Around The Web- Free Agent Signings and The Rumor Mill

With the  winter meetings set to get underway at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort in Florida on Monday morning, we at MetsZilla felt there was no better time than now to take a look ‘Around the Web’ at some of the major Free Agents signings as well as some of the hot stove rumors that are circulating the web thus far this off-season.

Early Saturday morning it was reported by Buster Olney of ESPN that the Boston Red Sox had traded 3 prospects – right-hander Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Raymond Fuentes – and a player to be named later to the San Diego Padres for All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.  The Sox were given a negotiating window – which expired at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon – to work out a contract extension with the power hitting first baseman who was looking for a “Howard-like contract.”  When Boston and Gonzalez could not agree to terms of an extension the deal almost fell apart and although Sox fans received a brief scare it was soon reported by Jon Heyman of SI.com that the deal was in fact complete and a press conference was scheduled for Monday.

It’s still not clear exactly how far talks have progressed between Gonzalez and the Red Sox, but one source said the parameters of a contract extension are in place — even if the exact numbers aren’t.

The source told FOXSports.com the contract won’t be worth more than $22 million per season — or stretch greater than seven years in duration. That equates to a limit of $154 million.

The parties have a general idea of what it will take to get a deal done. They will restart talks during spring training and have a deal in place by Opening Day. It will be announced after the season’s first game — as was the case with Josh Beckett this year — so as to sizzle the books in a way that avoids the Major League Baseball luxury tax.”

- Jon Paul Morosi, Fox Sports.com

After a public spat that saw New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman “encourage”  team captain, Derek Jeter, to “test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer” (ZING!) the two sides sat down last Tuesday and were able to agree to a deal that should be finalized Monday or Tuesday – at the latest.
The contract guarantees Jeter $48 million in salary over the next three years, with a player option for 2014, a source said. The option is worth $8 million with another $9 million in incentives, though Jeter can take a $3 million buyout instead, meaning he’s guaranteed a minimum of $51 million if he doesn’t exercise the option and $56 million if he does.”

- Mark Feinsand and Bill Madden, NY Daily News

It comes as no surprise that the Yankees and Jeter were able to work out a deal and while it was inevitable,  I must admit,  I will miss taunting my brother with e-mails that featured  pictures of Derek Jeter in 29 uniforms you won’t see him in in 2011 … especially the one above.
Shortly after trading Dan Uggla to the Atlanta Braves for Omar Infante and left hander Mike Dunn, the Florida Marlins signed former Yankee pitcher Javier Vazquez to a 1 year/$7 million deal which includes a full no-trade clause.  Vazquez ended the year with a 5.32 ERA in 31 games (26 starts) as the 34 year old veteran struck out 121 batters – his lowest K total since 1999 – in 157 1/3 innings pitched:
According to Pitch f/x the former Yankee starter’s fastball has decreased in velocity by over 2 MPH (91.2MPH – 2009, 89MPH- 2010) which has prompted the right hander to visit a physical therapist to help the starter bounce back from his disappointing season.  Javier will look to have a bounce back season as he is just 1 year removed from a career year (2009) in which he won 15 games (32 starts for the Atlanta Braves) with a 2.87 ERA, while striking out 238 batters in 219 1/3 IP, and finishing 4th in the Cy Young voting.:

It’s a fact that I had a really tough year last year. I guess I can say that I don’t know what happened to my velocity. I guess I’m at a point in my career now (where) I’m 34, with a lot of innings in my arm. I want to start working with a physical therapist to do exercises and stretching. I’m going to start doing that as part of my off-season and in-season (program).”

The most shocking news this off season occurred Sunday afternoon when the Washington Nationals announced a 7 years/$126 million deal with former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth:

$126 million for Jayson Werth… wow, is anyone better at their job then Scott Boras?  Werth received interest from the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, as well as his former team the Philadelphia Phillies, but none came close to the deal the outfielder inked with his new club. It was reported that the Red Sox offered a 4 year deal and Phillies bid was about 4 yrs/$66 million.

