Winter meetings winners and losers (cont.)
10. Nationals. Sure, $126 million for Werth doesn't exactly look like a bargain for a 31-year-old outfielder, no matter how many times Boras talks about how "fresh'' Werth is for missing so much time from a wrist injury several years ago. The contract seems a tad high, but the goal is to win, not to make bargain deals, and Werth is a player who can help them do that. Besides, the Nats have to pay a bit more to get players to come to Washington. "Elite players get elite contracts,'' GM Mike Rizzo said. Rizzo favors athleticism and defense, which is why Dunn wasn't really a target (their $36-million offer was made when Stan Kasten was the club president) and Werth has both of those attributes.
11. Cardinals. After meeting with Albert Pujols' agents, Cardinals people appeared to be all smiles. It has to be early in the process, and Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt made it clear a few weeks ago at the GM meetings that he didn't want to repeat the $305 million A-Rod contract, which has to be the starting point from Pujols' perspective. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said he was going on "radio silence'' regarding the highly sensitive subject. But manager Tony La Russa, who's under no such constraints, pointed out the likelihood for a deal is very good when both sides want to make it happen, as is the case here.
12. Dodgers. GM Ned Colletti added a sixth starting pitcher, Vicente Padilla, who seems to have resurrected himself in L.A. after coming over from Texas late in the 2009 season with a reputation as a bad teammate. Even with that surplus of starters, the Dodgers are one of the teams talking to the Royals about trading for ace Zack Greinke.
13. Orioles. Sure, they can't lure free agents who aren't relievers. They failed in their bids for at least Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn, and Konerko and Peña went elsewhere after having brief chats with Baltimore. The Orioles are sensitive about this weakness, but they also understand that they need to thrive in the drafts and trades. They filled their third base and shortstop holes with trades for the power-hitting Mark Reynolds for third and solid J.J. Hardy for short. There could be other deals forthcoming, as they appear to have an extra outfielder, and the outspoken Luke Scott (more on him below) could be trade fodder.
14. Kevin Correia. In an under-the-radar signing, he got $8 million over two years from Pittsburgh after a 10-10, 5.40 ERA season with the Padres, raising the hopes of free-agent Jeff Francis to duplicate that deal. The Pirates also beat out the Dodgers for solid outfielder Matt Diaz, inking him to a two-year, $4.25 million deal. Diaz told folks he didn't want to deal with L.A. traffic and generally preferred the East Coast. But it still looked good for Pittsburgh to beat a contending team for a player.
1. Angels. An otherwise terrific franchise, they don't seem to have a handle on this free agency thing. While they occasionally have made a good deal with free agents (Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter), they also seem to get blown out of the water for their prized target a lot, too. Crawford was supposed to be their No. 1 guy, yet word is they made him an offer of six years, one year less than the older Werth received, and were beaten by the Red Sox by about $30 million.
There's really no chance they are going to try to outbid the Yankees and Rangers for No. 2 target Lee. Which means that they are down to Nos. 3 and 3A on their list (Beltre and closer Rafael Soriano) with no guarantee to get either. From their history they are a threat to continue to go home empty-handed, even with having a bit of a home-field advantage for Beltre (he still lives in Los Angeles from his Dodgers days). But take heart, Angels fans. GM Tony Reagins said they already made a big move, securing reliever Hisanori Takahashi on a two-year deal. He wasn't kidding, we think.
2. Luke Scott. Somehow, he got himself into trouble at a meeting that's supposed to be a place for players to make nice with executives and writers. He did so by making critical comments about President Obama to Yahoo! writer David Brown, among them that "He wasn't born here" and "He's hiding something." The team issued a statement distancing itself from Scott's opinions, and club president Andy MacPhail, asked if he's upset about Scott's remarks, said, "Yeah, it's goofy ... and we're here in Walt Disney World.''
3. Billy Beane, A's GM. The brilliant executive can't seem to give his money away. He was said to be turning away from Beltre after Beltre sat on Beane's $64-million, five-year offer for weeks, and a union of the two sides now appears to be a long shot at best. Lance Berkman turned down a two-year offer from the A's to sign for one year in St. Louis. And Oakland failed to sign Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma after winning the right to bid on him with a $19.1-million posting fee, which drew the ire of agent Don Nomura, who didn't like the $15.25-million offer that didn't get a deal done before the Dec. 7 deadline. Beane also got into a bit of a verbal tiff with a writer who responded to Beane's suggestion that the writer needed to step up his game by telling the GM, "You haven't signed a significant player in 10 years.'' Ouch.
4. Rays. Crawford and Peña officially left, joining reliever Joaquin Benoit out the door, with Soriano sure to follow. They have a trade that isn't finalized yet to send shortstop Jason Bartlett, coming off a down year, to San Diego and were said to be considering deals for a starter, either James Shields or Matt Garza (to the Cubs?), though they'd have to get a decent haul to consider moving the talented Garza. They have built a superb system, and have Reid Brignac, Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson ready to step in to holes at shortstop, left field and the rotation, respectively.
It's hard to bet against the team that has won two of the past three AL East titles, but they have an entire bullpen to rebuild (they stand to get two relievers for Bartlett), and one agent opined, "They are now a last-place team in that division.'' That may be a bit of an overstatement, even if they will be hard-pressed to get back to the playoffs.
5. Padres. The Bartlett deal helps, and they are in play for Derrek Lee for first base (so are the Diamondbacks, Jays, Nats, A's and Orioles). They also received a very decent package back for Gonzalez, considering he had only a year to go before free agency. Casey Kelly is a talented pitching prospect, lefthanded Anthony Rizzo is viewed as almost a sure thing at first base and Reymond Fuentes is in the Jacoby Ellsbury mold. They did a terrific job considering the constraints, but it's not possible to make up for the loss of Gonzalez, at least not in the short term.
6. Mets and GM Sandy Alderson. Alderson showed he has a sense of humor when he jabbed at Washington's $126 million deal for Werth by saying, "I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington.'' But he went a bit too far when he said the contract "makes some of our deals look pretty good.'' Every team has a bad one or two, and deposed GM Omar Minaya doesn't need to hear that. Meanwhile, Alderson was handing out only nickels and dimes, securing Ronny Paulino, D.J. Carrasco and Boof Bonser. It doesn't help matters that Paulino will miss the first eight games due to a PED suspension at a time the Mets don't need any more adverse publicity. They are also talking to pitcher Chris Young, who could take an incentive-laden deal.
7. Relief pitchers. There's a staredown between teams and relievers, borne out of the large number of relievers and many open spots. But eventually things should work out fine for useful relievers like Pedro Feliciano, Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg, Chad Durbin, Arthur Rhodes and especially Kerry Wood.
8. Rangers or Yankees. The Lee loser will have to do some hustling to make up for the loss. The Rangers have been talking about importing Greinke, who seems likely to go somewhere, with the Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Blue Jays and Dodgers so far among the most aggressive team in pursuit of the star righthander. Texas has also been talking to the Rockies about a deal for longtime Ranger star Michael Young, a possibility that is complicated by Young's $16-million salary and the apparent need to get a third team involved.
If the Yankees fail to land Lee, their options are unappealing. They really don't want to force Greinke to go to New York, but if they lose Lee, they may have to revisit that possibility in light of the poor pitching options out there.