Charlie Morton to Rays and a Tanner-for-Tanner trade at meetings
By Ben Walker
AP Baseball Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — An All-Star starter to the relief-reliant Rays, a Tanner-for-Tanner trade and a Scott Boras sighting. Intrigue at the winter meetings, but not much impact.
Not yet, anyway.
Charlie Morton was the top name to switch teams Wednesday, joining Tampa Bay for a $30 million, two-year deal after going 15-3 with Houston last season.
And in the majors’ first swap of players with the first name of Tanner, the Washington Nationals sent Tanner Roark to Cincinnati for Tanner Rainey in a trade of right-handers.
Roark led the National League with 15 losses, but expected he would be part of a prime rotation that recently added All-Star Patrick Corbin to stars Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
“I felt like we would have a pretty good staff over there in D.C. but they thought otherwise and I don’t know what their plans are,” Roark said on a conference call.
Fans all over, meanwhile, waited to hear where the likes of free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and trade targets Corey Kluber and J.T. Realmuto might go.
The New York Yankees worked to re-sign lefty J.A. Happ but, as always, were on the lookout for bigger prizes.
“We’re a fully operational Death Star,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
Boras, meanwhile, said there are teams ready to move right now on Harper.
“Bryce is open to a lot of different venues, so it’s really about what a lot of owners have said to him about their commitments and what they want to do long term,” the prominent agent said.
The 26-year-old Harper, who lives in Las Vegas, had a career-high 100 RBIs while hitting 34 home runs and batting .249 last season for Washington.
“So, we’re really at a point where you could be meetings away from a deal,” Boras said. “And then again, you could be in the situation where it’s just further meetings and conversation.”
Or, as Boras put it: “When the nurse walks in with the thermometer the issue isn’t what (it reads) that day, it’s the health of the patient when they’re ready to leave the hospital.”
The session ends Thursday after the Rule 5 draft for players left off 40-man rosters. While some big trades got made at past gatherings — Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Sale — more and more the winter meetings are becoming a place where deals get set up for later.
Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski would like to see that changed.
As in, maybe a change to encourage clubs to roll the dice.
“When I first started out … when the winter meetings ended, there was a trade deadline. You couldn’t make a trade for a couple months. So everything had to be done when you left,” the longtime executive said.
“You got to the point where almost everybody wanted to be signed by the holiday, by Christmas holiday. Everybody wanted a job, so people would sign. I don’t really know what’s happened, where it’s changed. It’s just doesn’t seem to be very important for people,” he said, later adding, “they need to change the rules or something.”