The Hot Stove is roaring after the Nationals shattered expectations by giving Jayson Werth a seven-year, $126 million deal that matches Vernon Wells’ Blue Jays pact for the third biggest ever given to an outfielder. Only Manny Ramirez, guaranteed $160 million by the Red Sox, and Alfonso Soriano, $136 million from the Cubs, ever received more.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Werth’s deal has “stunned people in the game” and “execs are going nuts about the terms.”
He adds that the last contract to generate the same kind of furor was Kevin Brown’s seven-year, $105 million deal with the Dodgers signed way back in 1998.
We’re guessing that’s hyperbole, but this is the kind of thing that can happens when a down-and-out team needs to make a splash. It brings to mind the Tigers spending $40 million on Ivan Rodriguez in 2004 and $75 million on Magglio Ordonez the following winter.
But Werth is hardly the first player to exceed expectations this winter. John Buck, who received a $2 million deal last winter, got three years and $18 million from the Marlins. Setup man Joaquin Benoit received a three-year, $16.5 million contract from the Tigers. Juan Uribe, who certainly wasn’t offered any multiyear contracts as a free agent both of the previous two wints, received $21 million over three years from the Dodgers.
So, Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee have to be licking their lips. The Angels and Red Sox can claim all they want that the Nationals overpaid for Werth because of their situation, but Crawford is the better bet of the two going forward and he has a great argument for an eight-year deal now. Lee would certainly seem to be worth $23 million per year in this climate.
It may not happen this week, but odds are that Werth’s megadeal is going to be topped at least twice in the near future and probably again in the spring in a Red Sox extension with Adrian Gonzalez.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.