Manny Machado of the Dodgers reacts after hitting a double...

Manny Machado of the Dodgers reacts after hitting a double during the ninth inning against the Brewers in Game 3 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 15, 2018. Credit: Getty Images/Harry How


Dave Dombrowski, now the architect of a World Series champion in each league, will begin his victory lap this week when the general managers’ meetings — the annual gathering otherwise known as the unofficial start of Major League Baseball’s hot stove season — kick off Monday at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

But as all these front-office types converge in SoCal, will they consider the blueprint of Boston’s Dombrowski — who also put together the 2003 world champion Marlins — something worth emulating in the months ahead?

The Red Sox far outspent anyone else in baseball with a $238-million payroll — well past the $197-million luxury- tax threshold — so those 119 wins came at a significant cost. The key part of last offseason for Boston was waiting out J.D. Martinez. He didn’t sign his five-year, $110-million contract until late February, and his $23.75-million salary for 2018 turned out to be a relative bargain as he put up MVP-caliber numbers.

Taking the pulse of this offseason’s marketplace is one of the main activities at the GM meetings, with agents getting the opportunity to shop their clients for the first time. It’s also worth noting that the luxury-tax threshold will bump up to $206 million for 2019, so the top-spending teams will have a little extra cash to play around with this winter. How much of that will wind up in the pockets of players will be watched closely by both sides in the months ahead.

Consider this week more of a feeling-out process, with the action ramping up as we move closer to the winter meetings — MLB’s offseason carnival — which commence on Dec. 9 in Las Vegas, appropriately enough. So here are a few things to keep an eye on in the days ahead:


The question on everyone’s mind after the World Series — aside from Dave Roberts’ puzzling bullpen usage in Game 4 — is how much, if at all, Manny Machado’s bizarre behavior will hurt him in free agency. From his defiant stance on his occasional leisurely stroll out of the batter’s box — “I’m not Johnny Hustle” — to spiking first basemen not once, but twice, Machado certainly had no interest in projecting a solid clubhouse presence for any prospective suitors.

Bryce Harper looks on from the dugout during a game...

Bryce Harper looks on from the dugout during a game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on August 16, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri.  Credit: Getty Images/Dilip Vishwanat

Should it matter? Machado batted .227 (15-for-66) with three homers, 12 RBIs and a .672 OPS in 16 postseason games. The lasting image from the Game 5 clincher, and a particularly satisfying one for the Red Sox, was seeing Machado crumble to a knee while whiffing on a Chris Sale slider for the final out of the 2018 season.

The feeling here is that Machado is just too huge a talent for a team to sweat the unsavory parts of his makeup, but it should make the Yankees — already a World Series contender — think twice about paying him $300 million to potentially corrupt their young, talented core. Expect some anonymous hesitation to surface during the GM meetings, but it’s the time of year when poker faces prevail before the cards are shown later on.


It feels as if we’ve been following the countdown to Bryce Harper’s free agency ever since the Nationals made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft. And although D.C. is the only professional home he’s known, there was no way Harper — a client of agent Scott Boras — was going to set his price before hitting the open market.

On Friday, the Nationals made the procedural move of extending the $17.9-million qualifying offer to Harper, simply to ensure that they’ll be compensated if he opts to sign elsewhere. As much as Harper has meant to the perpetually underachieving franchise in D.C., you have to wonder if GM Mike Rizzo — and the Lerner family ownership — would be OK with pressing the reset button to some degree and retooling around the next generation, which includes talented youngsters Juan Soto and Victor Robles.

Then again, the Lerners do have a robust business history with Boras, so it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see a megadeal struck at some point for him to stay with the Nats.


Brodie Van Wagenen, introduced Tuesday as the 13th GM of the Mets, comes armed with a primary mission statement this offseason: Make the franchise a winner again. But the Wilpons’ bold move to tap this former CAA agent to lead their front office is likely to have greater ramifications across the sport, starting with how Van Wagenen is received by his new peers — and the group he defected from.

Both BVW and Mets COO Jeff Wilpon insist that the potential conflict of interest has created no lingering suspicion from either the Commissioner’s Office or the Players Association, but those are only words at this point.

The proof will come this week when BVW winds up interacting not only with the other 29 GMs in this contained resort setting but other agents. Will it be as seamless as the Mets predict? Or could these uncharted waters be a little more turbulent than we’ve been led to believe?

Dave Stewart, a former All-Star pitcher and agent, lasted only two years as GM of the Diamondbacks, so the BVW hiring still has to be considered an experiment in this realm.

“I know I’m not the path of least resistance,” BVW said during his introductory news conference at Citi Field.

The next few days should give us an idea of just how on the money that statement is.


In the past few weeks, there has been speculation (hope?) that free agents will jump to sign much earlier this offseason after what happened a year ago, when waiting left many players out in the cold. From what we’ve seen already, that could be the case.

The Dodgers’ David Freese and the Yankees’ Brett Gardner — certainly not big-ticket free agents — worked quickly to get new deals to stay put with their current teams, who ripped up their options for new one-year deals. Freese agreed to $4.5 million, a $1.5-million trim, and Gardner accepted $7.5 million (plus a $2-million buyout), down from his $12.5M team option.

David Price, who shrugged off his postseason demons and should have been the World Series MVP, chose not to opt out of his current pact, staying with the $127 million he has remaining over the next four years. Clayton Kershaw, who figured to be one of the big winter prizes, did opt out of his original seven-year, $215-million contract — but only because he agreed Friday to a new three-year, $93-million deal to remain in Los Angeles.

Friday was the deadline for teams to extend $17.9-million qualifying offers, with seven players reportedly receiving them — Harper, Yasmani Grandal, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Patrick Corbin, A.J. Pollock, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel. It’s the smallest number of players to receive the qualifying offer since the system was implemented in 2012, and they now have until Nov. 12 to accept or reject the offers. If a player who gets the qualifying offer signs elsewhere, his former team receives a conditional draft pick, depending on market size and payroll, rather than a supplemental first-rounder, as it was before 2017.

We’re only in the first few days of free agency, but the activity could pick up in a hurry, with teams also looking to make trades to clear some payroll space. The Cubs and Indians reportedly are preparing to do so.

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