Home MLB Rounding the Bases: More deals

Rounding the Bases: More deals

by Matt Smith

The week of the MLB Winter Meetings had a lot to live up to after the transaction bonanza of the preceding week.

Consequently it was a slightly underwhelming few days relative to what had come before, but there was still a series of signings worth catching up on.

Hello Cano

The major event of the week came in Seattle where second baseman Robinson Cano was officially unveiled as a Mariner, having agreed a staggering 10-year, $240m contract with the AL West team.

Such monumental investments carry a significant amount of risk, as discussed a week ago, but any concerns can be pushed to one side right now for Mariners fans as the revel in the excitement of their team acquiring one of the very best players in the Majors.

It is great to see a team like Seattle making a bold signing and further shows how competitive MLB is.

Every year, the vast majority of teams will start the season with genuine reason for optimism that they could be in the running for a playoff place, with the main exceptions being teams, such as the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins, who have deliberately chosen to take steps backwards to reload for better days in years to come.

Only ten teams can make it to the postseason in a given season, so those hopes will not be realised for many, but it is hope that keeps fans going and MLB has done a great job in creating an environment where most teams can offer this.

The Mariners’ next big task is to make further improvements to supplement the addition of Cano, particularly in the batting lineup. Former Milwaukee Brewer Corey Hart has been signed on a one-year deal after he missed all of the 2013 season due to knee surgery. If he’s healthy, Hart should add some much-need power to the lineup, and he’ll be joined by Logan Morrison, who was acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins.

Seattle are unlikely to end their recruitment drive there and they continue to be linked with outfielder free agent Nelson Cruz, although his price tag may prove to be too rich following their spending so far this offseason.

Yankees still shopping

The sight of Robinson Cano smiling in a Mariners uniform didn’t just drive home the impact of his signing for Seattle, but also for his former team in the Bronx.

The Yankees have a Cano-shaped hole to fill at second base and that hasn’t started very well, with one potential target slipping away from them this week.

Omar Infante has reportedly agreed a four-year, $30.25m contract with the Kansas City Royals after the Yankees refused to increase their offer of a three-year deal worth $24m. The 32-year-old isn’t a superstar and holding firm at three years isn’t an overly questionable decision, but solid second baseman aren’t easy to find and there’s no doubt that the Yankees have a pressing need for such a player.  There were rumours of a potential trade with the Cincinnati Reds for Brandon Phillips early last week, but no deal was agreed and apparently talks have ceased for now, with New York turning their attention to Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs.

The Royals presumably will take a modicum of satisfaction from outbidding the Yankees for Infante after the Bronx Bombers did the same thing to them with Carlos Beltran.

Three teams, six players

We did get one Winter Meeting specialty last week: the three-team trade. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels combined in a deal including six players.

The best-known name of the bunch was Mark Trumbo. He will take his homer-hitting skills (although arguably supplemented with little else) from the Angels to the D-Backs, whilst Adam Eaton moves from Arizona to Chicago. The Angels are reunited with young pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who they drafted in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft but then traded to Arizona in August 2010 as part of a deal to acquire Dan Haren, and received another starting pitcher in the form of Hector Santiago from the White Sox.

Back to where they were

Several teams and players have decided to stage a reunion.

Juan Uribe has agreed a two-year, $15m deal to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Uribe struggled badly with the Dodgers in 2011 and 2012 and his hack-happy approach at the plate has never endeared him to connoisseurs of the science of hitting. However, he did a good job for the Dodgers in 2013 and, with limited options available, a reunion was always a decent possibility.

Former Dodger James Loney has also rejoined his 2013 team, agreeing a three-year, $21m contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. Loney doesn’t offer much power for a first baseman, yet he’s a good hitter and he enjoyed a comeback in 2013 with the Rays as a change of scenery from L.A., where he looked a little weighed down by not meeting the lofty expectations placed on him, worked out well.

That could have proved a problem for the Rays as good players tend to end up moving out of their price range (David Price being a prime example, although at time of writing his expected trade away from the Rays hasn’t materialized), yet in this case they’ve been able to come to an agreement to keep hold of one of their free agents.

Elsewhere, Clint Barmes has returned to Pittsburgh, whilst Mike Pelfrey has decided to stay in Minnesota. The Twins have now added three pitchers to their rotation, Pelfrey being joined by Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, and they may still be in the conversation to sign former Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo too. None of these hurlers are aces, but they all have their plus points and if they can find some form at Target Field then the Twins may be able to reverse their recent run of disappointing seasons and at least get back on the right path.

Pitchers changing places

Pelfrey wasn’t the only pitcher agreeing terms on a new contract this past week.

Bartolo Colon will try to continue to defy the ageing process after signing a two-year, $20m contract with the New York Mets. Colon performed brilliantly for the Oakland A’s over the last two seasons and a move to another pitcher-friendly home ballpark should increase the odds that he can keep that run going, although moving to the non-DH league where he may have to find his way around the basepads may be a problem for the Mets, and a source of laughter for the rest of us.

The A’s have continued their recent activity by trading away Brett Anderson to the Colorado Rockies and Jerry Blevins to the Washington Nationals. Anderson has been beset by injuries in recent seasons and Coors Field isn’t the first place a pitcher would pick to get their career back on track, but A’s fans will wish him well whilst hoping that former top prospect Drew Pomeranz (selected fifth overall by the Cleveland Indians in the 2010 draft) is a gamble that pays off in return. Blevins should usefully fill a hole in the Nats’ bullpen as a reliable lefty, with the A’s receiving speedy outfield prospect Billy Burns in return.

Another reliever changing teams this week was Joba Chamberlain. Much-hyped as a New York Yankee prospect, Chamberlain never quite lived up to his billing in the Bronx and a move to the Detroit Tigers as a free agent could be just what he needs to get his career going again.

Doc calls it a day

Finally, Roy Halladay announced his retirement this week, signing a one-day deal so that he could retire as a Toronto Blue Jay. His dominating run of seasons from 2002 to 2011 were the equal of some of the very greatest the game has seen and although he doesn’t have all of the impressive counting stats that you’d normally associate with a Hall of Fame player (‘only’ 203 career wins, for example) he was an exceptional pitcher for a significant period of time and should receive serious consideration for a place in Cooperstown.

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