base in the Puerto Rican Winter League, would not be participating in winter ball due to an impingement in his throwing shoulder.

“Basically when he started throwing down there it was bothering him it didn’€™t feel good right away,” Dombrowski said. “So we brought him back and got him checked out by the doctor and said its nothing major. An impingement that therapy and in a couple weeks it should be fine. but basically that’€™s going to preclude him from playing winter ball because by the time that two week period comes up, it’€™s over and now you’€™re talking about building back now you’€™re talking about a month so I don’€™t think he’€™s going to end up playing winter ball but theyre not at all concerned about this being anything of major consequence.”

Dombrowski also suggested it was unlikely Yoan Moncada would be participating in the Puerto Rican Winter League as planned due to a deep bruise on his left hand suffered during Instructional League.

– Dombrowski said the team hasn’t determined who will be the starting center fielder, Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley Jr.

– The Red Sox will continue to eye a reliever who might be able to close out games when Koji Uehara isn’t available.

“Yes, that’s what we’re trying to do, somebody who can close a game if something happens to Koji,” he said. “Because [Junichi] Tazawa really doesn’t like to close, so what we’re trying to do is find somebody who doesn’t have to be a closer per se, but somebody who happens to close if he needs time off or something happens to him, somebody who could step in and close a game for us and we feel comfortable with him.”

– Perhaps the surprise appearance at the meetings for the first day was from former Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous, who was in town to pick up his Executive of the Year award. After Anthopolous turned down the chance to sign a five-year deal with the Blue Jays, working under new president Mark Shapiro, Tony LaCava was named interim GM for the Jays.

– One name to keep an eye on later this month is pitcher Kenta Maeda, the Japanese hurler who is expected to be posted in a few weeks.

It’s not definite that the 27-year-old pitcher will be posted by his Japanese team, Hiroshima Toyo Carp, but the consensus is that he will be made available. If Maeda is posted, the maximum bid from any team is $20 million, with one of the motivations in pursuing the righty being that he wouldn’t cost a draft pick if signed.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford


BOCA RATON, Fla. — Before the usual Hot Stove talks kicked off at the general managers’ meetings, Dave Dombrowski used his first night at the Boca Raton Resort and Club to check in with what sure looks to be a key figure for 2016 — Hanley Ramirez.

Ramirez, who lives less than an hour away just outside Miami, drove up I-95 to meet up with his agent and Red Sox officials before truly diving into his preparation for ’16.

“It went great. We asked him to come by. I asked him to come by,” Dombrowski said Monday night. “I talked to his representative. Adam Katz was here. I talked to Adam a couple of weeks ago. Hanley was on vacation for a couple of weeks with his family. He came back just recently and I just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page going into the wintertime and we already had a member from our organization, Dan Dyrek, fly down to work with his conditioning individual and talk about what we’€™re looking to do so he already did that. I just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page as far as going forward here. We had a great meeting. I guess it lasted 45 minutes or something like that and just had a chance to make sure everything was set.”

One of the bits of good news to come out of the get-together was that Ramirez’s right shoulder, which had forced him to shut his season down for the final month, was no longer a problem.

Ramirez, who began working out at first base in August, also reiterated the position switch wouldn’t be a problem.

“Hanley has no pain in his shoulder. I asked him,” Dombrowski noted. “I said we’€™re counting on him for big things next year. We’€™re counting on him to be our first baseman. I asked him if he thought he could play first base. He said, I can play shortstop, I can play third base, I can play first base. He seemed comfortable. Now when I say that, all of this stuff will be action-based. He’€™s been working out already. He hasn’€™t taken any groundballs. And we’€™re not asking him to take any groundballs at this point. We’€™re not asking him.

“What he’€™s going to do is he’€™s going to be here for a couple of more weeks and then he is going to the Dominican. He’€™s going to be in the Dominican for a couple of months. He has a conditioning individual down there with him who will work. He’€™s in a spot where David Ortiz is going down there, I think the 19th of November, they’€™re going to work out together. He is all set from his conditioning perspective. We didn’€™t ask him to take any groundballs. He asked if we mind if he did some things and we said, all we’€™re worried about is you coming to spring training healthy and ready to go. If you feel you’€™re capable of doing it, great. But we’€™re not asking you to do that at this point. We’€™ll stay in touch on that. The meeting went great and I was impressed. He was here, he was on time, he was ready to go. Looked fine. But it was really at our request so we could just all sit down and visit.”

Besides the health of his shoulders, the other priority for Ramirez will be his conditioning. Dombrowski explained exactly what the organization had in mind for the 31-year-old when it came to body type heading into the new season.

Ramirez played in just 105 games last season, going on the 15-day disabled list on two separate occasions.

“That’€™s one of the things we wanted to discuss with him. We told him that before he left. We had a meeting with him, but I wanted to make sure to reiterate it and have everybody hear it again,” the Red Sox president of baseball operations said. “He understands we’€™re much more interested in him being a little more athletic. And the thing about him that I emphasized, when he is, whatever his exact weight is ‘€“ let’€™s say 245, approximately ‘€“ he’€™s not overweight 245. He’€™s big and huge 245. We would rather have a more svelte 230 type of weight. We’€™re not giving him a mandatory weight by any means. But more athletic, more focused on hitting doubles, using the whole field, driving in runs than worrying about hitting the ball out of the ballpark for 40 home runs.

