As the first day of the Winter Meetings -- typically a bit quiet with baseball's movers and shakers just arriving in town and getting settled into their suites -- came to an end Monday, it gave way to what figures to be a more lively session: The first night
of the Winter Meetings.
With the brains of baseball operations for all 30 Major League teams descending on Nashville, Tenn., and hunkering down in the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center for four days of various degrees of negotiations, whispers, rumors and pure hot air, the nighttime is the right time to get trades and signings moving.
For an opening day, however, Monday held its own with the signings of a couple of postseason stars from recent years in Angel Pagan and Mike Napoli and, away from the meetings but bound to affect the Yankees' offseason in a significant way, surgery for one of the biggest names in the game: Alex Rodriguez.
What comes from Monday's first long night (and early morning) of hobnobbing in the lobbies, bars and suites in Nashville will lead to some sort of action Tuesday and going forward, to be sure.
Of course, a lot of that action might remain behind the scenes as teams work with each other on trades and with representatives of free agents to continue to build the rosters that will take the field in 2013.
"Basically, what I've learned about being in the Winter Meetings is you generally don't make many trades in Winter Meetings," said Reds manager Dusty Baker, who will enter his 20th season as a manager in 2013. "Most of the time, you're setting it up for when you get home to make moves."
Indeed, it's more about talking than signing, generally, but for a first-year general manager like the Astros' Jeff Luhnow, it's an opportunity to make something happen.
"This is a good forum to accomplish things because everybody is here," Luhnow said.
And, sure enough, a few things did get done on Day 1.
Pagan, a big part of the Giants' 2012 run to their second World Series title in three years, agreed to return to San Francisco for the next four years for $40 million. And Napoli, who was stellar for the Rangers in the 2011 playoffs before a lesser 2012 season, signed on with the Red Sox for three years and $39 million.
And while the Yankees were getting their meetings started, news broke that Rodriguez will need surgery on his left hip -- he had his right hip repaired three years ago -- and might not be available until June at the earliest.
Naturally, there were some rumors and some deals on the cusp as well, with reliever Joakim Soria reported to be closing in on a deal with the Rangers, the Marlins making it clear they're willing to part with infielder Yunel Escobar only weeks after acquiring him from the Blue Jays, and Rays starter James Shields said to be a possible fit with the Nationals.
Those were the headlines for the opening hours of baseball's winter extravaganza, but it was only just beginning.
The Napoli signing was the first to hit the hungry news media Monday, as the Red Sox took on a talented right-handed hitter who likely will play first base with Boston already stocked with catchers. He won't be a one-for-one replacement for Adrian Gonzalez, but Napoli brings a bat that can provide power. If he returns to 2011 form and reduces his strikeouts, he can be efficient as well, plus he was heralded in Texas and Anaheim before that as one of his team's best clubhouse guys. In that sense, Napoli's signing, along with David Ross and Jonny Gomes before him, represents a change in culture in the Red Sox clubhouse.
The Pagan signing, meanwhile, gives a sense of trying to retain a clubhouse culture that was part of the Giants' strong finish to the regular season and remarkable resiliency during October -- and Pagan was a big part of that, providing speed and energy on the field as well as passion in the clubhouse.
"That's a pretty big need," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We needed a center fielder and a leadoff hitter and we took care of both with him coming back."
In the bigger picture, Pagan, 31, might have set a favorable market for the second tier of free-agent outfielders, players like Shane Victorino and Nick Swisher -- both of whom have to be pleased with the salary and terms Pagan will receive from the Giants.
As for Rodriguez, whose 2012 postseason went beyond the disappointing, the news wasn't good, as the 37-year-old heads into a second hip surgery.
"Alex is expected back -- that's the good thing," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "The bad thing is, obviously, we don't have him for a period of time. So, what are we going to do about that? It remains to be seen."
Big names of this winter weren't left out of the conversation, either, as Josh Hamilton -- the top free agent of this class -- was in Nashville, presumably to meet with teams interested in his services. The incumbent Rangers, meanwhile, remain one of those teams.
And the Mets are listening if teams want to talk about reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, and a half-dozen or so suitors could be entering the conversation.
"If we're looking for a package, it needs to have a difference-maker," Mets GM Sandy Alderson said. "Otherwise, we'd be reluctant to do it."
Other news on Monday:
The Yankees of the past were honored with the announcement of the induction of longtime owner Jacob Ruppert in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, voted in by a special committee along with umpire Hank O'Day and catcher Deacon White from the Pre-Integration Era ballot. Ruppert was owner of the Yankees from 1915-39, when the organization established itself as a dynasty.
Former Yankees manager Joe Torre appeared at a news conference as the World Baseball Classic solidified its schedule and announced commitments of some of the players Torre and the other managers will have on their rosters. David Wright and Joe Mauer are among the players who will play for the U.S., while Venezuela has Miguel Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval and the Dominican Republic will feature Robinson Cano and Jose Reyes.
Catcher Geovany Soto re-signed with the Rangers for a year, right-hander Jason Marquis did the same with the Padres and first baseman James Loney was reportedly on the verge of signing with the Rays.
Major League Baseball and Stand Up to Cancer announced an amazing array of items and experiences up for bid in an MLB.com Auction
that continues until 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
Baker and five other managers had their sessions with the media, with another 15 scheduled for their sessions on Tuesday, starting with Nationals skipper Davey Johnson.
Regardless of what might happen in terms of trades or signings Tuesday, there's a lot of activity planned for Day 2, from a news conference officially announcing and honoring those inductees in the Hall of Fame as well as this year's honoree as the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for sportswriting. Plus, there's the announcement of the GIBBY Awards on MLB.com at 2 p.m. ET.
And, of course, there's always another night after that as the Winter Meetings hit their midpoint, turning up the heat on urgency as the week of wheeling and dealing ticks away.