There was a time when business was accomplished at the General Managers Meetings. They weren't media events, and instead featured quiet meetings and dinners when the official business of the day was finished.
Today, things are different.
"It's mainly the agents meeting, a sale conference," one American League GM said. "Frankly, we'd get more done by phone and text.
One National League GM said he planned to be in Orlando at the hotel for "a day and a half, then leave and do business. All you need to see now is all the roped-off areas and 50 media people surrounding an agent."
These meetings have become the overture to the Sanskrit opera that is the offseason. But while it is fun to ponder where Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani will end up, there is no clear front-runner right now.
What makes Stanton fascinating is that while one can speculate about what the Marlins might or might not do in marketing him, they hold no cards.
Stanton is almost sure to be traded, but Miami will be deliberate. And Stanton, because of his no-trade clause, will have the final say in his next destination. With the National League MVP in the bag, Stanton, Ricky Nolasco and A.J. Ramos will make their annual trip to Europe. While he's overseas, the media will speculate about teams like St. Louis, San Francisco and Boston as most likely landing spots. Each one of those teams would have to sell him, because there is a strong feeling among those who know Stanton that they're among his favorite cities in the big leagues.
The same is true with Ohtani. If MLB and NPB reach an agreement on a revision to the posting rules regarding the two leagues, then the Japanese two-way star will be able to submit to offers from nearly any major league club. Because of the rules in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement regarding players under 25 years old, Ohtani can sign for a maximum of $3 million and will be subject to the same bonus-pool requirements as other international prospects.
Essentially, this takes money out of the equation. Three million dollars is the same no matter which team signs the check.
That means Ohtani will have to discuss other factors with his reps from the Creative Artists Agency. That could include the city and its population base, the viability of endorsement deals with one team or another, and the tax structure of his new addresss.
Unsurprisingly, the speculation lists the league's two biggest-market clubs, the Yankees and the Dodgers, as the frontrunners.
That's one National League team and one American League team, which presents another question. Ohtani has made clear that would like to continue to hit once he reaches the big leagues. If that's the case, can an NL team like the Dodgers find a way to allow him to do that without jeopardizing his golden right arm while playing defense?
The Dodgers won't be the only NL club making overtures toward Ohtani, meaning he and his agents will have to think carefully if he decides to go to one of those teams.
Elsewhere on the scene as the offseason ramps up, some in the Red Sox's circle suggest caution with the speculation that they will jump in on Stanton or spend the $150-200 million it would take to sign free agents J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer. The sources cite Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski's realization that while the have the money to spend $215-220M in 2018, doing so would rule them out of next November's megamarket. That's especially considering the salaries young stars like Mookie Betts will certainly command in arbitration.
If the Red Sox did decide to go after Eric Hosmer, it might have extra benefits beyond the obvious middle-of-the-order production. Hosmer and Boston utilityman Dever Marrero are close friends, and being reunited could help boost Marrero's confidence and unlock his bat.
The Red Sox are also excited to see what Rafael Devers, who gave Boston a jolt for the last two months of the season, can do over the course of a full year. They're also intrigued by how much Mike Lowell, a longtime Red Sox third baseman and current spring training instructor, can help Devers grow.
Here's a fun fact: New Red Sox manager Alex Cora was once traded for his newest coach, Ramon Vazquez. The organization has a great deal of confidence that Vazquez and Steve Langone will be significant contributors in the team's daily preparation.
Langone has been their principal advance scout, but is regarded as a rising star in the organization.
The concerns about how analytics were helping the team was never about Zach Scott and their in-house analytics staff; Scott is extremely smart and creative.
It's been how the information gets to players, and Langone and Vazquez will assume important roles–like Brian Bannister–in their daily preparation, getting players what they feel they need in language and manners they understand.