At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Friday, November 04, 2005

Strange, Slow Start to Free-Agent Season as GMs, Coaches Make the News

All the furor surrounding Theo Epstein’s departure from his post as GM of the Boston Red Sox only underscores how strange and slow-to-develop this year’s free-agent season is turning out to be. For sure, Boston’s battle of the board room is newsworthy. But a quick trip around the headlines of the last week illustrates just how organizationally upside-down the transactions have been so far, with most of the activities centering on management and coaches, and precious little on the players themselves.

Consider the following – drawn from the likes of such non-partisan agencies as SI and ESPN – as a representative sample:

  • John Hart may interview with the Dodgers
  • Robin Yount apparently will sign with the Brewers as bench coach

  • Gerry Hunsicker is heading to the Devil Rays as No. 2 baseball guy

  • Tony Pena will be the Yankees’ first-base coach, and Lee Mazzilli will rejoin team as bench coach

  • Glenn Hoffman is becoming Padre third-base coach

  • Roger McDowell is replacing Leo Mazzone (who moved to the Orioles) as Braves’ pitching coach

  • The Indians rearranged their coaching staff, naming third-base coach Joel Skinner as new bench coach, moving first-base coach Jeff Datz to third, and promoting minor-league manager Luis Rivera to coach first.
As a fan, I find these moves and the myriad others like them to be academically interesting, but pragmatically besides the point. I am much more concerned about player movement and the impact it may have on the competitive balance, and I find it striking that the only news in this regard has had to do with some relatively minor contract renewals and resignings (did you see? the Indians picked up their option on second baseman Ronnie Belliard!), and a short item mentioning AJ Burnett’s visit to Toronto.

Much has been written about the relative weakness of this year’s free-agent class, and perhaps it is true. Some notable players no doubt will change uniforms – Manny Ramirez? Billy Wagner? Jacque Jones? – but in a year in which the headlines are dominated by front-office moves and coaching transactions, one wonders just how long a winter we are in for.

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