Column: The White Sox are moving — eventually. And Christopher Morel’s value to the Cubs. Highlights from a sleepy winter meetings.

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The loudest noise at the 2023 MLB winter meetings came on Day 1 when a Japanese reporter fell asleep on his laptop in the media room and snored at a decibel level rivaling a heavy metal band in a small club.

With no blockbuster trades or mega signings to announce during the meetings — the Juan Soto deal came to light late Wednesday night — baseball had to resort to other news, including the Hall of Fame election of manager Jim Leyland, to keep the annual three-day meetings from being a complete snoozefest.

Even an incident of Cubs President Jed Hoyer snapping at USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale over a social media post drew media attention back in Chicago, showing how times have changed. Executives snapping at reporters is a story as old as the game itself. Only in this age is it considered newsworthy enough to be dissected on sports-talk radio.

So nothing much happened, and a ton of media had to have something to write and talk about after spending money to come to the Gaylord Opryland Resort for baseball’s traditional offseason infomercial.

If MLB Network had aired the raucous BBWAA meeting instead of having its talking heads let general managers and managers drone on about how great their teams will be in 2024, the ratings would’ve been much higher.

As the teams, agents and media made their way out of town Wednesday, here are three other things we learned.

1. The White Sox are moving. Eventually. But probably not to Nashville.

The Sox confirmed Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s stealth meeting with the mayor of Nashville after Politico reported the big news. The Sox have not denied their interest in finding a new home, and it seems only natural for Reinsdorf to meet with the mayor of the most logical city for MLB expansion to talk about a future partnership.

The Sox don’t want anyone to read too much into the meeting, of course, even as it riled up an already angry fan base. It seems more likely Nashville would prefer to hold out for an expansion team instead of one that’s in teardown mode and looking at a long rebuild, but who knows?

There’s little doubt the Sox hope to find a new ballpark away from the South Side, whether it’s downtown, on the West Side or elsewhere. With six years left on the lease of their taxpayer-funded park and Reinsdorf turning 88 in a couple of months, time is of the essence.

2. ShoTime the Circus is getting weak reviews.

Cubs manager Craig Counsell has been around long enough to know that interest in Shohei Ohtani’s landing spot would dominate the winter meetings, just as other free-agent superstars have in the past.

“As a baseball fan, we all want to know where the great players are going to play,” Counsell said Tuesday.

Unfortunately for baseball fans, Ohtani wants to stem any news of negotiations, forcing some teams to stonewall questions about their interest.

It makes no sense for baseball’s biggest star to want the news of his negotiations kept secret when MLB Network aired wall-to-wall coverage of the meetings that his name dominated.

When NBA free agency begins in the summer, every superstar’s potential landing spots become big news, talked about incessantly by media and fans. Both the NBA and the players get free publicity that benefits the league and the players’ individual brands.

Not so with “ShoTime.” For a sport that just had the lowest-rated World Series in history, this is not a good look.

Ohtani reportedly has not spoken to the media since early August, even after winning the American League MVP award. He’s a megatalent who seemingly has no interest in helping to promote interest in the game. What a lost opportunity for MLB.

3. Christopher Morel can be a valuable asset in 2024.

Whether it’s with the Cubs is the key question.

“Positional versatility creates a good floor‚” Counsell said when discussing Morel’s lack of a position, “so when things inevitably happen to your team during a season, you’re choosing from better options than just one option.”

Morel hit 11 home runs in a month at Triple-A Iowa last season and 26 with the Cubs. At 24, he still can get better, and the power obviously is there. Can the Cubs keep him without a real position, or would they be better off trading one of their most electric players?

Counsell sounded like he hoped to find a place for Morel, who played 61 games as the designated hitter in 2023.

“Yeah, Mookie Betts was a versatile piece for a pretty good team,” Counsell said of the Dodgers star moving between right field, second base and shortstop. “I think (Morel) has kind of forced his way into lineups … and that’s a really good thing. The positional part, we’re going to have to figure that out.”


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