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.