Lake Buena Vista, FL- Greetings from the 2017 Baseball Winter Meetings, which took place at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. The Winter Meetings are an annual event held in December where many who work in the baseball industry gather to discuss the next season. Some Major League clubs use this time to meet with and sign free agents or make trades as they put together their 2018 rosters. The Rule 5 Draft is also part of the activities. On the minor league side, the teams gather to share information and ideas on what the fans seemed to enjoy in each market. There is also a job fair for those looking to pursue a career in sports and a trade show where exhibitors showcase the latest and greatest promotions, merchandise and giveaway items. The Hartford Yard Goats were well represented and received some awards from the fantastic 2017 season at Dunkin' Donuts Park.
Fans can follow the news of their favorite MLB teams with the extensive media coverage. MLB Network had its studio setup in the lobby of the hotel and ESPN and some of the other television and radio networks occupied space outside of the conference center. I had fun talking about the Yard Goats and some of the trade rumors going around when I was a guest on the Rob Dibble Show on 97.9 ESPN.
Owners, Presidents, General Managers, Players, Farm Directors, Player Development Staff, Scouts, Agents, and well known media personalities are often seen at this annual event so a stroll through the hotel lobby is a must for the baseball fans.
Yard Goats recognized at Winter Meetings
The Hartford Yard Goats organization was recognized for some of its success from last season. The team's President, Tim Restall, was presented with the Eastern League Executive of the Year Award by Minor League President Pat O'Conner at the Opening Ceremonies. He was later recognized at the Awards Luncheon which was hosted by Orioles television broadcaster and New England native Gary Thorne. The Yard Goats were also highlighted at a private event held by Ballpark Digest for being named "2017 Team of the Year." The Ballpark Digest Team of the Year Award is given to the club that made the biggest mark on the industry with improved operations, increased attendance and noticeable buzz. It was pretty cool to be part of all this and to hear other front office members acknowledge our season.
Yard Goats & Rockies Make Announcement from Orlando
The Yard Goats and the Colorado Rockies announced a Player Development Contract (PDC) extension for another two years keeping the two together through the 2020 season. This is great news for Yard Goats fans as we are sure to see some more big-time prospects come through Hartford. The Rockies farm system entered last season as the 8th best organization in baseball by MLBPipeline.com. In addition, Baseball America named the Rockies as having the overall 10th best farm system in their annual publication. Yard Goats fans also got to watch shortstop Brendan Rodgers , who surfaced as one of the best prospects in MiLB and ranks as the Rockies #1 overall prospect. The Yard Goats franchise has been affiliated with the Colorado Rockies since 2015 and in just three seasons has sent 16 players to the Major Leagues.
MLB Signings and trades…
Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton dominated most of the news from Orlando as he was traded by the Marlins to the New York Yankees for INF Starlin Castro and prospects Jose Devers and Jorge Guzman . You may remember Castro played a few games against the Yard Goats in Hartford last season on an MLB rehab assignment. Acquiring one of the best power hitters in the game has given Yankee fans great hope for 2018. The Yankees also swapped 3B Chase Headley and RHP Bryan Mitchell to the Padres for OF Jabari Bush. The Mets signed old friend Anthony Swarzak to a two-year 14 million contract. The righty reliever had a solid season last year, going 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA in 70 games between the White Sox and Brewers. Another familiar name to Connecticut baseball fans, Pat Neshek , inked a two year deal with the Phillies. The National League All-Star pitched for Phillies and Rockies last season, going 5-3 with a 1.59 ERA in 71 relief outings. It appears the Rockies are close to signing relievers Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee (MLB.com).
Rule 5 Draft
There are two phases of the Rule 5 Draft, the Major League Phase and the Triple-A (Minor League Phase). The Rule 5 Draft gives any club which has room on its 40-man MLB roster the opportunity to select a player that has not been protected by his current club. In the MLB Phase, the player selected must stay on the 25-man active roster for the entire season. If not, he can be purchased back by his original club. Not all minor league players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft and need to be protected. Players (not on 40-man roster) who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years. The Rule 5 Draft gives more players the chance to reach the Major Leagues instead of getting buried in their own farm systems. Baseball evaluators have to make some difficult decisions when setting their rosters in hopes of not losing too many prospects.
Rockies Add a New Minor League Player
The Rockies selected left-handed pitcher Mitch Horacek from the Baltimore Orioles in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Horacek is from Colorado and pitched at Dartmouth College before becoming the Orioles 9th round pick in 2013. The 6-5, 185 lefty pitched at High-A Fredrick last season (5-3, 3.88), and was originally drafted by the Rockies but did not sign and went to college. None of the Yard Goats players from the past couple of years heard their names called. However, the Rockies did lose hard throwing right-hander Julian Fernandez to San Francisco in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft. The 22-year-old went 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA in 51 games last season for Class-A Asheville. Fernandez, who may have reached the Yard Goats this season, must stay in the Majors with the Giants or the Rockies could get him back. The Yankees lost several prospects in this session from both the Triple-A and Double-A rosters.
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The Voice of the Yard Goats
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.