LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The winter meetings usually act as a catalyst for offseason activity in Major League Baseball, but that won't be the case this year. Christmas has come early, as several huge free-agent signings and even some trades went down this past week and the week before. Nearly a quarter of the free agents who filed after the World Series already have signed, and several other deals were on the verge of going down.
Robinson Cano signed with the Seattle Mariners. The New York Yankees reeled in Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. The New York Mets signed outfielder Curtis Granderson. The Boston Red Sox brought back Mike Napoli, brought in A.J. Pierzynski, and let Jarrod Saltalamacchia go to the Miami Marlins. The Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler and signed Joe Nathan, and also dealt Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals. Pitchers Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco signed with the Minnesota Twins. The Kansas City Royals traded for Norichika Aoki. The Oakland Athletics traded for Jim Johnson. The St. Louis Cardinals swapped David Freese for Peter Bourjos.
But there's still much to do in the shadow of Mickey Mouse's ears. What might happen here at Disney World?
The Rays might trade David Price
Back in 2008, the Rays locked up star slugger Evan Longoria for nine years when he was just a few weeks into his major league career, but that didn't start a trend. Price is two seasons away from free agency, in a similar contractual situation to James Shields a year ago when he was traded for slugger Wil Myers. Of course, whatever team gets Price also gets is pet French Bulldog, Astro.
The Tampa Bay Times, reports:
The prevailing thought is that the Rays will trade Price now because his value will never be higher, that they can maximize their return as the acquiring team would have Price for two full seasons before he becomes a free agent. (That's similar to when they traded Shields, who was signed for 2013 with a 2014 option.)
Plus, there are more teams in the conversation now, with the ability to adjust their budgets, personnel and plans accordingly over the offseason if they land Price. It's certainly easier for teams to dream big in the winter.
By waiting until the July trade deadline, the Rays likely would have a much smaller field to match up with.
The Dodgers might trade Matt Kemp
Kemp's agent, former pitcher Dave Stewart, is so sure it's about to happen that he's attending the winter meetings for the first time ever, reportedly. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times writes:
Whatever happens, Stewart is confident Kemp will recover from a frustrating 2013 season in which he was limited to 73 games because of injuries. Kemp hit .270 with six home runs and 33 runs batted in.
Stewart revealed that Kemp was less than truthful when he insisted his surgically repaired left shoulder didn't bother him.
"Any time he tried to lift weights, it caused irritation," Stewart said. "He went the whole season without any upper-body work."
The condition of the shoulder has improved dramatically as a result of a procedure Kemp underwent in early October. With Kemp back to lifting weights, Stewart anticipates his trademark power will return. Kemp hit a career-high 40 home runs in 2011.
New Hall of Famers
Longtime Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox is a good bet to be voted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. Joe Torre and Tony La Russa are strong possibilities too. Former labor leader Marvin Miller missed by one vote in 2010, but he's also known for not wanting the honor. Former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner also looms on the ballot. The Associated Press reports:
Among the nine managers with three or more World Series titles, Torre and La Russa are the only ones not in Cooperstown.
"He's going to go to the Hall of Fame," La Russa's former closer in Oakland, Dennis Eckersley, predicted last year.
Torre and Cox retired as managers after the 2010 season and La Russa after leading St. Louis to the 2011 championship. Torre won four World Series titles with the Yankees, La Russa three with Oakland and the Cardinals, and Cox one with Atlanta. La Russa is third among managers with 2,728 wins; Cox had 2,504 and Torre 2,326.
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The New York Yankees weren’t the only AL East team dealing with multiple defections on Friday. The Baltimore Orioles also lost a pair of their own free agents as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports outfielder Nate McLouth agreed to a two-year, $10.75 million deal with the Washington Nationals. During the signing frenzy earlier on Friday, right-hander Scott Feldman and the Texas Rangers agreed on a three-year, $30 million contract, which we discussed here.
Focusing on McLouth, it won't be a long trip from Baltimore, but once he arrives in Washington he'll be joining a crowded outfield that already includes Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Denard Span. It's pretty much cut and dry the 32-year-old veteran will serve as the Nationals fourth outfielder, and that it will take an injury to crack the lineup on a consistent basis. That may not be an ideal role for a free agent that logged nearly 600 plates appearances last season, but the money to play the role proved too great to pass up.
The value for Washington, of course, is that McLouth is capable of backing up all three outfield positions and gives them protection in case Harper's knee flares up or another injury pops up among their starters. In 2013, the Nationals were not fully prepared to deal with Harper's multiple ailments and missed games, as they were forced to turn to Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore as replacements. The left-handed swinging McLouth provides a definite upgrade, which is supported by his .272/.342/.411 slash line against right-handed pitching last season. Those numbers also indicate he'll be a worthwhile pinch-hit option against the NL's best right-hander relievers.
His career best 30 stolen bases in 2013 highlight his value as a baserunner as well.
In short, McLouth fits the description of a fourth outfielder to a T and seems like an especially good fit for a Washington team that hopes to rebound from a very disappointing 2013.
Looking for more baseball chatter?
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