The annual baseball Winter Meetings were held this past week in Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center. Mainly a time for GMs, owners, and MLB executives to talk about the next season of baseball. Topics of discussion include the idea of more netting between the stands and the field to prevent the occasional fan injury from an errant foul or missed ball (or the rare flying bat) and an increase in the domestic violence charges of current, active players (and how to handle them from an executive and union standpoint for consequences and for prevention of such abhorrent behavior of a professional athlete). Other discussions included trades and free agent signings.
The Yankees were no exception. The biggest trade this last week was when the Yankees acquired infielder Starlin Castro from the Cubs in exchange for Adam Warren and a player to be named later. Sorry, Warren fans, but this does say a lot for Warren’s value as Castro is a valued 2nd baseman and a popular player in Chicago. Castro’s addition to the infield does amp up the offensive power and the defensive overall from the regular starters on the dirt.
Also, reliever Justin Wilson is headed to Detroit in exchange for minor league pitchers Chad Green and Luis Cessa.
The Yankees lost two prospects to the Rule 5 Draft last Thursday — pitcher Evan Rutckyj to the Braves and outfielder Jake Cave to the Reds. Cave made an impact last Spring Training and should be a good addition to the Reds’ farm system. The Rule 5 Draft is used by teams to exchange younger players within their minor leagues that would allow teams that cannot play them at the major league level the opportunity to fast-track their career.
And, wrapping up recent transactions, recently released free agent pitcher Domingo German (who selected free agency at the beginning of the month) re-signed with the Yankees to a minor league contract.
Okay, there are two bigger “names” that have been tossed around since October as potential trades (Miller and Gardner), but as of right now, neither are on their way anywhere but Tampa this March. Look, both players are veterans and excellent athletes and in order for Cashman to even look at an offer to trade for them, the other team would have to put on the table the likes of Harper or Trout or Greinke (or their young prospect counterparts). And as of right now, no one is willing to part with someone with that high of value any more than the Yankees are willing to part with what they consider high value prospects (Judge, Severino, and Sanchez, come to mind). So until there’s some deal or announcement, it’s all just talk.
However, there are some holes to fill in the roster to beef up the Yankees before Spring Training. Expect there to be more announcements beginning in the new year. And like every year, there’s always one more last-minute trade or signing before Opening Day.
And if you’re a Carlos Beltran fan, this may be his last year as a professional athlete. Beltran has one more year on his contract with the Yankees, and he is weighing his options but leaning toward making 2016 his final year before hanging up his cleats for good.
Brian Cashman, the elf, rappelled down a building in Connecticut again last week, with Santa (a professional climber) and MLB reporter (and Yogi’s granddaughter) Lindsay Berra (dressed as Mrs. Claus). The annual event thrills children who see it as a “special delivery” and opens the local Christmas season with community performances and a tree lighting ceremony.
In the biggest MLB news of the day, however, the MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has upheld the ban of Pete Rose from all MLB activities. Rose, once one of the best players in MLB history, became synonymous with “cheating” when he was exposed for several gambling scandals toward the end of his career as both a player and a coach. Rose eventually admitted to betting on MLB games while he was an active participant in the league. As a result, Rose was barred from all MLB activities (which spills over into the denial of his election to the Hall of Fame, a very different animal but still along the same vein). Now in his 70s, the former Reds player has petitioned for reinstatement since his first appeal of the charges in 1989.
As it has been over a quarter of a century since the decision to ban Rose, the new commissioner decided to check into the decision and decide whether the decision was to be upheld or if some loophole or mistake made would allow Rose to resume his participation in MLB. However, in a 5-page statement, Manfred explained his reasoning for upholding the original decision to bar Rose from the MLB, which more specifically direct involvement with particular MLB and MiLB organizations. (Manfred acknowledges that Rose is permitted to participate in special ceremonies that have no impact on on-field outcomes nor special associations with a particular team in the MLB system, including the minor leagues.)
There was a lot of chatter following the postseason that Rose might become a more permanent MLB feature again as he was one of several former players asked to participate in the FOX broadcasts of the playoffs and World Series games. (Alex Rodriguez also made a splash, albeit in a different light of sorts, in the same broadcasts.) So while it means that he can develop some sort of potential broadcasting career (with prior approval of the commissioner as it relates to indirect and third-party association with MLB), but I’m not sure he’ll be as desired now. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll miss his awful bow ties, brightly-colored pattern jackets, and random off-color stories.
Look, I’m glad Manfed and MLB upheld the decision. I know this gets compared to the PED scandal of the last fifteen years (though the PED problem began about 25 years ago), but this is really a different animal. PEDs haven’t always been explicitly illegal or banned under MLB regulations, so much so that for some time (think the Sosa-McGwire home run race of 1998) it was rather encouraged. MLB pitcher (and former Yankee) David Aardsma expressed similar opinions and is obviously relieved to see the MLB continue to uphold important points of integrity and keep the game clean in all aspects.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Stay safe and count the days to Spring Training! Single game tickets go on sale in early January, but season tickets are still available. See you there!