Results tagged ‘ Winter Meetings ’
The Major League Baseball 2010 Winter Meetings will setting up shop not more than 90 miles from my doorstep over the next three days (Dec, 6-9,2010). After the grueling daily grind of meetings, networking and the general business of doing MLB business, there will be a shark tank of prospective agents, players and shady characters laying in wait for the G M’s and decision makers trying to push their respective client’s “MLB Wish List” upon the assembled MLB head honcho.
This is a great time for the agent bloodhounds to get everyone in the decision making position within a confined region to try their closing arguments for that elusive deal, or possibly even pull off the proverbial “Steal of the Winter Meetings”. With the local Orlando weather only peaking out in the mid-50′s over the next several days, the rest of the Hot Stove season is expected to warm up considerably during the Winter Meetings.
The Winter Meetings have always been famous for the mixing of business with pleasure that sometimes progresses into a unexpected late night backroom session that gets a deal done. Since I was a Florida native and have spent more than a few wild night patrolling the adult sections of O-town, maybe I can help provide a bit of a primer of the places to be seen…or not seen over the next few days.
There are countless restaurants within a short cab ride of the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort where the main hub of the meetings are being held over the next three days. Just beyond pearly gates of the “House that the Mouse built”, outside the comfort of the Disney imposed happiness is the neighboring Universal Studio’s property known as City Walk that is a playground for adults, or those who become young at heart after dark.
This adult fun center has more than a few places to possibly get lost in the crowd and casually discuss things over an adult beverage or some exquisite cuisine. So let’s say after a hard day of listening to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speak on his (sometimes) monotone thoughts for the upcoming 2011 MLB season you get a unique craving for some great grub, then you can motor on over to City Walk and entice your taste buds.
With creations from the Emeril’s restaurant, or the Pastamore’ Ristorante or any of the other specialized and popular dining adventures outside the confines of the MLB resort location. Or possibly you just want to further unwind and let it all go a step or two while dining and pick the fun and relaxation of plopping yourself down in Florida icon Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville cantina or hit the nearby Hard Rock Café. Or maybe you have a hankering for some classic Florida seafood and can’t wait to visit the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company .
Maybe you have a musical song beating within you and want to partake in a eating experience at Bob Marley’s or the Latin Quarter complete with spontaneous entertainment and music that is as spicy as the food on your plate. There is a reason Orlando is a tourist hot spot, and it doesn’t always revolve around the Mouse or Harry Potter. For the next three days foods from all over the United States and the World are within a few miles of the MLB host hotel, and even include a two-story McDonalds where you can purge that urge for a late night McRib.
Even the local bars have something that will cater to every single one of the alphas to the omegas of MLB personalities to provide more than a few options for anyone visiting O-town. From authentic sports bars to iconic places like the NASCAR Café or NBA City, sports is always just a television away in Orlando. But maybe you want to revisit a place from your past like Pat O’Briens in New Orleans. Well, you can definitely get a authentic Hurricane here in the state known for winds, rains without the feeling of a Tropical depression. Or possibly you just want a more chill atmosphere with a chilly Martini and some tapas or apps, then the veranda seating at the Velvet room at the Hard Rock is just for you.
Maybe you have some closet envy as a hidden shower singer who has always dreamed of being the front man /woman of a band. Then Rising Stars is the place for you. Picture yourself on stage with a full band behind you as you hit the high and low belting out tunes from today, yesterday or possibly your own rendition of a classic. Suddenly on center stage all eyes will be on you and your vocal talents. I can only imagine uber agent Scott Boras and Nationals GM Mike Rizzo up there singing a duet of Peaches and Herbs classic “Reunited” after their recent “coming together” over the Jayson Werth mega deal.
Maybe you just want to take in the famous Blue Man Group performance to have a few laughs and giggles at their notions before retiring and awaiting the next day’s agenda of meetings, networking and glad handshakes with new and old MLB “friends”. There is a reason that Orlando is considered the Entertainment Capital of the World with acts as diverse as a set of dueling pianos, live TNA wrestling, Reggae and rock music. Heck, you know Selig himself will probably have a backstage pass to the Mannheim Steamroller event held at the Music Plaza Stage where holiday tunes will fill the crisp Florida night air.
I really only mentioned a dewdrop into the pool of entertainment values and options surrounding the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort. From Luau’s poolside at the Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort to NBA Orlando Magic games at the new Amway Center, the Orlando region is only as limited as the imagination of each and every MLB employee attending the Winter Meetings.
