Day Four of the Winter Meetings is usually the slowest. The Rule 5 Draft takes place in the morning, then teams that aren’t expecting to conduct any more business typically head to the airport. The bloggers and beat writers soon follow and only organizations that are working on deals or finalizing them stick around through Thursday night.
For an on-the-scene perspective from Nashville, Tennessee’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel -- where this year’s Meetings were held -- check out Craig Calcaterra’s filings at HardballTalk.
Astros Bring Flexibility To Rule 5
The Rule 5 Draft has produced some stars in the past -- see: Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana, Dan Uggla and Jose Bautista -- but front offices are better than ever at evaluating their own talent and so there aren’t as many exciting options available. The guys in this class that might become difference-making major leaguers aren’t on that track right now.
Houston plucked right-handed reliever Josh Fields from the Red Sox with the first overall pick. A 27-year-old former Mariners prospect, he has yet to reach the bigs but posted a promising 2.01 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 78/18 K/BB ratio in 58 1/3 innings this past season between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. Fields may round into a middle reliever or setup man. Those types do sometimes late-bloom.
The Astros also grabbed 25-year-old first baseman Nate Freiman in the second round. He slugged 24 home runs and tallied 105 RBI in 137 games this summer at Double-A San Antonio -- an affiliate of his former team, the Padres.
"This is a guy who's worth taking a chance on, a guy we've like since his days at Duke," Astros director of pro scouting Kevin Goldstein told MLB.com about Freiman. "He was great in Arizona and played well for Israel as well. Right-handed guys with that kind of power are not normally available in the Rule 5. He destroys left-handed pitching, and he's a guy you give an opportunity to him in the spring and see what he can do."
Fields and Freiman must remain on the Astros’ 25-man roster all season, or they’ll be returned to the clubs they were claimed from. Most teams don’t have room for two players with no MLB experience, but the ‘Stros are in full rebuilding mode and that comes with great roster flexibility.
For a full rundown of the first and second rounds of the Rule 5 Draft, hit up our player news pages.
Nothing Runs Like A Revere
Ben Revere hasn’t homered in over 1,000 career major-league plate appearances and owns a weak .642 career OPS. But he has great range in the outfield, steals bases by the dozens and at a very productive clip, and he’s only 24 years old. So when the Twins indicated that they were shopping him, the suitors lined up quickly.
And the package that the Twins ultimately settled on is a clear winner.
For Revere the Phillies gave up 25-year-old right-hander Vance Worley, who has a 3.50 career ERA in 53 career major-league appearances -- 46 of which have been starts. And 23-year-old right-hander Trevor May, who stands 6-foot-5 and boasts an 11.9 career K/9 in the minor leagues. Those two could be rotation cornerstones over the next several seasons for the Twins, who have badly needed cost-controlled starting pitching.
Revere will start in center field for Philadelphia. He’s guaranteed regular playing time, which makes him an even more valuable fantasy commodity than he already was. Fantasy veterans know that really reliable steals guys are hard to come by. Revere is a good one.
Big Three Logjam Holding Up Deals
The top three players on the open market this winter -- Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton and Anibal Sanchez -- remain unsigned. Which is keeping other high-profile free agents from engaging in discussions with teams that might have interest because the top end of the pay scale has not been set. Thus, a relatively inactive Winter Meetings.
Greinke was thought to be the center of a Los Angeles bidding war when the Meetings began, but the Angels bowed out pretty early and the Dodgers are, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, beginning to wonder whether he might simply prefer the Rangers. Dallas is much lower-key than L.A. and Greinke’s wife is a former Cowboys cheerleader (whatever that’s worth). If the Rangers are able to land Justin Upton via trade from the Diamondbacks, they can let Hamilton walk and push their available funds toward a massive Greinke offer.
Hamilton has a three-year, $60-75 million proposal on the table from the Mariners, says FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. The 31-year-old is probably going to wind up doing better than that, but it’s difficult to say how much better because his market has been so slow-developing. The Rangers are of course keeping tabs on things, but they can’t commit one way or the other until the Greinke situation is settled. The Red Sox loom as a potential darkhorse.
Then there’s Sanchez, who has been linked to several teams but only loosely. He’s praying somewhere that Greinke gets a record-breaking contract so that his demands can be justifiably sky-high. The Royals have some interest.
Winter Meetings Short Hops
The Blue Jays and Rangers are still engaged in trade talks with the Mets for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey … Curtis Granderson, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are being shopped by the Yankees … The Royals have balked at the Rays’ asking price for James Shields, which is said to be Wil Myers plus other prospects … Adam LaRoche is struggling to find an offer for longer than two years … The Cubs finalized their two-year, $9.5 million contract Thursday with Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa and will introduce him Friday at Wrigley Field … Michael Young is drawing serious trade interest from the Phillies … The Yankees have made a one-year, $12 million offer to third baseman Kevin Youkilis … Jason Grilli, who’s being represented by former major league slugger Gary Sheffield, is weighing two-year offers from the Pirates, Blue Jays and Cubs … The Twins avoided arbitration Thursday with setup man Jared Burton by agreeing to a two-year, $5.5 million contract extension … Ryan Ludwick is mulling over a two-year offer from the Reds and hoping that other teams will come calling so that he can counter that proposal … Johnny Damon, who batted just .222/.281/.329 in 224 plate appearances this past season for Cleveland, is aiming to return for a 19th major league season … The Cubs re-signed corner infielder Ian Stewart to a one-year, $2 million contract … Jason Bay finalized a one-year deal with the Mariners that will be worth $500,000 if he’s in the minors and $1 million if he’s on the major league roster … The Red Sox signed reliever Koji Uehara to a bargain one-year, $4.5 million free agent contract … Ryan Spilborghs has reached an agreement with the Seibu Lions of Japan’s Pacific League … Reed Johnson was re-signed by the Braves to a one-year contract with a club option for 2014 … The Rangers inked right-handed reliever Evan Meek to a minor league deal.