Now that we’ve had a few days to digest the major transaction of last week, it’s time to ask the question: what effect will the addition of Mark Teixeira have on the rest of the Yankees’ lineup configuration? More specifically, the Yankees need to find a new role for Nick Swisher, who was originally targeted to play first after being acquired for Wilson Betemit. They also need to figure out roles for Xavier Nady and Hideki Matsui, while deciding who will play center field on a regular basis.
In the aftermath of the Teixeira signing, I’ve heard a few observers suggest that the Yankees will put Swisher in center field, sandwiched between Johnny Damon in left and Nady in right. That alignment would maximize the Yankees’ offensive potential, but would also leave them with a below-average defensive center fielder, continuing an unsavory tradition that first began with Bernie Williams’ declining years. Personally, I think the Yankees want better defense in center field, a desire that will lead to Brett Gardner winning the position in spring training.
Another potential solution, one that seems to be more popular, would be to trade one of the following: Swisher, Nady, or Matsui, thereby alleviating the logjam in right field and DH. Some teams have already shown interest in one of the spare outfielders, including the Reds, Giants, and Mariners. If I were in the shoes of Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman, I wouldn’t necessarily vote against that possibility, but only if the Yankees could acquire something of value in return, specifically a veteran center fielder or a backup catcher, or a useful pitcher. There should be no giveaways here; if the offers for Nady, Swisher, and Godzilla are subpar, the Yankees should keep them all. There’s nothing wrong with having one of those veterans on the bench each day. The Yankees have operated without a competent bench for far too long.
Barring a trade, here’s the alignment I would try, one that would make defense and flexibility higher priorities. I’d put Swisher in right field, where he would platoon with Nady. I’d tell Nady to bring his infielder’s glove to spring training and be ready to put in work as a backup at both the hot corner and first base. Matsui would remain in the DH role, where he would give way to Jorge Posada on days in which the Yankees faced left-handers. And then I’d hand the center field reins over to Gardner, who gives the Yankees the most range and speed of any of their outfielders. If Gardner, batting ninth, ends up a failure against major league pitching, then the Yankees can always try Melky Cabrera or Swisher later in the season.
Defense, flexibility, and the bench. Those should be the Yankees’ points of emphasis. Either directly or indirectly, Teixeira will help all three areas. Now it’s up to Cashman to make the next right move.
Each winter brings outrageous free agent demands by players and their agents. At the start of the current off season, Scott Boras let it be known that he wanted a ten-year, $250 million contract for prized client Mark Teixeira. Last week, Boras “settled” for an eight-year deal worth $180 million. But even Boras’ initial demands don’t represent the most outrageous request by an agent or player this winter. No, that honor belongs to Jason Giambi, who has had the gall to insist that the A’s give him a three-year contract running through the 2011 season. That would be a three-year contract for a 38-year-old, one-dimensional slugger with a bad body and a severe lack of athleticism. That would be three years for a guy who plays first base with all the dexterity of a stone statue, and will be limited to DH duty for the balance of the contract. That would be three years for a streak hitter who disappears for long stretches, making him an offensive non-entity because of his lack of foot speed and inability to make contact. Is Giambi out of his mind? How did A’s GM Billy Beane prevent himself from keeling over with laughter after hearing that particular demand from Giambi’s agent? I mean, you can’t write this stuff…
Because of Giambi’s desire a three-year deal, the A’s have turned to two other free agents of left-handed vintage, Bobby Abreu and Garret Anderson. Abreu makes some sense because of his ability to maintain a high on-base percentage and steal bases, but Anderson is harder to figure. Never a patient hitter, Anderson doesn’t draw walks the way the A’s would like their sluggers to do. He also has a bad reputation for failing to run out grounders and pop-ups, a criticism that dates back several years with the Angels. Frankly, I’m surprised the A’s haven’t made a run at underrated free agent Adam Dunn, whose combination of power and patience makes him the consummate “Moneyball” player. Dunn also has seen his market shrink this winter, making it possible for the A’s to sign him to a three-year deal at reasonable terms. With Dunn and Matt Holliday in the middle of the Oakland order, the A’s would have their best one-two power punch since the hey day of Giambi and Miguel Tejada…
