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November 18 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin:
“Many major league baseball general managers would hear the word omerta and start checking baseball-reference.com for a Latino middle infielder.
Omerta is a Sicilian-originated word for an oath of silence, the violation of which can lead to a halibut in the mail, a cement shoe fitting or a bullet in the eye. Baseball GMs don’t realize it but they are practicing omerta this November, thanks to the downsized window through which to negotiate with their former players who have filed for free agency.
Clubs used to have 15 days of exclusive negotiating rights with the pastime’s Cliff Lees and Jayson Werths. Not anymore. An agreement hammered out between MLB and the players union lopped 10 days off the former ballclub’s exclusivity. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, who practices omerta with the expressionless aplomb of Michael Corleone, had 5 days after the final out of the World Series to strike a deal with Werth’s agent, who happens to be Scott Boras. And Boras is no Sen. Pat Geary. There is no entrapping the man famed for anointing just-above-average players like J.D. Drew as “special talents” and scoring them insane amounts of money. Never mind that Drew has spent more time in the pool than Michael Phelps.
Amaro is at the general managers meetings in Orlando with 29 of his closest Facebook friends.
Before agents pimping their free-agent clients took over the early December winter meetings, once the traditional swap meet, the GM gatherings didn’t attract much media coverage. They were a front-office version of spring practice for a college football team. Groundwork was laid between and during rounds of golf, needs discussed, proposals put on the table. Game plans formulated. A few weeks later, when they all showed up again with their entourages in Nashville, or Hollywood, Fla., or back in the good old days, Waikiki Beach (three meetings), they had an agenda ready to roll out.
It was a fascinating process to watch, as choreographed as Swan Lake. You had the GM in his suite, ready to hold court. Many presided over a fully stocked (but not for long) bar. Room service was kept busy rolling in tables laden with jumbo shrimp and finger food.
November 18 Philadelphia Daily News:
“The first domino in the bullpen market fell yesterday, as righthander Joaquin Benoit agreed to a contract worth at least $16.5 million for at least 3 years to serve as the setup man for Tigers closer Jose Valverde.
The Phillies have made their bullpen a priority during the early stages of the free-agent signing period, and if Benoit’s new deal is any indication, the market could prove more favorable to the players than it was a year ago.
Last offseason, the most expensive contract doled out to a reliever was righthander Brandon Lyon’s 3-year, $15 million pact with the Astros. In fact, Benoit’s deal is the richest for a non-closer since the White Sox signed Scott Linebrink to a 4-year, $19 million deal after the 2007 season.
Although the Phillies have moved quickly the last couple of offseasons to sign their top free-agent targets, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said on Tuesday he had a feeling this year’s market would be slower to develop. That seems to be the feeling of many of the attendees here at this year’s general managers meetings, particularly regarding the relief market, which seems to feature a much deeper pool of options than last season. Of course, as one industry-type pointed out yesterday, that also means more teams will look for relievers. But not every team that needs relievers has the wherewithal to add them via free agency. And for a big-market team like the Phillies, that could mean they will be able to land a quality bullpen pitcher at a modest price once the biggest-dollar players leave the board. At the moment, Mets lefties Hisanori Takahashi and Pedro Feliciano are two candidates who would fit the Phillies’ needs. But Amaro said yesterday he did not consider any free-agent deals to be imminent.
At least part of Amaro’s time here has been spent evaluating the trade market. Most years, general managers are joined by assistant GMs and other front-office personnel. This year, though, they traveled alone, leading to a more intimate setting in which to exchange ideas.
November 18 Philadelphia Inquirer:
“One day this off-season, there will be big news about Jayson Werth.
And one day this off-season, the Phillies will reveal a free-agent transaction they think will help them regain their status atop the baseball world.
Wednesday was not that day.
Bucking an annual trend in which Scott Boras has materialized in the hotel lobby to provide a theatric state-of-his-clients address, the agent to the stars remained uncharacteristically invisible Wednesday at the general manager meetings.
There was no sales pitch from Boras about the virtues of Werth, the Phillies’ most prominent free agent.
The only news the Phils had to offer was an agreement on a minor-league contract with lefthanded reliever Dan Meyer, a South Jersey native out of Kingsway High.
Though Boras declined a chance to chat with reporters, the agent did have a conversation with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. on Tuesday.
“I’ve talked to Scott Boras,” Amaro said. “He’s got a whole slew of free agents, so we’ve touched base. I have nothing more to say about it, but we’ve talked.”
Asked specifically whether he talked to Boras about Werth, Amaro said, “we talked.”
Amaro said he has had some productive discussions with his fellow general managers.
“There have been a lot of interesting ideas being thrown around,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Amaro, of course, would not discuss any of those ideas, but there have been reports that the Phillies are interested in Carlos Quentin, a power-hitting rightfielder with the Chicago White Sox. If, as expected, Werth signs elsewhere, the Phillies will want to add a righthanded bat to their roster.
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