When a big deal does break, as with yesterday’s trade of Chris Sale to the Red Sox, with the exception of a few very well-connected journalists - of which I am not - all quickly follow to put together an “article” which tends to be a little more than an amalgamation of tweets by the principles who broke the story - usually Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman or Buster Olney - interspersed with tidbits from the official press release.
The rest of the days are spent attending pre-arranged press conferences, which lean much more toward publicity than news, where the team’s incumbent general manager/manager will state that, “the organization really likes who we have right now, but are always looking to get better if we can through a trade or signing” or that “they are pleased with the prospects that we have now and how they are developing.”
Other than that and getting to watch Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and Jon Heyman of a variety of internet publications and MLB Network, pace the lobby talking and texting into their phones, most of us retreat into the media rooms gossip, network and try to figure out how to write something.
The biggest draw by far of the Winter Meetings is the job fair that goes on as a number of highly educated recent college graduates attempt to obtain employment, which for the most part is in the minors, for positions that they are vastly over qualified for and will be hopelessly underpaid for an opportunity to work in baseball.
A quick tip to our millennial friends. It’s great that you put on a new suit for your job interview but it might be a good idea to shave the ironic Fu Manchu mustache and trim the man-bun.
Professional baseball is more conservative place than the local coffee house.
The Padres came into the meetings as a team that was not expected to make a big splash. The Padres's biggest needs coming into the Winter Meetings were major league pitchers on short-term deals and the never ending search for a shortstop.
“I think their biggest goal coming in here was to find one or maybe two guys that can eat innings,” said Scott Miller of the Bleacher Report/Turner Sports.
“Luis Perdomo had a good and unexpected year last season, but I don’t think he’s a 200 inning guy yet - so I still think they will go out and resign Clayton Richard and Edwin Jackson - who I don’t see as being in demand by other MLB clubs - until more of the young pitching starts to come. They both are comfortable in San Diego, especially Richard, so I can see that.”
There were some reported rumors that the Padres might be willing to trade center fielder Travis Jankowski to the Texas Rangers for infielder Hanser Alberto; but as T.R. Sullivan of the Rangers’ MLB.com site noted that the two clubs tend to talk a lot, but rarely make deals.
Miller reiterated Sullivan’s comments noting, “Both sides know each other really well and are friends. Preller knows the Rangers’ system inside and out, so I think they do talk, but they just tend to disagree what the future value of some player may be.”
Also, the Padres are paying over $17 million dollars for Melvin Upton, Jr. to play with the Blue Jays presumably to open room for Jankowski and Alex Dickerson - if they are inclined to deal Jankowski they would probably want much more than Alberto, a shortstop who has hit in the minors but not in the big league.
Among the prospect mavens at the Winter Meetings - MLB.com, Baseball America and FanGraphs - there was a general consensus that while San Diego has a much improved minor league system it is still weak in the upper levels with some more excited about second baseman Luis Urias than others.
It’s hard to find anyone that doesn’t like the aggressiveness that the Padres and A.J. Preller showed in the international market but it's equally as hard to find anyone who doesn’t think it won’t take a minimum of at least three years before anyone truly has an idea of the success of most of the players signed on July 2.
The two exceptions are LHP Adrian Morejon and OF Jorge Ona, who ate up $36 million of the reported $66 million dollars of international money spent so far. Morejon was impressive in instructs, and as with Anderson Espinoza, has a much bigger fastball than his height (six-foot-one) and weight (170 lbs.) would indicate. Reports from the Instructional League indicated that the left-hander was touching 97 and sitting in the 93 to 95 range.
Ona, who is a very thick six-foot-one - “he’s built like a linebacker” said one analyst - should start the year in High-A Lake Elsinore mainly because he’s ready and because of the dearth of corner outfield talent that was in Low-A Fort Wayne last year. He has the arm to play right field, but some are not sure if the body could become too thick to stay there.
We caught up with Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com at the Winter Meetings. When MLB pipeline.com finalizes their Top 30 Padres' Prospects list we will circle back for a full interview, but until that time we have a brief preview.
Which Padres prospect do you think will be the most interesting next year?
Jonathan Mayo: I am a huge Manny Margot fan; does he still count? I can go further down if you like.
No, I think that is fine. You don’t have to pick someone unique.
Jonathan Mayo: He’s just a huge talent and is one of those guys that I think is going to impact the game more than people think. Some of it, just because you can’t teach speed and that also applies to what he can do on defense.
His energy and personality are both pluses. I think fans are going to love to watch him play and he can hit. This is not Billy Hamilton, he has some bat-to-ball skills, has an idea of what he is doing at the plate and has more pop than we are seeing right now.
He has always been a good prospect, a top 100 guy, but not a top five player. He is one of those rare guys that may become a better major league player than he was a minor leaguer.
Who did you like better defensively between Travis Jankowski and Manuel Margot?
Jonathan Mayo: I like Margot better as an overall prospect, but Jankowski gets a little bit of an edge defensively. For some reason I remember Travis as having a better arm, but I don’t have the grades in front of me. I have a lot of players running around in this head and I could be conflating some which is entirely possible. [laughs].
They are somewhat comparable, Travis also might be better speed wise, but it’s very close both as with the arm.
Outside of the Padres, it’s hard to find anyone that has anything positive to say on Lake Elsinore Storm shortstop Javier Guerra. Many pundits - including MadFriars - saw Guerra coming into the 2016 season as having the most future value of the four players that were acquired in the Craig Kimbrel deal but after hitting .202 in the Cal League and posting an equally anemic .264 on-base percentage; people are jumping off of the bandwagon.
Most still like the skill set, but question the makeup and most importantly his ability to make adjustments when things are not working. As Eric Longenhagen said, “He is either going to rise or sink with San Diego this year.”