I’ve been to Nashville. Nice town. I hope the GMs currently meeting there** are enjoying the various honky tonks and watering holes. But in between all the fun live music and delightfully fried foods, I hope they are talking serious, blockbuster trades. I am so over the A-Rod thing. The free agent crop this year is just not where the action is. Plus, there are a couple of other interesting tidbits floating around the GM Meetings:
1. This year, the 30 general managers decided to try something so obvious they couldn’t believe they didn’t think of it sooner. At the behest of Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and Marlins President Larry Beinfest, all 30 GMs got together for an informal meeting at which each GM explained, in two minutes or less, what his acquisition goals were and what kind of deals he was willing to entertain. Under the old system, scouts and other emissaries would be dispatched by one club to sound out the other 29 clubs in turn, like royal pages in some 17th century court. And like some 17th century royal court, rumors and gossip abounded while real information was scarce.
2. In another great leap forward, GMs have voted 25-5 for umpires to use instant replay to determine debatable fair-or-foul judgments and home run calls. As has been widely reported, it would work more like the NHL’s system, where a neutral third party reviews the play in a booth upstairs, than the NFL’s system of formal challenges that then get reviewed by the referees themselves. In the past, Commissioner Bud Selig has said he doesn’t like using instant replay in part “because of all the delays.” He’s even talked about speeding up the games by limiting the number of times the batter can step out of the batters’ box and cutting down on catcher’s trips to the mound. That is bad news for fans, who might have been hoping Quixotically for shorter commercial breaks instead.
3 . Here’s some fun trade speculation—the Rangers are looking for a centerfielder (again) to fill in for the two-to-three years it will take their best outfield prospects to mature. One option they’ve discussed is Coco Crisp. The Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox expressed interest in one of the Rangers’ catchers, either Gerald Laird or (ha ha) Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Laird-for-Coco wouldn’t be a good move for Boston. Laird hit in the low .200s with 9 homers in 120 games last season. It should be noted, however, that Laird led the league in throwing out would-be base-stealers; if he can catch a knuckler, the Sox might be interested in him to catch Tim Wakefield (though they tried this experiment before, and ended up paying an extremely high price to bring back Doug Mirabelli when it faltered). I think Salty-for-Coco is just wishful thinking on the part of the Globe, unless the Red Sox were willing to throw some cash or some prospects (or both) at Texas. After all, he’s a burly, young, switch-hitting catcher (not unlike Jason Varitek 12 years ago) and those don’t come cheap (unless the other GM is an idiot and you’re offering the great Heathcliff Slocumb). What would the Red Sox do with Salty? He’s not known for his defensive prowess behind the plate, which is an issue because the back-up catcher in Beantown pretty much has to catch Wake’s flutterball. It’s possible that the Red Sox are looking ahead to the days when Varitek becomes their bench coach (oh please, let it come to pass!) but right now, Saltalamacchia doesn’t fit any needs the Red Sox have….OR DOES HE? One of the rumors going around is that if the Red Sox can’t re-sign Mike Lowell, they’ll move Gold Glove-winning first baseman Kevin Youkilis to third (his former position) and get themselves a new first baseman. And Saltalamacchia has some experience at first. And before you go jumping on me that Coco is too old or too expensive to be the centerpiece of such a deal, I remind you that he’s only 28 and he only makes $4 million. Plus, he’s got great speed. The only downside here is that he’s coming off of a couple poor offensive years with the Red Sox (which, in turn, could actually make him cheaper to sign for the Rangers, if they’re willing to take a chance on him returning to his respectable career average of .280).
4. The Yankees are talking trades as well, and also looking to move one of their outfielders. They’ve talked about shopping Johnny Damon, though that is looking unlikely at this moment, and there have been murmurs about moving Hideki Matsui, though he has a no-trade clause and could be hard to unload. And, as far as I can tell, no possible takers for either of those has been mentioned. One problem for the Yanks seems to be that they’ve got too many DH-types—including a ravaged-by-years-of-steroid-use Jason Giambi, whose “skills” at first base we last saw harming his team in the playoffs.
5. At the new “straight from the horse’s mouth” GM roundtable discussed above, Indians GM Mark Shapiro said he wasn’t shopping anyone, but no one was off-limits if the right offer came along. He’s said to be preparing a contract extension for C.C. Sabathia. But given what C.C. is likely to cost, he might be tempted to move the Cy Young favorite now and just rake in his winnings. Who would possible takers be? Why, pretty much every team out there with something—-anything—to offer. I can’t think of a GM who wouldn’t empty his cupboard and open his wallet at the chance to get Sabathia.
**I am an ass. The GM meetings are being held in Orlando, where I have also been and where, unless you are seven years old and meeting Mickey Mouse in his dressing room, it sort of sucks. The Winter Meetings (held in December) are in Nashville. Thanks to reader Melissa for pointing this out.