LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Below you’ll find the latest updates from Day 1 of the Winter Meetings. The newest will be placed at the top.
9:21 — I’ve been a very busy man this afternoon, catching up on the Braves beat after spending most of my day moonlighting with the news from other teams. New Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos held his media availability a few hours ago. It sounds like he’s looking to ease into what is a familiar role, but with an all new team. We asked a bevy of questions about the winter shopping list and where his club could use some improvement.
Here are a few noteworthy items from today’s chat with the general manager, beginning with roster construction.
Perhaps the most interesting discussion topic was how he will go about filling needs and approaching trades with all the young talent he inherited on the farm. Caution seems to be the operative word.
Basically, what I gathered from speaking with him is that Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t want to come in and just start making aggressive moves without properly weighing/evaluating the talent they’d be parting with from a prospect perspective.
“To make real significant decisions, especially with young players, unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely unless there’s real conviction among everyone in the organization,” said Anthopoulos. “With young players you’re always going to have debate and split camp. It’s just important to be thorough. It’s hard to be aggressive when you’re not completely comfortable with information yet.”
My latest podcast tackles all of that and more, and includes an interview with Anthopoulos as well as new Hall of Famer Jack Morris. I’m joined by Mark Bowman of MLB.com in the latest episode of Around The Big Leagues.
2:49 p.m. — Giancarlo Stanton was introduced to the media and the newest Yankees slugger looked very comfortable in pinstripes. After voicing his excitement to join a winning franchise, it became apparent that he was perhaps even more overjoyed to avoid another Miami rebuild. Armed a full no-trade clause, Stanton was sought after by several play-off clubs and hopefuls. He declined to accept a trade to both the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals before landing in the Bronx, where he’ll join fellow 50-homer slugger Aaron Judge. That tandem will not make life easy on opposing pitchers.
“This has been quite the experience, quite the road to get here,” Stanton said in his first remarks with his new team. “When I signed up in Miami, I wanted things to work out, and I had a good vision there, but sometimes things just spiral out of place and you have to find a new home. So I’m very excited to be here and to be a part of the Yankees, and I’m just looking forward to stepping up and being with this winning environment and winning culture.”
It’s also fairly obvious that Stanton was not overly enamored by the new ownership group as the process played out. There were no warm and fuzzy exchanges between he and new front office figurehead Derek Jeter, the longtime Yankees captain. Stanton’s monster contract has 10-years and $295 million remaining, which was never going to allow for many teams to even inquire. However, it was Stanton’s no-trade provision that proved most difficult for the Marlins to control the negotiations. The player had all the leverage, and exercised it in order to join a club that appears to be putting together the pieces to build a perennial playoff contender. Stanton’s agent Joel Wolfe told the media that his client has no intention to exercise his opt-out clause after the 2020 season.
1:25 p.m. — The Braves have a few needs to fill as they go through the winter and a few pieces they wouldn’t mind moving prior to spring training. Let’s start with the obvious corner outfield conundrum which has been a running storyline since top prospect Ronald Acuña took the minor leagues by storm last season. Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis are both candidates for trade this winter, though both men come with entirely different circumstances attached. Specifically, Kemp’s health, which will be a stumbling block as the club looks to unload as much of the $36 million he is owed over the next two seasons while simultaneously opening a spot for Acuña.
Make no mistake, a high-value return for either is not in the cards. Creating that spot for Acuña is the single most important thing that trading away one of their veteran outfielders will accomplish.
Kemp, 33, came to spring training this year in good shape, but after a hot start he added back the weight he’d lost as hamstring injuries landed him on the disabled list. Kemp’s days in the outfield appear to be numbered, but if healthy his bat could help an American League club looking for some power. That said, Kemp has compiled a total 1.6 fWAR since the beginning of 2013. Chronic leg injuries have diminished his value in the field and on the bases to the point where both are non-existent. He has power, but his on-base skills are limited. It’s unfortunate to see from a guy who was among the best all-around players in baseball about five years ago.
The issue for Atlanta as the seller in this case is two-fold. First of all, Kemp hasn’t been able to remain healthy. Second, finding a club that is willing to take on that $18 million annual salary is going to be a significant challenge. The Braves can shop him around in hopes of attracting a buyer, and could also sweeten the deal by attaching a prospect to help offload more of Kemp’s salary and off-set the risk for the buyer. This is perhaps an all too familiar place for the Braves in recent years, trying to move bad money contracts by attaching other, better talents to the deal (See: Upton, Melvin and Kimbrel, Craig). It’s not an enviable position. There could be a bad contract swap that would benefit Atlanta and another club. If all of that fails, releasing Kemp and/or eating all the money he’s owed is another possibility.
