What a long offseason this is turning into. Up until the Winter Meetings, which concluded Thursday in Las Vegas, it has been rather dull as well, with little to no movement on the player front.
Well, like I said, that was until the meetings, and as expected, a few prominent names now have new homes. And as usual, I have my fair share of opinions about what went down in Sin City.
The first major chip to fall was Francisco Rodriguez, who went into the meetings expecting to land a deal for 5 years at $75 million, only to drastically drop his asking price and take 3 years at $37 million. Apparently the burgeoning market of teams making their closers available scared him into signing the best deal possible rather than holding out for the dream contract. Still, the Mets made the first splash of the season, and in doing so, managed to sew up a loose end of their biggest need.
I’ve made my peace on the C.C. Sabathia signing and the extremes that New York went to in order to make it happen. Still, the Yankees needed to land an ace, and there were none bigger than C.C. Sabathia, literally! This instantly improves their rotation, and with the Yankees penchant for scoring runs, Sabathia should be able to count on a few more wins in 2009.
Not to be outdone, the Mets struck right back, making the smartest deal of the meetings by swinging in a three team trade with the Mariners and Indians that brings J.J. Putz to town to not only set up Rodriguez, but to also take on a share of the closing duties in Flushing. In two quick moves, the Mets were able to make their biggest weakness into the biggest strength in the division.
Speaking of closers on the move, the Indians made the quietest move of the offseason. Somewhere in the dark of night, they signed Kerry Wood to become their new closer. This is an interesting development, as Wood could be excellent, and a definite upgrade over the committee that they had in place a year ago after Joe Borowski melted down, but Woods’ health has to be a concern of theirs with every pitch he throws. Still, the Indians only have to guarantee two years to Wood, including a vesting option based on appearances to make it more worthwhile to both Wood and the club. But can a leopard permanently change his spots? I guess we’ll see shortly.
Let’s not forget that there are hitters on the market as well. The Phillies landed yet another big bat for their line-up, locking down Raul Ibanez for 3 seasons to add into the middle of their line-up behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. As a fantasy baseball player, I love this signing because Ibanez has always been a consistent contributor, even in the pitcher’s haven in Seattle. Now he gets to take his cuts in the bandbox of Citizen’s Bank Ballpark. Talk about moving up the draft board! However, I don’t know if he was the bat the Phillies really wanted, as he’s yet another lefty power bat, when they really needed a right handed bat to offset the loss of Pat Burrell. This smells more like a concession that the money for Manny Ramirez wasn’t coming out of Philadelphia, much to Charlie Manuel’s chagrin.
And once again, we swing back to New York, he landed their second pitching ace in a week by inking A.J. Burnett to a 5 year, $82.5 million deal. Burnett showed a lot more poise pitching in Toronto last season, which is something the Yankees were obviously looking for. But I have to tell you, if I was handing out opt clauses, this is the guy I would be giving it to, because 5 seasons on a pitcher that has pitched over has started 30 or more games and thrown over 170 innings only twice in the last five seasons seems to be a risk to me. Still, if he shows that last season is the A.J. Burnett that the Yankees can expect, then he’s a nice number two starter to slot in behind Sabathia.
And finally, somewhere in California, Scott Boras is wondering what he got himself into with Manny Ramirez. For all the pomp and chest thumping going on about Manny’s reemergence after his trade to Los Angeles in 2008, there has been relatively little activity on the Manny front so far this offseason. Aside from the Dodgers’ initial offer, there has been little to no rumors about money being thrown Manny’s way. Of all the egos to stroke, I have to wonder how much work Boras is having to do now that his client realizes that he is considered Plan B by many teams, and his own agent, to Mark Texiera. Someone is going to sign Manny, but at this point, he’s looking like he’ll get a three year deal from someone, rather than the five plus years he was leveraging for.