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Old 03-25-2020, 09:08 PM   #1
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“Congrats, you are now the GM of the 2020, expansion Montreal Expos”

It was September 1st, 2020, and as I hung up the phone after speaking with owner Joey Saputo, I was still a bit in shock that I was the candidate chosen to take over the expansion Montreal Expos as their GM, a franchise that would be starting play in the Spring of 2021. I immediately walked out of my home office, walked down the hallway, and stared into the mirror, wondering how this 35 year old guy from a small town in Chester County, PA, who was a former 7th round draft pick out of high school by the Phillies, former minor league ballplayer, who made it as high as AA with the Reading Phillies, former scout for the Phils, and as of this hour, the former Assistant GM to Matt Klentak, was able to pull this off? The other franchise, Mexico City, was never really a consideration, although the owner did contact me, but I politely declined.

After breaking the news to my wife and daughter, and calling my parents, I immediately called Matt to give him the news. He was thrilled, just as he was when, after my second interview with Mr. Saputo, I told him I was one of three candidates being considered. He told me he knew that I was always going to get it, and that he’d touch base with our Communications Director, to make the announcement to the Phillies family, and our fans! Matt and I had already worked through several candidates to replace me, and it would be left up to him to do the interviewing. All three candidates were internal, so that transition should go smoothly.

And so, the journey begins! We decided as a family, that my daughter would finish 8th grade at our nearby middle school, and then next summer, her and my wife would move to Montreal. It would be hard, but with FaceTime, and the fact that the Expos are in the NL East, I would get to see them a bit more than normal.

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I am excited to be sharing this with you, as much as I am excited to see where OOTP takes me on this adventure. When playing solo, 90% of the time, this is how I play, taking over an expansion team. I hope that you will enjoy this as much as I know I will enjoy writing and making those tough decisions a GM has to make.

Game Setup: I normally don’t “tweak” much when I play OOTP, but I like to list this, as it’s always been a big help to me when other Dynasty writers list their various setups. If you don’t see it here, just know I’m going with the default settings. *Some things here will be real, and some fictional, as you might imagine!

GM Only: But, will control lineups as needed
Ratings: 20-80 scale, no stars
AI Trade: Hard, Neutral
Injury Frequency – Low
Suspensions - On
Coaches On, Scouting On
AI Settings – 55-25-15-5
*Simmed - 8 seasons to add some history in game – So teams may look a bit different. This is an OOTP universe
Expansion Draft: Teams protect 29 players. Players - 4 years or less protected (more of a challenge) 35 rounds, and expansion teams cannot sign free agents before the expansion draft, (fairer to Mexico City)

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Old 03-25-2020, 09:27 PM   #2
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So, a bit of history as to how we(Expos) were able to get this point. Over the last few years, there had been talk about MLB expanding, and word had it, that the Commissioner wanted at least one franchise to be located outside the continental US. There were numerous bids besides Mexico City(Diablos), and Montreal. They included San Antonio, Nashville, Richmond, Las Vegas, and even Honolulu. The competition was fierce, but in the end, MLB announced that there would be two teams getting franchises outside the US, Mexico City, and Montreal. The tremendous work that Mr. Saputo, and the Saputo family put into this, really speaks highly of their detailed, and concise planning. One of the richest families in Canada, they also own the Montreal Impact soccer club(MLS), and the Bologna football(soccer) club in Italy.
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I decided to have a moving company take care of the items I was taking with me, and rather than fly, I decided to make the trip by car, roughly a 7-hour trip from the Philly area to Montreal. It would be a chance for me to work through everything that had to be done to get things up and running. A job that needed to be done rather quickly.

The drive went about as smoothly as can be expected, and as I had a couple of days before Mr. Saputo(I’ll call him Joey from now on), was going to introduce me to the press, I went over the candidates I had lined up to interview for the Assistant GM position, and the Manager position. Having been still involved with scouting to a small extent with the Phillies, I already had in mind my scout, and also the team trainer.

Press Conference Day – A nice crowd on hand, and there were some pointed questions, but nothing that was tough to answer, or unfair. Hey, I was battle hardened by dealing with the Philly fans, and felt it gave me the “thick skin” I needed to handle any situation that may arise as a first time GM. So, for at least one day, I was welcomed with open arms by the press corps!

Later that evening, I had dinner with Joey and his family at their beautiful home just outside of Montreal. Among other things, the Saputo brand is one of the top 10 dairy producers in the world, selling cheese, yogurt, milk, and other goods. You wouldn’t know that they were billionaires though, as Joey, his wife, and children are really grounded individuals, and the entire family is excited about reviving the Expos in the wonderful city of Montreal.

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The Stadium: The Expos have a wonderful history, and a big part of that is the “temporary” ball field, Jarry Park, that they played in from 1969 to 1976, before they moved into the awful Olympic Stadium(domed). When the Saputo family purchased the rights to the Expos, they also bought Jarry Park, which includes the stadium, tennis courts, a public pool, and a man-made lake. Fortunately, the family recognizes that in today’s game, home runs put fannies in the seats, so they re-constructed the park to reflect that. Here’s the dimensions of the old park, and now the “new” Jarry Park.

Old Dimensions
Left Fd Line 340
Left Center 368
Center Field 420
Right Center 368
Right Fd Line 340

New Dimensions
Left Fd Line 330
Left Center 365
Center Field 407
Right Center 365
Right Fd Line 330

There was also a swimming pool just past the right field fence, so long before the “splash hit” at AT&T park in San Francisco, or PNC Park in Pittsburgh, there was the occasional “splash hit” in Montreal.

