Much in flux as busy Meetings head into last day
Clubs keep up pace of deals, but many stars remain available
By John Schlegel / 12/05/12 8:26 PM ET
While the top of the market remained on a steady simmer, the fringes of free agency continued to feed the hunger for news as the Winter Meetings worked through a third day Wednesday in relatively quiet fashion, at least when it comes to big-name deals.
Then again, there was plenty of big-name trade buzz filling the air as the meetings headed into their final overnight session, including the possibility of a multi-team deal involving D-backs outfielder Justin Upton.
The top two free agents on the market, meanwhile, remain very much available, having arrived at the Winter Meetings knowing full well they eventually will get lucrative multiyear contracts. Outfielder Josh Hamilton -- who dropped by to chat with teams before heading home Tuesday night -- and starting pitcher Zack Greinke don't know if they'll leave Nashville, Tenn., with a deal, however.
Not that they have to, since the Hot Stove keeps cooking for weeks after the Winter Meetings conclude and the frenzy of activity and chatter subsides at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center.
But for some of the other free agents working their way toward deals, it's becoming time for something to break at the top to open up the floodgates, particularly among starting pitchers.
"I think everybody is waiting for the cascade of that market to kind of unfold," said agent Scott Boras, who represents starter Kyle Lohse as well as outfielder Michael Bourn. "And once it does, I think you'll see a lot of things happen more rapidly."
Face time is ticking away with the final night session of hobnobbing for baseball's decision-makers leading to the final day -- a shortened Thursday that will spell the end of this year's gathering, as executives, agents and media check out and head to the airport to take their offseason hopes home with them after the annual Rule 5 draft.
Lest we forget, Thursday was a blockbuster day a year ago. On the so-called getaway day, the Angels got away with two of the three biggest free agents on the market that year by swooping in and signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
As the meetings headed into their final night this year, Wednesday's events included the agreements of third basemen Jeff Keppinger with the White Sox and Eric Chavez with the D-backs, with both signings putting a spotlight on the Yankees' continuing need for a third baseman to step in while Alex Rodriguez recovers from hip surgery, and beyond. The Yankees were interested in both, only to see them sign elsewhere.
With Yankees GM Brian Cashman saying third base is "a very limited sandbox to play in," the Yankees are now looking to Kevin Youkilis and Mark Reynolds as possibilities.
While no major swaps were completed Wednesday, some serious talent is sailing in the trade winds through Music City, with Upton's name bouncing everywhere -- including the buzz of a possible four-team blockbuster -- and the Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera in the mix as well, perhaps in the same deal. Also, as long as the Mets and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey's negotiations on a contract extension continue to stumble, he remains a name many consider a possibility to move.
But it's clear Upton's availability is the one bringing the loudest chorus of offers, and it's not a simple process.
"I've had more multi-team talks this year than ever before. In every discussion it seems three or four teams are involved," D-backs GM Kevin Towers said.
There are several teams involved in the pursuit of the top two free agents, as well, with the Rangers involved in both negotiations. While Hamilton visited with several teams while in Nashville and hadn't yet revisited the Rangers, it's the incumbent team that keeps being mentioned in the forefront of the Hamilton derby. They're also in on Greinke, who is well-established as the Dodgers' No. 1 offseason priority.
And what about the Angels, who traded one starter and let another go ostensibly to open up some salary so they could go after Greinke? Perhaps they're laying in the weeds like they were a year ago on Pujols, but the Angels' signing of a pitcher on Wednesday was a deal with left-handed reliever Sean Burnett, and they were said to be close to a two-year deal with starter Joe Blanton.
Also on Wednesday:
• Tom Cheek, the voice of the Blue Jays through their first 4,306 regular-season games and two World Series titles, was announced as the 2013 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Cheek, who passed away in 2005, will be honored as part of Hall of Fame Weekend 2013 July 26-29 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Said Blue Jays President and CEO Paul Beeston: "Since the inception of the Blue Jays, he played a vital role in promoting baseball in Canada in an extraordinary and enduring way. Tom Cheek was the constant."
• The Mariners, one of the teams considered by many to be in position to pursue some top talent, are on the verge of signing outfielder Jason Bay to a one-year deal that figures to have a compensation of around $1 million with incentives. Bay, who struggled throughout the three years of his four-year, $66 million deal with the Mets, is from British Columbia and makes his home in Kirkland, Wash.
Bay and the Mets came to an agreement to end his contract about a month ago, with Bay due to receive his final $21 million in deferred payments in exchange for free agency.
"He has some strength with the right-handed bat, he's a high-character guy, a hard-worker, great personality," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "He's had a tough couple years. If it does come through for us, I think it's a great pickup."
• Nate McLouth re-signed with the Orioles for one year at $2 million with the opportunity to earn another $500,000 in incentives. He was signed to a Minor League deal after being released by the Pirates during the season and wound up being strong down the stretch and into the postseason for the O's.
"I think Nate liked Baltimore, he played very well there, and we liked him in Baltimore," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Tuesday night, before reports of the deal being done emerged.
• The Angels snapped up a coveted reliever in Burnett, a lefty who made 70 appearances for the Nationals a year ago, agreeing to a two-year, $8 million deal with an option for a third year.
• Left-hander Randy Choate agreed to a three-year deal with the Cardinals, a deal that will pay him a reported $7.5 million.
• The D-backs signed catcher Wil Nieves to a one-year deal to be the backup for Miguel Montero.
• The Braves picked up the option for the 2014 season on manager Fredi Gonzalez, who led the Braves to 94 victories and the top Wild Card slot in 2012.