Dunn’s former team, the Reds, made a risky signing over the weekend. They inked the non-tendered Willy Taveras to a two-year contract, thereby committing themselves to him as their new leadoff man. Taveras is a good defensive center fielder with plenty of range, but his .320 on-base percentage is less than satisfactory in the leadoff spot. And while he did lead the major leagues with 68 stolen bases, it’s always a bad sign when your stolen base total exceeds your runs scored total; Taveras scored a mere 64 runs in 2008. He’s really only a slightly upgraded version of Omar Moreno, which is fine when you have players like Bill Madlock, Dave Parker, Willie Stargell, Bill Robinson, and Mike “The Hit Man” Easler batting behind you, but the Reds don’t have that assemblage of talent backing their leadoff man. In an ideal world, Taveras should be batting eighth in a National League lineup, but the Reds don’t have anyone else who fills the bill properly…
With Taveras in place, the Reds now have two-thirds of their outfield set: Taveras’ presence in center and allows Jay Bruce to move to right field, where he’ll be a better long-term fit. Still in need of someone to play left field, the Reds are considering moving Edwin Encarnacion from third base to the outfield, but they’d first have to sign Ty Wigginton. The Reds have also made contact with the Yankees about one of their spare outfielders, either Hideki Matsui, Xavier Nady, or Nick Swisher. Let’s rule out Matsui, mostly because no one knows whether his two surgically repaired knees will hold up playing the outfield. IT could come down to a preference for either Nady (who can be a free agent after 2009) or Swisher (who is signed long term), with the Yankees likely looking for two solid bench players in return. A package including a catcher (Ryan Hanigan?) and an infielder like Jeff Keppinger could get it done, or perhaps Keppinger and a B-level prospect.
As I’m watching my daughter open the last few of her Christmas presents, I’m trying to come up with some kind of connection between our precious American holy day and our great game of baseball. I wanted to come up with an All-Christmas or All-Holiday team, but I can’t find enough names with a Yuletide tie-in to make it work. So we’ll have to settle for learning about the one major league player who had the ultimate Christmas name.
His name is Steve Christmas, who played for the Reds, White Sox, and Cubs in the mid-1980s. He was a left-handed hitting catcher who spent years in the minor leagues before finally cracking the Reds’ 25-man roster as a backup in 1983. Christmas’ major league career would probably be best described as non-descript, but it is interesting that he managed to play for both of the Chicago teams over the span of only three seasons. His array of teammates included two Hall of Fame catchers, Johnny Bench with the Reds and Carlton Fisk with the White Sox. He also slugged .727 in 1984, even if that season consisted of a mere 11 at-bats.
Outside of his family, friends, and hometown compatriots, most baseball fans probably don’t remember much about Steve Christmas. Hopefully, that has changed now that you’ve read these few paragraphs. And maybe we’ll think about him a year from now, when the next Christmas holiday happily rolls our way.
In the meantime, here’s wishing Steve Christmas the merriest of holidays. Additionally, I hope all of our readers and fellow MLBloggers have had a wonderful Christmas. And here’s hoping for a better New Year in 2009.
By now most of you have heard that former Pirates ace Dock Ellis died on Friday. He was only 63, waiting for a liver transplant that never came. Ellis never won a Cy Young Award, never won as many as 20 game in a season, and will never make the Hall of Fame, but nonetheless forged one of the most fascinating lives of any ballplayer in major league history.
Everyone seems to have a distinct memory of Ellis; some remember him for pitching a no-hitter while on LSD, while others recall him for once wearing hair curlers during pre-game workouts at Wrigley Field. I’ll certainly remember him for both of those bizarre incidents, but also for a whole lot more, including his contributions to the 1971 Pirates, his battles with George Steinbrenner, and his one-man war against the Reds. I’ll also remember him for the good work he did after he retired, counseling youngsters against the ills of drug use, a problem that plagued him throughout his own playing career. Ellis once said that he was “on drugs every time I took to the field.” He didn’t make that statement with any pride, or with any hint of laughter; if anything, he was ashamed, and determined to prevent kids from repeating the same mistake that he did.
