Lot of talk, not nearly as much action at Meetings
For all the big names and rumors, annual event ends with few blockbusters
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Baseball executives don't really "leave" the Winter Meetings. "Escape" is the more appropriate word.
They spend the week sleep deprived, breathing in recycled air and ingesting more than the recommended doses of french fries. Their days and nights are spent examining every element of the industry and surveying every possible avenue for improvement.
And yet, for all the hours the Meetings consume, the actual transaction tally they net is often underwhelming. And that was certainly the prevailing notion coming out of the 2013 Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort.
The information overload that occurs here seemed to have the effect of stagnating a market that had, by and large, been bursting with activity this offseason. In fact, it could be that the increasing speed and spread of rumors emanating out of the lobby and into the Twitterverse have the effect of further complicating an already complicated process.
"Things come together easier when there's less interference," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "When you get here, you've got a lot of information used as currency back and forth. People have incentive to put things out there. Mostly teams and agents, but media, too. There are more things to deal with."
Indeed, the week passed without a trade involving David Price or Jeff Samardzija or Matt Kemp or any of the other regulars of the rumor mill. Shin-Soo Choo has not found a home, and neither have Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz and Ervin Santana, to name but a few. Masahiro Tanaka has not yet been posted (though the posting system itself has, at least, been agreed to, in principle. So that's something).
But even if the activity didn't come in a frantic flurry, several clubs did make moves at the Meetings. And now that the week has wrapped up, we can look back and note the five moves of utmost import and (at least) five lingering questions.
Five biggest moves made:
1. The three-way swap made by the D-backs, Angels and White Sox. This was one of those old-school baseball trades you've got to love, in that it came together quickly and addressed gaps on three clubs.
Personally, I love it for the Angels the most. We've known all winter that they would have to sacrifice some offense to prop up their pitching, and I'd say they did quite well in getting at least 10 total years of contractual control of two young left-handers with upside (Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs) for three years of Mark Trumbo, whose power is prominent but whose sub-.300 career on-base percentage is a cause for concern.
This was a risky move for the D-backs, in that they're assuming Trumbo can make a seamless transition to left field. But there's no question that his bat is capable of captivating the crowds at Chase Field, and he'll provide protection for Paul Goldschmidt, who didn't see many strikes down the stretch last season.
As for the White Sox, they did well to add a burst of speed and energy to the top of their lineup in Adam Eaton. With the recent acquisitions of Eaton, Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu, a once-lumbering Sox lineup will have an entirely different outlook for 2014.
2. The Mets' gamble on Bartolo Colon. A two-year, $20 million commitment to a 40-year-old with a rotund body and a recent performance-enhancing drug suspension on his palate is a bold move on the part of the Mets, but it's the price they were willing to pay for an upgrade in credibility to their rotation.
If Colon can merely be a steady supplier of strikes (he had the fourth-lowest walk rate among starters in 2013) while inducing weak outs, he'll be worth the price tag. Colon and Curtis Granderson might not be enough to move the Mets into a true contention situation, but, hey, at least they're trying.
3. The Mariners' signing of Corey Hart. This was a worthwhile $6 million risk on the part of a Seattle team that knows Robinson Cano alone is not enough to seriously upgrade the offense. Yes, the acquisition of Hart, combined with a low-cost gamble on Logan Morrison, means the Mariners continue to stock up on first base/designated hitter types, but perhaps they can now find a trade for Justin Smoak and/or Jesus Montero that augments them elsewhere.
Whatever the case, Hart could prove to be a nice pickup, even if there are considerable questions about his ability to man the outfield corners, given the knee problems that kept him off the field in 2013. Hart averaged 29 homers per year from 2010-12, and that's a desirable tool in a league starved for power.
4. The Rockies' trade for Brett Anderson. No telling what to make of Anderson's future after his recent history of injuries (Tommy John surgery in 2011, an ankle sprain and stress fracture in his right foot in '13), but it's important to remember he's only 25 and he's just the kind of buy-low trade option the Rockies have to target in their endless bid to build a quality rotation. It's not just the 3.81 career ERA and 7.1 strikeouts-per-nine innings that make Anderson appealing for the Rox; it's the 55 percent groundball rate that should suit him well in Coors Field.
Likewise, there's no telling if the move out of Colorado and into Oakland will help Drew Pomeranz, who was once one of baseball's top pitching prospects before he arrived in the 2011 Ubaldo Jimenez swap with the Indians. But given that the A's are seemingly set at starter for now, Pomeranz will have to wait for an opportunity, anyway. The rule, though, is to never rule out the possibility of Billy Beane getting the better end of a trade.
5. The Tigers' signing of Rajai Davis. It is fascinating how much -- and how quickly -- the Tigers have transformed themselves this winter. A lineup once built almost purely on power is now fundamentally more focused on speed and defense -- elements that could help the Tigers should they reach the October stage again -- and Davis fits the new formula.
It is a near-certainty (though not a total certainty) that the Davis signing precludes the Tigers from chasing Choo, in which case Davis and Andy Dirks could serve as a satisfactory left-field platoon at a fraction of what it would have cost to sign Choo. The Tigers are going to be considerably more fleet of foot.
Five questions unanswered:
1. When will the top starters start signing? The starting pitching market has been a bit backward in that the mid-tier short-term deals (like the one given to Colon) came together quickly, while the guys at the top (Jimenez, Santana, Matt Garza) have been frozen out.
It could be that the Tanaka sweepstakes -- if it exists at all -- will have to be completed before clubs go to the next step. And some kind of certainty with regard to the next question will help, too.
2. Will the Rays really deal Price? It was one of the biggest talking points at the Meetings, and it went unresolved. Nothing appears imminent with Price, but the Rays have definitely been gauging interest from the likes of the Mariners and Dodgers, among others. Joe Maddon told reporters the Rays wouldn't be likely to trade Price in season if they decide to keep him this winter. Price's trade value might never be higher than it is at this moment.
3. How serious are the Rangers about Choo? On paper, the Rangers seem the most perfect fit for Choo, and other suitors -- namely, the D-backs and Mariners -- addressed their outfield needs elsewhere. So are the Rangers the only team giving serious consideration to Choo right now, or are there mystery teams in his market? Choo is hoping for a contract rivaling that of Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million), but it's hard to see that happening right now.
4. Will Brandon Phillips shake up the second-base market? The Reds seem motivated to move Phillips and the four years and $50 million left on his contract, and Phillips would make plenty of sense for the Yankees. But a rumored Phillips-for-Brett Gardner proposal didn't bear fruit, and the Yankees continue to pursue the top free-agent option in Omar Infante. Mark Ellis also remains available.
5. What are the Phillies up to? The signings of Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd indicate a win-now mentality with an aging roster. The rumors of the Phils shopping either Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee (moves that would really shake up the starting market) and aggressively shopping Jonathan Papelbon indicate a desire to get younger and cheaper. Can the Phillies rebuild and contend at the same time?