Who needs the winter meetings? Apparently not Major League Baseball’s general managers, who, while evidently hopped up on krokodil, executed a flurry of trades and free-agent deals a week before the sport's offseason confab at Disney World. The 48-hour swirl of signings and swaps saw Jacoby Ellsbury commit the ultimate heel turn, the Nationals further solidify their starting rotation, and the A's begin filming their audition tape for Hoarders: Bullpen Strong. Tuesday's action was largely a series of middling moves and “my garbage for your trash” trades, but taken cumulatively, the effect was, well, startling.
As with any period of great upheaval, the stunned citizenry must have questions. Let's try to answer five of them, starting with the big one.
The Philadelphia Phillies dealt young starting pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May to the Minnesota Twins for center fielder Ben Revere, addressing Philly's biggest lineup hole and dramatically changing the market for available outfielders now that Michael Bourn's most likely path is blocked.
In Revere, the Phillies get one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball; only Josh Reddick, Jason Heyward, and Torii Hunter played a better right field last season than Revere per Defensive Runs Saved, and Revere should be an above-average fly-catcher in center, having moved off that position in Minnesota only because of Denard Span's presence. Revere's also blazingly fast, having stolen 74 bases in his first 254 major league games, with 160 swipes in 403 minor league games before that. On defense, baserunning, and base stealing alone, Revere could net two to three wins a year for the Phillies.
As the Winter Meetings near their end here in Nashville, the latest buzz has Zack Greinke potentially going somewhere other than the Dodgers. Which seems impossible, really.
The team with unlimited money and both a need and desire for a top-flight pitcher to pair with Clayton Kershaw would seem unbeatable in any bidding war for the top free-agent starter on the market. But multiple theories have floated as to why a top-dollar offer to play for a glamour franchise might not be enough. The L.A. Times’s Dylan Hernandez notes the Dodgers' reluctance to include no-trade clauses as the reason Greinke might sign elsewhere for less money — and why alternatives such as Anibal Sanchez and Ryu Hyun-jin could also have second thoughts. (In the case of Hyun-jin, he'd return to South Korea, and the Dodgers would be refunded their $25.7 million posting fee, if the two sides can't come to an agreement by 2 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday). USA Today’s Bob Nightengale says Greinke's potential reluctance to go (back) to the L.A. area might simply have more to do with being more comfortable in Texas. Texas's more favorable tax code could help the Rangers, too.
The Red Sox are rumored to be interested in Cody Ross, which makes no sense for a team that already has every outfield position and DH covered unless Jacoby Ellsbury's on the block. The problem with an Ellsbury trade, which has also been rumored, is finding a suitable trade partner. The 29-year-old center fielder should get a healthy raise in arbitration following an $8 million salary in 2012. Problem is, he's coming off an injury-wracked season in which he hit a measly .271/.313/.370 and played in just 74 games. He's also a free agent after next season. So you've got a player with a solid argument for 2011 MVP who tanked the next season, now stands to make eight figures, offers only one year of team control, and would likely require a quality pitcher in return. It's baseball, so we should never say never. But if Boston's going to add pitching during or after the Winter Meetings, it might very well be via a straight free-agent signing, rather than a trade.
Team revenue is exploding industry-wide. The new national TV deal that takes hold in 2014 will be twice as lucrative as the last one. Teams with favorable regional sports network deals are leading a huge surge in local media revenue. Yet at a time when every team should be feeling flush, one unlikely ballclub has appeared more reluctant to add payroll than any other: the New York Yankees.
With so many other teams showing signs of life, the notion of a penny-pinching Yankees team settling for whatever is left in the dumpster when everyone leaves these Winter Meetings tomorrow lies somewhere between stupefying and impossible. We've noted, repeatedly, that the Yanks remain committed to short-term deals at reasonable prices as they make every effort to get under the 2014 luxury tax threshold of $189 million. But here's the thing, the Yankees could probably run a $275 million payroll, and even after luxury-tax payments, turn in a very shiny profit. That they appear so committed to cost containment, with the upshot of banking an extra $40 million per year in avoided penalties, is admirable, if for no other reason than the sheer stubbornness of that stance.
Camp out long enough at a hotel that combines Vegas's artificial light and distorted perception of time with landscapes from Heart of Darkness and you'll learn a valuable lesson: Fixating on a nativity scene with 612 characters or a Bio-Dome with faux-Venetian boat rides running through it isn't enough. To fully grasp what's going on, you need to see the whole picture.
So it is with the latest round of news and rumors here in Nashville. The Rays are one of several teams that's made moves that could have significant implications for the rest of the roster, depending on how all the pieces fit.
The race for remaining outfielders is heating up in Nashville, with Josh Hamilton and Shane Victorino both moving closer to long-term deals, and one wild blockbuster rumor sparking a million tweets.
The rumor that lit up the lobbies late Tuesday was a report from ESPN's Pedro Gomez that the Diamondbacks and Phillies were discussing a swap of Justin Upton and Cliff Lee. Yahoo's Jeff Passan followed up, saying all manner of three- and four-team trade ideas had been batted around. But the Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro kiboshed that talk, with one D-backs source saying an Upton-Lee deal "hasn't been discussed" and is "off base," and manager Kirk Gibson adding, "I can tell you that's not going to happen."
Welcome to the second-annual edition of Grantland's MLB Winter Meetings coverage. We'll be filing frequent updates throughout each day of the meetings, weighing in on signings, trades, and rumors, while also providing as much color as possible from Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Hotel, home of the The Great Christmas Arboretum Cotillion.
At last year’s Winter Meetings in Dallas, we saw Jose Reyes shock the baseball world by signing with the Marlins for $106 million. Then the Angels swooped in, landing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson for more than $300 million combined. Ten months later, both teams were playing golf, while teams with less splashy agendas competed in the playoffs.
Expect to see plenty of action at this year’s meetings too. Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke top the list of available free agents, while a number of teams have been linked to juicy trade talks. Here are 10 clubs that could make a splash by the time the week is up: