Red Sox lead winter meetings winners while Angels are losers
Boston Red Sox had best week, getting Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez
Agents like Darek Braunecker, Scott Boras also did well at winter meetings
The Angels, Mets and A's were among the teams that didn't get much done
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It was one wild winter meetings. Only a handful of teams made major moves, but oh, what deals they were.
Without further ado, here are the winners and losers of the week:
1. Red Sox and Red Sox Nation. Boston's beloved team and its faithful fans cheered over $302 million worth of lineup alterations. First there was the completion of a trade-and-sign (the parameters of a new contract, anyway) for superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and then the surprise signing of superstar outfielder Carl Crawford, immediately enhancing their lineup to the point where it's quite possibly the best in baseball. Gonzalez, who apparently came to the framework of an extension agreement for about $154 million over seven years with the Red Sox with the aid of a short deadline extension, is one of the very best hitters in baseball, while Crawford brings dynamic athleticism to the field and to the batting order. With those two on board, the Red Sox stole the show. They even were identified as one of the mystery bidders for Cliff Lee, the top free-agent pitcher available, though that may have been done in part to block or trigger the Yankees, and two Boston people say they are now out or just about of the Lee derby.
2. Darek Braunecker, agent. He didn't make a deal here for Lee, his ballyhooed client, but he played the market and used his leverage perfectly, showing how a little patience can turn into big bucks. Braunecker delayed taking offers, waited until a good but lesser player in Jayson Werth signed with the Nationals for seven years and $126 million, brought new stalkers into the mix and enticed the Yankees and Rangers to get into an all-out war. Two mystery teams (one of which remains a mystery) entered the sweepstakes for seven years. By the end of the meetings, the favored Yankees were also bidding seven years, presumably at bigger bucks, and the incumbent Rangers were on their way to Little Rock, Ark., to meet with Lee and Braunecker. The Yankees had been adamantly against going to a seventh year, and the Rangers were obviously going far beyond where they intended, as well. Texas' new ownership group, led by Chuck Greenberg and some nice oil men, seem ready to do A-Rod II, which is to say they may pay beyond what should be feasible for a team in a very nice but not overwhelmingly large market. They were never going to go above five years, but they appear to be wiling to do at least six now for the great but 32-year-old pitcher. The Rangers, who had a payroll just north of $50 million in 2010, appear ready to commit at least 25 percent of its payroll to one pitcher, at least in the short term. Greenberg, a former minor league owner, seems to be relishing his time in the big time. But it didn't work when Tom Hicks handed out the biggest player contract to Alex Rodriguez, so it'll be interesting to see what happens if Texas makes Lee the highest-paid pitcher ever.
3. Carl Crawford. With a $142 million deal, he became the highest-paid position player never to hit 20 home runs in a season, beating the $90 million deal the Mariners gave to Ichiro in 2007 by more than $50 million. He also received the highest average annual salary for an outfielder on a deal of at least three years ($20.29 million), not bad for a player who's never led the league in anything beyond stolen bases and triples. He's an excellent all-around player, and scouts see power coming after he hit a career-high 19 last year. But the fact remains that he's a corner outfielder who's not yet a bona fide power hitter and by far the richest player whose greatest attributes are speed and defense. Early word that he preferred the Angels may have been correct, but he couldn't ignore about a $30 million gap in the offers (Los Angeles of Anaheim was thought to be at around $110 million for six years). He also probably didn't mind staying in the AL East, a division where he thrived with the Rays. The Yankees love Crawford as a player but appear now to have been in it mostly to monitor the situation and perhaps try to drive up Boston's price if they could.
