The Seattle Mariners have agreed to terms with Robinson Cano on a 10-year, $240 million contract, marking the most dramatic example to date of a franchise taking the $26 million per team per year in new national TV money and actually spending it. It’s a good deal for Cano and a potentially great one for the Mariners.
That new TV deal, announced 14 months ago, granted broadcast rights to Fox and TBS through 2021. Combine that with the league's existing ESPN deal, and teams now stand to earn $12.4 billion over the lifetime of the contracts, more than doubling previous totals. Last winter and so far this winter, we hadn't seen many teams that lack the big media-market power of L.A. or New York or Boston spending top dollar to land marquee players. The closest we'd come was Minnesota signing right-handed starters Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes in rapid succession to contracts worth a combined $73 million. This free-agent class, like last year's, is short on superstars, but it still felt odd that the small- and medium-market clubs that had suddenly received a huge windfall of cash seemed content to stick the money under their mattresses, rather than spending it on good players who could help win games. Credit the Mariners for finally getting it.
In case you were busy spending your weekend working for the weekend, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
It took a three-hitter from Jake Peavy to finish the job, but the Los Angeles Dodgers finally dropped a series for the first time since June after losing the rubber match of their interleague tilt with the Boston Red Sox, 8-1. "Now seeing Jake Peavy here at Chavez Ravine as a member of our league is one thing," said irritated Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda. "We let him in here all the time when he was down in San Diego. But this? This is an affront to nature. Peavy traipsing into our home, as a member of the miserable American League family? Why I never."
After a pitching duel between Ivan Nova and Alex Cobb left matters unresolved, an 11th-inning sacrifice fly from Curtis Granderson proved to be the difference-maker in a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays as the Yankees avoided a three-game sweep. "But the guy won't make the ultimate sacrifice," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said as he looked over his "thought wall," which contained a number of news stories about the Yankees, large numbers, and cutouts of indecipherable symbols, connected with different colored string. "Look, it all adds up; Curtis Granderson is 32 years old and is set to be a free agent next year. Free-agent outfielders are historically overpaid on the open market. I don't want to pay Curtis Granderson a lot of money, but I need him to play baseball for the Yankees because otherwise all we'll have is the rotting corpse of Vernon Wells." Cashman then pointed at a number of New York Post headlines referring to Wells thus, before continuing. "It all adds up! If Curtis Granderson pays the New York Yankees $63 million and seven of these hypercubes you can see here for the privilege of continuing to wear pinstripes next year, I can guarantee we'll be under the luxury tax and also in the World Series." Cashman then grabbed the lapels of his assistant and said, "He'll do it right? Right? Right? Tell me he'll do it. Please, I need this. Won't you look old Dollar Man in the eyes and tell me it'll all work out?"
It took longer than it should have. The Red Sox screwed around for too long with the likes of meme generator Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder. Sure, there were reasons. They didn't want to rush their top prospect. They wanted to ensure he could play his natural position. They needed to be positive that he was ready for the big leagues.
The wait is over. Xander Bogaerts finally made his major league debut Tuesday night. He went 0-for-3, grounding out twice, striking out once, and leaving five men on base in his first two at-bats. He also made a nifty play to end the fifth, charging a Marco Scutaro bouncer and gunning him out at first by an eyelash. The bigger takeaway was this: One of baseball's top prospects finally made the Show, and the Red Sox are better for it. Given how Boston's played over the past couple weeks, it's not a moment too soon.
Just 20 years old (he turns 21 on October 1), Bogaerts hit .311/.407/.502 in 56 games at Double-A Portland, then .284/.369/.453 at Triple-A Pawtucket. Those are strong numbers on their face for anyone at any position, given neither league (nor home ballpark) dramatically distorts numbers the way, say, playing in Las Vegas does. Still, it's one thing for a first baseman or corner outfielder to hit for average, show a strong batting eye (63 walks in 515 plate appearances), and have power (15 homers, 23 doubles, and six triples), given the much lower barrier to entry in place to handle those positions defensively. Shortstop is another matter altogether. A player like Jose Iglesias may never amount to much offensively (his numbers this year are due largely to batted-ball luck; he doesn't walk, and he has no power), but he can still slot in as a team's starter for the next half-decade, the way he now is in Detroit after Boston traded him away. Bogaerts doesn't have Iglesias's defensive skill, but he's also so talented offensively that he projects as a future All-Star, given what people expect him to do with the bat versus the relatively low offensive standards set by the average shortstop.
