BOCA RATON, Fla. — Dave Dombrowski, Boston’s new president of baseball operations, asked some of his staff to arrive by afternoon to get a head start on the annual general managers’ meetings, which began with a dinner Monday night.
“By the time I sat down, they said, like, wow, we just got here and we’re behind because we had had so many discussions already,” he said.
Just eight days after the World Series, the offseason trade and signings season intensified with the start of the four-day session, usually a warmup to the larger winter meetings in December.
Since the start of August, new general managers have been appointed for Detroit, Milwaukee, Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, and Toronto has an interim baseball operations head. For all but the Athletics, Braves and Reds, a new top baseball decision-maker is in charge.
Combine the change with a free-agent class that includes starting pitchers Zack Greinke, David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir, and executives schmoozing each other at the Boca Raton Resort & Club don’t want to be left out of the marketplace for both signings and trades.
“I think part of it was the playoff teams were pretty well identified early, except for a couple, so that allowed a lot of other clubs to sort their planning,” said Dombrowski, who was hired by the Red Sox just two weeks after he was fired by Detroit. “I think some agents are probably aggressive because they see there is a big number of pitchers out there. Some people speculated yesterday that perhaps it was a situation where a lot of new general managers means they’re not tied to the players in their organization as much.
“I don’t know if it’s some or all of that or really what,” he said, “but I’ve had many more conversations and more serious conversations early than normally would be the case.”
After missing the playoffs in consecutive years and then losing in the AL wild-card game to Houston this year, New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman noticed a difference.
“It hasn’t typically been busy GM meetings overall in years gone by, but it feels like the dialogue has been a lot more active throughout October than any year prior,” Cashman said.
During the sessions, baseball officials are likely to discuss possible rules to protect middle infielders, similar to a rule enacted for 2014 that banned most home-plate collisions. The second-base issue has been in focus since the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chase Utley broke the leg of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada with a takeout slide during the NL Division Series.
“We’ve already had discussions with MLB, certainly surrounding that event,” Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said. “I think certainly we want to make sure we’re protecting players, same way we talked about it with the collision rule.”
Management also has started the process of preparing for labor negotiations, which are likely to start early next year ahead of the expiration of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement on Dec. 1 next year.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson will miss the meetings to undergo an unspecified medical procedure, a week after fainting during a news conference at Citi Field.
Dombrowski met with Hanley Ramirez, who is being asked to move from outfield to first base next season. Dombrowski said he would like to see Ramirez lose about 15 pounds, not because he is overweight, but to get more athletic.
Cashman would not commit to CC Sabathia being in the rotation following the left-hander’s third straight subpar season. Sabathia left the team on the final weekend of the regular season for alcohol rehabilitation. “Certainly the hope is that he would be a viable member of that rotation,” Cashman said. “So let’s just see how the winter shakes out first. I’m not guaranteeing anybody anything.”
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