LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Chatter from the Winter Meetings:
–Andy Van Slyke won five Gold Gloves for his defensive work as a center fielder during his 13-year career. However, he was also a pretty fair hitter which is why new Mets manager interviewed Van Slyke on Monday for his club's vacant hitting coach position. Van Slyke spent four seasons as the Tigers' first base coach from 2006-09.
"I know he's a real, real bright guy, who played the game right and studied the game," new Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Major-league players want all the input they can get. When you have a guy as good as Andy Van Slyke, you want to hear what he had to do, what he did as a hitter and just to gain more knowledge."
–First baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been the biggest loss off the Padres' roster. However, catcher Yorvit Torrealba, shortstop Miguel Tejada and outfielders Scott Hairston and Tony Gwynn Jr. have either been lost as free agents or non-tendered. Manager Bud Black refuses to complain about the talent drain, though.
"I don't know that it's going to be difficult but it's going to be a challenge," Black said. "We are up for it. I suspect, you know, we'll have 25 players ready to go on Opening Day."
–It has been a truncated offseason for Giants manager Bruce Bochy, barely more than a month removed from leading the franchise to its first World Series title since 1954. He isn't complaining but he does admit the Giants have had a lot of catching up to do.
"Its been a little busier to be honest but a lot of it has been baseball related," Bochy said. "We played into November. So we had a lot of work to do before these meetings. Getting rosters set. Talking about players, needs, things like that. So Brian Sabean, myself, baseball operations, we've been having some conference calls almost every day. So it's been pretty busy in that respect. On the other side, it's been busy too. The demands, you know. Trying to see some friends and people. It's been a lot busier. No getting around that."
–The Orioles' primary off-season objective was to find a young hitter to plug into the middle of the batting order. They feel they got their man by acquiring third baseman Mark Reynolds from Arizona for pitchers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.
"We see a continuing augmentation of left-handed starters creeping into our division," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "We are not as productive as we would like to be against left-handed starters last year so we wanted to get some right-handed bats in. Mark has definitely demonstrated he is capable against left-handed pitching, we are buoyed by the fact that he will start next year at 27, somebody that we have in our control for several years."
Reynolds has led the National League in strikeouts each of the last three seasons with 204, 223 and 211. His strikeout percentage has gone up from 33.3 to 33.7 to 35.4 in those three years. Yet Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he is not concerned about all the whiffs.
"You can find negatives on every player," Showalter said. "I understand where Mark's history is. We like his contact-to-damage ratio. He would have led our club in home runs, RBIs, runs scored and walks (last season)."
–The Diamondbacks had the worst bullpen in the majors leagues last season by many statistical measures. Thus, new general manager Kevin Towers was happy to add a couple of arms, even if the hard-throwing Mickolio has yet to enjoy success at the major-league level.
"When I first took the job in Arizona, rebuilding the bullpen was paramount," Towers said. "It's been kind of a thorn in our side the last couple of years. We felt it would probably be difficult to add to our bullpen, strengthen our bullpen through free agency, through size and resources; sometimes you have to move a good ballplayer to be able to acquire good right-handed arms."
–Reds first baseman and 2010 National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto said during the team's fanfest in Cincinnati over the weekend that he wasn't necessarily going to give the club a hometown discount when the sides begin discussing a long-term contract extension sometime between now and the beginning of spring training.
Votto can't become a free agent until after the 2013 season so it isn't a burning issue at the moment. Nevertheless, Reds fans were left wondering if Votto wanted to stay in Cincinnati for the long haul. However, Reds manager Dusty Baker tried to allay those fears.
"I talked to him at the airport the other day and he wants to stay, big time," Baker said. "He didn't mean it to come across as if he didn't want to stay."
–The White Sox have been very open about their desire to re-sign first baseman Paul Konerko, saying they are willing to spend big even after giving Adam Dunn a four-year, 56 million contract last week. Manager Ozzie Guillen did not hide his hopes that Konerko will re-up, particularly after he went into the offseason believing the White Sox were going into rebuilding mode.
"Everybody out there, all the team, PK, PK knows we want it," Guilen said. "Came and talked to you guys about it. Jerry talked to you guys about it or mentioned that he wanted to do it. I think the direction we take is a good one. I mean, it surprised me when Kenny would go out there aggressive and making the deals and think about the ballclub in a very, very pleasant way. Because I thought we were going to go a different direction. That's why I don't want to be an owner, I don't want to be a GM. I don't know which direction they'll go."
–Former Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies general manager Pat Gillick was the only man elected to the Hall of Fame from the expansion era ballot. Notable among those who didn't get election were George Steinbrenner and Marvin Miller, though the original MLBPA executive director did come within one vote of finally getting honored in Cooperstown.
"I would not be here today if it wasn't for all of the groups that I've worked with over the years," a gracious Gillick said. "You can't do this job alone. It's a difficult job to do, anyway, but you've got to have help, and the fortunate thing about it, over the years, I've had great help from all of these groups. I really think this is an honor. I want to say I share it with everyone that participated with us; I can't tell you, it's over the hill."
–The Padres and Red Sox completed their trade in which San Diego sent star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston for a package of prospects that includes right-hander Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes.
Padres general manager Jed Hoyer said he felt he had no choice but to trade Gonzalez once talks with his agent, John Boggs, went nowhere at the end of last season.
"He was going to get well outside of our financial means," Hoyer said. "So with that in mind, knowing it's one more year, we felt like this was the right time to do it. We were able to secure three prospects we like a lot for the future. We think we're in position where we need to do that. We need to always be looking towards gaining young, controllable players for the Padres. One season of Adrian Gonzalez, it would be difficult to lose that, but we gained a lot. We felt like in our financial position that was something we had to do."