It’s easy to see the MLB Winter Meetings as an anachronism. There are so many communication methods available that the need for General Managers, agents and other interested parties to meet in person initially doesn’t appear to be great. However, speaking to someone face-to-face does bring an increased sense of purpose to any negotiations and the deals that were completed during the meetings were a testament to this. Although only 13 of the 30 teams actually confirmed a deal in Indianapolis, the other 17 no doubt gained some vital information that will lead to transactions in the near future.
Tigers, Yankees and Diamondbacks complete a three-way trade
Everyone loves a three-way trade and the Winter Meetings produced an interesting one. It was set off by the Detroit Tigers’ need to shift a few contracts off their books. Centre fielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Edwin Jackson were named as potential trade fodder virtually as soon as the World Series was over and Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski managed to trade both of them in this deal. The New York Yankees wanted Granderson to further improve their outfield and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ desire to acquire Jackson paved the way for a three-way agreement. The Yankees got one new player, the D-Backs got two and the Tigers got four:
- Yankees – Granderson (Tigers)
- D-Backs – Jackson (Tigers), starting pitcher Ian Kennedy (Yankees)
- Tigers – starting pitcher Max Scherzer and reliever prospect Daniel Schlereth (both D-Backs), lefty reliever Phil Coke and centre field prospect Austin Jackson (both Yankees).
Acquiring Granderson gives the Yankees another source of power and a good centre fielder,. They also now have some flexibility with their free agents Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui as they probably only need to bring one back, potentially driving their price down (i.e. ‘if you want to play for us, this is what we’re offering’). The most likely scenario is for Damon to come back as a DH/left fielder and for Matsui to head elsewhere (possibly to the White Sox). In a separate deal, the Yankees re-signed free agent Andy Pettitte on another one year deal worth $11.75m.
As for the D-Backs, nobody seems sure quite what they’re doing. They already had the makings of a decent rotation with Dan Haren, Brandon Webb and Scherzer, while their offense clearly needs work to get them back into the NL West race. It’s not clear how trading one of those pitchers and acquiring two others really addresses their needs.
The Tigers’ 2010 ambitions have taken a hit by trading away Granderson and Jackson, but that’s the price you pay when you lumber yourself with bad contracts. Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Brandon Inge are due to earn a combined $72.1m in 2010 and not a single one of them is likely to come close to ‘earning’ their remuneration. No one’s going to want to take on those commitments, so the Tigers had no choice but to trade two players that ideally they wanted to keep. The question now is: will Miguel Cabrera follow them out of Detroit? Shortstop Adam Everett is one player who will be staying with the Tigers: he signed a new one year/$1.55m deal earlier this week.
Texas teams make some moves
The Texas Rangers traded arguably their best starting pitcher Kevin Millwood to the Baltimore Orioles. It’s a good trade for the O’s as Millwood should be a valuable veteran presence for their young pitchers to learn from. The Rangers quickly filled the gap left by Millwood’s departure by signing free agent Rich Harden on a one year deal worth $7.5m, with a $11m option for 2011. It will be an excellent deal for the Rangers if Harden can stay healthy, but that’s a big if. Texas are also reportedly close to signing Mike Lowell from the Red Sox. The deal requires Boston to pick up a significant part of Lowell’s $12m salary and presumably he would DH and play some first base, with Michael Young already having Lowell’s third base position locked up. The trade may then result in the Red Sox’s making a run at Adrian Beltre.
Not to be left behind by their Lone Star state rivals, the Houston Astros made a few moves of their own. With Jose Valverde declining arbitration and LaTroy Hawkins leaving as a free agent, the Astros filled those bullpen holes by trading for Matt Lindstrom from the Marlins and signed free agent Brandon Lyon. The Lyon deal will cost a reported three years for $15m which is not exactly a bargain for a reliever, particularly on a team that’s unlikely to be in the playoff mix during the duration of the contract. They also signed free agent third baseman Pedro Feliz on a one year/$4.5m deal and that one does look like a pretty good pick-up considering the relatively modest commitment for an everyday player who’s a good fielder and offers some pop.
NL Central moves
Two other NL Central teams acquired some pitching this week: the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Brewers had a desperate need to add some pitching and that has arguably meant they’ve slightly overpaid for reinforcements. Randy Wolf will become their number two starter behind Yovani Gallardo when he officially signs on a three year deal with an option for a fourth year that will guarantee him $29.75m. After the Astros withdrew their three-year offer over the 08/09 offseason, Wolf had to settle for a one year deal with the Dodgers for 2009. He took full advantage by having a very good season in L.A. and, with few other starters on the free agent market, he finally bagged that elusive three year deal. The Brewers also stopped LaTroy Hawkins from re-signing with the Astros by offering him a two-year deal.
The St. Louis Cardinals signed free agent starting pitcher Brad Penny on a one year deal worth $7.5m. Penny didn’t have a great time with the Red Sox during 2009, but he pitched well for the Giants in six starts at the end of the season. He will slot into the rotation alongside Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse, with Joel Pineiro likely to sign elsewhere as a free agent.
- the Seattle Mariners confirmed that Chone Figgins has joined them on a four-year deal
- there has been no real movement on the top free agents: Matt Holliday, Jason Bay and John Lackey. I’m still of the mind that Bay and Lackey will return to their respective clubs (Red Sox and Angels). The Cardinals have extended an offer to retain Holliday, but I don’t see them having the money required to meet his demands.
- the Chicago White Sox added J.J. Putz to their bullpen on a one year/$3m deal. That could be a decent addition if he stays healthy.
- the Kansas City Royals (Jason Kendall) and the Washington Nationals (Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez)both signed veteran catchers on two-year deals worth $6m apiece. I guess you have to give credit to their agents for securing two-year deals for their clients, but I’d like to know the thought process behind the moves by the two clubs. If you’re currently a bad team, how does signing veteran players who are a shell of their former selves make you any better, either in the short or long term? Maybe they will have a positive influence on the respective pitching staffs? $3m a year seems a very steep price for that though, especially on teams that have little to no chance of contending.
- Barry Bonds’ Major League career has ended in a whimper with his agent confirming what we all knew: it’s very unlikely he’ll ever play again. Bonds has become a ‘non person’ and it’s interesting how someone who was one of the biggest stars the game has ever seen can be airbrushed out of history so quickly. Well, that’s until he hits the Hall of Fame ballot in 2013 alongside Roger Clemens. However hard you try to nail the door shut, those skeletons in the cupboard always come clattering out in the end. Maybe the Hall of Fame cases for Bonds and Clemens could be considered by the St. Louis Cardinals’ new batting coach, Mark McGwire, when he finally has to address the media? Something tells me he might not want to ‘talk about the past’.