12/09/2013 9:00 AM
As you might’ve seen before Thanksgiving — I hope you had a great holiday, by the way — we acquired three pitchers in three different transactions. This is a time of year when trades happen more often than signings, at least for my teams. This time of the off season, most managers are assessing their teams and seeing where they might have trade options. I have a lot of exchanges with other managers, which gives me a feeling of what other teams need, but it also gives me an idea of the type of players we could have in Kansas City next season.
It’s a little difficult to get to know the players who could be coming back when all of our exchanges are over the phone or through email. I prefer meeting with guys face to face, but that’s just not possible yet. Based on the interest from other managers, I feel we have a good nucleus for 2014. When six different managers ask about the same player, for instance, it makes you feel like that guy is pretty good. I certainly haven’t been dealt a bad hand in terms of the roster.
I’m a big proponent of strength up the middle, so I’m looking hard at catchers, shortstops and centerfielders, and then fanning the team out from there. Those are the hardest three positions, but they’re out there. That strength up the middle can translate to the pitching staff, too. I like to load the bullpen with power arms knowing that some of those guys might be able to start for us. Sometimes, affiliates change pitchers who were good in college. A guy might’ve been a great starter in college but was moved to the bullpen and used in a role that wasn’t a good fit. As a result, the organization releases him. Many players like that are motivated to come to independent ball and prove they can start at the pro level.
At this point, besides listening to trade offers, I’m still getting a feel for the club and keeping an eye on players who might be released from Major League organizations and other independent teams. If a name pops up that is interesting, I’ll make a lot of phone calls and check a guy’s background. You can be an outstanding player, but if you walk into the clubhouse with a “me” or “I” attitude, I don’t have a place for you on our roster. So I look to see what managers a guy played for, because I know different managers and their personalities. There are certain managers, for instance, who, if they call me and say, “This is your type of guy,” I don’t need to check beyond that. I trust the manager and know his personality, so if he’s recommending a player, that’s good enough for me.
Besides a player’s playing ability and attitude toward himself and his teammates, I like to find out about him off the field. Is he doing things to improve as a player and further his career when he’s not at the stadium? Or is he just enjoying being a professional athlete? Numerous guys will tell you that baseball is their focus and they might think it is, but you learn quickly from their actions that it isn’t.
After the first of the year is usually when I start nailing down player’s contracts with the idea that we’ll have some spots open in March, when Major League organizations begin releasing players, and continue throughout spring training.
Again, though, I’m excited about 2014 with the T-Bones! I hope you are, too. May can’t get here soon enough.