The first day of the winter meetings did not disappoint. Much baseball-related ruckus came spewing out of Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday, and it was all good.
There were signings. There were rumors about more signings and trades that could be just around the corner. There were executives saying this and that about such and such. There were reports about this guy doing that and this guy doing that.
Alas, some of you had better things to do than to sit around and monitor what was happening at the winter meetings. Like, you know, work. My summary of the proceedings mean nothing to you.
If so, I better fill you in on the details. Pull up a chair and get comfortable.
The biggest deal to go down on Monday, at least in terms of years and dollars, was the Angel Pagan signing. There was some noise about him possibly heading elsewhere this winter, but he ended up staying put with the San Francisco Giants.
Source: Pagan gets $40m over four years with Giants.— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) December 3, 2012
The word from Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com is that Pagan won't be paid $10 million per year. He'll be paid a $5 million signing bonus, and then annual salaries of $7, $9, $9 and $10 million over the four years of the contract.
That's not a bad deal considering how wild this winter's market is regarding center fielders. And if Pagan's .288/.338/.440 slash line and 29 stolen bases from 2012 become the norm for him, the Giants will be just fine with the money they've agreed to pay him.
The second-biggest contract handed out on Monday was the three-year, $39 million deal the Boston Red Sox gave to catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported that the two sides had a done deal in place, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com was the first to pass along the details:
Napoli has deal with red sox, 3 yrs, $39M— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 3, 2012
Napoli's billing is as a power-hitting catcher, but Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com has reported that Napoli's primary position with the Red Sox is expected to be first base, where they have a much more glaring hole than at catcher.
The Red Sox won't care where Napoli is playing if he gives them an OPS around .800 and 25 homers on an annual basis. He could do even better than that seeing as how he'll be playing half his games at Fenway Park, where he has an OPS over 1.100 for his career.
In the world of pitchers, the big move to go down on Monday was Joakim Soria's two-year deal with the Texas Rangers, which was reported by Ken Rosenthal:
Soria in agreement with #Rangers on two-year deal, pending physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 3, 2012
Soria missed all of the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but it wasn't that long ago that he was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. He was an All-Star in 2008 and 2010, a year in which he saved 43 games and posted a 1.78 ERA.
The hope, obviously, is that Soria will get back to that level, in which case the Rangers will have two dominant late-inning relievers in Soria and Joe Nathan.
Soria wasn't the only player to agree to terms with the Rangers on Monday. Evan Grant of MLB.com reported that recently non-tendered catcher Geovany Soto had agreed to a one-year deal to return to the Rangers.
Elsewhere in the realm of minor moves, Jon Heyman reported that first baseman James Loney signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays to be Carlos Pena's replacement. Heyman also reported the one-year deal that was struck between the San Diego Padres and veteran right-hander Jason Marquis.
As for moves that may be going down in the near future...
The Hottest of the Hot-Hot-Hot Rumors
One of the biggest bits of news to come out on Monday had nothing to do with an impending signing or trade. It was about Alex Rodriguez's hip, which needs surgery.
No, not the hip that's been bothering him ever since 2009. The other one. As reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post and confirmed by Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, the New York Yankees third baseman needs significant surgery on his left hip that could keep him out of action until June.
With A-Rod on the shelf with an injury, and declining to boot, Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com proposed the idea of the Yankees swinging a deal for Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who led the National League in RBI and won his first Gold Glove this year.
This, however, is probably not happening. Here's Joel Sherman:
But there could be a big trade involving New York's other team pretty soon. The word from Adam Rubin and Joe McDonald of ESPN.com is that Mets GM Sandy Alderson spent Monday discussing trades for Cy Young-winning knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, and that he has plenty of interested parties on the line.
One of the interested parties is the Red Sox, but the Mets want two of their best prospects for Dickey. If that's what Alderson expects, he may have a hard time moving Dickey, who is 38 years old and is only signed through 2013.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are also interested in Dickey, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but they may be better off handing Zack Greinke the keys to several truckloads full of money. And that may just happen, as Jon Heyman has heard that the Dodgers are determined to sign Greinke, regardless the cost.
