The Winter Meetings have come and gone, as all 30 teams were in Florida this past week to improve their respective teams for the 2011 season. While the Winter Meetings did provide a lot of clarity, the big fish in Cliff Lee still remains on the open market. But, during the meetings, the expected offers to Lee have increased to seven years. That is largely attributed to big spending that was being done by teams this week on free agents. Let’s take a look at the respective winners and losers from this past week at the Winter Meetings.
- The Boston Red Sox
Two weeks ago, I reported that the Red Sox were going to make two blockbuster moves this winter. And in the span of one week, the Red Sox have made those two blockbuster. The first move was the trade that was completed on Sunday for Adrian Gonzalez. After coveting Gonzalez for the past two years, the Red Sox have finally landed the all-star first baseman. As the Red Sox sent prospects Anthony Rizzo, Raymond Fuentes, Casey Kelley and a player to be named later to the San Diego Padres for Adrian Gonzalez. Originally there was a hold up, considering the Red Sox did not want to trade for Gonzalez if he did not sign a long term extension. However, cooler heads prevailed and the Red Sox introduced Gonzalez on Monday. If you thought Adrian Gonzalez was a good when he was with San Diego, wait till you see him with the Boston Red Sox. Considering the short portion for home runs for left handed hitters, Gonzalez will go on a tear playing half his games in Fenway Park.
But, the fun did not stop there for the Boston Red Sox. As, the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford this past week to a 7 year, $142MM contract. At 29, Crawford still has at least 3 or 4 years left in his prime before his numbers will begin to decline.This past season, albeit in a contract year, Crawford hit .307 with 19 home runs and 47 stolen bases, and this past year could arguably be his best year in his career. With the additions of Gonzalez, and Crawford the Red Sox have put themselves in a prime position to be considered the favorites to win the World Series next season.
As much as I hate to conform to the east coast bias that surrounds the national media, I find it even harder to think any team can compete with the the Red Sox. The only team that may stand a chance, would be the New York Yankees. I know that sounds very “ESPN-like” of me to say that, but, if as expected they land Cliff Lee, it is hard to argue with the fact that the Red Sox and Yankees may be the two best teams in Baseball when the season starts.
- The Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals shook the baseball landscape this past Sunday. As, they may have made the biggest news of the off-season for all the wrong reasons. As, they signed free agent outfielder Jayson Werth to a 7 year deal, worth $126MM. While the Nationals may have indeed grossly overpaid for Werth, it is hard to blame them for doing so.
For the past few winters, this winter included, the Nationals have been more than willing to throw big money towards big name free agents. Considering that playing in Washington the Nationals do not generate much interest, they always are seeking big name players to appeal to their fan base. That was on display this winter, as the Nationals had set their sights on snatching Cliff Lee away from the Yankees, or the Rangers. While Lee did meet with the Nationals, it doesn’t look like he took the Nationals as serious as he is the Rangers and Yankees. While the Nationals had already lost out on the likes of Ted Lilly, Victor Martinez, and re-signing Adam Dunn, they could not afford to come away with nothing from this winter. Which is why they did the only thing they could, which was overpay in order to get a premier talent.
This is not to go against Jayson Werth, who had a very good season with a .296 average with 27 home runs. It is just that many executives felt like Werth was not worth that much money. However, in the Nationals case, I think it is fair to say that he was. Because his impact goes far beyond what he does on the field. He brings a sense of respectability to the Nationals for the future, as free agents may begin to take them seriously.
Also, the Nationals are heavily involved in trade talks to try and acquire Royals star pitcher Zack Greinke. If the Nationals did acquire Greinke, that would put them into contention for a playoff spot not only for next season, but for years to come. Because, you can not forget about Stephen Strasburg, and when he returns from tommy john surgery.
- The Baltimore Orioles
Believe it or not, the Baltimore Orioles actually had a lot of money to spend this winter. The only issue is, the Orioles are not very high on many of the free agents wish list. But, that did not stop the Orioles from trying as they went after the likes of Adam Dunn, Victor Martinez, Carlos Pena, and Paul Konerko and they missed out on all of them. The worst part of the matter is that the Orioles were offering the most money to many of these free agents, and yet, they got turned down by all of them. But, as a Cubs fan, I can not help but laugh at the miscues by Andy MacFAIL er I mean MacPhail.
- The Tampa Bay Rays
You can not help but feel sorry for the Tampa Bay Rays. Because, last year they were the best team in all of baseball. But, this year, it is looking like they may be one of the less fortunate teams in baseball. However, you can not really blame the Rays for their impending demise in 2011. They just fall victim of being in a market that has no interest in the game of baseball. Which is the leading factor in why they could not keep Carl Crawford(Red Sox), Carlos Pena( Cubs), and Rafael Soriano. On top of those three, it is likely that the Rays will not be able to afford to keep Matt Garza either, as he could be traded before the season starts.
- The Los Angeles Angels
The Angels essentially had their hands in everything this winter. Their main focus was adding offense in the form of Jayson Werth or more preferably Carl Crawford. In fact, everyone in baseball including many of the Angels players felt that it was a foregone conclusion that the Angels were going to sign Carl Crawford this winter. Which is why they were devastated when they heard that Crawford was signing with the rivaled Boston Red Sox. After the Crawford debacle, they figured that they would make an attempt at Cliff Lee, and that does not sound like a likely scenario either. Meaning the Angels are left with all this money, however, they have no one to spend it on.