Markakis, 34, has provided the Braves with a decent right field option for the past three seasons. While he is far from an impact player, he has provided a steady presence in the Atlanta lineup – averaging 1.2 fWAR over the last three years – and a valued veteran with workman’s approach to a clubhouse that has constantly been in transition since the start of 2015. Markakis has just one year and $10.5 million remaining on his contract, which should not create any issue when seeking a trade partner. He should be much easier to move if Atlanta chooses to go that route.
12:10 p.m. — The Hall of Fame press conference just wrapped up as Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were introduced as the newest members of the hall. Both men were incredibly gratified to be going in with one another. After all, these two men were each drafted in the Tigers 1976 draft class and went to play as teammates in Detroit through 1990. Both Trammell and Morris spent the 15 years on the BBWAA ballot, hoping to gain election to the Hall of Fame. Those 15 years came and went, but they were elected on their first appearance on the Modern Era Ballot.
“It’s been a little hard at times to see guys way younger than me being first,” Morris said of the waiting game. “I’m proud of them. I’m happy for them. But I’m so happy that I can go in with guys that were my peers and maybe get to know each other better and celebrate.”
Morris is also keenly aware that baseball’s turn to analytics over the past two decades has changed forever the way clubs and fans digest the statistics. That in turn has changed the way players are viewed in both an annual basis and in perpetuity for an honor like the hall of fame. While the analytics don’t paint Morris in the same light as others in Cooperstown, his place in history is now cemented.
“I want all the writers to know that I’m not mad at any of you,” Morris joked of waiting 18 years to receive his spot in Cooperstown. “I appreciate and understand how difficult it had to be. I finally grew up and learned that there’s reasons I maybe didn’t deserve to be in. I wasn’t born and raised in the analytics that are in the game today. None of it was a part of the game when we played. I always found it puzzling to wonder why I’m being judged on a criteria that didn’t even exist while we played, but it is what it is.”
“But I also want to appreciate and acknowledge all the writers who did support me and even the guys who didn’t because that’s our country. We have that right. And we shall cherish that right, and I respect everybody for whatever they thought. Now that I’m in, I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
Trammell’s case was definitely helped out by the advanced stats, which help make the case that he was one of the greatest shortstops of his era. Though he may not have the counting stats that have long been customary for hall of fame players, Trammell’s all around game and contributions to the Tigers and baseball in the 1980s are hard to ignore. They will go begging no longer.
“When I ranked myself as a player, I thought I could do a lot of things well, but probably one thing — there wasn’t one thing that just was at the top. But I think that’s part of the criteria when you look at all the ingredients of becoming a Hall of Famer is a well-rounded player, and that’s just who I was. I couldn’t be anybody else. That’s just the good Lord gave me this ability, and I tried to do the best I could,” said Trammell of earning a spot in Cooperstown.”
‘For my peers to be able to recognize that, that’s very much appreciated, very much appreciated,” Trammell continued. “I look at that, and I’ll look on it for my lifetime very fondly, that it didn’t go unrecognized. Again, just proud to be a part of this thing.”
You will year from Jack Morris on today’s episode of Around The Big Leagues. So stay tuned for the podcast tonight.
9:40 a.m. — The Atlanta Braves’ contingent has arrived in central Florida along with the rest of the sport. Here you’ll find 30 teams all looking to better themselves for the 2018 season and beyond.
The weekend preceding the Winter Meetings may have already set the tone. Highly sought after Japanese star Shohei Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Angels, while the Yankees landed Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton in a blockbuster trade. The official press conference to introduce Stanton will take place Monday at 2 p.m. ET.
The other big news from Day 1 is Monday’s Hall of Fame press conference. Detroit Tigers legends Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were elected from the Modern Era Ballot and will be on hand to discuss receiving baseball’s highest honor. That will take place at 11 a.m. ET and I’ll have notes, quotes and photos from the event.
Longtime St. Louis Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons fell just one vote shy of the necessary 12 needed for election from the special committee. Simmons played briefly with the Braves and alongside two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy, who fell well short of the necessary support. Both men can go back on the Modern Era Ballot in two years.
I’m going to circulate around the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort for a while and check out the set-up for this years meetings. You can expect daily podcasts and regular social media updates, so make sure you’re following all the right places:
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