I’ll also remember Ellis for the fine work he did in trying to institute prison reform in Pennsylvania. As a member of the Pirates, Ellis regularly visited inmates throughout the state, asking them about their lives and how it could be improved behind bars. This wasn’t glamorous work, nor did it bring him much recognition, but it exemplified Ellis’ belief that even convicted criminals deserved to be treated with some level of decency.
Perhaps Ellis sensed that he himself might eventually spend some time in jail. After all, with his heavy drug abuse and wild lifestyle, prison might have seemed like a real possibility. Thankfully, Ellis turned that lifestyle into something far more productive. For nearly 30 years, he counseled youth against drug abuse, using his experiences and his motivational speaking ability to make a difference.
Even though Ellis is gone now, we can still learn from his lesson. We can–and do–make mistakes. But once we recognize our failing, let’s do our damndest to make up for it.
Like most members of the media, I don’t believe for a moment that the Red Sox have completely fallen out of the Mark Teixeira pursuit. Owner John Henry says his team won’t “be a factor,” but it sounds like he’s trying to send a dual message to agent Scott Boras: a) don’t use our bids to jack up the asking prices of other teams and b) get back to us when you’re ready to make a deal.
This doesn’t mean that the Red Sox will end up with Teixeira, because Boras is all about extracting the highest possible bid. If the Nationals or the Orioles offer him the most money, then I think he’ll sign with one of the two Beltway teams. If the Red Sox or Angels can match the highest offer, then one of those teams will win out because they offer the best chances of contending right away.
In one respect, Teixiera doesn’t make the greatest sense for the Red Sox. Let’s consider that their top-rated prospect is a first baseman, Lars Anderson, who is probably one year away from playing in the major leagues. In fact, some scouts believe Anderson could hit in the big leagues right now. If the Red Sox were to sign Tex, they would have no place to play Anderson, who also would find himself blocked at DH (by David Ortiz). The Red Sox need to ask themselves if that’s the kind of problem they want to create, especially at the cost of about $180 million, which is likely what it will take to sign Teixeira…
As long as Teixeira remains unsigned, there will continue to be little action on the free agent hitters market. Manny Ramirez won’t sign until Tex has set the market, even though their disparate ages make them difficult to compare. If Tex signs with the Red Sox, I think the Yankees will make a hard run at Ramirez. If Tex ends up signing with the Angels, Nats, or Orioles, then they might go the cheaper route of signing Adam Dunn, who might be the most overlooked of the big name free agents. Dunn, like Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell, is finding the market particularly soft for one-dimensional hitters who struggle to play the outfield…
Finally, this story didn’t receive the attention that it should have, but one of the great closers of the 1980s passed away earlier this week. Dave Smith, the anchor of the Astros’ bullpen for much of that decade, died from a heart attack on Tuesday. He was just 53.
Smith, it seems, was always underrated, both during his career and in retirement. Maybe it was his name, which was so plain-sounding. Or perhaps it was his physical appearance. Smith was one of the most unathletic pitchers I’ve ever seen. With his large gut, paunchy face, and bushy blond hair, Smith looked more like a retired surfer than a star reliever. He didn’t throw hard either, but instead relied on a devastating change-up. When Smith had good command of his change, hitters found him close to unhittable. From 1985 to 1990, Smith quietly assembled a stretch of hallmark seasons for the Astros. He became a component of some awfully good pitching staffs–an underrated and essential component.
They don’t make ballplayers like Joe Pepitone anymore. I’ll leave that up to you, the reader, to decide whether that is something good or bad for our great game.
By the time that Topps issued this card as part of its 1968 set, Pepitone had established himself as arguably the most colorful character in the history of the Yankee franchise. That was certainly a tall task of grand proportions, given the precedence of former oddball Yankees like Frank “Ping” Bodie, Lefty Gomez, and manager Casey Stengel.