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Old 03-25-2020, 09:52 PM   #3
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Expos/Montreal Baseball History: Montreal has a long baseball history. The Montreal Royals were a minor league team that started playing in 1897, and eventually became the Brooklyn Dodgers AAA team, from 1939 to 1960, after stints with the Philadelphia A’s, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jackie Robinson played for the Royals in 1946, a team that was voted one of the greatest minor league teams of all time. The winningest pitcher in the history of the Royals, was none other than Tommy Lasorda! After the 1960 season, the Royals were moved to Syracuse, and became the Syracuse Chiefs, a minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

In 1969, MLB expanded to four teams. The Seattle Pilots, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres, and the Expos. Gene Mauch managed the team, after spending years with the Phillies. The Expos weren’t very good that year, going 52-110, but they had some legendary players on their team, with some of the greatest names. Besides Rusty Staub, they had Mudcat Grant, Roy Face, Bill “Stoner” Stoneman, and John Bocabella! Through the years, until they moved to Washington(becoming the Nationals) for the 2005 season, the Expos had their ups and downs. In 1979, under Manager Dick Williams, they posted a 95-65, but missed winning the Eastern Division by two games to the Pirates, hence not making the playoffs. Back then, only two teams in each league made the playoffs. And in 1981, the team made it to the National League Championship Series, facing the Dodgers, after defeating the Phillies in the Division series. The series went to a 5th game, but unfortunately Steve Rogers hung a sinking fastball that Rick Monday blasted over the center field wall, and the Expos went down to defeat. The last season for the Expos was in 2004, when they went 67-95. At the end of the season, Major League Baseball announced that the franchise would be moving to Washington D.C, to become the Nationals.

The Expos have three players in the Baseball Hall of Fame. They are Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, and Tim Raines. And although he never won a World Series, many experts feel Gene Mauch should be in, especially with all the contributions he made to baseball. And yes, in the 1984 season, Pete Rose played briefly for the Expos, before being traded back to the Reds!
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Old 03-26-2020, 02:08 PM   #4
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Interviews/Selecting an Assistant GM and Manager:

Week of September 8th – So after spending hours on the phone through the first week of September, interviewing candidates for both the Assistant GM, and the Manager position, I decided to bring three candidates in for a face to face interview, which included both myself and the owner. And while the three candidates were all content with their current positions, at the respective ballclubs, they all showed a great deal of excitement about the opportunity of being involved in an expansion team. Both the owner and I felt that it was important to get an Assistant GM in place in order for that person to take care of some of the administrative positions in the office, and also as a third voice in the hiring of a Manager.

All three candidates interviewed very well, and here’s a summary:

Jeremy Haber – Haber is the Assistant GM for the White Sox and has the least experience of all the candidates I spoke with. He has an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School, and years ago was hired as an intern with the Red Sox. With the White Sox, he makes player acquisition recommendations, and has started to make scouting trips within the US. Lately, not only Haber, but the entire White Sox front office has taken an abundance of criticism as the team has really struggled the last few years.

Robert Bush - Is a former professional baseball player and currently the Assistant GM of the Chicago Cubs. He currently works with Theo Epstein on player contracts, and is involved in the hiring process of the field and scouting staff. When I spoke to Epstein, he mentioned that Bush was a tireless worker, with a great attention to detail. Bush played for the Twins from 1982 to 1993, playing mainly in the outfield and as a DH.

Chris Pittaro – Has been a scout and Assistant GM with the Athletics since 1991. I spoke to Billy Beane and he mentioned that as a scout, Pittaro was willing to rethink everything he knows about baseball. He also has Manager experience at the Class A level, and was named Field Coordinator for the A’s from 2002 through 2007. He became the club’s Director of Professional scouting from 2008 to 2011. He was named Assistant GM after the 2011 season. He played three seasons of professional ball with the Tigers and the A’s from 1985-1987.

It was a tough decision for both the owner and I to make, and we went back and forth on the strengths and weaknesses of all three, but in the end, we decided on Chris Pittaro. I very much liked the fact that he had scouting experience, and having been around Billy Beane for so long, he could think “outside the box” when it came to some baseball decisions. Chris was so excited when I called him, and he flew to Montreal the very next day! He even gave me an autographed photo of himself in a Twins uniform. Later, I stashed it away in one of my filing cabinets, never to he hung up in my office!

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“Can we get a Manager please”!! Those words reverberated through our offices, as the owner was getting antsy about getting our coaching staff in place, as was I. We ended up phone interviewing more candidates then we had originally planned, mainly because Chris kept coming up with names, that in the end, we couldn’t pass up!
And as we did with the Assistant GM position, we whittled it down to three candidates:

Gary DiSarcina – DiSarcina played his entire career with the Angels from 1989-2000. After retirement, he skippered the Lowell Spinners of the Short Season-A New York–Penn League for three above-.500 seasons (2007–09) and served as the Red Sox' minor league infield instruction coordinator in 2010. More recently, on November 11, 2016, he went to the Red Sox as the 2017 bench coach on the MLB staff of manager John Farrell. DiSarcina served one season in that post, until Farrell's firing two days after Boston fell in the American League Division Series. On November 5, 2017, DiSarcina took over as the 2018 bench coach of the New York Mets on the staff of new manager Mickey Callaway. After one year as bench coach, he was reassigned to become the Mets' 2019 third-base coach. He’s very personable, and is more of a Sabermetric type of Manager. He likes working with veterans mostly.

Howard “HoJo” Johnson – After his playing career, in 2011, was the first base coach for the Rockland Boulders. He was named hitting coach for AAA Tacoma Rainiers of the Seattle Mariners organization for the 2013 baseball season. He joined the Mariners as a hitting coach for the 2014 season, part of the new coaching staff. He was replaced by Edgar Martínez on June 20, 2015. Johnson managed the single-A Down East Wood Ducks in 2017, and was hitting instructor for the AAA Round Rock Express in 2018.[16] In 2019, he was the hitting coach for the AAA Nashville Sounds. He mentioned that he had a verbal agreement with the Toros de Tijuana club of the Mexican League as their hitting coach, but his first choice is to get back to the majors as a Manager. He was very intense in our meeting, and when I asked my owner and assistant GM what type of Manager, they thought he’d be, they replied “temperamental."

