Rosenthal: Hot Stove’s burning up! Making sense of a wild Friday
Make sense of it? How can anyone make sense of it? Every time you stop and try, another player goes off the board, another huge sum gets spent.
Well, it’s time to take a deep breath. At least, it should be. The winter meetings do not begin until Monday, and it’s as if Springsteen was the opening act.
Will the pace slow down? Not necessarily. The smart thing, then, is to read this summation of where things stand quickly. You don’t know what you might be missing.
* The Yankees. Oh, they’re back, in the old Steinbrenner style, waving Robinson Cano goodbye with one hand, dishing out hundreds of millions with the other.
The Yankees still need a second baseman (Omar Infante?), at least one starting pitcher (Masahiro Tanaka?) and a reliever (Joaquin Benoit?). And after signing free-agent Carlos Beltran, they could trade outfielder Brett Gardner, who is entering his last season before free agency, for a starting pitcher.
You know what, though? For all the lamenting of Yankee haters about the team’s combined $299 million investment in Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees will continue to face the same age/injury questions as before.
Beltran’s three-year, $45 million contract will cover his age 37 through 39 seasons; he has a history of knee trouble. McCann is starting a five-year, $85 million deal at age 30; he has a history of shoulder trouble. And Ellsbury, 30, has missed significant time in two of the past four seasons, albeit mostly due to injuries suffered in collisions.
Lest anyone forget, the Yankees also will lose three high draft picks for those signings while gaining two back for the losses of Cano and Curtis Granderson.
“They will just repeat the cycle,” one rival executive said earlier this week. “No young players ready, need to win now, blow everyone out of the water (financially) and hope in three years they have young talent.”
As opposed to …
* The Red Sox. The game’s new lords of discipline are not overreacting to the Yankees’ latest spending spree. In fact, they’re barely reacting at all.
The Sox committed one year to A.J. Pierzynski, two to Edward Mujica, two to Mike Napoli. And Jackie Bradley Jr. will replace Ellsbury, if no other outfielder strikes the Sox’s fancy.
Might the Sox get free agent Shin-Soo Choo and move Shane Victorino to center? Doubtful. The way the Sox see it, they’ve already got plenty of quality players in the outfield — Victorino, Bradley, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp. The return of Napoli should help them compensate for the expected dropoff in offense with Bradley.
Oh, the Sox still might do something dramatic — they’ve investigated a trade for Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, and still could move a starting pitcher. But the signing of Ellsbury vividly illustrated the pronounced advantage in scouting and player development the Sox hold over the Yankees.
The Sox drafted and developed Bradley so they would not need to overpay for Ellsbury. The Yankees have little choice but to make that move, and others like it.
* Choo. The next big free-agent domino, and the expectation among some executives is that his deal will be almost as lucrative as Ellsbury’s $153 million jackpot.
The most obvious fits for Choo are the Rangers, Mariners, Tigers and Reds, and some execs also include the Giants and Astros. The Rangers, who traded for Prince Fielder but lost out on Napoli and Beltran, do not seem particularly confident about their chances. But others view them as the favorite.
Nelson Cruz will follow Choo in the free-agent sweepstakes, drawing attention from the clubs that fail to get Choo as well as possibly the Orioles and Royals.
* David Price. Hoo boy, here we go.
Entering the meetings, the four teams in the best position to trade for Price appear to be the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rangers and Mariners. But rest assured, other clubs will check in.
The Mariners, in particular, should be motivated to act; Cano’s best seasons will come at the start of his 10-year contract, and the M’s need to surround him with as much talent as possible before he starts to decline.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, claim to be starting Phase Two under their new ownership, focusing on the development of young talent. If they stick to that plan, they almost certainly will be unwilling to sacrifice their few elite prospects — in particular, infielder Corey Seager.
Then again, imagine a rotation including Price, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in Los Angeles. Or, for that matter, one featuring Price, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in Seattle.
Other teams surely will dream just as big, relishing the prospect of getting Price for two seasons and gaining the first crack at signing him long-term.
The Cardinals, in particular, possess the prospect power to pull off such a deal, though at this point they have shown little inclination to become involved.
* Matt Kemp. Not the best time to trade him.
Kemp, 29, missed more than half of last season. He is coming off surgeries on his left ankle and left shoulder. And he is still owed $128 million over the next six years.
Still, the Dodgers are listening on Kemp; the Mariners and Red Sox are among the clubs showing interest, and other teams also could fit, depending upon how much of Kemp’s contract the Dodgers are willing to pay.
The free-agent class of outfielders next offseason — Gardner, Colby Rasmus, et al — isn’t especially promising. If the Dodgers turn Kemp into, say, a $15 million a year player, he would start to look more attractive.
* Trades. Expect a number to occur at the meetings.
Some executives on Friday thought that the Athletics were about to send left-hander Brett Anderson to the Rockies; the teams talked, but ultimately did not match up.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija and Orioles catcher Matt Wieters are among the big names who could be moved.
Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reported Friday night that the new posting system for Japanese players remains on track to be announced next week.
One problem: Tanaka’s team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, might not post him. Rakuten’s president, Yozo Tachibana, said as much Thursday in an interview with a Japanese newspaper.
Some in baseball believe that Tachibana is not simply posturing, a troubling development for the Yankees, Angels, Cubs and all the other teams that want a crack at Tanaka.
Under the new system, the highest posting fee a Japanese team can receive is $20 million. The Rangers, by contrast, bid $51.7 million for the negotiating rights to Yu Darvish in Dec. 2011.
As an asset, Tanaka is about to be devalued. And Tachibana, whom executives describe as something of a maverick, might keep him in Japan to make a point.
Which would be a shame for anyone who wants to see Tanaka in North America.
Under the new system, if multiple teams express a willingness to pay the maximum fee of $20 million, a player can pick the club he likes best, effectively operating as a free agent.
As before, the posting fee will not count in luxury-tax calculations. Thus, the lower fee will hurt clubs with tax concerns such as the Yankees and Angels — teams that were banking on making a sizable chunk of their investment in tax-free dollars.
If Tanaka is not posted, it will be good news for free-agent pitchers such as Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza, whose values will only increase if the Japanese righty is unavailable. Bronson Arroyo and Bartolo Colon are alternatives for teams seeking pitchers on shorter deals.