Considered a can’t miss-prospect who was fully capable of playing all three outfield positions and first base, Pepitone first reached the major leagues in 1962, joining a Yankees team that featured a conservative front office and a staid approach to playing the game. Pepitone’s flamboyance ran counter to the Yankee way. Incredibly vain, he arrived at spring training flashing a new Ford Thunderbird, bragging about his new boat, and wearing a new sharkskin suit. When the young star didn’t hustle during the regular season, he was greeted with angry catcalls from his veteran teammates, reminding him not to “mess with their money.” They were referring to their almost annual World Series shares, which they felt would become threatened if Pepitone’s lack of hustle continued.
Off the field, Pepitone’s love of the fast lane reflected the lifestyle preferences of established Yankees like Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. Yet, there was something different about Pepitone’s way, which was less discreet, less subtle, and far more palpable. In perhaps his most blatant indiscretion, Pepitone occasionally didn’t show up for games, leading to speculation that he was being pursued by bookies for unpaid gambling debts.
Whether it was cavorting in nightclubs or prancing around the clubhouse, Pepitone provided an unsightly sideshow for Yankee teammates and the New York media. Oh, he won three Gold Gloves and put up some good power numbers–once hitting 31 homers and four other times exceeding 25 long balls in a season–but he never batted better than .271 in New York, rarely drew walks, and committed too many mental errors on the base paths. By the end of the 1960s, his inability to fulfill his immense potential had become a symbol of a once proud Yankee franchise that had lost its focus and gone astray, reduced to also-ran status in the American League.
Perhaps Pepitone’s legacy as a Yankee is best defined by his contributions to the game’s changing cultural landscape in the late 1960s. He became a baseball pioneer of sorts when he became the first man to bring a blow dryer into a major league clubhouse. Pepi’s trendsetting maneuver struck some as ironic, given that he consistently wore hairpieces over his balding pate. In fact, Pepitone used two pieces; he sported a larger wig for social settings and a smaller one–his “gamer”–that snugly fit under his cap and helmet at the ballpark. Both pieces, by the way, looked ghastly. Pepitone also sported long, thick sideburns during the latter stages of his career. Unlike his various wigs, the sideburns were real–but no less hideous.
On December 4, 1969, Pepitone took his sideburns and wigs elsewhere. Convinced that stardom would never happen for him, the Yankees decided to give him up in a straight-up exchange for Curt “Clank” Blefary, another character in his own right. The trade landed Pepitone in Houston, where he would play for the Astros. Somehow, the image of Pepitone wearing a ten-gallon hat didn’t seem quite right.
If there was ever an athlete who didn’t figure to assimilate into a foreign culture, it was Pepitone. Unfortunately, he was the last one to come to that realization. After unsuccessful stints with the Cubs, Astros, and Braves, Pepitone took his act to the Japanese Leagues, where he cashed a far bigger paycheck–paying him $140,000–than he would have earned in the majors. Making like the proverbial lead balloon, Pepitone made no effort to conform to the expectations of athletes in the Far East. He wore his hair long, at shoulder length, rather than the shorter style expected of professional baseball players in Japan. He complained about the long hours of practice demanded from Japanese managers and coaches. He also grumbled about the high prices of food and clothing, further alienating himself from the Japanese public. After hours, he preferred to spend his spare time at the local discos, dancing and drinking for hours rather than mentally preparing for the next day’s game.
In a development that should have surprised no one, Pepitone lasted 14 games with the Yakult Atoms and batted only .163. He did manage to leave a legacy, though, in two different ways. Pepitone left behind a massive phone bill, which he never paid. He also influenced the creation of a new word in Japanese–a “pepitone.” Translated roughly into English, the slang word means “goof-off.” In either language, the word was quite fitting in describing the irresponsible ways of a player who once seemed destined for greatness.
Although his Japanese tenure lasted just a handful of games, Pepitone has not been forgotten in the Far East. The same can be said in western culture. Pepitone was referenced no fewer than three times on Seinfeld, arguably the greatest situation comedy in American history. Who can forget Kramer’s vivid tale of his adventures at Yankee fantasy camp, when he buzzed Pepitone for standing too close to the plate, triggering an all-out brawl?