Jay Bell
– From 1986 to 2003, Bell played for five different teams, including the Indians, Pirates, and Mets. Back in 2006, he served as the bench coach for the Diamondbacks. Bell was hired as the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates on October 31, 2012. On November 11, 2013, Bell was named bench coach of the Cincinnati Reds. On October 22, 2015, it was announced that the Reds would not renew Bell's contract. On January 13, 2017, Bell became the manager for the Class A (Advanced) Tampa Yankees. On August 29, 2017, Bell became the manager of the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. On January 25, 2018, Bell was named the manager of the Trenton Thunder, the New York Yankees AA affiliate and in 2019 he was promoted to manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Yankees AAA affiliate. Bell has a verbal agreement to be the manager of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, for their inaugural season, but feels his experience and management style would be an asset to a start-up club like the Expos. All three of us felt he was the strongest candidate, but decided to give it a couple of days before making a decision.

September 15th, 2020 – Well after a couple of days of some serious thought, we all agreed that Jay Bell would be the best fit for our club, as we usher in a new era for baseball. We held the press conference, and once again, just as they did with me, the press corps treated Bell with kid gloves. The other really good thing about Bell, is that he already has in mind his bench, pitching and hitting coaches.

As we chatted in my office, Bell was really excited, with a lot of energy. And just like with Pittaro, Bell gave me a picture when he played for the Pirates. Not sure why all these former players think people want their pictures, but I accepted it of course, and then stuffed it in the drawer with Pittaro’s.

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Later I relaxed at home with a couple of cold ones, as I knew the next huge step was the Expansion Draft!

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Old 03-27-2020, 10:03 AM   #5
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Where did September Go? – And I thought I was busy as an Assistant GM! It was amazing how fast September flew by. Meetings that I had scheduled for an hour, took two. A “quick” call with my owner took over an hour. And on, and on, and on! Before I knew it, September 30th was staring me in the face. And asking me, “Are you ready for this?”.

My Assistant GM and I were constantly looking at teams rosters, trying to get an idea of who might be available in the Expansion Draft, and who would be likely to test Free Agency? We both had our own lists, and our goal as we moved into mid to late October, was to have them as close to the same as possible. No need to panic yet, we still had time!

And even though I was so busy with GM duties, I never lost that “fan” in me. And daily, I would step back from my GM role, and look at this game as only a fan does. While the other divisions appeared to have a clear winner, both Central Divisions had tight races. The Tigers had a slim two game lead over the Indians and four over the Twins, while in the NL, the Cardinals had a three-game lead over the Cubs, and four over Brewers. And clearly at this point, the two best teams appear to be Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s, and the Diamondbacks. And there are no less than 8 teams that still have a shot at those wildcard spots.

The other thing about baseball, is the amount of activities that go on “behind the scenes”, and the number of people involved to make those activities happen! And so I met with our Promotions Director, Sara, who just wanted to bring me up to speed on Opening Day, and some unique promotions throughout the season. This is not something that I normally get involved in, but as GM, my owner felt it was important for me to meet everyone, and just have an idea of what to expect during the season!

So, here’s how some of that meeting went:
Sara - “Hi Mr. Lawrence, thanks for your time. Here’s a list of the promotions we currently have planned with more to follow.” I wanted to highlight a few of them.
Me - “Hi Sara, you can call me Randy, and sure that’s fine. I’m sure you’ve come up with some unique ideas”
Sara - “The first one is “Auction for an At-Bat”. A dozen times a year, a lucky fan, whose name was drawn a week before the planned event, will have a chance on their special night to bat against a professional pitcher, before the game starts of course”
Me – “Oh, uh huh. And have you figured out who the pitcher will be?”
Sara – “Oh, originally I thought it could be someone from the bullpen, but then realized they may pitch in the game, so how about the pitching coach?”
Me – “Well, you’d have to run that by the Manager, and I’m not sure what his response would be, but go for it”

Little did Sara know that with the starting pitching that I was probably going to have available in our first year, I would definitely need every warm body I could find in the pen. I’m not one to be pessimistic, just a realist!
As Sara continued to fill my head with all the promotions, some wackier than others, like “Star Wars Night”, “George Costanza Night”, “Christmas in July” night, and “Ride a Horse Night”, I could only think of how this team might really look like by the end of this year??

In the entire circle of the year there are no days so delightful as those of a fine October. My Assistant GM put this on my desk this morning as I guess a way for me to “Keep the Faith”. I was wondering if he saw anything in me that sent off a signal of panic. I certainly didn’t feel that way. More like anxious.

So just like September, October was flying by! Our Manager, Jay Bell, did an excellent job of putting together his staff. He coaxed long time Manager, Clint Hurdle out of retirement to be his Bench Coach, and got Dave Righetti to leave the Giants front office, to become our Pitching Coach. And he brought in John Vander Wal as his Hitting Coach. Vander Wal’s claim to fame, is that he still holds the MLB record for most pinch hits in a single season with 28. The great Ichiro Suzuki nearly broke it in 2017, but came up short with 27. In 1978, and at the age of 20, Hurdle was anointed by Sports Illustrated as the next baseball phenom! Hurdle never lived up to the billing, hitting only .259 over a ten year career, with just 32 homers. I always thought he did a nice job managing the Pirates, especially with the limited funds he had available to him.

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As October moved on, I was able to fill all the coaching positions at our Minor League level. It was an exhausting task, but with the help of my Assistant GM, and our manager, it went about as smoothly as I could’ve hoped. Really no one that would raise eyebrows as someone the average fan would recognize, but for the Managers, all that were hired had reputations of being “teachers.” It is one of the traits, that I believe is so important at the minor league level.

So, October brought the end of another exciting baseball season! As I had felt all along(love it when I’m right), the A’s and the Diamondbacks were, by record, the two best teams in the league. Both won 101 games, and boasted a strong pitching staff, and were near the top in every hitting category. Here’s how things played out:

Wild Card:
Indians over the Twins
Rockies over the Dodgers

Division Series:
Boston over Detroit
Oakland swept the Indians
Diamondbacks over the Rockies in a tough series, 3 games to 2
Cardinals over the Marlins

League Championship Series:

In the LCS, the A’s had little problem with the Red Sox. Winning the series in 5 games, with only two games really being competitive.
In the NL LCS, once again the Diamondbacks struggled, and had to go seven games to put away the Cardinals. Every game was a cliff hanger, until the last game when the Diamondbacks woke up, and pounded the Cardinals 10-0. Carlos Hernandez went seven splendid innings, only giving up one hit, and striking out eleven!

