A week in the sun and warmth is over. A week of the hottest hot stove action in recent memory preceded it. It’s pretty easy to say that a great bulk of the work teams needed to do before Opening Day 2014 has been accomplished since we tossed the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers. But there is still more to do, obviously. There are still many free agents out on the market and trade possibilities dancing along with the sugarplums in general managers’ heads.
So, first, let’s look at the big things that happened during the Winter Meetings:
- The biggest free agent deal at the Winter Meetings: Bartolo Colon’s $20 million pact with the Mets. Not bad for a guy on the wrong side of 40 who was thought washed up a few years ago, but nothing approaching the crazy activity the week before when Robinson Cano singed with the Mariners and Carlos Beltran signed with the Yankees.
- The biggest trade: a three-way with the Angels, Diamondbacks and White Sox, shipping Mark Trumbo to Arizona, Tyler Skaggs to Anaheim and Adam Eaton to Chicago;
- The biggest head-scratcher: the Mariners acquiring two first basemen — Corey Hart and Logan Morrison — in the space of an hour on Wednesday. It’s hilarious when you realize that they still have Justin Smoak and that their real first baseman of the future is probably Cano, but we also learned this past week that the Mariners aren’t like all of the other teams.
- The biggest non-transaction news at the Meetings? Two agents fighting in the parking lot. We still don’t know the details or participants, but we’re happy it happened all the same.
- OK, that’s not true. The biggest non-transaction was the rule change that will eliminate home plate collisions. Well done, MLB.
- The biggest things that didn’t happen? A LOT. Rumored trades of Matt Kemp, David Price, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon remained nothing but rumors. The parade of second-tier starting pitchers who many thought would sign this past week but didn’t, from Ervin Santana to Matt Garza to Ubaldo Jimenez. Once one of them does the market should be set and the rest should fall into place, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Shin-Soo Choo started the week with as many as five teams interested in him and a demand of $140 million and ended the week with perhaps one offer, but no long list of suitors.
So obviously there’s a lot left. For one thing, Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka is expected to be posted by his NPB team, and if that happens he will instantly be the most sought-after free agent of them all. Indeed, by HardballTalk’s reckoning, eight of the top 20 free agents plus Tanaka are still available, and that means a lot of heat still to come off the hot stove.
It’s a time when a lot of people are talking about the offseason’s winners and losers. But there is still a lot of offseason to go. While 20 years ago everything was pretty much done by Christmas, the baseball offseason has now come to be active all offseason long, with signings in late December, all through January and even after spring training begins. As many at the Winter Meetings say, there is no real offseason anymore.
And that’s why HardballTalk is here. For you to keep track of all the comings and goings and the state of your team and others as the new season approaches. Always keep a tab up dedicated to HBT and you’ll be the first to know what’s going on.
Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.
While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.
Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.
UPDATE: The deal is official. Bowman adds that Johnson will make $2.5 million in 2016.
6:11 p.m. ET: Jim Johnson enjoyed some success out of the Braves’ bullpen in 2015 until a midseason trade to the Dodgers and Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that he has returned to Atlanta on a one-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved.
After an awful 2014 between the Athletics and Tigers, Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Braves last winter and bounced back to the tune of a 2.25 ERA and 33/14 K/BB ratio over 48 innings. He also saved nine games. However, things went south for him after a trade to the Dodgers in late July, as he put up an ugly 10.13 ERA in 23 appearances. He was left off the team’s roster for the NLDS against the Mets.
It’s unclear what role the Braves have in mind for Johnson, as Arodys Vizcaino finished the season as the closer, but they have made upgrading their bullpen a priority this winter.
This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:
In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.
Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.
That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?
That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.
Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.
After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.
Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.
Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.