Baseball's busy offseason officially began hours after the Astros celebrated their World Series championship in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. But things will start getting serious this week when the 30 general managers gather in Orlando, Fla., for their annual meetings.
The GM Meetings won't produce the same buzz as next month's Winter Meetings (which will also be held in Orlando), but that doesn't mean this week's event won't help shape the offseason and what 2018 will look like around the Majors.
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Here's a primer on what to watch for during the GM Meetings:
Stanton swap meet?
Trades have become as crucial a part of the offseason as the free-agent market, as teams look to fill holes on their rosters by dealing from their own strengths and depth.
While free agents tend to take their time before making any decisions, the trade market can often move quickly as executives try to address their needs without waiting on the uncertainty of free agency.
The foundation of many huge trades have been formed at these meetings -- most recently the deal that sent closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres to the Red Sox the day after the 2015 GM Meetings. Starter Jeremy Hellickson was dealt from the Rays to the D-backs shortly after the '14 meetings, then traded again after the '15 meetings from the D-backs to the Phillies.
Trades during the meetings haven't been unusual, either. The Angels acquired shortstop Andrelton Simmons in a five-player deal during the 2015 meetings, the day after the Yankees traded for outfielder Aaron Hicks. Over the past 10 years, players such as Brad Lidge, Dan Uggla and Justin Wilson have all been moved during the GM Meetings, so there's a decent chance at least one deal gets made this week.
The most popular name this week will undoubtedly be Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who is the most prominent player available on the trade market this offseason, with the Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies and Giants among those reported to have interest.
While the 30 GMs and dozens of other baseball-operations executives will be filling the hallways, suites and conference rooms at the Waldorf Astoria, dozens of agents will also be on site, getting a face-to-face feel for the free-agent market. An offer or two might actually be presented, though it's unusual for free agents to sign this quickly into the offseason.
Scott Boras will be particularly busy, representing five of the most sought-after free agents: J.D. Martinez, Jacob Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland.
Although most negotiating takes place via phone or text these days, there's something about sitting across from a person face-to-face that remains impactful. In between their internal meetings, GMs will meet with multiple agents to gauge the market and see what their chances of landing free-agent players might look like.
Keep in mind: Most GMs will speak to or meet with virtually every agent that reps a free-agent player, so be cautious about getting caught up in "Team X's GM meets with Player Y's agent." Most agents represent a number of players, so the topic of conversation between any GM and any agent is bound to veer in a number of different directions.
QO decision day
Thursday at 5 p.m. ET marks the first major deadline of the offseason, as the nine players who were extended qualifying offers by their teams must decide whether to accept the $17.4 million deal for 2018.
The nine players in question are: Hosmer, Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain (Royals); Arrieta and Wade Davis (Cubs); as well as Holland (Rockies), Carlos Santana (Indians), Alex Cobb (Rays) and Lance Lynn (Cardinals).
No player accepted a qualifying offer during the first three years of the system (2012-14), but Brett Anderson, Colby Rasmus and Matt Wieters accepted in '15, then Hellickson and Neil Walker did last year.
The two most interesting cases might be Davis and Holland, as the $17.4 million salary would represent the highest single-season salary for any closer in MLB history. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen turned down a qualifying offer of $17.2 million last year, then signed a five-year, $80 million deal, one of three contracts worth at least $62 million signed by a closer last offseason. This deadline technically falls the day after the GM Meetings end, but the agent-GM talk during the week will dictate if any of the offers get accepted.
The Hot Stove is the fun portion of the offseason, and there will be plenty of player-related reports and rumors coming out of Orlando. But the primary purpose of the GM Meetings is right there in the title -- the general managers get together in one place to discuss important MLB issues.
Topics to be addressed among the GMs include pace of play, the posting-system negotiations, instant replay and technology. This past season was also the first to have a 10-day disabled list, which will likely be a subject of conversation at some point during the week.
MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre will make an appearance at the meetings, speaking with the GMs about a variety of on-field issues.
In addition to the GM Meetings, this week also features the owners' meetings, which will take place Wednesday and Thursday at the same location.
There is no pressing issue to be addressed -- last year's meetings, for instance, were dominated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks -- but Derek Jeter will be making his debut as Marlins owner.
It's unclear whether Jeter plans to speak with the media while he's there, but it will be interesting to hear him field the types of questions he routinely -- and rightfully -- shied away from during his legendary playing career with the Yankees.