Knowing Pepitone, that’s just the kind of thing that could have happened to him in real life.
All in all, the list of players who were not tendered contracts last Friday was highly unimpressive, but one name did jump out as a rose amongst the weeds. To put it mildly, I was shocked that the Astros chose not to tender Ty Wigginton, coming off his best major league season. I know that Houston is looking to save money, but it’s ludicrous that the Astros could not have traded Wigginton for something (or several somethings) useful. I’m sure that the Astros will say that they tried to trade Wiggy, but found no interest; I’ll counter by saying that they should have tried harder.
Let’s consider that the versatile Wigginton hit 23 home runs and slugged .526 for the Astros, while also reaching base at a respectable .350 clip. Minute Maid Park probably inflated those numbers somewhat, but even a lesser Wigginton is valuable because of his power, toughness, and ability to play four positions. The 31-year-old Wigginton split last year between third base and left field, but also has experience at second base and can handle first base and right field.
Not surprisingly, Wigginton has already drawn interest from four or five teams, including the Giants, Pirates, Indians, and Reds. Wiggy could play everyday for all of those clubs, but I’d like to see him go to a contender, where he could do real damage as a superutilityman and have an impact on a pennant race. He’d make a lot of sense for a team like the Angels (especially if they lose Mark Teixiera to free agency), the Yankees (who have lacked a good bench for over a half-decade now), or the Phillies (who are top-heavy from the left side)…
How much do teams need pitching? Daniel Cabrera, another non-tendered veteran, has apparently been approached by ten or 11 teams. That’s ten or 11 teams interested in a guy who has never had an ERA below 4.52, and has been over 5.00 the past two seasons. On the plus side, Cabrera is only 27, and might be worth a look as a setup reliever, where he won’t have to pace himself for six or seven innings and can rely on throwing his hard stuff for short bursts. But I’ll be darned if I give this chronic underachiever anything more than a one-year contract…
Veteran character actor Robert Prosky, who died last week at the age of 71, had several noteworthy connections to baseball. Though best remembered for portraying Sgt. Jablonski on the wonderful Hill Street Blues, Prosky forged his most memorable film role in the baseball classic, The Natural. Portraying a character known simply as “The Judge,” Prosky lent elements of darkness and evil to the man who owned Roy Hobbs’ mythical baseball team. Who can forget The Judge’s love of the dark, exemplified in his memorable line, “Turn off that infernal light!”
Just as signicantly, Prosky was a huge baseball fan who so loved the game and its history that he used to visit the Hall of Fame here in Cooperstown. Like so many attached to the art of film-making, Prosky had a special affinity for baseball that transcended the vast differences between the cultures of Hollywood and Cooperstown.
And like so many underrated character actors, he will be missed.
With the Winter Meetings now behind us, the shaking and moving of baseball’s off season has just begun. The Yankees’ signing of CC Sabathia and the Mets’ acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez have now cleared the way for a flurry of other trades and signings to take place in the next two weeks before the Christmas holiday. One of those moves was finalized Friday morning, when the Phillies signed free agent left fielder Raul Ibanez to replace Pat “The Bat” Burrell. The Phillies’ decision is questionable on a couple of fronts. In signing Ibanez, the world champs have added yet another left-handed bat to a lineup that already tilts heavily from the southpaw side. They’ve also committed three years to a 36-year-old player, and with Ryan Howard already occupying first base, the Phils have nowhere else to put Ibanez if his already horrid defensive play in the outfield becomes any worse. All in all, it’s a high risk move for the Phillies, who might have been better off trying to construct an inexpensive platoon of Greg Dobbs and free agent bargain Juan Rivera…
The Yankees and Brewers remain close to a swap of Melky Cabrera for Mike Cameron, but the two sides are continuing to haggle over the minor league pitcher that New York will throw into the pot. From the Brewers’ perspective, they need that pitcher to be a prospect of some value (and no, not someone like Kei Igawa) because right now Cabrera is a pale imitation of Cameron, who brings an intriguing package of power (25 homers), speed (17 stolen bases), and skilled defense to the table. There are some scouts who believe that Cabrera will never become more than a No. 4 outfielder, which isn’t enough of a return for a quality player and high character guy like Cameron. There’s also been talk that the Yankees might be able to squeeze Bill Hall out of the Brew Crew; he’d be a valuable backup infielder/outfielder and possible platoon partner for Robinson Cano at second base, if Cano continues to disappoint the NY brass…
