Winter meetings: winners and losers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The free agent frenzy we saw a year ago in Dallas was nowhere to be found at this year’s Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.
 
Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle were among the high-priced free agents to sign mega deals with new teams at last year’s Winter Meetings. This year the highest contract was a four-year, $40 million deal for outfielder Angel Pagan to return to the San Francisco Giants.
 
The big deals will still come this winter at some point. Zack Grienke is set to be nearing a decision and Josh Hamilton is ramping up negotations as well. Pitchers Kyle Lohse and Anibal Sanchez will eventually cash in with big contracts also. But none of those deals got done this week in Nashville, leaving us with a relatively quiet week in the land of music.
 
A few signings and trades still happened. Shane Victorino signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. Marco Scutaro got three years and $20 million to return to San Francisco. Dan Haren signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Washington Nationals and reliever Sean Burnett went to Anaheim for two years and $8 million.
 
The Twins traded outfielder Ben Revere to the Phillies in exchange for starter Vance Worley and a pitching prospect. The Marlins sent shortstop Yunel Escobar – who they just got two weeks ago in the 12-player trade with Toronto – to the Tampa Bay Rays. Many other rumored trades are in the works and could happen in the near future.
 
With the action wrapped up in Nashville and the media room empty, we take a quick look back at two winners and two losers of the Winter Meetings:
 
WINNERS:
 
San Francisco Giants – The World Series Champions started the week off strong, re-signing center fielder Angel Pagan to a four-year, $40 million contract. They also brought back NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro, out-bidding the Cardinals with a three-year, $20 million deal. Manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean had their 2014 options picked up as well. Some will argue the Giants over-spent on both Pagan and Scutaro, but the Champs were among the most active teams this week and in the end brought back two key pieces of their Championship team.
 
Washington Nationals – The Nationals finished 2012 with the best record in baseball but will be remembered for choking away a 6-0 lead in Game 5 of the Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Nationals moved quickly to address their center field needs, acquiring Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins just before the start of the Winter Meetings. They also filled a need in the starting rotation with the signing of Dan Haren on a one-year, $13 million deal. Baseball’s best team got even better in Nashville.

Boston Red Sox – With money to spend thanks to the summer blockbuster deal that freed them of high prices salaries to Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett, the Red Sox reinvested some of the money for a pair of three-year deals. They added former Rangers slugging catcher Mike Napoli on Monday and plan to play him at first base. They added the Flyin’ Hawaiian Shane Victorino to play right field a day later, both on $39 million deals. Some could argue that Victorino is getting older and Napoli could get exposed at first base but for a team that’s shelled out seven and eight year contracts in the recent offseasons, three year deals for two productive and proven players seems like a good deal.

Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays didn’t many any high-prices splashes at the Winter Meetings but they did fill two key needs. They signed free agent James Loney to a reasonable one-year, $2 million deal to play first base and traded for controversial but talented shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Miami Marlins. The Rays continue to deal with a manageable budget and compete year in and year out due to under the radar deals such as these two. Loney will take over for Carlos Pena, who is a free agent, while adding Escobar allows them to move Ben Zobrist to second base or the outfield.
 
LOSERS:
 
Los Angeles Dodgers – All we heard leading into the Winter Meetings was how their new TV deal was going to give the Dodgers a near infinite amount of money to spend on free agents. Money was not supposed to be an option. Well the Dodgers did plenty of talking but not much walking in Nashville. They negotiated with Zack Grienke but didn’t close the deal. They talked to a number of other players but didn’t get any deals done. For a team that arrived with so much hype, the Dodgers were a quiet disappointment.
 
New York Yankees – When was the last time the Yankees didn’t get a free agent they wanted? Possibly never. That’s what happened this week in Nashville New York missed out on catcher Russell Martin and infielder Eric Chavez, who both left the Yankees for new teams. They also had interest in Jeff Keppinger, who signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Chicago White Sox.  The Yankees had a big need for a third baseman with Alex Rodriguez out for possibly the first half of the regular season and Keppinger would have been the perfect fit. But the Yankees came up empty, as they did the rest of the week. Usually one of the busiest and most active, the Yankees were one of the quietest teams of the week.

Kansas City Royals – Desperate for starting pitching the Royals did plenty of talking but not much action in Nashville. Sure they kept their nucleus of young players together, at least for now, so that’s a plus. But for a team set on adding one and possibly two starting pitchers, they sure haven’t shown much aggressiveness. Reports had them negotiating with Ryan Dempster on a two-year, $26 million deal, but the veteran right-hander wants a third year. If you’re the Royals, why not give it to him? You’ve got the young offense to score some runs. Add a veteran pitcher or two and show you’re serious about getting better. Other affordable starters such as Edwin Jackson are still available as well. They apparently talked to the Rays about James Shield but would have to offer up top prospect Will Myers in that deal. Plenty of time remains for the Royals to make upgrades to their rotation, but they fall in the losers category for not getting it done during the Meetings.

New York Mets – Yes they signed David Wright to a huge contract extension that was announced at the Winter Meetings, but the Mets did little else during their four-day stay at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. They talked to teams about R.A. Dickey about a trade and they talked with the Cy Young Award winner about an extension. Neither happened and the Mets did little to improve their team in other areas. For a team as bad as the Mets were last year, standing pat at the Winter Meetings doesn’t exactly seem like the recipe for success.