The more I read about this guy, the more I am liking the Rays possibilities in 2010. But the reality is now set in stone that the Tampa Bay Rays have traded for Rafael Soriano to man the back of the Rays Bullpen for 2010. And what a beautiful birthday present (Dec 19th) this turned out to be for Soriano that he got a bundle of money ($ 7.25 million dollars) and a chance to play in 74 degree weather for 81 games a year in Florida.
I mean the minute I heard the deal was about to be completed, I started to do some research on the guy and found some thing I automatically loved and caused concern about the Rays new closer. But the true fact that he is not Troy Percival is the first good news I have heard in the last two seasons for the Rays Bullpen. Soriano is from the Dominican Republic, and as most players from that region, did not start out as a pitching prospect. He was originally signed as an outfielder before being converted to a pitcher.
In 1999, Soriano was finally began his conversion into a pitcher while with the Everett and the move was considered an instant success as he finished his first season as a pitcher second in ERA and strikeouts, but also third in walks. Control would come with time as the young pitcher began to tweak his finger grips and learn the art of pitching.
And his pitching progression showed in 2000 as he was boasted a 2.87 ERA and was considered the third best pitcher prospect in the Mariner’s organization in 2000. Soriano also surrendered only one Home Run in the 167 batters he faced that season. And during the 2000 offseason, he got his first taste of Winter Ball as he was selected to play for Escogido in the Dominican League.
And his impression during his escalation through the minors was not missed by the Seattle front office which selected him from the Double-A San Antonio on May 8,2002 and he made his Major League debut against the Boston Red Sox on May 10th and earned his first MLB save in a 7-2 Seattle win. During 2002, he ended up only appearing in 10 games for the Mariners, but started 6 games during his tour with the big club.
There is one thing that bothers me a bit about Soriano. Early on in his career he did show a pattern of getting injured when he first went down with a right shoulder injury while up with the Mariners on July 10,2002. and was put on the disabled list. Soriano suffered a strained oblique muscle in Spring Training 2004 and saw very limited action before the regular season.
He then suffered another injury in May 2004 when while he was up with the Mariners he developed a right elbow strain. He sat out until July and tried to pitch during a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma, but the pain came back in the elbow. Soriano was diagnosed with a ulnar collateral ligament tear in the elbow and Dr Lewis Yocum performed Tommy John’s surgery on the aliment on August 17, 2004.
Soriano spent the rest of the 2004 season rehabbing from the surgery and after multiple rehab assignment in the minor leagues, finally returned to the Major Leagues on September 10,2005 for the Mariners and stayed with the club the rest of the season appearing in seven games that season. Soriano ended his season right by not allowing a run in his last five games of the season.
During the 2006 season you might have remembered Soriano as the pitcher that got clocked in the right ear off a line drive from the bat of Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero during the eighth inning August 29th contest at Safeco Field between the Angels and Mariners. Mariners Team Medical Director Edward Khalfayan said that Soriano was hit right beyond the right ear region and he never lost consciousness before being transported to Harborview Medical Center for further testing.
Soriano spent the night at Harborview after suffering a concussion, but was finally released the following afternoon. But the Mariners took a cautionary route and Soriano did not pitch again in the 2006 season. Prior to the August 29th incident, Soriano spent time on the DL for right shoulder fatigue before being reinstated in early August. That would be his last appearance for the Seattle Mariners as he was traded to the Atlanta Braves on December 6,2006 for fellow reliever Horacio Ramirez.
Soriano has been known to throw the ball in triple digits before, but suffered in his first season with the Braves setting up Braves closer Bob Wickman. After seeing Soriano begin to emerge in the Bullpen and Wickman starting to show regression, the Braves made a move in August 2006 by designating Soriano into the closer’s roles and designating Wickman for assignment.
But the drama was not over for Soriano in 2006. In September during a game against division rivals, the Florida Marlins, Soriano drilled Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla with a pitch and drew a four game suspension from the National League front office. After appealing the sentence, it was reduced to two games, but Soriano ended his first Braves season with mixed reviews providing a 3-3 record and a 3.0 ERA for the season.
Soriano had stayed relatively injury free during his first two seasons with the Braves before finally feeling some right elbow pain, and went on his first stint on the DL with right elbow tendinitis during May. Soriano suffered another setback during the season and was activated from the DL on July 27th. Eventually, Soriano went back on the DL on August 3, and stayed there for the rest of the season. On August 28th, Dr James Andrews performed an ulnar nerve transposition surgery and removed some bone spurs from Soriano’s elbow.
