DALLAS - Frustrated by the snail’s pace of trade talks and free agent discussions at the Winter Meetings? Did you figure the Nationals would have solved at least one of their issues by this point, and be ready to look at, say, whether they would try to mine for a prospect in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft? General Mike Rizzo probably feels your pain, but he’s been around baseball long enough to know that the slow-play game can change at a moment’s notice.
No way around it, it’s been an unusual Winter Meetings. For one, the temperatures outside in Dallas have been unusually cold, while the trade talk hadn’t even been lukewarm until a flurry of swaps late yesterday and the hubbub surrounding which team is going to land Albert Pujols for north of $200 million. It got so bad last night, that Miami scribes were camped out in a shoeshine stand, laying in wait for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
It’s been such a weird few days in Dallas that the only sightings of uber-agent Scott Boras have been en route to the workout area at the Hilton Anatole, and even then he briskly walks nearly unnoticed. No media scrum in the lobby, with hundreds of microphones thrust from hundreds of feet back in the vain hope that a pithy comment will waft over the frenzied hoard. No, Boras has been in the background, patiently awaiting a resolution of the Pujols situation. Then, and only then, will he ramp up his activity in hopes of a big payday for his client, free agent first baseman Prince Fielder. And you can be sure Boras will use whatever contract Pujols exacts from the Marlins, Cardinals or Angels as the starting point for his younger charge. It’s the nature of the beast.
Rizzo will be in the background, still trying to land a center fielder, a starting pitcher and some bench help. This is the trickle-down version of baseball movement: Let the big boys settle their business and, eventually, everyone else’s needs will start getting met.
I know NatsTown is growing restless. So is everyone covering the team. We’re tired of latching on to every whisper about an available center fielder, then trying to see if a trade partner’s needs match up with what Rizzo has to offer. I know Rizzo is growing impatient with questions about whether the Nats have made any progress in their talks with free agent lefty Mark Buehrle because the media corps is running out of new and different ways to ask the same question. I’m starting to wonder if Dmitri Young would have already signed a minor league contract with a spring training invite if Jim Bowden was still in charge of the Nats.
But going strictly on gut feeling, I think your patience - not to mention ours, Rizzo’s and manager Davey Johnson’s - is close to being rewarded. Last night’s run of activity has raised expectations that today will be the busiest day yet of the Winter Meetings and that we’ll see more resolutions than rumblings.