7 MLB Teams, Players Who Will Strike Gold at the Upcoming Winter Meetings
The whirlwind of MLB action on Tuesday, both in the free-agent market and on the trading block, proved that the baseball offseason is in full swing.
However, there are still plenty of big-name pitchers and sluggers on the market as team owners and general managers prepare for the four-day winter meetings in Florida, which begin on Monday. It's clear that teams are spending sizeable money on free agents this year and there are still bigger contracts to be signed.
Let's take a look at some players and teams who are primed to make big moves in the next week as baseball's brass gets set for some face-to-face interaction.
Robinson Cano, 2B
By now, it's clear that Robinson Cano and his negotiating team, which includes rapper-turned-agent Jay-Z, won't be receiving a contract near their initial demands of 10 years for $300 million. In fact, the magic number to sign Cano may have dropped down to $200 million, but that's still a nice payday for the top free agent on the market this winter.
According to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York, the Seattle Mariners have emerged as "major players" to sign Cano, with sources telling Matthews that the Mariners could offer the second baseman $200 million over eight years. Meanwhile, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports the New York Yankees are only willing to go as high as seven years and $175 million, which could seriously hurt their chances of retaining their star.
It's taken a few weeks, but it's clear to see that Cano's true market price has emerged after his outlandish initial asking price. It might fall well short of his goal of being the most lucrative contract in MLB history, but Cano is poised to join Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Joey Votto as the only players to sign contracts worth over $200 million.
Felix Hernandez could be getting some major reinforcements this week at the winter meetings. Buoyed by a 17-year, $2 billion TV deal that was signed earlier this year, the Seattle Mariners have emerged as a potentially big spender in free agency.
In recent days, the Mariners have been linked to Robinson Cano and David Price—two of the biggest names on the free agent and trade markets, respectively. Wallace Matthews of ESPN.com reported that the Mariners could offer Cano an eight-year, $200 million deal while a source told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that Cano and the Mariners met Tuesday and that, "The meeting went very well."
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wrote that Price could be dealt later this week and that Seattle would be an attractive destination for the talented southpaw if the Mariners were to sign Cano. Adding Price to a rotation that features Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, who finished third in the AL Cy Young Award voting this year, would give the team a dominant starting trio.
But Seattle needs the most help on offense. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports termed the team's pursuit of talent as "desperate" earlier this offseason, as the Mariners have also been linked to trade targets like veteran Los Angeles Dodgers outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, as well as other free-agent sluggers. Buster Olney of ESPN also said that one of the top free-agent pitchers available—Ervin Santana, Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez—will likely end up with the Mariners.
Seattle hasn't made any big splashes yet this offseason, but it sounds like the organization is on the verge of making a major move.
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported some big news on Thursday, when he tweeted that MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball were close to agreeing upon a new posting system for free agents.
This has major ramifications in the pursuit of star Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka, who wouldn't be able to play in the majors without a new posting system agreement. After going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013, the 25-year-old Tanaka figures to have a long list of deep-pocketed suitors this winter.
The Dodgers, Yankees and Mariners all figure to take a long look at the right-hander, who is a bit of an unknown but considerably younger than other top pitchers on the market like Matt Garza (30), Ervin Santana (30) and Ubaldo Jimenez (29). Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that Tanaka could earn a $75 million contract upon signing with a MLB team, which could rank as the top deal signed by any free-agent pitcher this winter.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF
In the case of free agent Jacoby Ellsbury, Scott Boras got what Scott Boras wanted. The esteemed agent was able to secure his client a seven-year, $153 million deal with the New York Yankees earlier this week, despite the talented player's recent injury history.
It bodes well for the prospects of the other big-time outfielder who Boras represents on the free-agent market, reliable leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo. Both Ellsbury and Choo were considered the top two outfielders available this winter and now Choo figures to receive a payday similar to the one that Ellsbury received.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News says the Rangers have recently met with Choo, while Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reported the Red Sox as also targeting Choo to replace Ellsbury in the lineup. The market is set for the 31-year old. Now it's just a matter of finding a suitor.
Matt Garza, RHP
Top free-agent pitchers like Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez still remained unsigned as of Thursday morning.
From the contracts of other hurlers like Jason Vargas (four years, $32 million) and Scott Kazmir (two years, $22 million), it's clear that teams are willing to pay top dollar for pitching this year. Given his more consistent track record over the years, Garza could be in for the biggest payday of all pitchers this winter.
Another factor working in Garza's favor is that he won't cost a new team a first-round draft pick since he was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers in the middle of last season. Santana and Jimenez, meanwhile, were extended qualifying offers from their respective clubs and the high cost of a draft pick could lower their market values.
There will likely be a domino effect with these three starting pitchers, so if one inks a deal, expect the other two to quickly follow suit.
New York Yankees
The Yankees are still the Yankees.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner has busted out the check book this offseason, signing oufielder Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million) and catcher Brian McCann (five years, $85 million) to big deals. By the time they inked Ellsbury on Tuesday, the $238 million committed to those two players represented nearly half of the money spent on MLB free agents so far this winter, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
But the team still needs a pitcher and Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant is convinced that the Yankees are just getting started. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball are close to a posting system agreement that would allow Masahiro Tanaka to become a free agent. The Yankees have been mentioned as a destination for the star Japanese right-hander.
With the Yankees' interest brewing in other arms on the market like Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova should have new teammates in the rotation soon.
Stephen Drew, SS
There's no doubt that agent Scott Boras took note of the four-year, $52 million deal signed by shortstop Jhonny Peralta with the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason.
It serves well for the interests of Boras' client, Stephen Drew, the top remaining shortstop available on the market. Peralta's big deal blew away the expectations of many and likely added a few more dollars to Drew's price tag heading into the winter meetings.
Alex Speier of WEEI.com recently reported that Red Sox manager John Farrell said the team is trying hard to retain both Drew and fellow free agent Mike Napoli. Meanwhile, there are other big-market suitors like the New York Mets who need a shortstop, so Drew figures to sign a healthy deal somewhere this winter.