Offseason surprises (cont.)
16. To live and divorce in L.A.
The storied Dodgers franchise was handicapped by its bickering owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt, whose divorce is making the megamarket Dodgers operate like they're located in Upper Podunk, not L.A. Instead of playing for stars, like usual, it gathered a lot of bargains. They do retain a very talented young team and wisely avoided any bickering with their players by making deals on a record 13 arbitration-eligible players.
17. Mets injuries back on center stage
Mets management sparred with star centerfielder Carlos Beltran after he had knee surgery to correct a problem both sides agreed needed to be corrected. Apparently, the Mets believed a third opinion could be beneficial, even though the first two belonged to world-renowned knee surgeon Richard Steadman and highly respected longtime Mets surgeon David Altcheck. Altcheck actually had already given the go-ahead for the operation, but Mets people still felt they needed to give some sort of written approval. At this point, with much bigger issues, the Mets should probably not concern themselves with such technicalities.
18. Mets play hardball
The Mets played hardball with targeted free agents Bengie Molina and Joel Pineiro, resulting in both players going elsewhere. Though they did offer Molina a second-year player option, apparently it was such a watered-down deal it drove him back to San Francisco. The Mets drew the line at $14 million for two years on Pineiro when he was seeking $18 million (he eventually took $16 million from the Angels). Mets people wondered whether these players preferred to go elsewhere. Perhaps they did, but the negotiations might have had something to do with that.
19. Fishin' For Dollars
The union made a case to compel the slow-spending Marlins to break out their wallets, and within a week there was a four-year, $39 million deal for star right-hander Josh Johnson. It's said that deal was forthcoming, anyway, but before the union spoke up, Florida had been only offering three years.
20. The King and I
King Felix Hernandez set the bar with Seattle at $78 million for five years for a young ace, and Justin Verlander used that target figure to slightly top it, with $80 million. Of course, with Hernandez only 23 and still able to become a free agent at 28, he's set up to make $250 million, or more, for his career. As a sidelight, both deals bode well for Cliff Lee, as it's apparent now that very few aces will hit the market in coming years.
21. Tiny Tim's big payday
Tim Lincecum settled with the Giants for $23 million over two years, avoiding a potentially contentious arbitration hearing that would have seen the sides arguing over a whopping $5-million gap. Lincecum won because he got an enormous raise from $650,000, and doubled the previous high salary for first-year arbitration eligible starting pitchers, which was only $4.35 million (Dontrelle Willis and Cole Hamels). But MLB also has to be relieved at the salary split, which is $8 million in 2010, $13 million in 2011 and a $2-million signing bonus since a $13-million salary for a first-year arbitration eligible player would have set a precedent baseball's powers didn't want to deal with. The Giants were wise to get it done without fighting with their franchise player. Lincecum did fine but played it safe.
22. Retiring types
Future Hall of Famers Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas all retired while two others -- Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz -- remain candidates to keep playing, though they haven't found jobs yet (and neither have borderline Hall candidates Carlos Delgado and Gary Sheffield).
Around the Majors
While the Tigers are still seen as the favorites in the Damon derby, the White Sox apparently are still interested.. The Braves, Rays, A's and Reds look like long shots, but with Damon still unsigned, those four have to be considered in the mix as well.
One agent expressed surprise that Corey Hart won his arbitration case while B.J. Upton lost his. But that just shows how arbitrary the results can be.
The Indians have some money left to spend and are looking at Jermaine Dye and Hank Blalock.
The Dodgers and Rockies have watched Eric Gagne throw and both teams have shown the willingness to take a chance.
Kendry Morales had a financial dispute with the Randy and Alan Hendricks before leaving them for Scott Boras. Morales is the one who brought Chapman to the Hendricks brothers so there was quite a turn for the worse in their relationship.
Felipe Lopez was obviously frustrated not to find a starting job from among 30 teams after hitting .310 with a .383 on-base percentage, which led to his switch from Boras to the Beverly Hills Sports Council. The Rockies showed interest at one time but abruptly changed their minds and took Melvin Mora, who had a poor year, instead. The Cardinals have some interest but have suggested they wanted David Freese to have a clear shot at the third-base job.
Congratulations to Bud Selig for the statue that will be erected for him outside Miller Park. But don't take his willingness to be bronzed as evidence he's ready to step down after 2011. I'll believe it when I see it.
MLB Truth & Rumors