Baseball’s winter meetings offer one-stop shopping
A look at the issues heading into the start of baseball’s winter meetings Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.:
The key parts of the Dodgers’ 2011 team are already in place. The rest of the winter will be spent filling out the roster.
No team has been as active this off-season as the Dodgers. General Manager Ned Colletti heads into the winter meetings having signed starting pitchers Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland, infielder and long-ball threat Juan Uribe, catcher Rod Barajas and reserve outfielder Jay Gibbons.
The Dodgers are still without a starting left fielder, but appear comfortable heading into the season with the idea of mixing and matching at that position. The team remains in contact with Scott Podsednik, who declined his half of a mutual option and became a free agent.
Colletti is looking to add a reliever, with Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and Chris Capuano believed to be among the potential targets.
Even though the Dodgers have five starters, they remain in talks with Vicente Padilla, their opening-day starter last season. Padilla, who is recovering from a neck injury, could serve as a swingman or, if Jonathan Broxton fails to regain his form, be converted into a closer.
Follow the money
The Angels don’t seem averse to spending top dollar for talent — last week they shelled out $8 million in a two-year deal for Hisanori Takahashi, a 35-year-old left-hander who figures to be a middle reliever, pushing their projected 2011 payroll to about $127 million.
But will they spend top dollar for their top free-agent target, left fielder Carl Crawford? Bidding for the speedy star should intensify this week, and there is no shortage of deep-pocket suitors — the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees are pursuing Crawford.
Crawford was believed to be seeking a deal in the eight-year, $136-million range. That was before Jayson Werth, the consensus No. 2 outfielder on the market, signed a seven-year, $126-million contract with the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
The Angels would prefer a five-year deal.
So, the question for them is whether they can afford to overspend by three years and about $50 million for a player who could be the difference between the Angels being a legitimate World Series threat and a fringe playoff contender for the next few years.
Another question: Can they afford not to sign such a player?
The Angels might have to pare payroll to add Crawford and, possibly, closer Rafael Soriano, making catcher Mike Napoli, who will receive about $6 million in arbitration, and outfielder Juan Rivera ($5.25 million) trade targets.
The Red Sox completed Sunday their on-again, off-again deal to acquire Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres.
Several other star players are expected to be shopped in Florida.
With the budget-conscious Padres unlikely to reach the postseason without Gonzalez, they will probably shop All-Star closer Heath Bell, who is only a year away from free agency. But there are plenty of quality relievers still available on the free-agent market — Soriano, J.J. Putz, Bobby Jenks, Kevin Gregg, Brian Fuentes and Kerry Wood are some of the names — and the Padres would likely get a better return for Bell if they deal him in July.
Like Bell, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder is a year away from free agency. And with Scott Boras as his agent, Fielder will be tough for the Brewers to re-sign. Boras generally prefers to take his players into the open market rather than have them sign contract extensions while still under club control, meaning that whoever trades for Fielder would be trading for a one-year rental.
Former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke is also a trade candidate, but the Kansas City Royals would likely demand an extraordinary package of prospects in return. What makes Greinke particularly attractive is that he is 27 and under contract for two more years at a reasonable $13.5 million per season. Greinke has a no-trade list that includes 15 teams. The Texas Rangers are among the teams that are interested. The same could be true of the Yankees, but Greinke’s well-chronicled social anxiety disorder could prevent a move to the country’s largest media market.
In part because of the Dodgers’ early off-season activity, there aren’t many pitchers left on the free-agent market. Jorge De La Rosa (Colorado), Jake Westbrook (St. Louis) and Javier Vazquez (Florida) signed recently, leaving teams short on pitching with a dilemma. If they can’t afford Cliff Lee, do they overpay for someone like Carl Pavano, who suddenly finds himself the No. 2 pitcher on the market? Or do they take a chance on a reclamation project like Brad Penny, Jeff Francis or Brandon Webb?
Striking it rich
Boras negotiated a deal for Werth that is as expensive and lengthy as the one Barry Zito signed with the San Francisco Giants four years ago. (Boras also negotiated that contract, now considered one of the worst in baseball from the team’s perspective.)
Boras has two other top-tier free agents, Soriano and third baseman Adrian Beltre.
The agent will face challenges in negotiating their deals. While Soriano is considered the top closer on the market, there are several other options available. Beltre lost significant leverage when the Red Sox traded for Gonzalez. The Red Sox are unlikely to pursue Beltre, as the addition of Gonzalez will result in Kevin Youkilis moving to third base.
Dylan Hernandez and Mike DiGiovanna in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.