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Greetings from the Winter Meetings

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I’ve been in Orlando for a little over 12 hours and it has already been a busier and crazier Winter Meetings than last year’s fete in Indianapolis.  For those of you who stay away from the web on the weekend, here’s what went down yesterday, with a taste of how the lobby (i.e. the hotel lobby full of drinky, chatty baseball executives, agents and press) was processing it all last night:

  • The Nationals gave Jayson Werth a seven-year, $126 million deal. No one understands this. It’s too much money. It’s too long a deal. It’s to a guy past 30.  This contract has the entire Winter Meetings crowd shocked. The fun game is for everyone to guess what, based on this deal to Werth, the younger, superior Carl Crawford can expect. The consensus: 112 years, 346 gajillion dollars;
  • The A’s said thanks but no thanks to Adrian Beltre. Most agree that the A’s were right to do so. It’s one thing to have a free agent turn you down. It’s another thing to have him ignore you while still being able to hold your offer to him out to other teams with whom he’d rather engage and say “see, I’m a hot property.”  The A’s don’t want to be used.
  • The Brewers traded second base prospect Brett Lawrie to Toronto for Shawn Marcum.  While Lawrie is technically the Brewers’ top prospect, some people I was talking to last night were less-than-impressed with him, believing him to be a head case and, frankly, not as good as some of the prospect-ranking types think he is.

And all of that was just the stuff that went down after I got off the plane.  The Meetings officially start today.  I’ll be posting from down here in Orlando all week, so like they used to say back when people listened to the radio: lock us in and rip off the dial.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.