Baseball’s Winter Meetings kicked off Monday in Nashville, Tennessee at the lavish Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Most of the news of the day involved rumors – and plenty of them – but there were also a couple big names that either landed in a new spot or remained in their old one.
Mike Napoli became the first major free agent to switch addresses, as he landed with the Red Sox on a reported three-year, $39 million deal. The Red Sox plan to use him mostly at first base, though he’ll also be behind the plate from time to time, allowing him to retain his ever-important catcher eligibility in fantasy leagues.
With Napoli now in tow, the Red Sox are likely to deal from their catching surplus, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia the most probable to be moved. “Salty” is due a raise in his final year of arbitration from his $2.5 million 2012 salary, but he remains attractive enough that he could be an option for a catching-hungry team like the Mets or Cubs.
Also agreeing to a new deal Monday was Angel Pagan, who re-upped with the Giants for a reported $40 million over four years. It’s quite a payday for a guy who, at 31, has only had two full seasons where he remained healthy and productive. But, the reigning champs love the makeup of their club and want to do their best to retain as many players as possible.
That includes Marco Scutaro, whose representatives remain in ongoing dialogue with the Giants. While San Fran remains optimistic about their ability to re-sign the veteran infielder, Scutaro is drawing interest from multiple clubs, including the Cardinals. If they fail to re-sign Scutaro, the Giants could, according to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, look to Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima. The 30-year-old might prefer to stay at shortstop, though, as he’s seeing interest from the A’s and Diamondbacks at his regular position.
D.J. Short (@djshort), Drew Silva (@drewsilv) and I (@RyanPBoyer) will be here over the next four days to bring you all the latest goings-on at the Winter Meetings. We’ll also be on Twitter all week providing news, observations and occasionally witty commentary, so please give us a follow. Make sure to read the boys' stuff over at HardballTalk, as well.
A-Rod To Undergo Hip Surgery
Not all news from the Winter Meetings is transaction- and rumor-related. Chances are, though, that if your favorite team has news of another variety, it ain’t good.
The Yankees announced Monday that Alex Rodriguez will undergo surgery in January to repair a torn labrum and bone impingement, and to correct a cyst in his left hip. Rodriguez will need 4-6 months of recovery time following the procedure, which means he could be out until around the All-Star break. Given his age (37) and the fact that he's already had an operation on his other hip, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if the timetable wound up being longer than expected.
While the Yanks are not expected to pursue a frontline third baseman, they will need someone to get them through at least the first couple months of the season. Re-signing Eric Chavez is a possibility, but he’s obviously no bastion of health himself. Scutaro and Jeff Keppinger would make sense, especially since they can play shortstop and Derek Jeter is also coming off of major surgery. Stephen Drew has also been mentioned as a possibility, but he doesn’t seem to be a likely proposition.
Many Checking In On Dickey
One of the most interesting storylines to follow this winter will be that of R.A. Dickey. The Mets maintain that they would like to re-sign the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but talks haven’t gone terribly well and the likelihood of them trading him seems to be increasing by the day.
There appears to be no shortage of suitors for the knuckleballer, which is no surprise given that he’s coming off a magnificent year and will make just $5 million in 2013. The Red Sox, Dodgers and Diamondbacks are known to have talked to the Mets about a deal, and Jim Duquette of MLB.com hears that the Blue Jays are one of the "serious suitors" for Dickey. The Rangers and Royals have also been mentioned as possible landing spots for the 38-year-old, though there figures to be more than a few teams that will at least kick the tires.
Rangers “Most Aggressive” for Hamilton
The Rangers have already watched Napoli depart, but it appears they’ll do their best not to lose another key free agent slugger.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has reported that the Rangers are the "most aggressive" team on Josh Hamilton. It’s not clear at this point what they might be willing to offer him, but with a lack of other teams stepping up to the forefront, Texas is looking like the early favorites to retain the best free agent hitter on the market.