However, Joel Sherman has heard that the Rangers are "right there" with the Dodgers in terms of their willingness to spend on Greinke. They need an ace just as badly as the Dodgers do, after all.
But it's hard to imagine the Rangers or anybody else outspending the Dodgers. Greinke is looking to become one of the highest-paid pitchers in the game, and a Dodgers official said it best when he answered a question about the team's budget, replying, "What budget?"
In regards to the other top free agent on the market, slugging outfielder Josh Hamilton, the Red Sox continue to be linked to him by people in the know. For example, Gordon Edes reported that an executive had advised him not to rule out Boston in the sweepstakes for the 2010 AL MVP.
ESPN's Jayson Stark has heard otherwise:
Source familiar with #RedSox thinking on chances they'll sign Josh Hamilton: "They're not zero percent. But they're not high."— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 4, 2012
The "most aggressive" suitor for Hamilton, according to Ken Rosenthal, is the incumbent Rangers. That's a bit of a surprise given how cool they appear to be on Hamilton, but Rosenthal's report could be taken as a sign of just how quiet the market for Hamilton really is.
If so, then the market for Nick Swisher could be quiet for a while as well. Rob Bradford of WEEI.com has heard that Swisher may wait until Hamilton signs before signing a deal of his own.
One big-name outfielder who is drawing a lot of interest is none other than Shane Victorino, even despite the fact he managed just a .704 OPS in 2012. Jon Heyman has reported that he has several three-year offers on the table, and even one four-year offer.
For what it's worth, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reported that the Cleveland Indians have a "serious interest" in Victorino. Maybe it was them that extended the four-year offer.
On the trade front, ESPN's Buster Olney says that executives still expect the Arizona Diamondbacks to trade prized right fielder Justin Upton. Ken Rosenthal reported that they're still talking to the Rangers about him even though the two sides have had trouble agreeing to parameters for a deal in the past.
Rosenthal also says that the Rangers are interested in swinging a deal for Tampa Bay Rays veteran righty James Shields. They're not alone there, as Jon Heyman has reported that the Washington Nationals are interested in Shields as well.
Washington's interest in Shields could end up leading to a trade that would send Mike Morse and Danny Espinosa to Tampa Bay. Jim Bowden of ESPN and SiriusXM reported that the two could be sent to the Rays for a starter.
In regards to Morse, Jon Morosi says that the Seattle Mariners are also interested, though it's unlikely that the Nationals will trade Morse unless they fail to re-sign Adam LaRoche to man first base in 2013.
Perhaps as a backup plan for Morse, Morosi also said that the Mariners have talked to the Kansas City Royals about Billy Butler. Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star says that the Baltimore Orioles are also interested in the star designated hitter.
Such were the big rumors that came out of left field on Monday. As for some of the smaller rumors that deserve your attention...
Quieter Rumors Worth Your Attention
We've already seen one team trade for a star center fielder rather than sign one, as the Nationals pulled off a nifty trade for Denard Span last week.
We may see another such trade go down involving Colorado Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler. Ken Rosenthal says that Philadelphia may be the team to pull the trigger:
David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution has heard that the Atlanta Braves have also discussed Fowler with the Rockies. They already have B.J. Upton, but it could be that they view Fowler as a fit for their vacancy in left field.
If they do, goodness knows they have the pitching to get him. Mike Minor, whom O'Brien says the Rockies covet, isn't the only pitcher they have to deal.
Why the big fuss over Fowler? Precisely because he's cheap and controllable and he's coming off a career year that saw him compile a .300/.389/.474 slash line. He may not be that good away from Coors Field, but at least he won't cost an arm and a leg.
