Everyone's getting ready for the Winter Meetings - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Everyone’s getting ready for the Winter Meetings

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Orioles

Whenever someone hears that I’m going to Las Vegas for five days, they’re excited for me. They have a night spot to recommend, a favorite restaurant, and want to know if I’m going to see a show.

Yes, I am going to see a show. It’s called baseball’s annual Winter Meetings.

Beginning Sunday, baseball’s best and brightest will gather at the Mandalay Bay to gossip and conduct some business.

It will be Mike Elias’ first Winter Meetings as Orioles executive vice president and general manager, and he has a lot to do in a short time. Besides picking a manager, he has to beef up his front office, and talk trade with his colleagues and contracts with agents.

For writers, the Winter Meetings are five days of intense work. You have to keep up with what’s going on with your team and others. This year might be a little different because the Orioles could keep away from the trade market, at least for now.

It will be my seventh Winter Meetings, and though some of my colleagues have been to many more, there’s always something new and different about them.

The Orioles usually don’t make much news. An exception was last year when Manny Machado suddenly became available—until he wasn’t.

Machado rumors were everywhere, but until Elias evaluates his new team, it’s hard to gauge if he’ll try to market anyone yet. In a message to season-ticket holders just after he was hired, Elias said the team would try to build around Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens, Trey Mancini and Cedric Mullins, presumably putting them off-limits for now.

The fun of the Winter Meetings is seeing colleagues you may only see then, and while it’s mostly work, there are occasional laughs.

Last year in Disney World, “radio row” was outside the large media work room. Closed doors didn’t stop Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s signature yell, “Hi, everybody” from being heard throughout the cavernous room, drawing lots of chuckles.

The room is the gathering place for writers, and it’s also a place where major announcements are made. When major trades are made, the participating teams talk about them. Major signings are also announced.

Each major league manager sits for an open session not only for local writers, but for anyone who would like to hear. It doesn’t appear there will be an Orioles manager to talk to.

Late each afternoon, writers who cover the Orioles are summoned to the team’s suite. We’ll talk with Elias, and perhaps he’ll introduce us to members of his new front office. Maybe he’ll surprise us and introduce us to the team’s new manager.

There are meetings. Managers and GMs go over rule changes. The Baseball Writers Association of America has a meeting, too. Each year, the winner of the Spink Award for outstanding writing is announced. Two years ago was a special moment when the wonderful Claire Smith heard that she had been elected. Smith was the first woman writer honored.

An outstanding broadcaster is awarded the Ford C. Frick award. The writer and broadcaster are honored in Cooperstown the day before the official Hall of Fame ceremony.

In 2014, Dick Enberg was named the Frick award winner. By a happy coincidence, he lived not far from the meetings in San Diego and came by to acknowledge his award.

Enberg spoke off-the-cuff for 15 minutes about how much the award meant to him, entertaining us with some excellent stories about his humble beginnings as a radio broadcaster before taking some questions.

The Winter Meetings are also a haven for young and not-so-young job seekers. Young people desperately trying to get in the game at any level congregate and the lucky ones snag an interview. Out-of-work scouts and executives also come to look for work.

The lobby is where the action is, and each year you can be sure you’ll see longtime major league manager Jim Leyland, who works for the Detroit Tigers and the commissioner’s office, hold court.

Another familiar sight is one-time Orioles GM Roland Hemond, who’ll happily tell you he’s been coming to the Winter Meetings since the 1940s.

There’s a large trade show, which the media isn’t invited to, and many meetings for the minor leagues, too.

There’s a luncheon on Wednesday, where each major league manager talks informally with local writers, and after that, Scott Boras will walk to a spot near the work room and begin taking questions for as long as anyone has them.

Chris Davis is one of Boras’ clients, and so is Zach Britton, and it’s always entertaining to hear his take on baseball issues. Several years ago when talking about his relationship with Dan Duquette, he added that Duquette “has great hair, too.”

The Winter Meetings conclude with the Rule 5 draft, and the Orioles have the first pick. The Rule 5 draft moves swiftly, and then there’s a mad scramble for the airport.

We’re left to make sense of what happened, and look forward to next year’s meetings in San Diego.

Schoop signs

Jonathan Schoop, who was not tendered a contract by the Milwaukee Brewers last Friday, didn’t have to wait long for a new offer.

Schoop signed a one-year, $7.5-million deal with the Minnesota Twins, which was first reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

He becomes the first of last year’s Orioles to sign with a new team. Tim Beckham, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Adam Jones, Caleb Joseph and Manny Machado have yet to sign.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. cedar

    December 7, 2018 at 7:52 am

    As a “hope springs eternal” type of fan, the winter meetings arriving during the Christmas season is like being able to open a present the night before Christmas. Will the O’s deliver the presents I’m looking for? Who knows but even just reading what comes out of the meetings can be exciting. Thanks for the background and what fun it would be to sit and listen to a Jim Leyland or Roland Hemond tell stories of yesteryear.

    I’m surprised Schoop signed so quickly and for only one year. I know he had a rough season but isn’t his salary less than last year?

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2018 at 8:20 am

      Right you are, Cedar. His salary last year was $8.5 million, but that was because he was arbitration-eligible. The Brewers didn’t want to pay the more than $10 million he was likely to get in arbitration.

      Because so many players had to wait so long to sign in the season just concluded, it’s spurred some of them to sign quickly and end the uncertainty.

  2. JoeFundo

    December 7, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Come home from Vegas with Stubby Clapp.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2018 at 8:53 am

      I’ll be happy with JoeFundo as Orioles manager!

  3. boss61

    December 7, 2018 at 9:26 am

    I’ve read accounts of certain beat writers, who dislike the winter meetings. Glad to read you like them. Looking forward to some keen insights Rich!

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2018 at 11:20 am

      I didn’t say I liked them, Mark.

  4. SpinMaster

    December 7, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Rich: I know you will enjoy the time in Vegas, even if you will be working your tail off. I can only imagine the zoo like atmosphere each day of the meetings with so many reporters and front office people altogether in one place. I look forward to reading your articles here at Baltimore Baseball as well as watching all of the action on MLB TV.
    Have fun and remember, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. LOL

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      Spin, in this case I hope there’s enough in Vegas to report on.

  5. Orial

    December 7, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Again manager shouldn’t be a “Meetings” priority. Get a defensive SS, veteran SP,bullpen help AND one or two solid Rule 5 picks. Actually this a chance for the O’s to present themselves as professional,approachable,and not so reclusive. Mr Elias I have full faith.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      Orial, I think other than Rule 5 picks, acquisitions are like to come later rather than sooner.

  6. PA Bird Lover

    December 7, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Again, many guys who post here continue to wish for players that might help win a wild card spot in ‘19. Stud players aren’t going to sign on with our O’s. Think rebuild.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2018 at 3:14 pm

      PA, I think 2019 is likely to be a year of rebuilding.

  7. bmorebirds

    December 7, 2018 at 11:43 am

    Good thing Mike Elias’ Houston/St. Louis rep precedes him, so he won’t have to work with `Confederate money’ next week. Will probably be a steady stream of young baseball statheads seeking Orioles employment. The Birds will snag a Rule 5 pick who’s a future Hall of Famer and a key member of the 2021 Orioles playoff team. Have fun in Vegas!

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2018 at 3:14 pm

      Thank you, bmorebirds.

  8. BirdsCaps

    December 7, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Sounds hectic. Thanks for summarizing the festivities. I never knew that there were jobs offered for front office positions at the meetings.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 7, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      BirdsCaps, most of the jobseekers are looking for entry-level positions. People with experience are looking for face time with decision makers.

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