Recapping MLB Free Agency and Winter Meetings

Pete SchauerCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2012

Recapping MLB Free Agency and Winter Meetings

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    With the winter meetings now over and so many chips still on the table, you may have lost sight of what actually took place during 2012's MLB winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

    While we're still waiting for superstars like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke to expand their bank accounts and find new homes, there are a number of free-agent splashes that have already occurred.

    Let's recap some of the biggest signings and storylines so far this winter.

Big Signing: Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox

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    Jeff Keppinger was speculated to be a target for the New York Yankees after they learned Alex Rodriguez would miss half the season due to surgery on his hip, but the White Sox beat the Bombers to the punch.

    The veteran signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the White Sox—according to Chicago's official website—despite the Yankees offering more, as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweeted.

    #yankees bid higher $12M on 3 yrs for keppinger. Either slick negotiating by new chisox gm rick hahn or chicago preference

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 5, 2012

    Keppinger hit .325 last season and is a versatile infielder who rarely makes errors or mental mistakes. Great pickup for Chicago.

Big Signing: Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Russell Martin opted to join former teammate A.J. Burnett in Pittsburgh, signing a two-year, $17 million deal with the Pirates, according to ESPN.

    When asked about joining Pittsburgh, Martin said:

    It's going to be different. It's going to be a challenge but I think the Pirates have a young and electric club. There is a lot of talent there and I don't think we're as far away as winning as maybe people outside baseball think we are.

    The 29-year-old Martin is coming off a down season in which he hit .211 with 21 home runs and 53 RBI for the Yankees.

    This is a good signing for the Pirates, as they gain an experienced backstop who will provide veteran leadership both on the field and in the locker room.

Big Signing: Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox

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    According to the Boston Herald, the Red Sox plan on using Mike Napoli—who signed a $39 million deal over three years—primarily at first base this season.

    About a week ago, I shared my reservations about Boston signing Napoli, but my perspective has changed now that the Red Sox didn't overpay the 31-year-old catcher/first baseman.

    Coming off a season in which he only batted .227, the change of scenery could be a good move for Napoli, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:

    Sources say Mike Napoli will be a Red Sox. Napoli has the highest slug pct at Fenway Park among active players with 70+ PA (.710)

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 3, 2012

Big Signing: B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves

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    The Atlanta Braves made their offseason splash, digging deep into their pockets to sign center fielder B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25 million deal, per MLB.com.

    While Upton does possess a rare combo of speed and power, his attitude and inconsistency often overshadow what he does on the diamond.

    As ESPN's Buster Olney explains in his blog, the Braves took a risk signing Upton to the biggest free-agent contract in team history, as his strikeouts have risen and his defense has declined.

    Personally, I'm not a fan of this deal. I think Atlanta overpaid Upton by a lot and could have done better to fill the void in center field.

Big Signing: Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox

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    Aside from obtaining Napoli, the Red Sox also managed to land Shane Victorino to play right field.

    According to MLB.com, the deal is worth $39 million over three years, as Victorino will move over to right field to allow Jacoby Ellsbury to patrol center.

    This is a good move for Boston, and it appears that Victorino is pleased as well, judging by his Twitter account.

    Just agreed to join the Boston @redsox in the middle of paradise. #BLESSED!!! Can't wait to get to Boston! twitter.com/ShaneVictorino…

    — Shane Victorino (@ShaneVictorino) December 5, 2012

Big Signing: Dan Haren, Washingotn Nationals

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    Adding to a pitching staff that already boasts Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, the Washington Nationals went out and signed three-time All-Star Dan Haren to a one-year, $13 million deal, according to the Washington Post.

    The signing isn't without risk, as Haren was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his 10-year career last season, which limited him to 176.2 innings.

    All in all, I like this signing. Haren has been an innings-eater throughout his career, and even if he isn't out there for more than 200 innings, $13 million isn't a lot to spend for a team that traditionally doesn't make many big moves in free agency.

Other Notable Signings

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    Here are some other signings worth mentioning, both prior to and during the winter meetings, per ESPN's Free Agent Tracker.

     

    Cincinnati Reds: Jonathan Broxton—three years, $21 million

    Toronto Blue Jays: Melky Cabrera—two years, $16 million

    Detroit Tigers: Torii Hunter—two years, $26 million

    New York Yankees: Hiroki Kuroda—one year, $15 million; Andy Pettitte—one year, $12 million

    San Francisco Giants: Angel Pagan—four years, $40 million

Storyline: Josh Hamilton

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    Many teams have expressed interest in Josh Hamilton, but talks between Hamilton and the Seattle Mariners have reportedly gotten very serious, according to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.

    Mariners said to be "very close" to landing Josh Hamilton. Depends on what happens with Zack Greinke over next few days blogs.seattletimes.com/mariners/2012/…

    — Geoff Baker (@gbakermariners) December 6, 2012

    As Baker writes, whom Hamilton signs with all depends on where Zack Greinke lands. Baker reports that the Rangers are interested in acquiring Greinke, which would mean there wouldn't be enough money to go around for both Greinke and Hamilton.

Storyline: Zack Greinke

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    Like Hamilton, Zack Greinke has been linked to many teams, but the MLB Twitter account now says that the Los Angeles Dodgers have begun negotiating with the 2009 Cy Young winner.

    GM Ned Colletti confirms @dodgers have graduated from due diligence to negotiating for RHP Zack Greinke: atmlb.com/121aXBs

    — MLB (@MLB) December 6, 2012

    Since Greinke will likely receive the largest free-agent contract this offseason, where he lands will influence where a lot of other free agents sign.

    Judging by how much the Dodgers were willing to spend last season, don't be surprised if they blow everyone away with a huge deal for the right-handed ace.

Storyline: Nick Swisher

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    MLB Trade Rumors reports that there are five teams in the mix to land Nick Swisher, but the Cleveland Indians could be front-runners now that the Red Sox have signed Shane Victorino.

    Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer tweets that Cleveland manager Terry Francona has reached out to Swisher in hopes of drawing him to the Indians:

    #indians manager Terry Francona called free agent Nick Swisher to pitch the Tribe to him. Orioles, Seattle also in.

    — paul hoynes (@hoynsie) December 5, 2012

    With Francona expressing his interest, this seems like a very possible deal that could happen soon. With a few new pieces and a new manager, the Indians very well could contend for a playoff spot next season.

Storyline: Justin Upton

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    There's a possibility that a four-team deal could be in the works that would send Justin Upton to Texas, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. To read the entire scenario, click here.

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also reports that the Rangers are working on a deal to acquire Upton: 

    #rangers said working hard now on justin upton.

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 5, 2012

    Obtaining Upton would likely mean the departure of Josh Hamilton, but as seen in Rosenthal's article, Texas could possibly wind up with Upton and coveted ace Zack Greinke.

Storyline: Michael Bourn

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    Michael Bourn will likely wait and see where Hamilton and Greinke sign before making a decision, but ESPN's Buster Olney makes his suggestion via Twitter:

    Reading the market tea leaves: If Greinke winds up with TEX and Hamilton lands in Seattle, then Michael Bourn and PHI will need each other.

    — Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 6, 2012

    Bourn in Philadelphia does make sense, as they no longer have big names in the outfield like Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.

    With Bourn having started his career in Philadelphia and spent a large chunk of his career playing in the NL East, the Phillies should be considered a favorite to land the speedy outfielder.

     

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