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January 31, 2003
I recently had a chance to speak with two high-level front office executives about a few random topics. The conversations took place separately, and I've edited them together to make it read more coherently. The participants have had an opportunity to review this piece, in this format, prior to publication, in order to make sure they weren't misrepresented. One executive is from the AL, and is identified below as "AL," the other from the NL, is identified as "NL."
GH: Thanks for taking the time to talk. I had a few questions, and I'd like to kind of bounce around a little bit, so let's dive right in: How's Omar Minaya doing in Montreal, given the circumstances?
AL: It's hard to know, because no one really knows what all the circumstances are. I think he's in a tough spot, but he was really out there with some of the trade ideas he brought to Nashville. I think he overestimated how much money people had available in their budgets. He wanted too much talent considering how many dead contracts he was trying to move. Nobody's going to give up talent and take back dead weight.
NL: He's underrated. I thought he did a great job in moving Herges for what he did. It's not as if he brought Alex Rodriguez back, but for Herges, that's pretty good. I'm not sure I understand what Pittsburgh thought they were getting. Omar's got a good eye for talent, particularly arms, and he's most familiar with what he's seen on the East Coast.
GH: There's a news item about the MLBPA preparing a collusion grievance. Have you seen or heard anything suspicious?
NL: No chance. I've got the article about that from your site up on the wall. There's more talent out there than there is money. I can't come up with an offer for $5 million for one position if I've only got $6 million to fill four slots. It's ridiculous. People are complaining about Tom Glavine not getting multiple offers over $10 million a year? Tom Glavine wanted a contract past his 40th birthday. Who in their right mind would do that? How many pitchers have there ever been who've been worth anywhere near that kind of money at that age? Four? Five? I think the Mets were nuts to sign him his current contract. I'm glad they did; two years from now, they'll have to give up talent to dump that contract, and they probably won't be able to.
AL: It's downright stupid to even consider it. And the MLBPA isn't the driving force behind it, either. It's a few really incompetent agents who are facing a real marketplace for the first time in their careers, and they don't know how to deal with it. If we ask someone "Why's your guy worth that much money?" and he can't answer that, we should we be interested? The market's changed. A lot of these guys make a living by building an artificial sense of panic in GMs, and now the shoe's on the other foot. No question, the panic's in the older, replaceable player, not in the GM.
NL: I think the owners have a better case for collusion than the players do. These guys swap information all the time on contracts. We're watched like hawks, but given the timing of some of the talks that go on, maybe we should file a grievance against them.
GH: What's going to happen from here on out, in terms of free agents?
NL: "We're blowing them out! Everything must go! Save 80% and more!" It's a sale, and it's going to go up until at least opening day, maybe even a little longer. There's a lot of bench talent out there, it's cheap, and most roster spots are already filled. The NRI is going to become much, much more common in the next few years, and Spring Training's going to be more meaningful, particularly for 32-36-year-old veterans. People are going to have to be healthy, come to camp ready to play, and play for a job.
AL: I don't really think there's that much left. We're pretty much done, and if you look at the rosters, most of the spots are already filled. There's a lot of people out there looking for work, and few spots, so prices are going to be low.
GH: On the field, who's going to surprise, either as a team, or individuals?
NL: The Marlins are going to be a much better team than people think. The contract they gave Rodriguez wasn't nearly as expensive as people seem to think, and they have an entire rotation filled with guys that can just plain dust. The entire AL West could win any NL division, but none of the teams will go far in the postseason. Individually, Jake Peavy and John Patterson are going to be great, but that's not particularly surprising. If you're looking for someone to come out of nowhere, Carl Pavano. He's healthy, and looks like he did when he was a hot prospect. They should turn him into Ramiro Mendoza and leave him alone.
AL: I think people are writing off Atlanta too early, and the Marlins could have a rotation on par with the Cubs. In the important league, the Twins are a better team than they were last year, if they can convince Ron (Gardenhire) to play his best players. They're a good team with a lot of cheap depth, which is rare. But some of the depth guys on that club are better than the starting guys. Johan Santana as a lefty in the bullpen when you've already got Romero setting up Guardado? Crazy. Bobby Kielty sits while either Jones or Cuddyer plays? Crazy again. Mientkiewicz instead of David Ortiz? Clubhouse guys are great. Home runs are better. Santana's a stone killer in the rotation waiting to happen. Left-handed Pedro. I'm not as high on (John) Patterson as others appear to be. Ted Lilly's going to win the division for Oakland. Bartolo Colon isn't for the White Sox. Kevin Mench in Texas could be very frightening.
GH: If you could go grab two young players not playing regularly and give them a shot, who would you grab?
GH: OK. Opportunity's a good word. Same question then - who are some guys who either haven't played well, or have been hurt, or both, who could be a good salvage project?
NL: I've always thought Jeremi Gonzalez did great things with his stuff. He's still young enough to be worth the risk. Jeremy Giambi, but Theo (Epstein) beat us to him. If Ray Lankford's anywhere near healthy, he's someone that could help us if an injury came up.
AL: Matt Riley in Baltimore. Brooks Kieschnick. Let him pinch hit and mop up. Why not? We're looking for flexibility, right? Why isn't it possible? Tell me you couldn't use that roster spot, along with a bat that gives you a puncher's chance in the late innings? Who could be a better 25th man? He can hit real pitching, and he's got good stuff, but he hasn't had a clean shot. I'd like to give him that.
GH: Thanks very much for your time….one quick question to settle a bet... best MLB city for food?
AL: New York, but only because New Orleans doesn't have a team.
NL: I miss trips to Kansas City for the barbecue.
AL: Wait! He's right! Kansas City. Forgot about that. Or anywhere but L.A.