LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – All is mostly quiet thus far on the Day 2 front of the Winter Meetings. Nothing new on the Pirates’ end as of 12:30 p.m. They are still interested in acquiring a 1B and still have much interest in James Loney.
One thing of interest actually occurred very early on Day 2. Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, perhaps my favorite person in baseball, was mingling with us common class of people – reporters and job seekers – in the hotel lobby here at the Dolphin. I asked Maddon, the Godfather of defensive shifting, what he thought about Pirates’ aggressive defensive plan.
“Exciting,” Maddon said.
Despite the popular narrative, Maddon actually believes there remains a heavy human and instinctual element to baseball but more than any other 21st century manager he deserves credit for bringing objectivity and modern thought to the game. Maddon more than anyone in the game has changed what the expectations are for modern manager. Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa were all elected to the Hall on Monday and I imagine Maddon might eventually join them.
Maddon is what you want in a 21st century manager, plus, he’s got the plus-plus hair
Maddon offered some interesting thoughts on the manager/coaching staff role and their relationships with front offices and how the Rays’ – and the Pirates’ – competitive advantage is going to be eroded in the near future.
“I think, now between the manager’s office and general manager’s office or front office, whatever you want to call it. It’s not interference. There is more aid coming from up top down below. There is more information available. I think it’s become more difficult because a couple years ago when we first started doing a lot of the things that we’re doing, we were a little ahead of what everybody else is doing. But everybody else is doing those same things and it’s becoming more difficult. Because now you’re looking in the mirror every night and looking for the edge to stay ahead somehow.
“But, yes, the new manager situation. There is going to be a stronger tie between that seat and the GM seat and all that’s encompassed in running the game, and I’m all for it. Andrew and the boys have helped me a lot in my particular seat regarding information and advice and thoughts based on stuff that I can’t sit there and crunch all that information like they can and present it on a piece of paper. I’m all for it. I’m absolutely all for it.
“Where the game is headed maybe three, four five years from the most from now, it’s going to permeate every team, every organization without exception. Then it becomes even more difficult. That laser thin line between winning and losing becomes whatever beyond the laser, it’s going to become even finer than that. That’s the interesting part to me. That’s why coming into this job in 2006, in my mind’s eye, that’s where it was going at that time. Now it’s become more difficult. But I believe there is going to be a stronger linkage between this share, the manager’s chair and the front office.”
But Maddon also believes we can’t measure everything that counts in the game.
“Getting back to the balance concept, all of these components are tied together. You have to be present to be successful, I believe. Beyond the good plan or the great research wonderful skilled players, it’s the ability to bring them all together that matters the most. So the intangible, immeasurable part of the game, to me, that is a feel thing, and you have to be aware of it and believe that it’s important. If you do, you’ll look for it, monitor it, try to adjust it daily if it’s necessary, and it’s something, again, that can’t be felt or necessarily seen. It’s just something that you’ve got to be aware of.”
12:45 p.m. UDPATE:
Roberto Hernandez’s agent tells me the market is “heating up” for her groundball-specialist client. She would not say if the Pirates are one of those teams but I would think they have at least placed call.
12:59 p.m. UPDATE
Pirates are resuming talks here about possibly signing James Loney.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 10, 2013
The Pirates really want Loney it seams. The assumption is they are waiting for the cost to come down. (FWIW, Maddon thought he really deserved a Gold Glove in 2013, though his defensive metrics are mixed.)
2:56 p.m. UPDATE
Remember when Eric Chavez was part of my All $15 million Offseason Plan? ..
at least 7 teams in eric chavez market: rangers, rays, pirates, yankees, nats, dbacks, braves. http://t.co/knqN8Zpcgm
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 10, 2013
4:35 p.m. UPDATE
Pirates GM Neal Huntington just finished his daily briefing with reporters.
*The club is not counting on Gregory Polanco to be a solution to the RF void in 2014. Huntington conceded that elite talents can accelerate timetables.
*Huntington said Jordy Mercer is in line to receive the lion’s share of playing time at shortstop but is seeking a complementary piece.
*I asked Huntington about how many dollars he’d be willing to commit to one player, and he cited a study done by his former employer – the Cleveland Indians – that showed at the time no team had ever won a World Series by committing more than “18-20″ percent of payroll to one player. By the way, 18 percent of $80 million is $14.4 million, or roughly the qualifying offer.
4:59 P.M. UPDATE
*Huntington on Gaby Sanchez: “I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with Gaby (Sanchez) as our (first base) answer but we’re not.”
*No update on AJ Burnett from Huntington but Burnett’s agent is flying in to the Winter Meetings today.
5:20 P.M. UPDATE
Pirates have been overwhelmed by trade interest in reliever Justin Wilson and are willing to listen, sources tell @Ken_Rosenthal and me.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 10, 2013
Huntington acknowledged yesterday that the Pirates consider their bullpen to be an area of surplus, though they have far more right-handed options than left-handed ones. The Pirate would need to be careful trading a lefty who hit 100 mph last season. And even more careful if they think he could start.
.@jonmorosi says the Pirates have been getting a ton of trade interest in Justin Wilson and are listening. I'd bet the Nats have checked in.
— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) December 10, 2013