MLB: Takeaways from this weeks GM meetings

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, November 15th, 2019

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BY DIC HUMPHREY                                                                                                                                     DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM

    The General Managers Meetings concluded this week in Scottsdale, Arizona.  There is usually not a lot of activity, at least the type that fans want to hear about.  The norm is that the stage gets set for the Winter Meetings next month.  There is a feel though that the free agent market will be more active early this year.  There are a lot of free agents, and there is solid talent available especially starting pitchers and third basemen.

     This year, qualifying offers were tendered to 10 free agents.  These usually get refused, but by extending a QO and having it refused, a team is entitled to receive draft choice compensation.  Relief pitcher Will Smith levered his QO into a three year $39 million deal with the Braves.  The offerees that accepted their QOs this year are White Sox first baseman Bobby Abreu and Minnesota starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi.  They are signed to one year deals at $17.8 million, and next year their teams can no longer offer them a qualifying offer when they become free agents again.  The players that refused their QOs, and thus will require the loss of a draft choice to the team that signs them, are starting pitchers Gerritt Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Wheeler.  Third basemen Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson and outfielder Marcell Ozuna are the position players that rejected QOs.

    The biggest MLB story of the week was the revelation that the Houston Astros used electronics to steal opposing pitchers’ signs at home games.  Mike Fiers, who is currently a member of the Oakland Athletics but was with Houston in 2017, spilled the beans to The Athletic’s (subscription required) Ken Rosenthal.  Other teams are also implicated, but the Astros are the headliners as they won the World Series in 2017.  

     MLB is conducting an investigation.  Stealing signs by studying third base coaches or by runners on second base that have a clear look into the catcher’s signs is gamesmanship.  Utilizing electronic means however is a strict “no-no”.  The Astros already have questions about the culture of the organization after the actions of their assistant GM Brandon Taubman in the locker room after they beat the Yankees to qualify for the World Series….that led to Taubman’s dismissal from the team and likely exiles him from another baseball job ever.

    There is naturally a lot of jealousy of the Astros from a lot of Major League teams with the success they have garnered in recent years.  It seems almost a certainty that the Astros will be strongly disciplined for the sign stealing revelations came to the surface this week.     

    The San Francisco Giants finally filled their managerial opening.  They tabbed Gabe Kapler, a former Ranger player that was dismissed as the Philadelphia Phillies’ manager after this past season.  That leaves just one managerial opening – the Pittsburgh Pirates.

     As for the Rangers, general manager Jon Daniels has said the team will be players for top of the market free agents.    Being a player for the top free agents and actually signing one or two of them may be entirely different things.  The Rangers need starting pitchers and a third baseman, which is the strength of this year’s draft.  

    The top three third basemen available in free agency are Rendon, Donaldson and Mike Moustakas, probably in that order of desirability.  Rendon is rumored to have turned down a contract offer from his former team that exceeded $200 million, though the contract had a significant amount of deferred money that lessened the net present value.  It seems unlikely that the Rangers would be players in that price range, but stranger things have happened.

    There are reports though that the Rangers are already in serious discussions with Donaldson.  He signed a one year deal last winter with the Atlanta Braves and had a bounce back season, hitting .259 with 37 home runs and 94 RBIs.  He’s older than Rendon, turning 34 in December, so will likely command a shorter contract and consequently a smaller overall financial obligation.  However, three months ago, it was speculated that he would accept a two year contract.  Now, the speculation has him getting at least three years and perhaps more.  

    Moustakas is certainly a good defensive third baseman and a quality bat, but he is less desirable to the Rangers because he bats left, and the Rangers’ batting order is already too left-handed.

     As for starting pitchers, it seems unlikely that the Rangers will be players for Cole, Strasburg or even Bumgarner among the pitchers that received qualifying offers.  However, the next tier of starters includes Wheeler, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-jim Ryu.  After those four, there are at least ten free agent starting pitchers available in the next tier down.  The Rangers’ goal is to sign two.  

    The Rangers have been reluctant in the past to sign free agents that rejected qualifying offers because they didn’t want to lose a draft choice.  This off season, Texas will lose their second best draft pick and forfeit $500,000 of bonus pool money for foreign free agents next summer if they sign a player that refused a qualifying offer.  There is apparently a change in attitude in Arlington this year.  Jon Daniels seems willing to forego the draft pick if he can get a talented player.

    There was one other interesting development this week that could affect the Rangers.  Reid Ryan, Nolan Ryan’s son was relieved of duties as President of Baseball Operations for the Astros.  Houston owner Jim Crane replaced Ryan with his own son, and Ryan was reassigned to a lesser position.  Nolan Ryan has been a consultant for the Astros, and quickly responded that he would not be returning to the Astros next season.  This fueled immediate speculation that Nolan Ryan could re-join the Rangers in some capacity.  

NOTABLE:

    As expected, Elvis Andrus did not opt out of his contract.  This was his second and final “opt out” in the $120,000,000 contract he signed before the 2015 season.  He has three more seasons on that contract, and the Rangers have a club option for 2023.

    Edinson Volquez was with the Rangers last year.  Injuries kept him off the field for most of the summer, and he initially indicated he would retire after the 2019 season.  However, he is now rumored to be in discussions with Texas to sign a minor league deal for 2020.

    Former Ranger and fan favorite Mike Napoli has joined the coaching staff of the Chicago Cubs.  

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