A flurry of moves over the past few days has the hot stove firing earlier than usual this offseason. With the Prince Fielder–Ian Kinsler blockbuster swap already thoroughly examined, let's explore what these other trades and signings mean for the teams, the players, and the rest of the winter.
New York Yankees
What they've done: The Yankees signed catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract with a vesting option that could take the deal to six years and $100 million.
What it means: McCann gives the Yankees' offense a big boost. A few years ago, the Bombers fielded a lineup stuffed with power hitters and big on-base threats, the kind of attack that would wear down opposing pitchers and bash teams into submission, making up for New York's sometimes shaky run prevention. That formula unraveled in 2013, with major injuries knocking multiple boppers out of the lineup, reducing the Yankees' offense to no. 28 in baseball on a park-adjusted basis. Chris Stewart, the team’s primary receiver, hit an abysmal .211/.293/.272. Since 2006, McCann’s first full season, only four catchers have delivered more offensive value. Strip out Victor Martinez and Mike Napoli, who no longer catch, and McCann trails only Joe Mauer and Buster Posey; and once the 2014 season starts, Mauer won't be catching, either.
What makes the Grizzlies-Raptors-Pistons blockbuster so exciting is the air of mystery about the long-term, on-court implications of the deal. And those issues almost all surround Rudy Gay: Just how good is he? Within what sort of roster might he jump up a level as a player and become something closer to the All-Star he probably thinks he is? And can Toronto provide that roster?
A few quick notes on the Grizzlies trading Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby, and a future first-round pick to Cleveland for Jon Leuer in a deal that is almost completely about Memphis going from $4.3 million over the luxury tax, to around $2 million under it:
• I was as guilty as anyone this morning in burying the lede on Twitter, in part because it makes sense to focus on the fringe title contender instead of the sad lottery team. So here’s the lede: This is a pretty great deal for Cleveland, and the greatness is in the details of the future first-round pick Memphis is sending. The Cavaliers had about $10.35 million in cap space before this trade, and they stood as one of just three teams (Phoenix and Houston being the others) with enough cap space to take on significant Memphis salary. Cleveland, of course, has to pay a prorated portion of those salaries, and that kind of spending has a price: the draft pick.
“SERIOUS TRADE WINDS”! Hurricane-worthy gusts of draft picks, toppling the edifices housing general managers' offices across this fair football league! Nail down your left tackles, bungee-cord your strong safeties, and make sure your punt protectors have plenty of bottled water because Nor’easter Irsay comin’!
Imagine if every year, your workplace went through layoffs and employee reviews the week before and after Christmas. That light at the end of the tunnel is in touching distance, it's all gift wrap and roasting chestnuts and holiday parties, and then, all of a sudden, your job is thrown into chaos because everyone is watching their backs and wondering what the future holds.
This pretty much describes the NBA right before the All-Star break. And this season's compressed schedule and back-to-back-to-back games have already taken a mental toll on the players. Now, right when most of them are supposed to get a few days off, here come the whispers.
And I love it. I love the NBA rumor culture. On the surface, it's just a fantastically entertaining component of the league. It fuels endless second-guessing and speculation and hope and terror. Then, beneath it all, for league obsessives, there's the whole shadow economy of the rumor industry: The "sources" giving anonymous quotes, the strongly slanted pieces outing players as locker-room pariahs or ball hogs to lower their value.
With all the enjoyment you can take from this game within a game, it's sometimes hard to think about any of it ever having consequences. Today, we learn that it does.
As part of our coverage of the NBA lockout, Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams checked in with Shane Battier to see how he is spending his newfound free time. Battier discussed being a free agent, how he would solve the lockout, and the toughest player to draw a charge on.
Grantland: Earlier in the offseason, you said that if you played anywhere overseas, it would be in China. Are you surprised that Wilson Chandler signed to play there without the ability to come back should the NBA return sometime in 2011-12?
Battier: “Not entirely. Wilson’s a young guy still. He’s got many more years left to play in the NBA. It’s a much different situation for a guy like me who’s nearing the end. I think Wilson can make up any perceived loss of income he’ll miss out on this one year. I applaud him. It’s a heck of a jump and it’s going to be a great lifetime experience for him and a great basketball experience for him. I was happy to see a young guy, he’s 25 or 26, have the courage to make that jump.”
As part of our coverage of the NBA lockout, Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams checked in with DeMar DeRozan, the high-flying guard of the Toronto Raptors, to see how he is spending his new-found free time. DeRozan talked about still playing in summer leagues, his performance in the dunk contest, and Drake vs. the Game.
DeRozan: “Yeah, just hearing a lot of pros playing in it and just getting a chance to play, especially with the lockout and everything going on. Having a chance to play consistently in front of fans in a different environment is definitely a cool thing.”
Grantland: Did you try to talk Kobe Bryant into playing when the Goodman League (players from Washington, D.C.) faced Drew League (players from Los Angeles)?
DeRozan: “I think he was pretty close to playing, especially when he came and played with us about two weeks ago in the Drew League, and saw how intense it was I think he was definitely close.”
For all the wisdom Branch Rickey doled out as a baseball operator, one piece of advice stands out as the best lesson for aspiring GMs: "Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late."
Four years ago, Tampa Bay traded Delmon Young earlier than most people probably expected. The Minnesota Twins just traded him a year too late. The Twins shipped Young to Detroit for Cole Nelson — a lightly-regarded lefty pitching in Class A ball — and a player to be named later. If this strikes you as a piddly return, it should and it shouldn't.