Thank goodness we can talk about baseball now. Wilson Ramos is safe, the offseason churns forward and Mike Rizzo will not be going Venezuela, but to Milwaukee for the annual General Manager meetings.
(Ramos, meanwhile, said after his rescue he still intends to play in the Venezuelan winter league beginning Wednesday.)
We’ll be touching down in Milwaukee today and will have updates over the next three days from the event. We’ll delve more into the below topics this week, but as this offseason mile-marker gets going, here’s a quick primer:
What will happen: The GM meetings typically bring far less action than the annual winter meetings, which will come in early December in Dallas. Owners will also convene in Milwaukee, and the discussions will range from competition issues to finalizing the final remaining hurdles to completing a new collective bargaining agreement.
What won’t happen: The bigger stars available as free agents will likely wait until the market develops. Teams may also want to wait to sign big-ticket free agents until the issue of draft pick compensation for losing/signing Type A free agents — said to be one of the final wrinkles to iron out in the new CBA — is decided.
What could happen: With all 30 general managers in one place, though, trade talks are bound to bubble up. Last year, the Braves and Marlins agreed on their Dan Uggla-Omar Infante trade at the GM meetings. The GMs also lay groundwork for future moves by talking trades and meeting with agents. Also, with Jonathan Papelbon having agreed to a four-year, $50 million contract and establised a market for, closers could come off the market sooner than other top-tier free agents.
What we’ve learned about the Nationals’ offseason: While the Nationals shored up the back of their starting rotation by re-signing Chien-Ming Wang, Rizzo still wants to add a front-line starter, with Mark Buerhle and Roy Oswalt the most prominent targets. The Nationals’ primary aim remains adding a solution in center field, and the signing of Wang and the pursuit of another starter means the Nats have the pitching depth to perhaps trade for one.
What we still don’t know: The Nationals have given indications they want to trade for their coveted center fielder as opposed to signing one off the thin outfield free agent market, but some creative free agent options have emerged. They attended the workout two weeks ago of Cuban defector Yoennis Cespedes, 26, who should complete the process to become a free agent this winter. There’s also Nori Aoki, whose Japanese team will make him available via the posting system. Aoki, 29, has been compared to Shane Victorino and won the NPB batting title in 2010.
Even though they have an excellent young (and cheap) bullpen, there have been rumblings the Nats could make a run at free agent closer Ryan Madson, whom the Phillies reportedly came close to re-signing this week. Former teammate and Nats right fielder Jayson Werth would be on board with signing Madson, whom he spoke with about the Nationals’ “direction” this fall. “Who wouldn’t wanna have [Madson] on their team?” Werth said.