While the number of teams willing to meet or come close to Hamilton’s demands might be few, it appears there are a handful of clubs prepared to wait it out to see if the price drops. Rob Bradford of WEEI.com hears that the Red Sox are among 4-5 teams that are interested in Hamilton on a short-term deal and are waiting to see if anyone else is willing to give the 31-year-old as many as four years. Ultimately, the Rangers or another team (the Mariners met with him Sunday) almost surely will be OK with giving Hamilton at least four years, though it certainly appears unlikely that he’ll get the seven he reportedly desires.
If the Rangers should wind up losing Hamilton on top of Napoli, they could step up their efforts to deal for Justin Upton, as Rosenthal reports that they "have not given up" on trading for the D’Backs outfielder. Arizona is still insisting on Texas including either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar in a deal, something the Rangers have refused to do. Of course, that could change.
Marlins Shopping Escobar, Maybe Nolasco
The Marlins have already been involved in the biggest transaction of the offseason, and it appears that they’re not done.
Rosenthal reports that the Rays are one of the teams talking to the Marlins about Yunel Escobar, who appears fixated squarely on the trade block. The Rays used Ben Zobrist at shortstop down the stretch and are fine will keeping him there, but they could move him over to second base if they pick up Escobar. The 30-year-old batted only .253/.300/.344 in 2012 and is known for his poor makeup, but he’ll also make just $5 million next season and has $5 million club options for 2014 and 2015. The A’s decided against pursuing Escobar at the trade deadline but could also be in the mix for him now.
The Marlins could also wind up dealing Ricky Nolasco, who is unhappy about the direction of the team and prefers to play elsewhere, according to his agent, Matt Sosnick. Team president David Samson said last month that Nolasco would be with the club at the beginning of next season, but it’s possible that could change given the right-hander’s apparent unhappiness. Nolasco is currently projected as the team’s Opening Day roster following the departure of Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson.
Winter Meetings Short Hops
The Phillies have discussed a deal with the Rockies involving Dexter Fowler and also have some interest in Michael Young as they seek to upgrade their offense ... The Mariners have had talks with the Royals about Billy Butler and are also in on Upton, Michael Morse, Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch. They seem poised to add at least one impact bat this winter ... With Zack Greinke’s price likely to be too high, the Angels have shifted their attention to Kyle Lohse, Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson as potential rotation upgrades ... Both the Rangers and Nationals reportedly have trade interest in James Shields. The Royals have been linked to the right-hander previously ... The Astros don’t seem anxious to trade Jed Lowrie, but they might be more willing to part with Bud Norris and are listening to offers ... The Dodgers are discouraged at the slow progress of contract talks with Ryu Hyun-Jin, and they believe potential target Shohei Otani will remain in Japan. They also are willing to listen on trade proposals for Dee Gordon but aren’t eager to deal him ... The Yankees have interest in Cody Ross, but the Red Sox are still hoping to keep him ... The Orioles have reportedly soured on Garrett Jones but are keen on Adam LaRoche in their efforts to land a first baseman ... The Rangers reportedly signed Joakim Soria to a two-year deal Monday to set up for Joe Nathan and also officially announced the re-signing of Geovany Soto ... The Mets have some interest in Ryan Ludwick. The Reds would like to retain him and will meet with his representatives this week ... Scott Hairston is reportedly drawing interest from at least five teams ... At least five clubs are also in on Roberto Hernandez, who could wind up re-signing with the Indians ... The Orioles could pursue Gavin Floyd if the White Sox choose to make him available ... Joe Blanton is reportedly high on the Twins’ wish list, while Kevin Correia, Brett Myers, Mike Pelfrey and John Lannan are also in the mix ... The Rays have reportedly inked a one-year deal with James Loney, who should see the bulk of the playing time at first base ... The Nationals have signed Bill Bray to a minor league contract ... Jason Marquis has received a one-year, $3 million pact in order to remain in San Diego ... Grady Sizemore had microfracture surgery on his right knee in September, which will keep him out until at least midseason next year and obviously further limit his appeal as a free agent.