I have to confess that I can’t fathom why the Yankees and Braves have engaged in a bidding war for free agent A.J. Burnett. They’ve both offered him five-year deals, which is shocking given his frequent injuries and his age (32). And now comes word that Burnett may not want to sign the Braves because he doesn’t want the “burden” of being considered the staff ace. Great, a team is going to pay a guy upward of $80 million, but he doesn’t have the guts to want to take on the role of being the No. 1 guy and leader of the staff. It’s just another reason why I’d stay far, far away from a longterm commitment to Burnett…
Finally, some Hall of Fame officials are privately embarrassed by the Hall of Famers’ fourth consecutive ”shutout” on the Veterans Committee ballot. The Hall of Fame thought they had fixed the process by narrowing the number of names on the final ballot to ten, but they didn’t anticipate that some Hall of Famers would become so stingy with their votes, some to the point of submitting blank ballots. (Others have been deceptive in who they’re voting for, claiming that they’ll vote for candidate X, but then failing to check his name on their official ballot.) Now the Hall of Fame is left in a quandary: how to change the process again without resorting to the public embarrassment of actually taking the vote away from the Hall of Famers. One way or another, something will have to change, because continued shutouts by the Hall of Famers are making a mockery of the Veterans Committee’s original intent and purpose.
Hey, who invited Whitey Herzog to the party?
After a slow start, activity has picked up considerably at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. First, there was the news that the Yankees had reached agreement with CC Sabathia on a $160 million contract (an agreement that actually took place in San Francisco) and now we have a three-team, nine-player blockbuster involving the Mariners, Indians, and the Mets. The headliner in the deal, J.J. Putz, will be heading to New York to serve as Francisco’s Rodriguez setup man, completing a whirlwind 48-hour remake of the Mets’ beleaguered bullpen. Here are the final destinations of all the players involved:
*Mets: receive Putz, outfielder Jeremy Reed and reliever Sean Green
*Mariners: receive minor league first baseman Mike Carp, outfielders Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez, and right-hander Aaron Heilman
*Indians: receive right-hander Joe Smith and minor league second baseman Luis Valbuena
My thoughts on the deal? The Mets gave up a large quantity of players to acquire essentially Putz (since Reed and Green don’t have much value), but didn’t have to part with any of their top-tier prospects, so it’s a good gamble for Omar Minaya. Given Putz’ relative youth and live arm, he is a needed addition for a Mets’ bullpen that struggled as much in the seventh and eighth innings as it did in the ninth. Heilman was never going to succeed in the bullpen because of his desire to start, while Chavez was always going to be relegated to a fourth outfield spot. The hard part for the Mets was giving up Smith, a competent reliever, and Carp, who might have been the heir apparent to Carlos Delgado.
The Mariners, who have holes throughout their roster, may be plugging all of their newcomers into prominent roles immediately. Heilman will move into the rotation, Chavez and Gutierrez could become starting outfielders (or at least platoon partners), and Carp could be the Opening Day first baseman or DH. If Heilman can develop as a starter and Carp becomes a productive platoon player, then this deal could work for Seattle…
Sabathia’s deal with the Yankees is interesting on several fronts. From a monetary standpoint, it’s the richest deal ever given a pitcher. It’s also a classic case of the Yankees bidding against themselves, which is not exactly the textbook way to conduct business. From a baseball standpoint, it gives the Yankees their first legitimate No. 1 starter since Roger Clemens’ peak days in pinstripes. Sabathia also becomes the best left-hander the Yankees have had since the prime of Ron Guidry, which happened only about 25 years ago…
The Yankees have also made offers to both A.J. Burnett (five years) and Derek Lowe (four years and $66 million). If Brian Cashman is lucky, the injury-prone Burnett will turn down the deal and Lowe will accept, giving the Yankees an excellent No. 2 starter for their revamped rotation. If both Burnett and Lowe accept Yankee offers, then Andy Pettitte’s career in pinstripes will likely have come to an end…
One other Yankee rumor. They continue to talk to the Cardinals about Rick Ankiel, who would fill a major hole in center field. St. Louis is said to like Ian Kennedy as part of a package, which could also include Melky Cabrera and perhaps one other player (Chris Britton?)…
Finally, one other minor trade did get done on Wednesday. The Phillies acquired backup catcher Ronny Paulino from the Pirates in exchange for a minor leaguer, fueling speculation that the world champions will send Chris Coste to the Cubs as part of a deal for Mark DeRosa. The Phillies like DeRosa as a temporary fill-in for the injured Chase Utley and a possible fulltime candidate to replace Pat “The Bat” Burrell in left field.