NY Mets GM Sandy Alderson was far from impressed with the Werth signing and had no problem giving his take on the acquisition:

It makes some of our contracts look pretty good. That’s a long time and a lot of money. I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington.”

Ouch!

For 3 less years and $70 million less the Nationals could have retained slugger Adam Dunn who agreed to a 4 year/$56 million deal with the Chicago White Sox just last week.  Dunn spent the last two season with the Nats and during his time in Washington ‘Big Donkey’  hit 76 home runs with 208 RBI while batting .264 with a .378 OBP. Confused? So am I. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo offered his explanation for the inflated deal:

For elite players like this to come to Washington, D.C., obviously we have to extend the contract,” Rizzo said. “We understand where we’re at in our process. Someday, in the very near future, we hope that we will not have to give extra money, extra years to acquire a player.”

Werth finished 2010 with 27 home runs while batting .296 and driving in 85 runs in the hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park:

This isn’t to knock Werth, who’s still getting better statistically — his OPS from 2008-10 increased from .861 to .879 to .921. But remember, he mostly batted fifth in a dynamic lineup that feasts at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

Nationals Park is more neutral than Citizens Bank. And, lest anyone forget, Werth batted .186/.353/.314 last season with runners in scoring position, a stat line that didn’t escape the Phillies’ attention.

Is it possible he’ll be everything the Nationals envision? Yes.

Is it more likely the Nats will regret awarding him this deal? Absolutely.

- Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports.com

Now it’s time for my favorite part of the off-season…the rumor mill. Buster Olney reported a short time ago that the Kansan City Royals may make their ace, 2009 Cy Young Award winner Zach Grienke available for trade this off-season as the team prepares for better opportunities down the line:

A wave of high-end prospects will hit Kansas City in 2011 and 2012 — guys like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer and John Lam — and time will be needed for some maturation before the full impact of these players is felt. The Royals will probably be in position to contend sometime in 2013 or 2014.

Zack Greinke‘s current contract ($13.5 million per season for each of the next two years), on the other hand, only runs through 2012.

The timeline of Greinke’s career may not be in line with the organization’s reconstruction plans, so the Royals intend to listen to any and all offers for the All-Star right-hander during this offseason, according to sources.”

Greinke has told the Royals he’s willing “to go anywhere” but the early buzz has linked the Toronto Blue Jays – who are on his no trade list – Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners as well as an “off-the-wall” rumor that has the Royals sending the right hander to the Brewers for power hitting outfielder Ryan Braun in a straight swap according to Bob Duttin of the Kansas City Star.
With the absurd contract that was given to Jayson Werth, Jon Heyman seems to believe that it will now take 8 years/$144 million to land Carl Crawford and a ridiculous 6 year/$150 million for the talents of former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee:

It seems to be a two-horse race between the Yankees and Rangers. The half-dozen other teams who once showed interest are watching and waiting to see how it plays out. Lee has been visited twice by the Rangers and once by the Yankees during the courting process. It appears the Rangers will draw the line at five years for the 32-year-old lefthander, but the Yankees could put it over the top with a sixth year. The question is, does Lee go to New York for the money or does he take a five-year deal in the $100 million range to keep his family in Texas, a mere hour flight from their Arkansas home?

- Nick Cafardo, Boston.com

Even though many have reported this a two team race – as Nick stated above – Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.com believes there is a mystery team in the Lee race stating:

I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing there is one team — maybe even more than one — making a stealth run at the free-agent left-hander, refusing to accept the conventional wisdom that he will sign with the Yankees or Rangers.”

Ken lists 5 possible teams – Anaheim Angels, Philadelphia Phillis, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds – that he could envision pursuing the former Cy Young award winner which you could read by clicking HERE.

It was not to long ago that rumors were circulating about Arizona Diamondback outfielder Justin Upton being on the trading block, but according to Joel Sherman any deal for Upton is now unlikely:

Now that we are caught up with trip ‘Around the Web’ let the Winter Meetings begin…..

*NOTE-

For more on the off-season signings and rumors check out Jayson Stark post on ESPN.com by clicking HERE
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