Don Logan, the Las Vegas 51s president and longtime face of professional baseball here, has been attending the Baseball Winter Meetings in early December for nearly four decades. From Nashville to Florida, he reunites with colleagues and promotes Las Vegas baseball.
He’s seen setups made easy for attendees of the weeklong event, which brings together executives from every major and minor league franchise to discuss business. And he’s seen some that have been tough to navigate, making the task of getting to multiple workshops and appointments a challenge.
Las Vegas’ 2008 attempt at hosting the meeting fell, unfortunately, into the latter category. The conference was split over three locations—the Bellagio, Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate Las Vegas) and Las Vegas Convention Center, which hosted the popular trade show for vendors equipment.
“It was disjointed and left a bad taste in people's mouths,” Logan remembers.
Logan felt Las Vegas, a city with a reputation for hosting the biggest and best events, deserved another shot. So, he and officials from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and MGM Resorts International got to work on a proposal to persuade Major League Baseball to return. It will, December 9-13 at Mandalay Bay, where the event’s three parts—major league meetings, minor league meetings and the trade show—will be within walking distance.
The marriage between the MGM and Major League Baseball seems like a natural. “We’re both entertainment companies,” says Dan Halem, MLB’s deputy commissioner, baseball administration, and chief legal officer. “We both sell entertainment.”
It’s not uncommon for notable free agents to show up at the meetings seeking employment for a new season, creating “quite a scene,” Halem says. It’s also not unusual for sports agents to go team to team looking for a new home for their players. And that’s just half of the fun. There are recent college graduates hunting for entry-level jobs in the front office, multiple conferences for women looking to break into the game as part of an MLB diversity initiative and forums where minor league officials share tricks of the trade.
Perhaps most important for Las Vegas: The event issued nearly 1,000 media credentials last year. MLB Network, ESPN and others will offer ’round the clock coverage, during which they’re sure to feature video and images of the Strip and all that MGM and the city as a whole have to offer. “The attention all that coverage brings to the destination is important to us,” says Steve Hill, LVCVA’s chief executive officer. “It helps cements us as a leading sports city.”
Logan is anxiously awaiting the event’s return. He’s looking forward to getting together with old friends and taking them to Summerlin to show off the Triple-A franchise’s almost-constructed stadium, set to host the team in 2019, when it will also receive a new name. And he predicts Las Vegas will put 2008 behind it forever.
“This will be the best setup ever for the Winter Meetings,” he says.
First the meetings, then the team?
So, with the Winter Meetings coming to town, should Las Vegans expect MLB to set up a permanent outpost here soon, in the form of a franchise?
Probably not. It just means we can put on a cool event, just like other host cities—Nashville, Indianapolis and Bay Lake, Florida—that recently hosted the meetings. But if the league decides to expand, Las Vegas would be in consideration, Halem says. “Las Vegas is a city that has proven itself,” he says. “Las Vegas is important to us.”
We’ve followed Bryce Harper’s career from Las Vegas High prodigy to MLB star, from making the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16 to becoming one of the faces of pro baseball. Now, he’s primed to receive one of most lucrative contracts in MLB history. The Washington Post reported that the outfielder’s agent, Scott Boras, is pursuing a $400 million deal. He reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract in September from Washington, which drafted him in 2010 and where he has played his seven major-league seasons.
While many deals will be orchestrated during the meetings, don’t expect Harper to drive from his Henderson home to Mandalay Bay for an announcement. All signs point to the process lasting into early 2019 as Boras positions the Las Vegan to get the best deal from potential suitors like the Phillies, Yankees, Dodgers and Nationals.
It’s rare for a player to reach free-agency in his prime, and at age 26, Harper is squarely in his. He’s a former Most Valuable Player, has tremendous marketability and is one of the game’s elite offensive players with 184 home runs in seven seasons and a gaudy .900 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
Harper and shortstop Manny Machado, who helped the Dodgers reach the World Series after coming over in a trade from Baltimore last season, are the most sought-after free agents this off-season, but what other big names might be on the move?
New York Mets first-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has a big decision to make: whether to part with defending Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom or hard-throwing Noah “Thor” Syndergaard. Both former Las Vegas 51s, they’re two of the game’s best pitchers, but the Mets struggled to a losing record last season and could be looking to push along a reboot of their franchise by shipping one or both out for a big return.
The Diamondbacks are said be pursuing trade options involving slugger Paul Goldschmidt, who has long been the face of their franchise. He’s only under contract through 2019, however, so the team might opt to move him for multiple pieces while it can. Arizona could also potentially trade ace Zack Greinke, who makes nearly $35 million annually.
How much will the Phillies spend? Philadelphia has been linked to many free agents—there’s even a theory floating that it will sign Harper and Machado—and is expected to spare no expense in upgrading the roster to compete in 2019.
This story originally appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.