Winter Meetings Q&A With Bryan Minniti

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With the 2012 Baseball Winter Meetings kicking off today in Nashville, we sat down with Nationals Assistant General Manager Bryan Minniti to gain some insight from the game’s premiere offseason event. This year marks Minniti’s 10th attending the meetings, the dynamics of which have changed fairly dramatically over that time. He provided some perspective on the event’s evolution, as well as insights into what goes on behind closed doors as baseball’s hot stove is ignited in earnest.

Curly W Live: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the decade that you’ve been attending?

Bryan Minniti: The biggest change is the media. There’s a significant amount of media there now that didn’t used to be there. Also agents, many more agents attend now than used to attend. It was always a crowded occasion – you have all the Minor League folks, all the Major League folks. Now almost every agent is there at least for a day or two and every media outlet from everywhere. Not only that, but the national media tend to camp out almost 24 hours a day in the lobby and they’ll run programming on their networks.

Normally behind the scenes, Minniti shed some light on the Baseball Winter Meetings for us.

Normally behind the scenes, Minniti shed some light on the Baseball Winter Meetings for us.

CWL: How much have the meetings grown over the years?

BM: It feels like there’s a million times more people. The reality is it’s hard to say. Every hotel holds it a little differently, too. When these things are in a hotel like The Opryland in Nashville, you can get lost very easily there. There’s a ton of space and a ton of places to hide, where a lot of other hotels there’s nowhere to hide, everyone’s in the same lobby and it’s just a massive hoard of people.

CWL: Everyone talks about “the lobby,” which is essentially just that – the lobby of the hotel hosting the meetings. Why has that became such a social meeting place, and how much time do you spend there?

BM: I’m a nobody. There’s a reason GMs can’t go to the lobby almost at all, except at three in the morning. It’s pretty rare to see GMs float through the lobby, and that’s because there are agents, there are media members, there are other team executives who you know, scouts, what not, all there who want to say hello, catch up, talk to you about a player, talk to you about an affiliate, talk to you about whatever’s going on. So there’s people all over the place. And that’s part of what makes the meetings fun, but also part of what makes them challenging – there’s thousands of people there, a lot of people you see and you want to have conversations with, but you don’t always have the time because there are so many folks in the same room.

CWL: Some people still cling to the old image of Winter Meetings, with General Managers sitting around into the wee hours chatting and swinging late-night deals with one another. Was that ever really the case, and how has that dynamic changed?

I think in the past it was a lot more focused on team-to-team interactions. I think the times you’re describing – even when I first started – there were more baseball executives in the lobby talking substance, and I think going back to the old days of the Winter Meetings, there were GMs just setting up shop in the lobby and meeting with other GMs and talking about trades and getting deals done right on the spot. I don’t think that stuff happens quite as much anymore because there’s a little bit of a resistance to go down to the lobby and spend so much time. You can’t have a direct conversation with another team’s General Manager without a media member seeing it and tweeting it and talking about it and all of the sudden it’s news everywhere. You have people staking out agent’s suites and team’s suites to see who is coming and going so they can talk about it on whatever the program is they’re doing. I think that’s part of the challenge in trying to get away from that stuff. You’ll see less people interacting face-to-face in the lobby on substantive issues.

Tim Kurkjian sets up for a live shot at the 2010 WInter Meetings in Orlando.

Tim Kurkjian sets up for a live shot at the 2010 WInter Meetings in Orlando.

CWL: Describe a typical day for you during the meetings.

For us, our typical day is to spend a good chunk of the day in the team suite. Every team will have a suite, a lot of agents will have suites. Occasionally you’ll go to another team’s suite or an agent’s suite to talk to them about potential trades or what’s going on with their roster, that type of stuff. For the most part, you spend a lot of time in your own suite with your own staff talking through different trade scenarios, different free agent scenarios, Rule V Draft scenarios, that type of stuff.

CWL: You mentioned the Rule V Draft (which we will take a deeper look at on Wednesday). How much attention is paid to that, and how important is it?

You always pay attention as soon as the reserve lists are filed. You send documents out to all your scouts and coaches to try to identify players who were left off rosters that you think could contribute to the Major League club either next year or in the future. If it’s a high enough upside guy, you may have to get creative and hide him for a season, then continue his development the following year. I don’t want to say we spend hours on end each day, but we analyze it. Nowadays it’s much easier – you go through all your scouting reports, your tools analysis on all your reports and you talk to your scouts about if they had a good read on this guy, or on that guy. At the end of the day, you end up boiling it down to five or six names you’re talking about for the Major League Draft and a handful of players for the Minor League side. There’s less consequence for the Minor League side, so you’ll see more players taken on the Minor League side.

CWL: For someone who’s never been to the Winter Meetings, what are some of the pros and cons, and what are your highlights of the week?

It’s probably not something as a fan that you want to spend more than a half-hour or an hour around (laughs), because it’s just a bunch of people talking shop. You’re probably not going to get into the conversation unless you know them. But it’s pretty exciting as a team executive. And again, it’s changed a lot over the years, but there’s a huge buzz when you get there. You get to see a lot of folks from other teams that you only get to see a handful of times a year. There’s a lot of energy and a lot of stuff happening. You do get to spend a lot of time with people, so you never know what’s going to happen – trades, free agent signings. We have a reception we do every year with our Minor League affiliates. We do a staff dinner. There’s a Scout of the Year banquet we go to every year which is a lot of fun and really cool to see a lot of veteran guys get honored. So things like that are fun traditions every year.

Thanks again to Bryan Minniti for sharing his insights. We’ll have more coverage of the Winter Meetings all week long here on Curly W Live, so make sure to check back in for the latest happenings from Nashville.

1 Comment

Very interesting. Best signing on the Nats list should be Adam LaRoach…

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