Jim Bowden will make his first official appearance as the Washington baseball club’s general manager today when he attends the opening day of the GM meetings at the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne, Fla.
He will meet with other GMs even though his team doesn’t really have a concrete payroll budget for the 2005 season. The team doesn’t even have an owner and, given the uncertainty of the Montreal Expos relocating to Washington because of the D.C Council battle over the ballpark site, it may not have a place to play.
However, if history is any indication, Bowden should have baseball fans in Washington talking about the players instead of the politics of the Washington team by the end of the week. Bowden served as the general manager under Marge Schott in Cincinnati and is used to working under adverse conditions.
The GM meetings generally do not result in many trades. Much of the time is spent working on other issues for committees to review — discussing rules of the game, international player development, umpires and on-field operations.
“It has been rare to have deals made during the GM meetings, but my history has been I have made several deals over the years at the GM meetings,” Bowden said.
In 10 years as the Reds’ general manager, Bowden made more than 100 trades. He acquired such players as David Wells, Danny Graves, Sean Casey, David Wells, Denny Neagle, Dmitri Young and Ken Griffey Jr. He said he believes it may be necessary to move quickly this offseason.
“In the past few years, I think clubs have shied away because they want to see what happens in the free agent market first,” Bowden said. “But if you are going to wait for that market, it could be a long winter. With Scott Boras having so many of the clients [Adrian Beltre, Carlos Beltran, Derek Lowe], the process, based on history, will drag well beyond the holidays.”
Bowden said pitching, shortstop and a leadoff hitter are the areas he will try to strengthen. He will be looking for middle-of-the-lineup hitters as well.
The Washington club already is involved in talks with third baseman Tony Batista, the former Baltimore Oriole who was a fan favorite in Montreal this past season. Batista, who filed for free agency, had 32 home runs and 110 RBI last season and Bowden confirmed both sides exchanged proposals. He would not comment on the specifics of the offer Washington made.
“I have had several trade discussions with general managers, and we are going to continue to explore the needs of every club and see if we can match up on the trade front,” said Bowden, who was named GM on Tuesday.
He said he will use the GM meetings to plant seeds for a trade in the future, especially baseball’s winter meetings in Anaheim, Calif., Dec.10-13.
“One of the advantages of having the GM meetings a month before the winter meetings is that it does give clubs a chance to begin trade discussions and begin the process,” Bowden said. “I know a lot of deals end up getting made in December that were actually started during talks in these meetings. Even if you don’t come out of here with a deal, you certainly can start trade discussions that will continue on in December.”
The meetings are scheduled to end on Friday.