Saturday, December 7, 2013

Free agents drop like flies ahead of winter meetings

It sure looks like Disney World might have some extra unexpected guests in amusement park lines next week. Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings are set to begin Monday, Dec. 9 in Orlando and at this rate there could be very few prominent free agents left on the market. Friday’s onslaught of free-agent signings, including the top player on the market, could put a damper on the typical excitement surrounding the meetings.

Friday December 6, 2013 was a banner day for lovers of MLB’s Hot Stove. Fans woke to news that Robinson Cano’s demands to the Seattle Mariners broke off negotiations, seemingly giving the New York Yankees the upper hand. However, just hours after Jay-Z took a beating on Twitter for how he was handling the negotiation process, he got the last laugh as he convinced the Mariners that a 10-year, $240 million contract was a great move for the organization.

There was no last minute counter by the Yankees. Once the contract got beyond seven years, the Yankees bagged out, likely due to the bad taste left in their mouth for the 10-year deal they awarded Alex Rodriguez.

I’ll say as a Yankee fan I’m disappointed that Cano will not be a part of the team, but I can’t blame the Yankees for taking a pass. They reportedly would have offered seven-years, $175 million in the end, which would have been an entirely fair deal in my opinion.

I also cannot feel animosity toward Cano. I venture to guess many people offered a difference of $65 million guaranteed cash would take it and deal with any location consequences should they arise. Allegiances in baseball went by the wayside long ago. See how quickly Cano lost his Yankee cap?

As for the Mariners, while I think they will be hamstrung after five seasons, I won’t say they made a mistake. If Cano is the first piece of the puzzle and the Mariners are able to add some other pieces this season and next, who is to say they cannot put themselves in a spot to contend? The results of the success of this deal is years away from being determined.

The Yankees were very active despite Cano’s departure. The Yankees came to agreement with starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year, $16 million deal just before the news broke on Cano. The Yankees signed Kelly Johnson to a one-year contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million. Johnson will likely to act as a utility player, though he could fill the void at second base should the Yankees be unable to grab a more suitable replacement. Then the Yankees reached an agreement with coveted outfielder Carlos Beltran on a three-year, $45 million contract. Beltran’s bat will fit nicely into the Yankees lineup that is slowly developing into a potent one, assuming good health of course. The Yankees will continue to spend this offseason.

On the other side of New York City, the Mets made some noise of their own, settling on a four-year deal with former Yankee Curtis Granderson worth $60 million. Granderson will be very helpful for the middle of the Mets order as a complementary piece to David Wright. The Mets have been waiting for the right player to come aboard and Granderson is a nice additional power threat.

Believe it or not there were other notable accords reached outside of New York. Scott Feldman is headed to Houston on a three-year, $30 million pact. Feldman, a groundball producing machine (49.6% rate) had a fine 2013 season recording a combined 3.86 ERAwith the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles. Feldman quickly becomes the highest paid player on the Astros. The team has been active this offseason having traded for outfielder Dexter Fowler earlier in the week. They’ve been involved with several other free agents along the way, making it seem they are willing to spend after trimming payroll to incredibly low levels in 2013.

The Washington Nationals will pay outfielder Nate McLouth $10.75 million over the next two seasons, with a $6.5 million option for the third season. McLouth reinvented himself in nearby Baltimore and translated it in a very nice deal. The Nats will seemingly utilize McLouth, who stole a career-high 30 bases in 2013, as insurance for their current outfield spread of Denard Span, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.

Lastly, the Boston Red Sox will re-sign Mike Napoli to a two-year, $32 million deal. Napoli launched 23 home runs in 2013 and recorded an OPS+ of 129. Napoli, took to Twitter to announce his coming back to Fenway. Surely the Fenway faithful were elated.
More than $400 million in guaranteed salary was committed yesterday culminating a very busy week which also saw Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-years, $153 million) go to the Yankees, the Detroit Tigers nab Joe Nathan (two-years, $20 million) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia head to the Miami Marlins (three-years, $21 million). There were also several trades made, three alone by the Oakland Athletics in one day!

There are still some stories to be made at this year’s meetings with outfielder Shin-Soo Choo still on the market as well as some quality starting pitchers in Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez. Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price’s name has been tossed around in trade talks which could heat up the meetings. There is also the possibility that Nippon Professional Baseball will come to an agreement with MLB on the posting system as teams await the potential availability of starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

If this offseason has proved anything, it is that it can be fast and furious. Even with many of the top names off the board, there will surely be some excitement at Disney beyond twists, dips and turns on Space Mountain.

Contract figures were retrieved from MLB Trade Rumors’ free agent tracker.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. Besides his work here, Chris is a New York Yankees contributor for Yahoo Sports. Connect with Chris on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.