‘GREAT FOR GAME’: The MLB Hot Stove is very different this winter
LAS VEGAS – There were no free agent signings and only a few small deals, but when the MLB’s General Manager meetings ended in Las Vegas on Thursday, there was a different feeling than the past few years.
The teams had more intense business discussions than usual. The agents spoke with more teams, although they weren’t allowed to talk about money until the late afternoon. There was more urgency. The GMs were publicly expressing their desire to get into the post-season, without anyone ever uttering that dirty word, “tanks.”
“There are definitely more teams that are in a position to add to the Major League team,” said Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. “And doing that, what I feel is, in an aggressive way. They feel close and ready to push.
“I think it’s different from the recent past. I don’t know if it’s by 10 bands, but even changing the scales by three or four bands changes skin tone dramatically. This usually leads to some aggressiveness.”
“I don’t know what that will mean for the trades, but we’ll see.”
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Simply put, whether it’s a draft lottery as part of a new collective bargaining agreement, an expanded match format or a cash flow with the record-breaking $11 billion MLB, teams are starting to act differently.
The Baltimore Orioles, who lost 333 games over three years, have finished rebuilding and are now planning to raise salaries and legitimately compete for the supplement berth.
Mike Elias, General Manager Baltimore Orioles, said, “It’s definitely more fun and interesting for us when attending meetings like this. You feel more relevant when you talk to clients and teams.
“The odds are always going to be stacked a little bit against us in the score now, but if we get close enough, and get a good enough shot, hopefully it will push the chips in.”
The Diamondbacks, whose win tally increased by 22 games by 74-88, say they plan to raise salaries as well, having made an offer for an accessory berth despite playing in the same division as the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
“When you’re in a division like ours in NL West, AL East or NL East, and you finish third and you don’t have a chance, it’s obnoxious. Now, with an extra spot, you have a chance,” Hazen says.
The New York Yankees, who enter each season with a World Championship or bust mentality, are now finding more teams adopting the same philosophy, as more teams are starting to get sick of the idea.
Is it great to see everyone in the Middle East now doing everything they can to win?
“Oh, hell, no!” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “We have some really good teams in our department that are run by smart people.”
There were eight teams last season who lost 90 or more games, including four with 100 or more losses, but the only teams this year that don’t have a prayer to truly compete are the Oakland Athletic, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
However, with the exception of athletics, no team is planning to continue rebuilding it by swapping potential players for prospects.
“What we’re trying to do is add more to our young core group,” said National General Manager Mike Rizzo, whose team lost their 107th worst in the league. “You have a lot of competing people here, nobody wants to be bad. So people act as aggressive as they can be within their standards.
“We know the plan. We know how to do it. We know what it looks like. We try to make it as quick and painless as possible, but we have to be honest with the process, because if you’re not, and rush it, it takes you back even more.” .”
Even the Buccaneers, who have lost 100 games in each of the past two seasons and finished 65 first-place games at NL Central, insist their rebuilding is over.
They may not have a chance to compete in 2023, but the days of tanks are over.
“We definitely hope to get through the toughest parts of rebuilding,” says Pirates GM Ben Cherington. “We lost 100 games last year, so there is a lot of ground to cover. We are realistic about that.
“But we also want to take a step forward next year.”
Seattle Mariners General Manager Jerry DePoto said he’s had business discussions with every baseball team, and he’s heard the same thing.
“Everyone we spoke to wanted to get better,” DiPoto said.
“It’s fun when he leads the league as it is now. I think it’s great for the game.”
Gathering leads can be fun, but the parades are unforgettable.
“There’s nothing like it, nothing in the world,” says Alex Antopoulos, Atlanta general manager. “We had our world championship a year ago, and once you win one, you want the next one even more.
“Let’s face it, no one is in this business to lose.”
Only now, every team in the industry is starting to act like this.
“It’s great for the game,” Hazen says. “This is the way it should be.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The MLB Hot Stove has a very different vibe as Free Agency kicks off 2022-23
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