LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The winter meetings usually act as a catalyst for offseason activity in Major League Baseball, but that won't be the case this year. Christmas has come early, as several huge free-agent signings and even some trades went down this past week and the week before. Nearly a quarter of the free agents who filed after the World Series already have signed, and several other deals were on the verge of going down.
Robinson Cano signed with the Seattle Mariners. The New York Yankees reeled in Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. The New York Mets signed outfielder Curtis Granderson. The Boston Red Sox brought back Mike Napoli, brought in A.J. Pierzynski, and let Jarrod Saltalamacchia go to the Miami Marlins. The Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler and signed Joe Nathan, and also dealt Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals. Pitchers Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco signed with the Minnesota Twins. The Kansas City Royals traded for Norichika Aoki. The Oakland Athletics traded for Jim Johnson. The St. Louis Cardinals swapped David Freese for Peter Bourjos.
But there's still much to do in the shadow of Mickey Mouse's ears. What might happen here at Disney World?
The Rays might trade David Price
Back in 2008, the Rays locked up star slugger Evan Longoria for nine years when he was just a few weeks into his major league career, but that didn't start a trend. Price is two seasons away from free agency, in a similar contractual situation to James Shields a year ago when he was traded for slugger Wil Myers. Of course, whatever team gets Price also gets is pet French Bulldog, Astro.
The Tampa Bay Times, reports:
The prevailing thought is that the Rays will trade Price now because his value will never be higher, that they can maximize their return as the acquiring team would have Price for two full seasons before he becomes a free agent. (That's similar to when they traded Shields, who was signed for 2013 with a 2014 option.)
Plus, there are more teams in the conversation now, with the ability to adjust their budgets, personnel and plans accordingly over the offseason if they land Price. It's certainly easier for teams to dream big in the winter.
By waiting until the July trade deadline, the Rays likely would have a much smaller field to match up with.
The Dodgers might trade Matt Kemp
Kemp's agent, former pitcher Dave Stewart, is so sure it's about to happen that he's attending the winter meetings for the first time ever, reportedly. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times writes:
Whatever happens, Stewart is confident Kemp will recover from a frustrating 2013 season in which he was limited to 73 games because of injuries. Kemp hit .270 with six home runs and 33 runs batted in.
Stewart revealed that Kemp was less than truthful when he insisted his surgically repaired left shoulder didn't bother him.
"Any time he tried to lift weights, it caused irritation," Stewart said. "He went the whole season without any upper-body work."
The condition of the shoulder has improved dramatically as a result of a procedure Kemp underwent in early October. With Kemp back to lifting weights, Stewart anticipates his trademark power will return. Kemp hit a career-high 40 home runs in 2011.
New Hall of Famers
Longtime Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox is a good bet to be voted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. Joe Torre and Tony La Russa are strong possibilities too. Former labor leader Marvin Miller missed by one vote in 2010, but he's also known for not wanting the honor. Former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner also looms on the ballot. The Associated Press reports:
Among the nine managers with three or more World Series titles, Torre and La Russa are the only ones not in Cooperstown.
"He's going to go to the Hall of Fame," La Russa's former closer in Oakland, Dennis Eckersley, predicted last year.
Torre and Cox retired as managers after the 2010 season and La Russa after leading St. Louis to the 2011 championship. Torre won four World Series titles with the Yankees, La Russa three with Oakland and the Cardinals, and Cox one with Atlanta. La Russa is third among managers with 2,728 wins; Cox had 2,504 and Torre 2,326.
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The market for Mike Napoli heated up quickly this week with the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and Miami Marlins all showing interest in the first baseman/designated hitter. Ultimately, though, Napoli decided the best place for his career and still ungroomed beard to continue their growth was with the Boston Red Sox.
WEEI's Rob Bradford was the first to report the two sides reached an agreement on a new deal on Friday evening. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal provided the numbers — two-years, $32 million. Then Napoli confirmed it as fact on Twitter.
— Mike Napoli (@MikeNapoli25) December 7, 2013
He even dressed up for the occasion. And by dressed up we mean he put on a shirt.
The new deal nearly brings Napoli back to the three-year, $39 million contract he agreed to before the 2013 season. The Red Sox significantly lowered their original offer after a pre-signing physical revealed a degenerative hip condition. Napoli eventually signed a one-year, $5 million contract. He'll end up with a considerable raise from that number, and rightfully so after delivering 38 doubles and 23 home runs during the regular season. Napoli was among Boston's more important players in the postseason as well, providing key hits in their ALCS and World Series victories.
Napoli likely would have landed a three-year deal with one of his other suitors, but based on the photo he's more than happy to sacrifice a year of security to remain in Boston. And we're sure they're just as happy to have him back.
Looking for more baseball chatter?
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The Red Sox might seem set to take a step back. But does the 2014 edition really look so different from the one that won it all in 2013?
The Red Sox will wait and see when it comes to shortstop Stephen Drew.
Today's links look at the value of Boston's clubhouse culture, the possibility of more major moves for the Red Sox, and a preview of possible players on the move during the Winter Meetings.
The Red Sox have re-signed Mike Napoli to a two-year deal worth $32 million.
Mike Napoli has an offer from another team, pushing the first baseman's free agency into a "critical stage".
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