Baseball's Winter Meetings are now over, and while they came in like a lamb, they went out like a, well...another lamb.
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Most of Thursday's news happened before lunchtime, as the meetings tend to wind down around the time team officials start departing in the early afternoon. The morning is also when the Rule 5 Draft takes place, adding a little bit of excitement to an otherwise eventless day. Forty-five players were chosen between the major league portion and the minors portion of the draft, including nine who will likely go to spring training looking to stick with the major league club.
Left-handed pitcher Patrick Schuster was the day's first selection, being taken by the Astros but ending up with the Padres as part of Wednesday's Anthony Bass deal. Catcher Adrian Nieto will back up Josh Phegley for the White Sox after being chosen at No. 2. In all, seven of the nine players chosen by major league teams were pitchers. Easily the biggest name selected on the day was Russell Wilson, he of Seattle Seahawks fame. The Rangers chose Wilson in the minors portion, and despite the pick being widely viewed as a publicity stunt the team is saying otherwise.
"We scouted him as an amateur, and have admired what he's accomplished with the Seahawks on the football field," Rangers pro scouting director Josh Boyd told MLB.com. "We put serious consideration into making this pick because we felt it was an opportunity to add a special person, competitor and leader to our organization, even if it doesn't develop into anything more than a name on a piece of paper. If there is a chance for him to get some face time with our young players in Spring Training or anytime, we viewed that as a huge value to our development system, potentially."
Cubs Land Ruggiano From Marlins
Much of the rest of the day was filled with rumors and conjecture, but some signings and a few trades did happen. One of those consisted of the Marlins sending outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Cubs in exchange for Brian Bogusevic. The 29-year-old Bogusevic will most likely serve as outfield depth for the Fish.
But Ruggiano has a chance to make a bigger impact on his new club. The 31-year-old batted .222/.298/.396 last season but hit 18 home runs and stole 15 bases as well. It followed up a 2012 campaign in which he hit .313 with 13 homers and 14 stolen bases in just 288 at-bats.
It's that power/speed combination that makes Ruggiano an intriguing player, and the Cubs' current lack of better options in center field means he'll be given plenty of chances to flex those muscles. He's a batting average drain and shouldn't be viewed as a fantasy starter, but he's a name to remember late in drafts for guys with 20/20 upside.
Giants Fill Left Field Gap With Morse
The Giants had hoped to have a new left fielder by the end of the day Wednesday, but it took until Thursday morning for the team to seal the deal with Michael Morse. The 31-year-old got a one-year deal worth $6 million to roam left field at AT&T Park next season.
There were better landing spots than the National League West for a player whose game is reliant on power, but the right-hander should at least see plenty of at-bats with the Giants. Morse did hit 31 home runs in 2011 but his power numbers will likely suffer due to a.) A home park that depresses right-handed power in a big way, and b.) Continued recovery from left wrist surgery that limited him to 88 games in 2013. It's not likely Morse approaches his 2011 line, but he's got a shot at parking 20 homers if he's able to stay healthy.
Closer Carousel Speeding Up
Joe Nathan landing with the Tigers was the first domino to fall in the closer market, and it looks as though the other big pieces may soon be finding new homes as well. Joaquin Benoit's suitors were whittled down to the Indians and Padres by late Thursday, with San Diego rumored to be holding a slight lead for the 36-year-old's services. Benoit was said to have offers of two years and $14 million in hand from both teams.
Meanwhile, the Orioles had made enough progress with Grant Balfour that the team was believed to be "confident" that they'd sign the right-hander. The O's traded former closer Jim Johnson, who saved 50 games this past season, to the Athletics earlier in the winter. Other former closers looking for work include John Axford and Kevin Gregg, both of whom garnered some attention at the meetings.
Winter Meetings Short Hops
The remaining free agent most likely to receive the biggest deal, Shin-Soo Choo, is said to be looking for a seven-year deal while the Rangers, the team believed to be his biggest suitor, are comfortable giving him a five-year deal ... the Braves may be the frontrunners in a possible Jeff Samardzija trade, but the Blue Jays have also had recent discussions with Cubs' brass ... Matt Garza may be close to signing, with the Angels and Diamondbacks leading the charge ... Omar Infante is drawing interest from multiple teams, but none are inclined to pay his four-year, $40 million asking price -- yet ... fresh off acquiring Logan Morrison and signing Corey Hart, the Mariners are letting teams know Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak are available ... another former closer, Fernando Rodney, is said to be asking for at least $10 million per season on a multi-year deal ... the Brewers and Mets continue to discuss a deal that would send Ike Davis to Milwaukee ... the Twins are making progress on a two-year pact to bring back Mike Pelfrey ... Shaun Marcum has drawn some interest from the Indians, Rangers and Royals ... Kendrys Morales is shaping up to be the poster boy, but Stephen Drew may also be feeling the wrath of the qualifying offer. Drew's market has been slow to develop to this point ... the Phillies signed right-hander Roberto Hernandez to a one-year, $4.5 million contract to shore up the back end of their rotation ... rumors of the Marlins being interested in Rickie Weeks proved to be unfounded ... the Tigers inked reliever Joba Chamberlain to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million ... Clint Barmes returned to the Pirates on a one-year, $2 million pact ... the Mets would rather deal for a young shortstop than sign a free agent, with the Mariners and Diamondbacks as two potential partners ... the Red Sox, among others, are keeping tabs on Ryan Madson's recovery ... the Rockies and left-handed reliever Boone Logan are nearing a multi-year agreement ... the Blue Jays and Royals have discussed Billy Butler, but it's unclear where the hefty DH might fit in Toronto.