Author: Craig Calcaterra

Grand Hyatt

What to watch for at the 2014 Winter Meetings

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SAN DIEGO — Greetings from beautiful southern California. Where the weather is gorgeous and the speculation about free agents and trade possibilities is endless. It’s the Winter Meetings, baseball’s annual transaction frenzy, where owners, GMs, agents and everyone else in and around the game assemble and make the moves which set the groundwork for the coming year. This year the work is being done at the Manchester Grand Hyatt In San Diego, and it is from here I will be writing all week to keep you in the loop.

This year’s Winter Meetings are shaping up to be very different from last year’s when, it seemed anyway, all of the big deals happened before the Winter Meetings got underway. Robinson Cano signed with Seattle in the runup to it all. As did  Carlos Beltran, Joe Nathan, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, Justin Morneau, Scott Kazmir and Ryan Vogelsong. Indeed, it seemed like most of the big names were off the board before everyone even made it to Orlando in 2013. But this year it is a different story indeed, with all manner of players still available.

On the market:

STARTING PITCHING

We still await Jon Lester’s decision. He, reportedly, has offers in hand from the Cubs and Red Sox and possibly the Dodgers and Giants. The deal he ultimately accepts could be around $150 million, but for now, he is leaving everyone guessing and the rest of the pitching market is likely waiting for him to make a choice before it all falls into line. Once he does, expect the market for Max Scherzer to heat up as well as the trade market for any number of other starting pitchers, any of whom could go to teams which fell short of Lester. Included in this group could be Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, Rick Porcello, Jeff Samardzija and any of the Reds’ many pitchers reportedly on the market.

BATS

Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and Matt Kemp are the big bats on the block. If the Dodgers can’t move Kemp they may try to trade Andre Ethier and/or Carl Crawford. Jay Bruce of the Reds and free agent Melky Cabrera each own some big bats which are also in demand, the former via trade and the latter via free agency.

RELIEVERS

David Robertson is the biggest name reliever left, though his market is hard to define. The Yankees may welcome him back, but probably not at the salary he’s expecting given that they signed Andrew Miller already. The Astros — who actually outbid the Yankees for Miller, only to see him choose New York — are a possibility. Other free agent relievers include Sergio Romo, Pat Neshek, Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and Francisco Rodriguez. Jonathan Papelbon is being shopped by the Phillies and, given their rebuild, the Braves could dangle Craig Kimbrel as well.

HALL OF FAME

Beyond the free agents, trade targets and rumor news, there is some other business to be attended to at the Winter Meetings. Most notably today, when the Veterans Committee announces which of the Golden Age candidates it has voted into the Hall of Fame. The candidates: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills. If I had to guess I’d say that Howsam — the executive who built the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s — Hodges and Oliva get voted in, but really it’s anyone’s guess. Dick Allen and Minnie Minoso are certainly deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown, but whether they get there or not is an open question.

But really, we can preview until the cows come home but every year there are some surprises at the Winter Meetings. Follow us at HardballTalk all week to keep abreast of what is going on at baseball’s biggest offseason event.

The Diamondbacks are going to give Yasmany Tomas a chance to win the third base job

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This is . . . interesting:

What makes it interesting is this:

I guess it’s worth a try. In an era when offense is so hard to come by, trying to squeeze some more of it in at the expense of defense is not entirely crazy. But really, everything I’ve read about the guy suggests that the outfield may be tough enough for him long term, so this sort of sounds like optimistic offseason talk.

Andrew Miller signs with the Yankees for four years, $36 million

Andrew Miller
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Jack Curry has it:

Miller had been seeking that four year deal and he got it, and now he slots in nicely in the Yankees’ bullpen. As either a 1-2 punch with Dellin Betances or a 1-2-3 punch with Betances and David Robertson, should the Yankees look to load up on bullpen arms and re-sign their closer.

Miller was great in 2014, posting a 2.02 ERA and a 103/17 K/BB ratio across 62 and a third innings between the Red Sox and Orioles. He was particularly strong in the postseason.

And now he’s a Yankee.

Ryan Dempster takes a job with the Cubs front office

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Ryan Dempster officially retired and, as of today, is officially employed as a special assistant to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. He’ll do the special assistant thing: visit spring training, go and check out the minor league affiliates during the season, help with scouting and the like.

Dempster pitched 16 seasons for five different teams, with his longest single stint being his nine years with the Cubs. Over the course of his career he made two All-Star teams, topped 200 innings seven times, and also served as a closer, notching 20 saves three times.

 

Jayson Werth sentenced to 10 days in jail for reckless driving

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Back in early July Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth was charged with reckless driving for going 105 mph in a 55-mph zone. Today he was sentenced: 10 days in jail.

Technically it was 180 days in jail with 170 days suspended. And he only has to serve half of what’s left on that, so it will be five total days in the pokey. He also loses his driver’s license for six months. They don’t mess around in Fairfax County, Virginia.

And here I thought only hot-headed youngsters who need to grow up and respect the game drive recklessly. Who knew that older veterans who aren’t considered to be “problems” did this sort of thing? I wonder if I should ask Bill Plaschke if the Nationals should release Werth. Although I do understand this case is more complicated, what with Werth hitting the cutoff man most of the time.