The made-over Miami Marlins opened this year's Winter Meetings with a boom, striking a six-year, $106 million contract with free agent shortstop Jose Reyes on Sunday night -- before most of the baseball world had settled into the hotels and suites at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas.
That deal, which includes a $22 million option for 2018, will be finalized Wednesday after Reyes takes the customary pre-signing physical and is introduced at a press conference.
On Monday -- the official Day One of the Meetings -- the Fish stole the show again, introducing closer Heath Bell and the three-year, $27 million contract that he agreed to last week. Then, about an hour later, Marlins executives were said to be engaging in a 30-minute meeting with Dan Lozano, the agent for Albert Pujols.
It's hard to say whether the interest in Pujols is worthy of being taken seriously. The Cardinals, by most accounts, remain the frontrunner in that race. But the Marlins aren't just talking about spending anymore. They're actually doing it -- putting big words into big action. And they were the show-stealers out of the gate this year in east Texas.
Over the next four days, D.J. Short and I will bring you daily Winter Meetings diaries here on Rotoworld. Some of the stuff will come with a fantasy spin, and some of it won't. We've done these diaries in each of the past three years, and they generally draw a nice response. We'll try not to blow our rep. You can also follow both of us on Twitter for more news and chatter throughout the week.
Phillies Linked To A-Ram, Might Trade Polanco
The Phillies shored up the back end of their bullpen last month with the addition of free agent closer Jonathan Papelbon and added some punch to their bench this weekend by signing Laynce Nix.
But the Fightins aren't done yet.
According to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post, free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez is squarely on the Phillies' offseason radar and the club is actively trying to trade Placido Polanco in order to clear room on the roster.
Ramirez isn't quite the player he used to be, in the field or at the plate, but he managed a bounceback .871 OPS over 149 games in 2011 for the Cubs and posted his highest home run total (26) since the 2007 season.
A-Ram plays a position where finding pop is difficult, so he's always going to have considerable fantasy value. But he may even see an uptick in production if he indeed lands with Philly.
Citizens Bank Park is a hitter-friendly environment -- even moreso than Wrigley Field --and the Philadelphia batting order will be far better than Chicago's in 2012 even if free agent shortstop Jimmy Rollins heads elsewhere. The thought of Ramirez donning the red, white and blue is an intriguing one.
Dodgers Sign Hairston Jr., Close With Harang
For how muddled their ownership situation continues to appear, the Dodgers have employed an aggressive strategy on this year's free agent market. Mark Ellis was signed to a two-year contract in mid-November, Chris Capuano got something similar in early-December, and Adam Kennedy was inked to a one-year, $800,000 contract just a few days ago.
Yes, those are small-time deals. But every team needs depth.
The Dodgers' agressiveness continued on Monday at Day One of the Winter Meetings as veteran utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr. was inked to a two-year, $6 million contract and right-handed starter Aaron Harang was driven close to a two-year, $12 million deal.
Hairston is unlikely to carry nuch mxed-league fantasy value in 2012, and the same goes for Ellis and Kennedy. But Harang may be someone to watch out for.
The 33-year-old registered a 3.64 ERA in 28 starts this past season for the Padres, striking out 124 batters and walking only 58 across 170 2/3 total innings. Dodger Stadium isn't as cavernous as PETCO Park, but it still heavily favors pitchers. Harang will be in another spot with a platform that should allow him to succeed.
Twins Re-Sign Capps To One-Year Contract
Minnesota attempted to re-up with veteran reliever Joe Nathan this offseason but couldn't compete with the Rangers' two-year, $14 million proposal. Thus, the Twins will look back to Matt Capps to fill their ninth-inning role next year.
The 28-year-old right-hander was re-signed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract on Monday and given a $6 million option for 2013.
Capps posted an underwhelming 4.25 ERA and 34/13 K/BB ratio in 65 2/3 innings for the Twins this past season, but he managed to collect 15 saves and is likely to enter the 2012 campaign with a lenghty leash on the stopper's gig due to Minnesota's lack of promising alternatives. In fantasy baseball, a closer is a closer.
Cuban Phenom Cespedes Wants $60 Million Deal
You've seen the showcase video. You've heard the hype. Soon it'll be time for bids.
Yoenis Cespedes defected from Cuba over the summer and is expected to officially become a free agent shortly after the end of the Winter Metings.
Once he does finally become available, his asking price is going to be sky-high.
According to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston, the workout wonder's agent is telling interested teams that his client wants a contract worth $60 million -- double what fellow Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman was guaranteed back in 2010 by the Reds.
Cespedes is big, fast and full of potential. Heck, he's drawing comps to Bo Jackson. But the Cuban outfielder also carries more question marks than the SAT.
The Tigers, Yankees and Marlins have been linked to Cespedes most frequently, but will those teams really take on that kind of financial risk for a player with so many unknowns? The 26-year-old is a specimen, but he also has no experience outside of Cuban pro ball and the Cuban National Team. Consisently producing against major league pitching is -- as Ron Washington might say -- extremely difficult.