World Series:
The A’s were shocked in the first game, losing 8-2, but that was the only highlight for the Diamondbacks, as they were swept the next four, and Billy Beane and his crew finally got a WS ring. After losing in the series last year to the Marlins, the A’s bounced back to claim the title!

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Next Up – A list of some awards, and then the Big Days lie ahead, Free Agency and the EXPANSION DRAFT!!

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Old 03-28-2020, 12:09 PM   #6
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Award Time: So, here’s a quick look at those players who will be filling their pockets with cash, after winning the 2020 individual awards.

AL Reliever of the YearSook-Jo Oh – Mariners, 4-6 record, 35 saves, 1.99 ERA
NL Reliever of the YearRJ Hively – Diamondbacks – 4-2 in 67 games, 2.00 ERA, 13,3 K/9

AL Rookie of the Year – Luis Cossio (LF) Indians – 21 HR’s, 91 RBI’s, .274 avg, 3.5 WAR
NL Rookie of the YearNefttali Soto (1B) Pirates – 39 HR’s, 109 RBI’s, .271 avg, 4.2 WAR. And what a story! Spending most of his career in the minors, then six years in Japan, and then at the age of 31, winning the Rookie of the Year award. He becomes the second oldest ever, next to Sam Jethroe, who was 32 when he won it in 1950.

AL MVPJacob Brugman (RF) – A’s – 52 HR’s, 139 RBI’s, .351 avg
NL MVPChristian Yelich (LF) – Marlins – 50 HR’s, 130 RBI’s .341 avg

AL Cy YoungGio Gonzalez – Red Sox – 18-9, 2.25 ERA
NL Cy YoungJose Fernandez – Marlins – 16-7, 2.20 ERA

Manager of the Year ALBob Melvin – A’s
Manager of the Year NL – Joe Girardi – Diamondbacks (remember, this is an OOTP universe)

November 21st, 2020 – Time for those famous three words heard around Major League Baseball. Free Agents File!! So the much anticipated day has arrived! A time when teams on the brink of contending, can add the free agent or two that they believe will take them over the top. Or those struggling teams who need to add 4 or 5 players to get back to respectability. And then there are the Expos! A team that currently has zero players on their roster.

So, there are some usual suspects that GM’s around the league new would file. Here’s some of them and what most experts expect they will at the minimum get paid!
Anthony Rendon – 24.5M
Carlos Correa - 36M
Stephen Strasburg – 25.5M
Bryce Harper – 30M
Mike Moustakis – 22M

Before I get into what free agents we’re looking at, or we bid on, I like to share with you what I presented to the Expos owner during my interviewing process on my philosophy of building a Major League Baseball team.

There are many steps involved in building a championship franchise. *Having a plan is the key. Those teams that are successful have a way that they do things and a philosophy in place.

Foundation: The key to any successful baseball team is having a foundation in place. That means building a solid base in the minor leagues that continually supplies the major league team with a stream of quality players, both position players and pitchers.

It also means not only drafting and scouting players, but getting the most out of their ability, and utilizing them to their strengths to become the best possible player they can be.

You have to be able to develop them and you have to be able to develop stars. That will keep your costs down on the major league roster and is the only way to build a successful team for the long-term year in and year out. Now obviously, with the Expos, that will take some time. We need to get players at the major league level immediately, and then find those younger players that will get “seasoned” in the minors, and will be able to contribute sometime down the road!

Also, I look at the Expos through Five Important Phases:

1. Free Agency – Despite the Saputo family being billionaires, the Expos have a tighter than normal budget, compared to teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, or Dodgers with seemingly unlimited funds. So, that means making smart choices, and the old saying “the best bang for your buck”. Get a good mix of several veteran players, some solid utility players, and sprinkle in some young and hungry players. Also, will be looking at minor league free agents, that could help the ballclub.

2. Expansion Draft – My Assistant GM, my Scouting Director, our Manager, and myself, don’t really expect to find stars here. But what we feel we can find is some decent, young talent, and possibly a veteran with not the best contract, but if he performs well early, could be worth something on the trade market.

3. Rule V Draft – Can certainly be a place where you find that “diamond in the rough.” Shane Victorino certainly comes to mind with the Phillies, and R.A Dickey with the Mariners in 2007.

4. Free Agency Revisited – After the initial “hoopla” of the big free agents signing on, there’s a time after the Winter Meetings, and even into the New Year, where you can find some “bargain” deals with players who hadn’t had an offer yet, were overvalued by themselves/agent, or somehow went totally under the radar/had a personal issue.

5. Waiver Wire – I’ll be scouring this every morning, first thing. You can get a decent player on “the wire” at times, and I have a feeling we’ll be claiming our share over the course of this season!
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Old 03-28-2020, 12:16 PM   #7
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So, with all that said, I made it clear to my team, which includes my Assistant Manager, Chief Scout and his assistant, the manager of course, and the owner, that with not knowing what will be available to us in the expansion draft and Rule V draft, I was going to be conservative in the early going of FA, and look for players that we could sign in the 2 million dollar range or hopefully under. I also didn’t want to commit to a long term contract at this time. Blowing the budget on a few star players, doesn’t make sense to me, seeing that we’re going to need help at every position, unlike an established team that sees a Bryce Harper or a Stephen Strasburg putting them over the top.

Here’s the players that we initially made an offer to over the next few days and my reasoning behind choosing some of them. Did I mention haggling with the agents is always fun, and extremely exhausting at times. Comes with the territory though. Age in parenthesis, and money is per year. So, Chacin is 2.95 per year for 3 years.

Jhoulys Chacin(32) - SP/MR– 11-2, 3.65 ERA, 75 games. 2.95/3 - Chacon had a solid year on a very good Marlins team. However, he was not a happy camper as he’s made it clear he wants to be a starter. He started seven games before going to the pen. Hey, no problem here. With the staff we can get our first year, he may be our #1.

Sonny Gray(31) – SP/MR – 6-2, 4.00 ERA, 66 games, 6 starts - 2.75/2 – Drafted in the 1st round by the A’s in 2011, Gray never lived up to his potential. He spent the last 2 years with the Cubs, and just like Chacon, wants to be a starter. We’re taking a chance, and not that expensive.

