“Nothing burns like the cold.”
–George R.R. Martin
In the winter, we hibernate. Burrowing into our holes, we curl up and embrace life on the indoors, hanging out with family, reading books, sampling canned meats,
praying for death, and maintaining our sanity. But not MLB’s general managers.
Their holes remain unoccupied and their
families un-killed by winter’s long, ghastly shadow and their booked unread. This is the time of year when championship teams are built, with pieces fresh off the assembly line, plucked from another machine, or even snared off the scrap pile before an untimely destruction. It all culminates at the Winter Meetings, which begin today, and go on for an entire three days of shuffling and treachery.
It’s the 11th anniversary of baseball’s least accessible arena, during which 3,000 baseball executives will slide pieces of paper to each other from across tables, nod, and repeat the process.
Their home will be the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, which yes, sounds like the facility being built over a summer camp by a Police Academy villain. They’ll barbecue by the pool, have a wild suit-swapping night, and even reveal sob quietly at the always emotionally scarring Bob Freitas Business Seminar, where they reveal all the ways they’ve betrayed each other throughout the year.
With a crumpled list in his pocket and a new vulnerability, our own Ruben Amaro descends on Nashville, TN with a mission: find that center fielder. And do it without succumbing to the pressures set by divisional rivals, forgetting we need a third baseman and bullpen help, and that this isn’t a fresh-faced core he’s dealing with anymore.
There are those who wish to avoid, or dare I say it, even willfully harm Rube.
The Nats’ GM may not have a particular bone to pick with the Phillies, but he seems like a generally self-loathing guy who lets his inferiority complex take control. Maybe the Nationals’ division championship will have subdued this for now!
But as the representative of a franchise that would pick up former Phillies and then immediately turn them around to a microphone bank to say that the Phillies weren’t very good, you’ve got to assume he’s always got a problem with something. Perhaps he can coin another catch phrase that the Phillies can turn into a t-shirt.
As far as villains go, this guy is the lurking overseer. Even when he’s just standing there, Boras is easily imagined tearing maliciously into an apple, which he has polished in between bites by an assistant who hates his life.
Boras made everybody nervous recently by claiming that he had no beef with the Phillies, despite an unhappy ending to his client, Ryan Madson’s, tenure with the team. And he just so happens to be guarding one of the elite center fielders still left on the market, on whom the Phils are just the least bit keen: Michael Bourn.
Boras is up to something. Whether it’s sinister or lucrative, the Phillies will always have to walk away wondering if they just got screwed.
Whoever represents Wilton Lopez
Players don’t just show up for physicals and then just not pass them. I mean, sometimes they do. That’s why they have them. But this deal was a sure thing for the Phillies, until suddenly, it wasn’t anymore. Was someone intentionally trying to cast a pall of paranoia around Rube just before heading to the Meetings?
Michael Bourn: The slick-fielding, high speed, lead off, former Phillie looks even better now that he is even more alone. His downside is that he is 29 and will want the contract of a 25-year-old.
Angel Pagan: Older than Bourn (31), a downgrade offensively, not a lead off hitter, injury risk (who isn’t?), oxymoronic name, less WAR than Bourn in 2012 despite a breakout season (4.8 to 6.4), but a cheaper bat, an outfield spot filled, and a treasure pit of puns for both fan group and headline purposes.
Josh Hamilton: Ball-blaster, off-the-field issues, on-the-field issues, injury risk, mammoth deal, possibly feeling dejected by the Rangers’ unpleasant qualifying offer.
Jeff Keppinger: Consistently named in third base solutions, just broke his leg, Yankees have “longstanding interest” in him and may be anxious for A-Rod to see them with someone else, career .864 OPS vs. lefties, solid 2012 performances (.325/367/.439) in limited plate appearances, leg probably not un-broken until January.
Kevin Youkilis: Is 33 but I keep thinking he is in his mid-40s, broken a lot, frightens people, power-capable, eats most of the post game buffet, frightens people, not stellar defensively, has to be ready to enter the 1-2 year deals phase of his career, frightens me.
Mike Moustakas: Dom Brown-esque “He’s got to turn it around eventually” dementia, Rube could take advantage of Royals’ very sad desperation for hurlers, only 24, cheap, big upside.
Mark Reynolds: No thank you.
Chase Headley: Being too similarly named to Chase Utley would give Sarge a nose bleed, has yet to be looked upon by fanbase without fog of free agency and third base need between them, Padres do not want to give him up, would be easy to overpay for him and the Padres would certainly make Rube do it while laughing.
Giancarlo Stanton: Not going anywhere but definitely fun to think about.
We don’t know. We may never know. There are forces gathering right now that we may never understand; transactions deemed unworthy;
But as the Grantland Overworld Arena or whatever slowly fills with 3,000 sharp dressed men and women, the deals will instantly be at play. The air will thicken with cash incentives and players to be named later; the sound of briefcases scraping across table tops will keep people up at night. We can only hope that as this process begins, Rube keeps a clever wit and an enlightened mind, avoiding the shadows and following the instincts that have made him a force to be reckoned with.
When does Game of Thrones come back.