According to Ken Rosenthal, one guy who could cost an arm and a leg in a trade is Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon:
Source: #Dodgers only will trade Dee Gordon for significant return. Still view him as young player with big upside, stolen-base potential.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 3, 2012
Color me confused. I get that Gordon is super-young, super-controllable and super-fast, but the jury is still out on whether he can be an everyday player in the majors. His defense is suspect, and he has a .614 OPS in parts of two big-league seasons. The Dodgers don't really have the leverage to ask for a huge package for him in a trade.
The Indians are in a different boat with their shortstop. They may trade Asdrubal Cabrera this winter, and interested parties include the Red Sox and a couple other teams on his no-trade list. However, Alex Speier of WEEI.com noted that Cabrera is open to a trade.
Cabrera is inconsistent at the plate and in the field, but his back-to-back All-Star selections are a fine testament to his talent. His problem the last two seasons has been maintaining hot starts, as he posted a .729 OPS in the second half of 2011 and a .676 OPS in the second half of 2012. If he corrects this problem, he could be a steal in a trade.
Meanwhile in the world of underrated free agents, Ryan Ludwick is still looking for a home and his list of suitors appears to be short. He may just end up going back to the Cincinnati Reds, whom John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer says have made Ludwick an offer.
If not, Ludwick could always sign with the Mets, as Joel Sherman says they are interested in the 34-year-old outfielder.
Ludwick just hit 26 homers and posted an .877 OPS in only 125 games, so you'd think there would be more interested parties on the line for his services. His age is surely a concern, but it's not like he wants the same amount of years and dollars as Josh Hamilton (so far as we know, anyway).
A good contract for Ludwick to point to is the two-year, $10 million pact Jonny Gomes agreed to with the Red Sox. The two are similar players, but Ludwick has played in considerably more games than Gomes since 2007. That might make him worth a couple extra million bucks.
The Day's Biggest Winner and Loser
For the day's biggest winner, I have to go with Angel Pagan. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Pagan only made $4.85 million in 2012 and has barely made over $11 million in his career since he broke into the big leagues in 2006.
On Monday, Pagan agreed to a contract worth roughly four times that much money. Seeing as how he compiled just a .733 OPS in two seasons as a full-time player with the Mets in 2010 and 2011, I'll be damned if I—or anyone else, for that matter—saw Pagan walking away with a $40 million contract this winter. Good for him.
On the flip side, I'd say the day's biggest loser was the Phillies. As Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out, the Phillies had Pagan on their radar as a possible solution for their center field quandary. They missed out on him.
The Phillies also missed out on B.J. Upton and Denard Span. Shane Victorino may not be willing to come back after the Phillies traded him in July. Jayson Stark says they're "wary" on Josh Hamilton. If I had to speculate, I'd guess that Michael Bourn may be too expensive for them now that Upton and Pagan have set the market.
Long story short, the Phillies are running out of center field options. If they get too desperate, they run the risk of being overcharged in free agency or having their pockets picked in a trade.
General managers and agents know an easy target when they see one. Ruben Amaro Jr. must do what he can to convince everyone that he's still strong, darn it.
What To Watch for on Tuesday
With Angel Pagan signing with the Giants on Monday, it wouldn't be much of a shock if the market for Michael Bourn starts to speed up now. Apart from Josh Hamilton, Bourn is the top center fielder left in free agency, and the market for him is pretty well set now that Pagan and B.J. Upton have signed.
I would also expect to hear plenty more R.A. Dickey talk, as it sounds like gathering information on him is Sandy Alderson's top priority and there appears to be plenty of legit interest in him. The price may be high, but teams looking for a short-term ace can't do better in this year's trade market.
If you're looking for clubs to keep an eye on, the Dodgers and Red Sox are the two most obvious targets. Both have tons of money to spend, and both have displayed a willingness to upgrade their clubs this winter.
The Dodgers, in particular, could do something big soon. When they do, the player most likely to be involved will have a name that rhymes with Mack Meinke.
Beyond these things, I'd advise you to expect to hear the phrase "are interested in" and its derivatives about a million times. 'Tis the season.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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