Bryan Menendez(27) – MR – 2-2, 3.32 ERA, 75 games 2.0/2– Menendez did a nice job for the Angels, and wanted to test free agency. He has some arm trouble the year before, but came back strong this season. He wanted a 3 year deal, but we added more salary to get it to two years.

Corey Oswalt(27) – MR – 9-4, 2.95 ERA, AAA Lehigh Valley, 850k/1– Oswalt spent his entire career in the minors, signing on with the Phillies AAA organization in 2020. Met him and like his personality and work ethic, so decided to give him a chance.

Richie Mirowski(31) – MR – 5-4, 4.70 ERA, 89 games – 1.8m/2 – An absolute workhorse for the Nationals, appearing in 89 games. Decided to test the market for more $$$, so what did I do, go in low, BUT offered him a two year deal. Had back issues at the end of the season, so teams may be leery of signing him.

Hiromasa Saito(25) – MR – 6-3, 2.75 ERA, 57 games, Japan League – 2.0/2 – Saito is one of several Japanese players that are testing free agency here in the states. Fastball in low 90’s, but has a good curve, and throws a screwball of all things. And he’s a lefty, but struggled against right handed hitters.

Eduard Santos(31) – MR – 4-5, 1.81 ERA, 55 games, AAA – MLC -Santos has bounced his entire career, spending most of it in Japan and even the Mexican league. The last three years have spent in the A’s organization. I offered him a minor league deal, so we’ll see.

James Paxton(32) – MR/SP – 6-15, 7.00 ERA, 61 games – 3.25/2 - Paxton really struggled in 2020 with the Yankees. Was a starter but got lit up in 7 starts, so relegated to the pen. He wanted a four year deal, but is another pitcher who had injury(back) issues toward the end of the season. Doubt we’ll get him at that price.

Cody Allen(32) – MR – 5-2, 3.43 ERA, 64 games – 2.75/1 – Another workhorse, that had a decent year with the Rangers. I’m sure he’ll want more than I offered, but had to start somewhere.

Ben Revere(32) – CF/RF1.7/1 - Hit .312 in limited action with the White Sox, and then A’s. Solid outfielder, and still has good speed. Stole 24 bases, only getting caught twice. Could be our leadoff hitter. Liked him a lot when he was in Philly. Extremely hard worker!

Jose Iglesias(30) – 3B/SS1.8/1 – Hit .273 playing for the Padres, and then the Red Sox. Solid in the field, and gets the bat on the ball. Like those players that can play multiple positions.

Kevin Pillar(31) – LF/CF1.5/1 – Early, he spent 2020 in AAA, but was called up by the Blue Jays and hit .249 with 12 homers in 110 games. Another solid defender, who still has decent speed.

Ruben Saavedra(24) – 2BMLC(65k Bonus) – Minor League FA - Maybe our “Diamond in the Rough”. Signed as an int’l amateur FA by the Cardinals in 2013 for 2.2m. Has good speed, and has hit Ok at all levels, and surprised the Cardinals gave up on him. We’ll see if he takes a minor league contract.

Adam Duvall(32) – 1B/2B/3B1.8/2 – Played for the Nationals the last three years with moderate success. More of a bench player, but my scout likes him. In 120 games, hit .239, but I like that he can play three positions.

Wilin Rosario(31) – C – MLC – Rosario has been up and down from the minors to the majors most of his career. In 2019, he was at AAA in the Giants organization. In 2020, he was a player coach for the Raleigh Mallards of the independent Atlantic League. Hey, told you we would scour the earth for players!

Josuan Hernandez(26) – C – MLC – Hernandez played 2020 in the Mexican League and our scouts liked his arm and that he doesn’t strike out that much. Has never played in the minors at any level. We’ll see how good my scouts are!!

A busy first few days of free agency. We’re still looking at numerous other players, and depending on how many we get signed out of this group, we may look to fill our minors with some players, but other than that, may stand pat until the Expansion Draft! It’s been a challenge so far, but am thoroughly enjoying it!

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Old 03-28-2020, 11:45 PM   #8
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Also isnt Jose Fernandez, you know, deceased? Those are some strange results for sure on the awards.

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It is the OOTP world that we live in. I guess what would have, could have been! Interesting at times to see what could've been, should've been. Thanks for following along! Who knows what next season will have in store for us!

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December 17th, 2020 – Expansion Draft

So, the big day, or I should say night finally arrived. ESPN carried the draft, and so we started at 7pm. Oh, there was a lot of hoopla in the pre-draft show. Who would go first, some interesting players available, what would be the strategy of each team? When, in reality, and as we expected, there really weren’t any “game changers” on the board, that are suddenly going to make these two expansion teams into contenders.

Not many familiar names, but one that stuck out for me. Jesse Biddle, who once was the Phillies 1st round pick in 2010 and has had an up and down career was available.

Gotta love TV – Three days prior to the draft, ESPN wanted to know who we were picking first overall. When I got the call, I was totally surprised, and explained to the network guy that we had several names that we were considering. He said they absolutely had to have the name, so that they could fly the player to New York(where the draft was held), and they could get pictures, interviews, etc. And he said this came down from the top, whoever that may be? I told him I’d get back to him before the end of the day.

So, I got with my Assistant GM, and Scouting Director, and we went over for about the 100th time, the pros and cons of who we were going to select. Surprisingly, that didn’t take too long, and in the end I called back the ESPN executive, and told him we were selecting:

And then the announcement by Commissioner Rob Manfred. “With the first pick in the 2020 Major League Baseball Expansion Draft, the Montreal Expos select, center fielder Danny Mars! Cameras were flashing, Manfred handed Mars his Expos uniform, and then a mike was shoved in front of him for a few comments!

Mars at the mike – “Well this is a surprise, but quite an honor. I was hoping I would get picked at some point, and be a part of baseball history, but never dreamed I would go number 1 overall.” “In speaking with GM Randy Lawrence, I liked the philosophy of the organization, and how they were looking to build this team.” I will continue to work hard, hone my skills, and prove to Mr. Lawrence and the entire Expos organization, that they’ve made the right choice.”

