The Cardinals opened this week’s Winter Meetings by meeting with Dan Lozano, the agent for All-World slugger Albert Pujols. According to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest, the Cards met with Lozano again on Wednesday.
Lozano is not talking to the media and Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was not willing to divulge any details about the two meetings when asked Wednesday, but it’s safe to assume that loose terms have been exchanged and that both sides have a good idea of what’s going to take place in the coming weeks.
SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday that Pujols is seeking “A-Rod money.” But it’s not exactly clear what that means. Does he want a 10-year contract worth $275 million — the exact deal that Alex Rodriguez signed in December of 2007 with the Yankees? Or is he simply requesting a similar average annual salary?
The Cardinals certainly don’t want to shell out a 10-year contract to Pujols, who turns 31 in January, but they should be more than willing to make a seven-year pitch with a $27.5 million annual salary. That comes out to a seven-year, $192.5 million commitment, which is plenty reasonable for a guy with a 1050 career OPS and three MVPs. Pujols still has a ways to go before his playing career is through, but only Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams have better career marks in the OPS department to this point.
Pujols has expressed a desire to put negotiations to a halt once spring training begins in order to avoid an ongoing distraction, so the Cards have until now and late February to put a serious package together. Otherwise, the 21st Century’s best hitter is going to get a whiff of free agency.
And he might really like what he smells.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.