It's not even the winter meetings yet and players are flying all over the place. Let's try to get a quick handle on a very active early hot stove season.
Jacoby Ellsbury Reportedly To Yanks
Pending a physical, the now ex-Red Sox outfielder heads to the Bronx at a reported seven years and $153 million. Ellsbury is a nice player and should see a power jump in tiny Yankee Stadium. That said, he's never hitting 32 home runs (2011) again. Seven years is long contract for a 31 year old, and one wonders if Scott Boras has once again talked someone into negotiating with themselves.
Ellsbury's signing might cast doubt on the return of Robinson Cano, but if they could talk him down on the years a bit... The Yankees need to improve their rotation as well. Lots of moving parts here... and lots of money. If the Boss were still alive this would already be sorted, right?
(Also I should note that the Yankees inking former Braves catcher Brian McCann last week is a no-brainer. Instant vast improvement over the sad sacks they had behind the dish in 2013.)
Mariners/Cano Use Each Other. It's Sad Really
The Tweets came fast and furious Tuesday afternoon from the Pacific Northwest. "Mariners all in on Cano" etc. This is utter bullshit. Cano needs someone to feign interest in signing him for the 7 or 8 or 10 years he's demanding from the Yanks and the Mariners need to look like they're doing something. Hopefully the dopes in the front office are at least aware that Cano is in on the gag. I don't think it's at all coincidental that this pops up the day after the Seahawks plastered the Saints on Monday Night Football. No one is talking about the Mariners in Seattle.
Wednesday some muscle was added to this skeleton with reports Cano had stopped over in Seattle for the big sales push. They should have brought him in Monday so he could see the Seahawks. At least he would have had a good time.
Whoever this guy is put it pretty well:
Yankees will end up with Cano. You don't sign with Jay-Z to go play in Seattle and endorse raincoats.
The raincoat line is predictable, but the sentiment is probably smart. Jay-Z isn't going to see his first major sports client sign with the Seattle Mariners. No way.
(The other day I was laughing at my team when I learned the M's had brought back 36 year old utility infielder Willie Bloomquist at two years and $5.3 million. As one analyst put it to me via Twitter on Monday (to paraphrase) 'Bloomquist is a not-good version of Nick Punto.' Can't wait for the bobblehead night!)
Meanwhile in Oakland
It's never dull watching the Athletics. While you were stuffing your pie hole and watching college football over the weekend GM Billy Beane was working on reinventing his bullpen. This week Oakland traded failed first round second baseman Jemile Weeks to the Orioles for closer Jim Johnson and then Tuesday shipped fourth outfielder Seth Smith to San Diego for set-up man Luke Gregerson.
With Beane you have to think several steps ahead. Mr. Moneyball doesn't give a crap about closers. He let the effective Grant Balfour walk this off season because Balfour wanted more dough. Beane knows it doesn't matter who closes as long as he's not paying him a lot and the guy is good at his job. Sure Johnson is going to pull $6.5 million this year and his middling strike-out rate makes me wonder, but I'm guessing Beane wouldn't be adverse to flipping him. The 9th inning ball could then go to the effective Gregerson or holdover Ryan Cooke, for that matter. Bottom line: Johnson won't be in Oakland beyond 2014.
An intriguing signing out in the East Bay came over the weekend when the A's gave resurrected starter Scott Kazmir two years and 22 million bucks. This is huge risk for Oakland at that price. Kazmir was out of baseball not that long ago, and while he enjoyed a nice rebound in velocity with Cleveland last year, I'd be a bit hesitant to commit that much money. I'm going to assume they've done their homework, however, because the A's don't make a habit of doing stupid things. Look for Oakland to intensify efforts to trade lefty Brett Anderson now. I love this kid's arm, but he just can't stay healthy.
Fascinating what's gone down in Detroit of late. First Prince Fielder got shipped to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler and then Tuesday starter Doug Fister was traded to Washington for infielder Steve Lombardozzi and a couple of relievers. The Tigers finished the day by finally signing the closer they couldn't find last year in ex-Ranger and Twin Joe Nathan.
I'm not really sure what the end-game is in Detroit, as I keep hearing the Tigers are shopping Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer as well. Scherzer's deal is up after 2014 and he's going to command a huge payday.
In a three-team deal the Rays acquired catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Reds and reliever Heath Bell from Arizona. Hanigan is the kind of well-regarded defensive player Tampa Bay covets. He can throw out runners and frame those pitches. Hanigan is a better hitter than he showed last year, too. Bell meanwhile seems washed up, but after the 2012 the Rays squeezed out of Fernando Rodney I'm going to give it time.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria showed baseball he's not the tightwad portrayed in the media, signing Red Sox catcher Jarod Saltalamacchia to a 3 year, 21 million dollar pact. After all, those extra jersey letters ain't free!
The Sox countered with another hard-to-spell signing, inking veteran A.J. Pierzynski to a one year deal. Combining A.J. with solid veteran back up David Ross gives the Sox a nice backstop situation for the year.
Wednesday, news broke that Colorado was nearing a pact with Justin Morneau. I love this pairing. Morneau's value just went up in fantasy drafts. Expect to see a long-awaited power rebound for the once robust Morneau.
And earlier this week those Rockies shipped speedy outfielder Dexter Fowler to the Astros for pitcher Jordan Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes. Houston may have gotten themselves a nice steal here. Fowler saw a dip in batting average in 2013, but his peripheral numbers held up pretty well for the most part. Barnes isn't a prospect and Lyles better improve his ground ball rate or he's going to get killed even worse than he did in Houston.
Brian Phillips is a DJ at CD102.5 in Columbus, Ohio. He knows a thing or two about a thing or two.