The 2009 season was the first injury free season for Soriano in a long time. And his level of play did increase dramatically as he held righthanded batters to a .138 average during the season. He also converted 27 of 31 save opportunities while holding a 1-6 record on the season. But the season also saw new career highs in strikeouts (102) and innings pitched (75.2) to show that when healthy, Soriano is one of the rising closer stars in the Major Leagues.
During his three season with the Braves, Soriano might have only compiled a 4-10 record with 39 saves, but he gained valuable experience during the season gelling into the closer’s role for the Braves. And even if he only has three pitches in his arsenal, Soriano’s fastball maintains a consistent velocity in the upper 90′s, and has hit triple digits a few times last season. Combined with his hard-biting slider(81-84 mph) and a seldom used change-up(84-86) that he usually reserves for hard hitting left-handers.
But there is a level of concern that hits my brain about Soriano. There has not been a consistent level of health yet in his career for me to be jumping up and down yet about this trade. Sure I do not want a repeat of the last two seasons where you get ex
cited and looking forward to a closer taking it to the house for the Rays, then get saddened quickly by a sudden or hidden injury situation.
Maybe that is what is wrong to me about this trade. I like the pitching statistics of Soriano a lot, and really want him to be effective and healthy in 2010 for the Rays. But I was also excited to see what hard throwing reliever Jesse Chavez could do for this squad in 2010. It is an upgrade in instant talent, but for some odd reason, Chavez to me felt like a better long term addition.
But with the horrors of the ”Percy” era still fresh in my mind, along with the wasted millions of dollars spent on him sitting in California on his duff while this team struggled without a bona fide closer. I am a bit more cautious to throw out the arms and welcome a closer now. Especially one who has only had one legitimate healthy season after several trips to the diasabled list in the past.
I truly hope that Soriano proves me wrong within the first few weeks of 2010. I want to again believe that we have a viable closing option on the Rays and that the “closer-by-committee” concept is thrown in the trash can and burned forever. But it is still funny to me the recent quote from Rays team owner Stuart Sternberg that this team payroll would not allow for a $ 7 million dollar closer. And he was right. But as is always the way with the Rays, irony had the last laugh as now we have a new $ 7.25 million dollar closer to put out hopes and playoff dreams upon in 2010.
If you are one of the many traveling members of the Tampa Bay Rays front office in Las Vegas this week, can you pull off the swagger and the slight attitude of a pennant winner? After your team pulled off the almost impossible in 2008 of claiming the American League East and Pennant, let’s hope you can become as cocky and as vocal as the other counterparts in the AL East offices. At the MLB Winter Meetings at the elegant Bellagio, do you finally have people on your speedial that are the movers’ and the shakers’ in baseball? Again, we hope so. For years the Rays were the typhoid marys of the major leagues. No one gave you the respect, the ablity, or even the confidence to even park your car without hitting the cement pole. But now you have gained that initial push towards respectabilty and you can flaunt it with the big boys this year. Celebrate, let you inner rowdie come out and show the world the Rays are here for good and you better get used to it!
Now we all know that Rays General Manager Andrew Friedman has already been a busy guy this offseason, but does he get more looks and more calls now simply because of his upstart moves and slick manuvers in 2008. We hope so. And do the Rays even get odd calls now from veterans wanting to play here seeing the positive attitude and the termendous team concept in the clubhouse.We sure hope so too. According to some sources, for the first time in Rays history, people are actually calling the team asking about openings and chatting with team officials. Such a adventure would not have seemed possible a few seasons ago, but now are common place for the A L Pennant winner.
As the Rays continue to search for key ingredients to their 2009 pie, We have to believe that they are gearing up for are making another run at the World Series in 2009. Vegas currently have then at 16:1 to repeat the playoff senario and win it all this time. That is a huge improvement over the 150:1 shot that was posted before the 2008 season. So we as fans have to believe that the team is being constructed in 2009 to defeat and stay above the division, and not just stay up with the Sox and Yankees and Blue Jays in the AL East in 2009. Wow, what a difference a little winning can do to your organization, and your Vegas odds for winning the World Series.
