Tempting moves aplenty this week
DEC 02, 2012 6:05p ET
GMs, front office members and scouts will hold camp in their individual suites for four days beginning Monday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. The phones will stay busy; computers will whir; numbers and dollars will be crunched; and handfuls of pistachios and chips will be munched.
And when a deal begins taking on life, one GM visits the other GM’s suite. Various agents and their assistants make appointments to pay suite visits in order to pitch free agents.
Reporters also work the phones and check web sites. Tweets are never watched more closely. They set up in lobbies and near elevators hoping to spot an agent like Scott Boras or a GM or a scout — somebody with a good mind to pick.
Rumors come and go. Deals are made and squashed.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski excels in this setting. He plays baseball luxury suite poker as well as anyone. But will he get into a truly big-game deal in Nashville? What can we expect?
Might it be my dream deal for Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus or just signing free agent shortstop Stephen Drew and then trading shortstop Jhonny Peralta?
Will it be shelling out unexpected millions to keep pitcher Anibal Sanchez after Zack Greinke signs or simply signing a backup catcher like Matt Treanor?
Might it be consummating a deal with the Diamondbacks, who like Peralta and could be looking to trade closer J.J. Putz or former closer Heath Bell, or just trading outfielder Brennan Boesch for a couple minor league pitchers to lessen the corner outfielder logjam?
Will it be getting a call from owner Mike Ilitch saying it is OK to pursue Yankees free agent closer Rafael Soriano, who has Tigers-friendly Boras as his agent, or simply signing Jeremy Bonderman to a minor league contract?
Dombrowski has not been Blockbuster Dave at the last two winter meetings, but could revert to his form of 2007, 2008 and 2009 at these meetings. He acquired Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Edwin Jackson, Gerald Laird, Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer and Phil Coke at those meetings while parting with Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson (obtained in 2008 and traded away in 2009), Matt Joyce and top prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin.
ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield composed a handful of “blockbuster trades” he’d make in a recent article. They were not based on any whispers from agents or baseball people, but rather on his estimations of big deals that would fill the needs of both clubs.
One of Schoenfield’s proposals matched the Tigers and Orioles, whose general manager, Dan Duquette, also is not afraid to take chances. So, he would be a good trading partner for Dombrowski.
The conceptualized deal would have Schoenfield receiving top Tigers corner outfield prospects Nick Castellanos (also a third baseman) and Avisail Garcia, who distinguished himself in September and the playoffs, along with shortstop Jhonny Peralta and left-handed pitcher Casey Crosby to Baltimore.
Detroit would receive closer Jim Johnson, who led the AL with 51 saves last year and made the All-Star team, and 2012 Gold Glove shortstop J.J. Hardy (.238, 30 doubles, 22 homers and 68 RBIs) along with a decent left-handed reliever, Troy Patton. The Orioles have super shortstop prospect Manny Machado ready to take over for Hardy.
Would you make that trade?
I wouldn’t. Giving up both Castellanos and Garcia in one trade is too much. But I also don’t see Hardy as a night-and-day difference from Peralta. His range isn’t considerably better than Peralta’s despite winning the Gold Glove (voted on by managers and coaches) and Hardy’s offensive production is similar to Peralta’s. Also, closers are fickle. Johnson, 29, had 21 saves in six previous seasons. Last season will be his career high-water mark, and the Orioles would be trading him at his highest market value.
Analyzing that trade possibility provides a glimpse into the decisions Dombrowski and his brethren must make in the week ahead, and right up until the 25-man roster is set in spring training.
A comment Dombrowski made about his discussions with Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes before pulling the trigger on the seven-player deal at the 2009 winter meetings that brought Cabrera to Detroit is telling.
“I don’t think until we got here did the three of us sit together in the same room or get on the same phone call,” Dombrowski said at the ballroom press conference that day.
And that is the essence of the winter meetings. There’s Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer for general managers, and they just can’t resist.
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