Following and studying the Winter Meetings for the last 20-plus years has taught me a couple of lessons: always be skeptical of rumors involving four-team trades and forget about rumors of big-name free agents signing with bad teams just because they happen to play near their “hometowns.” With those principles in mind, let’s look at Day Two of the meetings:
*The Cubs say that the much-rumored four-way trade involving San Diego’s Jake Peavy is “not close” to being completed. Given today’s complicated contracts, it’s tough enough for teams to make conventional two-way deals. Three and especially four-way trades have become a near impossibility. So don’t hold your breath on the Peavy four-team deal allegedly involving the Phillies and Orioles…
*Reports continue to circulate that the Nationals will make a huge offer to free agent Mark Teixeira in hopes of capitalizing on his hailing from the Beltway region. Why in the world would Tex sign with a lowly team like the Nats, who are still two or three years away from contention, when he can expect similar big money offers from the Angels, Red Sox, and possibly the Yankees? It’s nice for Washington to dream, but this sounds about as realistic as talk of Maury Wills making the Hall of Fame…
*It appears that money does talk after all. Hours after it appeared that CC Sabathia would spurn the Yankees to talk turkey with the San Francisco Giants, the Yankees have reportedly signed the massive left-hander to a seven-year deal worth $160 million. If so, the Yankees actually bid against themselves. Although no other team came close to matching the Yankees’ initial offer of six years and $140 million, the Yankees decided to throw in another season and another $20 million to sweeten the deal. Amazing…
*The Mets aren’t done with the free agent market, even after signing Francisco Rodriguez to a relative bargain contract of three years and $37 million. The Mets are very much interested in Raul Ibanez, so much so that they are prepared to make him a lucrative two-year offer. Ibanez would play left field, with Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy assuming utility roles at the new Citi Field. One note of caution with Ibanez: he is a brutal left fielder, perhaps the worst I’ve seen since the days of Greg “The Bull” Luzinski. At some point, the Mets would be well advised to think about moving Ibanez to first base and trading Carlos Delgado, whose questionable presence in the Mets’ clubhouse has become a cause for concern…
*One trade did take place on Tuesday, with the Orioles sending Ramon Hernandez to the Reds for Ryan Freel and a couple of low-level minor leaguers. Given the state of catching in the major leagues, I like this deal for the Reds. Hernandez, despite some decline in his game, is still a legitimate No. 1 receiver and will benefit from a change of scenery, leaving the sad sack O’s for a Reds team that may be able to contend in the NL Central in 2009…
*Finally, here’s a smattering of rumors from the second day in Las Vegas. The Indians are close to signing Kerry Wood to a two-year deal to be their closer… The A’s appear to be close to signing Jason Giambi to a contract, probably a one-year deal with an option for a second… The Cubs are making a serious run at free agent Milton Bradley, who would become their right fielder and help balance the righty-heavy lineup that Lou Piniella puts out in Chicago… The Astros continue to dangle expensive shortstop Miguel Tejada, with his original team, the A’s, among the other interested parties… And the Cardinals have let it be known that they will consider offers for center fielder Rick Ankiel, who hit 25 home runs last season, but happens to be a Scott Boras client who is only one year removed from free agency.