So, who you say is Danny Mars? Well he’s a 26 year old centerfielder who can actually play all three outfield positions, that has been up and down from AAA to “the show” over the last few years. But this past season with the Rockies, he started 68 games, and hit .316 and was solid in the outfield. I also liked the fact that he’s a switch hitter, and although doesn’t have much power, is fast, and can steal some bases. We felt he was one of the best players on the board, and we all felt we made a good selection, considering what was available.

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Mexico City selected Joseph Musgrove with their 1st pick. Musgrove was mainly used as a reliever, but has started in the past, which I understand, is what Mexico City is considering.

The draft went by quicker than I would have imagined, and overall, I’m happy with the players we were able to get. Here’s a rundown on some of those players, that I hope can help this team, either now, or in the future.

Round 2 – Landon Holifield(26) – MR/SP – Holifield pitched for the Dodgers the last three years, and in 2020 was in 63 games, 8 games as a starter, when the Dodgers had some injuries to their staff. I spoke to Landon after we drafted him, and assured him he’d get a shot at starting for us. He went 8-2 with a 3.53 ERA.

Round 3 – Cameron Haskins(27) – 1B – Haskins spent most of last season at AAA, in the Red Sox organization, where he hit .292 with 12 dingers! He did get a call up in September and played in four games. He’s a solid defensive first baseman.

Round 4 – Duane Underwood(26) – MR/SP – Underwood spent most of 2020 at AAA, starting 26 games, and had a fine 2.92 ERA. He was called up in September by the Cubs, where he pitched six games out of the pen. Just like Holifield, when I spoke to Underwood, I assured him a shot at starting as well.

Round 5 – J.D. Hearn(26) – 2B/OF – Hearn played all of 2020 at AAA Lehigh Valley in the Phillies organization, and I watched him progress through the minors when I was with the Phillies.

Rounds 6 through 13 were mainly players at the AAA or AA level, that will most likely be fillers for our minor league teams, with some getting an opportunity to make “The Show”. No real game changers though.

Round 14 – Joey Wendle(30) – 3B – It was a bit of a surprise that he was still around this late in the draft, so we figured we’d take a shot. Wendle played at the AAA level in 2020, and then briefly with the Rays and Yankees. He can play second or third base.

Rounds 15-35 – Because the talent pool was thin anyway, for these rounds, I chose players that were all on minor league contracts, and had played at either AA or AAA level. Some, had even played recently in an independent league. Hey, always looking for that diamond in a rough!

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Elite defensive outfielders are godsends when you have a bad staff, good pick on the Martian.
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Winter Meetings – As the Expos GM, I certainly needed to attend this two-day meeting in Las Vegas, but was funny(maybe sad) the fact that no team had any interest in any of the players we had, at least for now. And the other GM’s actually new not to even bother, as I wouldn’t be doing any trading, until I could see during the season, what I actually had out there.

*Only notable trade among the seven or eight that went down, was the Braves sending SP Rick Porcello to the Cardinals for Kolten Wong and minor leaguer Joaquin Villareal.

December 18th to the 21st – So after the expansion draft, the next day, I immediately got on the phone to the various agents that represented the players that we had bid on at free agency. And before I go any further, let me just give you my philosophy of how I negotiate with agents to get not only the player we want, but what I feel is the best deal for our team, and really that makes both sides feel they won!

1. Know your club’s position and interests and set concrete goals – I have a list of every free agent that I believe not only could help our team, but we would have a realistic chance of getting. I’ve also had my tech guys crunch numbers ahead of time as to what players that have similar stats, years at the professional level, and what they're getting paid. If I have to pay an extra million, two, or three to get a certain player, what will that do to the other players I’m looking to sign? By setting concrete goals in advance, you won’t be swayed by other’s influence tactics, vivid stories, and hard-bargaining techniques.

2. Research the Other Side – Know the agent! Research the other side thoroughly to get a better understanding of the leverage of the parties going into any discussions. Through research, you may also find information about the other side's negotiation style, tactics and inclination for getting a deal done.

3. Come up with a Cooperative Strategy - I believe a cooperative style is best for negotiations. After all, the goal is a finalized deal where both sides feel as though they have won. Figure out your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, which is really the point in time where it makes more sense to walk away then strike a deal, and be cordial in trying to get the best deal for the club.

4. Listen and Respond, But Don’t Interfere - People often like to hear themselves speak. They may believe they are "winning" by spouting out more words. Let them do it. Do not interfere. Take notes on the important points that reveal the other side's position and interests, and use the extraneous information against them. This can lead to valuable concessions that gets you and the club to where you want to be in a negotiated agreement.

So, with all that said, let me update what has gone on in the three days leading up to the Rule V draft!

Free Agents Signed:

Jhoulys Chacin – SP – 3.85/3 - Myself and my team’s negotiating skills were put to the test on this one. Chacin’s agent came back with a four-year deal, with 4m each year. That blew our initial deal of 2.95 for three out of the water. But after several phone calls, we were able to come a bit to common ground. We gave Chacin 3.85 for three, but the last year is a team option with a $565k buyout. More that I wanted, but with what’s out there right now, again, he may be our #1 to start the season!

Bryan Menendez – MR - 2.15/2 – Just slightly more than our original offer. Menendez is excited about moving to Montreal, and working with our pitching coach, Dave Righetti.

Wilin Rosario – C – 850k/1 - Rosario wouldn’t accept a minor league contract, so he settled for $850k for one year.

Ruben Saavedra – 2B – Minor League Concert – Fairly simple deal here. We are excited about this signing.

Was hoping to close more deals before the Rule V draft, but there are several that are really close, and I feel pretty good going into the draft.

December 22nd - Rule V Draft – Much like the Expansion Draft, the draft was not chalk full of future All Star’s but there were some players who we felt could help us immediately.

Round 1 – Caleb Lopes(25) – 2B/3B/SS – Originally signed by the Phillies in 2014, he was traded to the Cardinals in 2019, and has spent his entire career in the minors. A player that can play multiple positions, that has terrific speed! He hit .274 at AAA Memphis with 40 stolen bases.

