SAN DIEGO — The happiest man at the busy Winter Meetings has been agent Scott Boras, who got more than $600 million for his clients as the free agent market looks as vibrant as ever.
But with a seller’s market in play, the old complaints about the disparity between small and large market teams is creeping back into the conversation. The Yankees, Phillies and Nationals have made splashy signings with Gerrit Cole going to New York in a record $324 million deal, Zack Wheeler signing with Philadelphia for $118 million and Washington retaining Stephen Strasburg for $245 million.
Those are not small markets, which was pointed out to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred on Wednesday. Manfred responded that the current system allows all teams to compete in different ways.
“Do I deny that Tampa can’t sign a pitcher for $326 million? I don’t deny that; that’s a fact,” Manfred said. “Having said that, I think there are other areas in our system that allow those smaller markets to compete, and I think Tampa and Oakland [are] two good examples.
“Minnesota [is] another good one who takes advantage of those parts of the system and put very, very competitive teams on the field.”
That last comment won’t sit well with Twins fans who want to see their team spend with the big boys once in a while.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli met with the media Tuesday, during which he pontificated on several subjects. Here’s a few:
On expectations for center fielder Byron Buxton, who is recovering from shoulder surgery: “I think first and foremost making sure that we get the rehab process done, taken care of and eventually wrapped up in the best possible fashion, which we’re in the process of doing. Once he feels good and has that confidence that he’s ready to hit the field again, I think we’re going to see a guy that’s ready to go and pick up right where he left off last year. Obviously we always talk about doing everything we can to keep him healthy and happy and playing well.”
On the bullpen’s potential: “Our bullpen is a strength of ours. It’s a group that we relied on in a ton of ways and we even communicated that to them. These are guys that we feel very comfortable handing a game over to, and it’s not just one or two or three guys. It’s a group that went out there.”
On if the Twins overachieved in 2019: “Truthfully, I think we earned everything that we were able to accomplish. Looking at the kinds of players that we have, I don’t think we overachieved. I think we had a lot of guys take advantage of all that ability that they have and put it to good use. I would expect our guys to go out there and have similar, if not better, seasons going forward.”
• The MLB draft will take place June 10 in Omaha, Neb., the site of the College World Series. The league will invite all the competing teams to attend, because several players in the field will be drafted. That way, there’s a built-in draft-day experience.
• The Twins have announced that protective netting at Target Field will be extended down the left- and right-field lines in 2020. Manfred said all 30 clubs are extending netting for next season, with seven clubs extending netting “all the way to the foul pole.”
• In case you missed it: Former Twins first baseman Tyler Austin has headed overseas. Austin, who hit nine home runs in 37 games over two seasons with the club, has signed with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of the Japanese Leagues.