4. Jayson Werth. The seven-year, $126 million deal the Nationals gave Werth was a real eye-opener, especially for him. The deal represents about 10 times what he had made to date in his big-league career, and was actually $1 million more than ex-teammate Ryan Howard's recent extension with the Phillies (though Howard's was for five years and came two years before free agency). Estimates were that Werth would receive between $80 million and $100 million, and he easily beat those numbers with a total that's become infamous in baseball for being the same amount Barry Zito and Vernon Wells got, two deals that haven't exactly paid off for the Giants and Blue Jays, respectively. Werth, like Crawford, is a terrific all-around talent, but he had been a complementary player on the Phillies, albeit an excellent one. The only real knock on Werth is that he is unproven in the prestigious No. 3 or 4 holes in the lineup, which is where he's likely to hit in Washington. But the deal looks a tad long for a 32-year-old, even one in great shape from a family of athletes.
5. Scott Boras, agent. He got the deal for Werth, and he also got a $10 million, one-year deal for a player who didn't even hit .200 last season. Carlos Peña, who signed with the Cubs on a one-year "pillow'' contract, became the highest paid sub-.200 hitter ever in free agency. Boras so dubbed it a "pillow'' contract because such a deal enables a historically very good player coming off a bad year to have a soft landing. Affable Cubs GM Jim Hendry arrived in Boras' suite toting a pillow to honor Boras' "pillow contract" phrase, demonstrating he indeed wanted to provide Peña a soft landing. The last obvious example of such a contract was Adrian Beltre, who signed for $8 million with the Red Sox last offseason and took advantage by posting a huge individual year.
6. Legacy Sports (agents Greg Genske, Brian Peters, Scott Parker). The agency that's right up the road from Boras' place by Fashion Square Mall in Newport Beach acquitted itself nicely with Crawford's Red Sox deal, the ninth-highest in baseball history. Earlier this offseason, the White Sox signed outrageously consistent slugger Adam Dunn, another client of theirs, for $56 million over four years, $20 million more than his incumbent Nationals hoped to pay (their offer was for three years). In that case it probably took some doing to convince Dunn that it would be better for his career (not to mention his bankroll) for him to put his glove mostly to the side for now and instead do a lot of DHing after the defensively challenged player spent his entire career in the National League. Other clients of theirs still on the market include Orlando Hudson, Jeremy Bonderman and Brad Penny, who got $7.5 million last offseason coming off a year in which he had been released.
They are also the agents for CC Sabathia, who can opt out of his seven-year, $161 million contract with the Yankees after next season. Sabathia loves New York but he could use that opt-out to his advantage.
7. White Sox. By the standards of this market, the contract they gave Paul Konerko -- $37.5 million for three years with heavy deferrals in the third year -- was a downright bargain for the excellent hitter and loyal employee of owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Konerko and Reinsdorf talked via phone, but assistant GM Rick Hahn worked out the agreement with agent Craig Landis that was a sound and solid deal.
8. Adrian Beltre. He looks like he's in good shape for a big contract this offseason, not only because he posted impressive numbers (.321, 28 home runs, 102 RBIs) in his one year in Boston but also because the Angels have to be desperate. While the Angels usually don't pay what it takes via free agency, it would appear there's no free agent left who could bolster their sagging lineup. The AL West-rival Rangers may also need a third baseman. They spent a fair amount of time trying to deal third baseman and longtime star Michael Young, mostly to the Rockies, who like his makeup and versatility but would likely need a third team, making it "complicated'' and a "long shot,'' according to Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd.
9. Cubs and Carlos Peña. Peña didn't have to take a pay cut, an impressive feat for a guy who hit .196 last season, and the Cubs get a lefthanded power hitter they badly need. Peña hit 28 home runs in 2010, led the American League in that category in 2009, once had a 1.037 OPS in 2007 and is a two-time Gold Glove winner hungry to re-prove himself. Peña should benefit from a reunion with noted hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. He seemed genuinely excited to be going to the historic and fun franchise. He even showed up at the press conference (he happens to live in Orlando). If Peña reverts to the form of his first few years with Tampa Bay, maybe he can stay beyond the one year. But this deal seems to set up the Cubs perfectly for a run at Prince Fielder of the NL Central-rival Brewers, who will be a free agent next winter.
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