“Sometimes I think when you play left field or you play first base, you put in your own mind that you have to be a power hitter, and that’€™s not the case at all. He’€™ll hit enough home runs. We want him to be a productive hitter and drive in a lot of runs. We want to make sure again that we’€™re all on the same page. And he was fine with it. He understood it and I think he’€™ll go forward with that type of mindset.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Dave Dombrowski's offseason is ready to kick into gear at this week's GM meetings. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)BOCA RATON, Fla.

So, it appears like teams have finally caught on.

Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann

So, it appears like teams have finally caught on.

All the qualifying offers are in to Major League Baseball free agents, with a record-setting 25 players receiving the opportunity to haul in a one-year, $15.8 million from their previous teams.

It is a huge jump from what had transpired in the three previous offseasons the qualifying offer system has been in place. The first year saw nine offers, with 13 coming the next year and 12 being extended last offseason.

(As a reminder of how it works, if the player doesn’t accept the QO and he signs with another team, the team that inks the free agent has to surrender its highest draft pick, unless that pick falls in the top 10. The club giving up the player receives a sandwich round selection once he signs elsewhere.)

Why so many?

One of the main reasons is that because it has become evident the agents have little interest in advising their clients to take a one-year deal after positioning them for free agency for months leading up to this moment. And since a decision has to be made in one week, there’s no proof what might await in the free agent market, leaving the players often believing there is a multi-year deal out there somewhere.

To date, none of the players handed qualifying offers had accepted the one-year deal, with the gamble coming back to bite players like Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, both of whom signed a few months into the regular season. The team signing Drew, the Red Sox, didn’t have to surrender a pick because they were his previous club, and the Twins were clear of giving up a pick when inking Morales because the agreement was after the June amateur draft.

Now we will find out if such scenarios have scared off some of these 25 players from exploring the market beyond next week.

As for what this all means for the Red Sox, there are a few players in the group that they were eyeing to see if a QO would be heading their way. The potential of giving up the draft pick is of considerable interest to Dave Dombrowski and Co. this time around considering they sit at No. 12, the second highest non-protected pick.

If surrendered, it would be the highest spot ever given up to sign a player since the QO system started, with the Padres currently holding that honor after giving up No. 13 for James Shields last offseason.

“It’s a case-by-case basis,” Dombrowski said when appearing on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show Tuesday night. “Ideally, you never want to give up your No. 1 draft choice if you don’t have to. But I have been in circumstances where the player that you signed merits you being in a position where you feel as an organization that you’re willing to do that.

“You don’t want to do it. There are some circumstances you’d shy away from, where you say, you know what, I don’€™t want to give that draft choice up for this kind of player. You’re thinking your draft pick is going to be successful, so you have to weigh in to where you think the player you would be drafting there, the type of player down the road he projects to be. It’s something when you talk about development time, that you’re open minded to trading that quality of player you might get with that choice, or not.

“I think it’s a case-by-case basis and you analyze that based upon the player you have a chance to sign.”

The Red Sox would be most likely willing to surrender the pick in order to sign the likes of pitcher Zack Greinke, or, if they choose to go down this road (which I don’t think they will), first baseman Chris Davis. Starter Jordan Zimmermann might also fall into this group.

Starting pitchers Wei-Yen Chen, Hisashi Iwakuma, Yovani Gallardo, Brett Anderson or Marco Estrada? The draft pick conundrum might offer some hesitation.

It should be noted that some other significant potential Red Sox free agent targets will be free and clear from being saddled with QO compensation. David Price, Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir all couldn’t be offered the one-year deal because a player has to be with their team for the entire season leading up to free agency in order to be eligible. Price, Cueto and Kazmir were all dealt in the middle of the 2015 season.

Here is a list of the players receiving the qualifying offers:

Brett Anderson, SP (Dodgers)
Wei-Yin Chen, SP (Orioles)
Chris Davis, 1B (Orioles)
Ian Desmond, SS (Nationals)
Marco Estrada, SP (Blue Jays)
Dexter Fowler, OF (Cubs)
Yovani Gallardo, SP (Rangers)
Alex Gordon, OF (Royals)
Zack Greinke, SP (Dodgers)
Jason Heyward, OF (Cardinals)
Hisashi Iwakuma, SP (Mariners)
Howie Kendrick, 2B (Dodgers)
Ian Kennedy, SP (Padres)
John Lackey, SP (Cardinals)
Daniel Murphy, 2B/3B (Mets)
Colby Rasmus, OF (Astros)
Jeff Samardzija, SP (White Sox)
Justin Upton, OF (Padres)
Matt Wieters, C (Orioles)
Jordan Zimmermann, SP (Nationals)

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The Red Sox announced a series of moves Friday, including outrighting pitchers Alexi Ogando and Jean Machi, who elected to become free agents.