The 2020 MLB Winter Meetings were supposed to take place this week, December 7th-10th at the Omni Dallas Hotel and Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, but it is 2020, of course, and like most things this year, the coronavirus pandemic forced them to go virtual, so now everyone will be participating remotely by phone and Zoom this time around.
“The Winter Meetings are going to be remote, we will have them, but they will be remote,” Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo explained to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies in a call-in appearance on the show last week.
How will that work exactly? No more meetings in hotel rooms, rumors flying around lobbies, no Scott Boras on a box amidst a sea of reporters. So, just Zoom all day long and some private calls between front office executives?
“I think you’ll do it by phone,” Rizzo told the Junkies.
“Everyone has touched base with everyone just about already,” he said. “You have your early conversations with a lot of teams that you match up with and you kind of tell them what your ideas are for the offseason if there’s a match and that type of thing, and then as things get closer to Spring Training I think you see those conversations kind of move forward and then that’s how deals are made.
“With the advent of not having an in-person Winter Meetings, I think you’ll see a lot more meetings being done by Zoom and by phone calls, which I think that we can get our jobs done that way.”
How has his virtual offseason gone so far? What has Rizzo been doing as the Nationals try to bounce back from a disappointing follow-up to their 2019 World Series championship?
What has he been up to since late September?
“It’s been a good, active, kind of a busy, information-gathering time like it always is at this part of the offseason,” Rizzo said.
Thus far this winter, the Nationals have re-signed Josh Harrison, added a few players (Steven Fuentes, Yasel Antuna, and Joan Adon) to their 40-Man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place later this week (December 10th), signed reliever Sam Clay (major league deal), and slugger Yasmany Tomás (minor league deal), and allowed a number of the players who’ve helped the cause over the last few seasons to become free agents (Adam Eaton, Michael A. Taylor — who signed with the Royals — Aníbal Sánchez; Sean Doolittle, Eric Thames, Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick + more). Will some or any of them be back?
Will they spread money around in areas of need rather than go big to fill one hole?
They’re in the market for a middle-of-the-order bat (probably an outfielder); a catcher who’ll share duties with veteran Yan Gomes; a starter to fill out the rotation (behind the top three - Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, as Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, Austin Voth and others fight for the fifth spot); some relief help; and a first baseman. Is that it?
Rizzo said last week that he and his staff have done their homework on the big name free agents available this winter, and everyone else, likely, in what he said is a really good class, though things would really start to take shape, he added, after this past week’s tender/non-tender deadline passed (which it did on Wednesday).
Are the Nationals going to be aggressive this winter or not? What's the budget? Who are they targeting?— Britt Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) December 4, 2020
I don't know, and I'm not certain they do just yet either. Sifting through the BS, for @TheAthleticDC:https://t.co/1lwMOsY8we
“We’ll know a little bit more after the tender date,” Rizzo told the Junkies, “... about what the actual field of players is really going to look like and then we’ll start implementing our offseason plan and as we always do we’ll make adjustments along the way, but we’re going to be our normal, aggressive selves, and try to put together a team that can win the championship again.”
Asked when he expected big names to start signing and the trades to start happening, or if he expected another slow-moving market like the the last few offseasons, the Nats’ GM and the President of Baseball ops in D.C. said it was wait and see.
“You never know on these things. Certain years it takes a little longer than others, but often these free agent seasons, you get a top-flight player go off the board quickly. I have no idea what this year’s free agent season is going to look like as far as timing, but there are a lot of really good players out there and there are teams that want to fill some spots with some great players, so it’s a good way to kind of facilitate the roster and kind of put you into a position to go into Spring Training as a really good team.”
Are the Nationals, as rumored, really involved in trade talks with the Chicago Cubs for a year of third baseman Kris Bryant? Are they really in the J.T. Realmuto market? Will Doolittle or will Zimmerman or other former Nationals return to D.C.? Where will they turn for starting pitching help? And the bullpen? Will Rizzo and Co. make any moves this week, will they lay the groundwork in the next few days for trades or signings to follow? How many irons will Rizzo have in the fire? How many lines will he have in the water?
Is there an added urgency this winter, after last season’s disappointing finish? What sort of budget are Rizzo and Co. working with? Is there going to be a DH in the National League in 2021? Will relievers have to face three batters? Please don’t try to keep the runner starting out on second in extra innings. “That rule stinks.” - Sean Doolittle. Did we already mention a decision on the DH should have been made before roster additions really started? MLB should like, really, probably kind of make up their minds on that one sooner than later, so that teams know what they’re doing. Tomás might be a fun DH though, right? But no DH in the NL, really. It was cute. Now, no.
Maybe some of those questions will be answered in the next few days... maybe not. It is 2020 after all.