This is one of my favorite times of year. Not because of Christmas. Well, because of Christmas, but also because of the MLB winter meetings. And let me tell you, this year’s winter meetings have been nothing short of shocking.
The first big move that was made was Jayson Werth signing with the Washington Nationals for seven years and $126 million. I’ll say all that’s positive about this first before I lambast Mike Rizzo. They get another good bat to compliment Ryan Zimmerman as well as a somewhat competent outfielder. He’s also a veteran presence on an extremely young team and he brings World Series experience. Now, he’s no Adam Dunn. The guy is 31 years old and he’s only recently started producing quality numbers, although he’s never had 100+ RBI in a season. Well, to be fair, he did get 99 in 2009, the only season in which he also hit over 30 home runs. Now I can verbally paste Mike Rizzo. Why why why would you ever commit that much money over that many years to a player such as Jayson Werth? I’d understand if his production was more consistent over his career, but the numbers don’t lie. The guy was lucky to even get a shot in Philadelphia, which, by the way, is a hitter’s park. Also, Rizzo completely changed the negotiating strategies for every team with this contract. Carl Crawford figured to be worth about what Werth got, but his demands ratcheted up when the Nats made their splash. It also affected Cliff Lee, who originally was seeking a five- or six-year deal, but changed his stance to wanting seven years because he saw what Werth got.
Which brings me to the next big move, Carl Crawford signing with the Boston Red Sox. Suffice it to say that this was completely out of left field (no pun intended). This reminded me of what the Yankees did with Mark Teixeira just a few years ago, where they appeared to not be in the market until the last minute when they swooped in with a massive contract. The Sox signed Crawford for seven years, $142 million. To me, this was a completely defensive move to prevent the Yankees from getting him. Yankees GM Brian Cashman met with Crawford’s representatives nearly all day on Tuesday, making it seem like he was destined for pinstripes. The Yanks were prevented from offering a contract, though (and I’m just speculating here), because they don’t know the status of Andy Pettitte. If he wants to return, the Yankees have to pay him. But they also want to sign Cliff Lee and signing all three would be nearly impossible. Now, what does this mean for Boston? Well, they traded a crowded infield for a crowded outfield, with five outfielders now on the current roster. You have to figure that this means that Jacoby Ellsbury will move back to center field, a position he could barely play before the Sox moved him to left. Crawford will play left, but in my humble opinion, his talents are wasted there. Manny Ramirez played a good left field in Fenway Park and if you’re a baseball fan, you know that he’s one of the worst outfielders of all time. Offensively, who wouldn’t want to have Crawford on their team? He’s a triples machine and a nightmare on the basepaths and his power numbers will certainly go up with that short right field porch.
The Sox also acquired slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres. This move comes as a surprise because the Padres were competitive last year and Gonzalez was the face of the franchise. The marriage between the Padres and Red Sox doesn’t come as surprise because Padres GM Jed Hoyer was an assistant under Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, so he had extensive knowledge of the Red Sox’s farm system. The Red Sox certainly gave up a lot for Gonzalez and the trade almost fell through because Gonzalez and the Sox were not able to work out a contract extension. Gonzalez is a huge upgrade for the Red Sox and a more than qualified replacement for Adrian Beltre. Kevin Youkilis will shift back to third base to accommodate Gonzalez at first base. Gonzalez will have a monster year in Boston because he was 30+ home-run guy in Petco Park, which is a pitcher’s park, and, again, Fenway is a hitter’s park.
That leaves the last big-name free agent, at the time of this writing, unsigned. Cliff Lee has reportedly received several offers, but has yet to accept any of them. This week, a mystery team offered Lee a seven-year deal, which he did not accept. It’s still unknown which team it was, but the rumor is that it was the Red Sox in an effort to drive up his price. The New York Yankees originally offered Lee a six-year deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $142-$152 million dollars, but this morning, they upped their offer to seven years. The Yankees have remained the favorites to sign Lee since the World Series ended with the Rangers right behind them. If Texas is unable to pry him away from the money the Yankees can offer him, they’re going to have to find a replacement and fast. The free agent pitching market is almost completely depleted. The best remaining free agent after Lee is Carl Pavano, who has recently revived his career. The other option for the Rangers is to attempt to trade for Kansas City’s Zack Greinke, but my instincts tell me the Rangers are hesitant to trade for him because they have moved a lot of pieces from their stellar farm system over the past few years. Kansas City is asking for a monster haul for their ace, which would have to include three or four top-level prospects plus a major-league-ready player. Needless to say, no team is really inclined to offer such a package. Greinke has been on the radar for several teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays, Yankees, Rangers and several others.
It’s safe to say that this year’s winter meetings have been one of the most entertaining in recent history. It’ll be exciting to see how all of these moves wind up working out for the respective teams. Only two months until pitchers and catchers report to spring training!