The New York Yankees have carried some truly miserable benches over the years. Which makes sense, if you think about it. When you trot out rosters stuffed with superstars, no self-respecting part-time player is going to sign with you, given how little playing time he's likely to get. Every time Clay Bellinger pulls out his two World Series rings, he should thank George Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman for building teams that were so loaded, the Yankees couldn't do any better for a backup.
This year's Yankees team isn't stuffed with superstars. At this point, they have two: Robinson Cano (who's eligible for free agency at year's end unless the Yankees can convince him to re-sign by offering the GDP of São Tomé and Principe) and CC Sabathia. But now, instead of playing time being the problem, it's money. The 2013 Yanks are so committed to holding the line on salaries, and have so much tied up in thirtysomething former stars like A-Rod, Jeter, hell, even A.J. F'ing Burnett, that they can't, or at least won't, outbid other teams for quality part-time players. Which is why, after Curtis Granderson suffered a broken forearm that will keep him out 10 weeks, the projected Opening Day left fielder for the Yankees — the mighty New York Yankees — is Juan Rivera.
In case you were busy celebrating your big Oscars win by drunk-dialing Matt Damon and yelling, "How ’bout dem apples!" here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
Georgetown and Syracuse played their penultimate rivalry game as members of the Big East, with Georgetown getting the win at the Carrier Dome, 57-46. While they won't be members of the same conference much longer, the two schools both suggested the possibility of future games against each other. But let's get real; we all know how this ends up. For a month or two, they'll call each other every night. But slowly, Georgetown will find itself getting very close with Marquette, as they share a faith and a set of values. Syracuse, meanwhile, will plan to come down for a game in D.C., but they won't be able to make it due to a prior commitment in New York with Duke. And as things will get serious with Georgetown and Marquette (they had been saving themselves, after all), Syracuse will drunk-dial Georgetown and say things they don't mean about Allen Iverson, and Georgetown will throw the whole Gerry McNamara thing in Syracuse's face. The two schools won't be on speaking terms for years, as Syracuse, abandoned again, will wind up in a co-dependent and destructive relationship with UConn.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Roger Clemens, 50 years old and pitching for the first time in five years, threw 3.1 scoreless innings for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent Athletic League. Afterward, when the Skeeters owner found Clemens in the locker room and tried to give him his check, Clemens just shook his head. "Forget the money," he said. "I just want 10 minutes alone in Sugar Land. No cameras, no security guards, no judgment. Just me and that sugar paradise for 10 glorious, weird minutes." The man tried to explain that Sugar Land was just a town name, but Clemens had already slipped into a drooling trance.
Mailbag time! If you've got a question for a future fantasy baseball post, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or do as these fine folks did by tweeting questions to me here: @jonahkeri.
What is the general potential of Matt Harvey? Could he be the future ace of the Mets? Is he worth staking as a keeper in a competitive NL-only league?
— Kevin McNeill
Pretty strong. Harvey came into this season as Baseball America's 54th-ranked prospect. In 20 starts at Triple-A this season, Harvey fanned more than a batter an inning, hiking his minor league total to 268 strikeouts (and 95 walks) in 245 ⅔ innings. Called up to the majors a month ago, Harvey's continued his bat-missing ways. On Wednesday against the Rockies, he struck out nine Rockies in six innings. That hiked his season total to 43 Ks (along with 15 walks and three homers allowed) in 36 innings. Harvey's 43 punch-outs in his first six major league games actually broke the Mets franchise record previously held by some guy named Nolan.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Notes kept by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long during his investigation show that former head coach Bobby Petrino's relationship with his assistant began with a kiss over lunch last fall. "Hi, I'm Bobby Petrino," the coach said immediately afterward. "Thanks for not being weird when I kissed you just now."
On Thursday night, the New York Yankees set a record with three grand slams in a single game. The magical evening brought the grand slam back into the forefront of the national discourse, and today it's barely an overstatement to call it the most significant part of human society. In honor of the brave new grand slam world, here's a list of the 10 greatest grand slams since the beginning of time.