Round 2 – Alex Goodman(25) – SP – Goodman has had an interesting path in getting to AAA Rochester in the Twins organization. At the age of 18, he started in independent ball, until he was discovered by a Twins scout at the age of 22. Some seasoning at the low minors, he began to throw a fastball in the mid 90’s, a sinker, and a fairly nasty curveball. Our scout liked him as well, so we’re hoping he can anchor the back end of the rotation.

December 22nd to 24th – So Christmas came a little early for the Expos. The free agent dam certainly broke for us. After countless hours on the phone, we were able to get seven players to sign with it. The last deal I closed was on Christmas Eve morning, as I prepared to board a flight to Philly, and then home to Chester County. And it was one I was hoping to get all along, Sonny Gray. And they accepted our initial offer of $2.75m for two years.

Here’s the other six signings we made before the Christmas holiday. And you can't have enough pitching!

Corey Oswalt – MR
Richie Mirowski – MR
Hiromasa Saito – MR
Edward Santos – MR
Jose Iglesias – 3B
Kevin Pillar – LF

Everyone but Saito took our initial offer. We knew that we were in good shape with the contracts, and with Saito we offered $2.0m for two years, but we had to bump that up to $2.2m for two years.

Here are some notable signings from around the league. Players on everyone’s wish list, but too expensive for most of us.
Trevor Story – Rockies – $26.2m/4 years – 46 HR’s, 130 RBI’s, .312, 7.3 WAR
Buster Posey – Cardinals - $25.2m/4 years – 24 HR’s 71 RBI’s, .324 5.0 WAR
Johan Camargo – Astros - $15m/5 years – 28 HR’s 99 RBI’s .301 5.6 WAR

As I flew home that Christmas Eve morning, I was proud of our team and the way we got things done fairly quickly. There are still a couple of deals hanging out there, and I still feel we need to make a bigger splash on a veteran player. My owner wants a “recognizable” player, that will put fannies in the seats. But that’s easier said then done. To talk a veteran player at the higher level, to come to an expansion team, that realistically is years away from becoming a contender, is always going to be a tough sell. But we’ll see what’s out there as time goes on.

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Work Never Stops - It was so nice to spend time with my family and friends, but the job of GM continues to try and consume my life. When I got those brief breaks from family time, I was on the phone with my Assistant, and different players agents. I’ve looked over our roster, and there are several upgrades we need. One, definitely at second base. So that’s why I was on the phone with the agent of Matt Duffy. Duffy, at 29, has spent his entire career with the Padres, the last seven at the major league level. A solid fielder, who plays mainly at second base, but can play shortstop as well. He hit .284 with 12 homers and 69 RBI’s. And just as an important, we’d have someone on the team with solid MLB experience. That’s what we’re lacking in our lineup, which concerns me.

FA Offer – Matt Duffy – Duffy wanted $7M over five years which I felt was wishful thinking by his agent, which didn’t surprise me though, as this particular agent has always “overvalued” his clients, and started out ridiculously high. I had a conference call with my team, and we all pretty laughed at this proposal. I countered much lower at $4.5M for three years, and waited. A day later, they countered at 5.35M for four. No way, I was going any longer than three years, unless an option was there, so we countered at $4.75M. I waited another day, before finally hearing from Duffy’s agent. He played the “we have other offer roles” and we should act quickly. Yeah, Ok, whatever! He came down to $5.0M for four. This time, I made him wait for a day, before coming back with a $4.85, four-year deal, with the fourth year a team option, with a million dollar buyout. It took yet another day, New Year’s Eve, before Duffy and his agent both got on the phone with me, and admitted they liked the offer, but still had some others to consider.

Happy New Year(2001)!! – After visiting friends for New Year’s Eve, and spending time with family on New Year’s Day, to which every TV in my parents house had the awful Mummer’s Parade on, I left Downingtown and flew back to Montreal. There were some huge signings while I was away, but unfortunately nothing yet new with any of the Expos bids.

Bryce Harper – Astros - $242M for 8 years
Carlos Correa – Braves - $230M for 8 years – Great, that’s all we need is for our pitchers to face Correa 19 games this season. He hit 55 homers last season, and with our pitching, could “fatten” that number up this year!

Calling any takers, calling any takers for – Drum roll please – Dayan Viciedo – So two days after I arrived back in Montreal, I received a call from Viciedo’s agent, about him wanting to play in the states again. Viciedo is an interesting character to say the least. He signed with the White Sox from Cuba in 2008, and the Sox had high hopes for him. After some minor league seasoning, he had some decent years with the Sox from 2010 to 2014, with an average over those years of .254, and in his last year in 2014, he hit 21 homers. Viciedo’s nickname was “The Tank”, and at 5 ft., 11 inches, and 240lbs, there was a reason he was called “The Tank. His attitude wasn’t the best, and a couple of years, showed up at spring training way out of shape. The Sox cut ties with him after 2014, and he’s played the last six years for the Chunichi Dragons in the Nippon Baseball League in Japan. I was somewhat intrigued by the call, until his agent Chuck Grossman threw out the 7M for five years contract that they were looking for. I nearly laughed out loud over the phone, but kept my composure, and told Chuck, that was too high, but would keep him in mind. I wonder at times, because of my age at 35, if these agents think they can take advantage of me. They don’t realize how shrewd I can be, and how I have no problem getting “down & dirty” in the trenches when I have to.

Matt Adams – $1.6M/1 - I do need a first baseman that has some major league experience, and so I called Matt Adams’ agent, and put an offer in of 1.6M for one year. Adams is not an All Star, but after spending 2019 in AAA in the Rockies system, he played in 119 games for them in 2020, hitting .268 with 18 homers. He’s also a decent first baseman. We’ll see if he takes it.

I’m starting to get antsy with the offers that we have out there, but I got some good news from my Assistant GM this morning. Word has it, the James Paxton is leaning toward the Expos, and his agent should be calling me very soon. That is certainly good news, but even though that would be a good signing for us, and expecting Paxton to be in the starting rotation opening day, I decided to make a bid on a couple of other interesting players.