Their division has become a hot bed of activity in the last few years where the winner of the division is an odds on favorite to win it all. With that kind of mentality only growing and evolving in 2009, do the Rays have what it takes to not only defend the crown, but keep it safe all year long from their divsion foes? Or is the primary focus of this weeks meeting to gain avenues and portals into the upper working of the MLB to find the hidden gems like Eric Hinske and Willy Aybar again in 2009. The scouting department of the Rays never get enough credit for seeking, searching and finding guys like Andy Sonnanstine and Rhyne Hughes. That department might be the hidden reason for so many of the Rays advancements in the last year. Finding those diamonds in the rough seems to be a gift for the Rays scouting department.
The Rays primary focus in the Hot Stove season so far seems to be in formulating a trade or signing a free agent to improve the Rays potent offense and increase the stopping power of the bullpen. But will they be aggressive on their ”wants”, or sit back and remain low key and hope everyone picks off one-by-one the weaker guys before the Rays pounce on their guys. You would think that by this years Winter Meeting, Friedman would have the insights and the drive to go after the guys before even matching them up. This is proably the first Winter Meeting he has had time to venture outside his hotel room and actually communicate face-to-face with a large amount of people. Popularity and a gift for the craft can be a person’s greatest asset in this game of chance.
But again, Friedman’s focus might be on the free agent market totally and not even consider a trade of any type just yet in the off season. He might hold all his cards until January, then deal them out as he sees fit to the right suitors. Friedman has gone on record as saying he has less players to trade per se this year than in the past. This actually might be a smoke screen set up until the upper echelon of pitchers disappear, then he brings out the names like Hammel, Niemann, and maybe even Jackson or Sonnanstine to wet the interest of teams seeking young talent with upsides. The Rays have the leagues’ quota on young arms plus this year. But then, we have been stockpiling the guys knowing that this day would come some time, some way, to where we could just pick and choose our guys for the first time based on our standards and not the standards set forth by other teams or free agents.
Friedman has also been blunt to about his trading past and the team has been active heavily in the trade column than in free agents column. But starting in 2009, the team is actually taking a look at free agents and trades at a 50-50 percentage for the first time in franchise history. The Rays have finally built up enough clout and respect in the last year to entice free agents and make the Tampa Bay a perferred destination for veterans who still have alot in the tank.
As for the offense, the Rays are flexible with their plan for further improvements, whether it’s by acquiring a full-time right fielder or a power-hitting designated hitter. Their focus is firmly in improving their offensive numbers in 2009.
Clear holes are currently flashing in right-field and DH, but could they also get a value later in the Hot Stove season to spell a trade of a secure player right now in the Rays lineup. That question might be better answered around the mid-season mark when they will re-evaluate Carl Crawford and his $ 11.5 million dollar contract for 2010. In the comnig year or so the team will have to face the reality of losing a big name player because of the small market money coming into their coffers. Crawford and Kazmir might be the first 2 players that are within the system to be depatched out of the roster because of future salary or bonuses. And this will set a nasty trend for a few years until the next crop of young studs get established, then rebuilding will happen again and again.
Friedman is not sure how the current economy will affect baseball in Tampa Bay in 2009. But he does know that he is getting more and more calls from interested parties who want to talk about the team’s openings. Even though a recent presentation by the Tampa Bay Baseball committee showed that the area’s wealth is down considerably, and that the stadium’s even financial stability might be in play in 2009. Playing within the boundaries of a tight economic circle might be hard for a team fighting to regain it’s edge in 2009. With the general population near the stadium showing double digit unemplyment, it might be a rocky year to start off in 2009, then gradually get into a rhythm and rise upward near the summer months. This is just speculation, but might be a realistic senario for the team.
The conversations with other teams have been just as frequent as they’ve been in years past, but with both agents and teams, we’re seeing that there aren’t very many people who want to be aggressive and really force things ahead right now. Is it the financial conscience of the league, or just the agents and players feeling out the sagging system before demanding, or putting out their inflated numbers. Could we see a year of low ball figures to free agents with a vested interest or options, or will we have to wait about 2 years when the economic climate rebounds full force to see super high estimates and salary marks again in baseball.
Friedman showed a sense of humor when asked whether he expects activity to pick up during this years Winter Meetings. He does expect that trade and free agent signings to go wild if something happens early to dictate the market or something might flex and break trends within the league. But in the end, could we all be just playing the numbers and be left with what is left over on the tables and not get the desired players we need to succeed. The reality is that baseball, like gambling is a crap shoot and anything can happen……………even busting out on a good hand.