Beom Kim(28) SP – $3.0/2 – Kim is an interesting player. Born and raised in South Korea, he signed on with the Orioles in 2013. After spending just a year in the minors, he was called up in 2014 at the young age of 21 to help bolster the Orioles pen. He appeared in 63 games that year. Over the years, he moved from starter to the pen, until 2020 when he started 30 games on a Reds team after being picked up off of waivers early in the season. The Reds were awful, winning just 53 games, and Kim went 5-14, with a 5.17 ERA. The thing my scout likes about him, he throws five pitches, and all pretty well. Fastball, curve, slider, changeup, and screwball. I initially went in a bit lower on my offer, but the Nationals are vying for his service as well. I’m hoping he’ll want to come to Montreal.

January 5th – I heard back from Adam Duvall’s agent, and Adam is apparently leaning toward signing with us. That’s certainly some good news. Let’s see what happens.

James Paxton signs – As I was wrapping up things, and getting ready to head home, I got a call from Paxton’s agent, and he’s signing our offer. That’s great news! I’m hoping Paxton can rebound from a disastrous 2020, where he went 5-14, and pitch more like he did in Seattle the two years before he signed with the Yankees.

There was another big signing, showing everyone in the league, how much teams value catchers. Jorge Alfaro, who started out in the Phillies organization, was rewarded with a contract from the Blue Jays, $9.5m per for seven years!

January 8th – More good news today as middle reliever Cody Allen signed a one year, $3M dollar deal with us. Things are coming together now, and if I can close out a few more deals, at least for now, I’ll be done with the free agent market.

January 9th – Was playing golf with a few of our staff when I got a call from Matt Duffy’s agent. Mexico City is really getting aggressive in free agency, and just offered Duffy in the range of $7M for 4 years. Ouch! The last call we had with Duffy and his agent, I felt they were leaning toward our $4.85M deal for 3 years with a team option for a fourth. And just when I thought I was done dealing with agents for a while. I told them that I would take some time to think about it, and get back to them. They wanted an answer by Monday, the 11th and I had the sick feeling, this is one I’m going to have to walk away from and lose.

So what are the alternatives to Duffy? So much for a nice, quiet Saturday night. After golfing, I drove back to the office and looked at the alternatives to signing Duffy, who is rated by my scouts, and other scouts as the best second baseman on the board, at least for the money.

Adam Frazier(29) – In my opinion, Frazier is as good, if not slightly better than Duffy. Had a solid year with the Pirates, hitting .301 with 16 homers, and a 6.0 WAR. But, his agent is asking for $20M per year for five years.

Dan T. Murphy(35) – Had an excellent year with the White Sox, hitting .316, with 20 homers, 93 RBI’s, and led the league with 59 doubles. His age is certainly a factor, and the fact that he wants $10.5 for 3 years.

Aaron Hill(38) – Would be a cheaper alternative, at $5M for one year, but age, and the fact that he had on off year in 2020, only playing in 98 games due to injuries, and hitting just .250.

Orlando Arcia(26) – One of the younger free agents, who hit 26 homers, with 39 stolen bases, while batting .252. Strikes out a ton though(160), and wants a lot of money, $11.5 per for five years.

And then there’s???????

Obdubel Herrera(29) – Yeah, I know, when you hear this name, you think outfield, but Herrera’s best position is second base, and he can play a little shortstop in an emergency. He can also be a bit of a lightning rod both on and off the field, but at 29, he has matured a lot, and last year with Texas, although he was limited to 67 games because of injury, there were no issues with him. He hit .284, but I’m looking at the year before that, when in 139 games, he hit 25 homeruns, hitting .271, with 30 steals. Due to injuries, we could probably get him for around $5-5.5M.

January 12th, Tuesday – Obdubel Herrera - $4.5, 4 years - I walked away from the Duffy offer, and turned my attention to Herrera. We offered $4.5 for four years, but with a team option the last year, $1M dollar buyout. His agent said they’re looking at it, and other offers and will get back to us.

I’m also still waiting patiently on Adam Duvall’s agent, and Matt Adams’ agent to get back to me. In the meantime, another Eastern Division foe, the Nationals, just signed left fielder Lucas Duda to a two year contract at $7.3M per year. Duda had a solid year in 2020, hitting 36 homers, 104 RBI’s, .276 average, and scored 103 runs, while with the Cardinals. Great, yet another solid hitter that lands in the Eastern Division, that my pitching staff will have to deal with.

And Matt Duffy did sign with Mexico City for $7.0M for four years.

January 18th – Mike Moustakis just signed with Arizona for five years, totaling $72M, and Jordan Zimmerman signs with the Padres for three years for $51M. Zimmerman led all pitchers with 34 starts, and second with 219 innings, while going 13-8 with the Nationals.
Good news for us! Both Matt Adams and Beon Kim are favoring our offers, and we should hopefully get a deal done with them shortly.

January 19th – Great news! Both Matt Adams and Beon Kim signed contracts. That means only Adam Duvall and Herrera offers are pending. While the team took some time to celebrate over lunch, I got a call from Herrera’s agent, and he wants more money, and now, less years. The thought process seems to be, that if he can show teams how productive he can be over two years with the Expos, he’ll get a much larger payday, after that.

A few hours later, I called Herrera’s agent back, and countered at $4.85M(a little more than $100,000/year than the original offer, with a $150,000 bonus if he makes the All Star team).

January 24th to 25th – Well things seemed to explode over the last two days with free agency. Herrera decided to sign with us which was awesome news!! He signed for $4.85M for two years, with a $150,000 bonus for AS selection.
We now are pretty much set with our roster. We may withdraw the offer for Adam Duvall, and any other signings will be to fill our minor league teams. What a hectic, few months, but all good in the end!
Other notable signings:
Delino DeShields - $11.5 per for 3 years
Domingo Santana - $20.5 per for 5 years

As we move into February, everyone is ready for Spring Training to start. We were able get the rest of our minor league teams filled, and met with all our coaches via Skype, just to iron out a few things, and answer any questions they may have. Can’t wait in a few weeks for pitchers and catchers to report, and Spring Training to start on February 25th.
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