Monday marks the official beginning of this year’s Winter Meetings, but if you haven’t noticed, activity has already quickened in advance of what has been, on more than one occasion, the height of baseball’s “silly season.” The meetings will create a non-stop stream of news from more sources than you can shake a stick (or bat) at, the Business of Sports Network included.
As I noted in early October, this year will mark a return of something we haven’t seen in some time. This will be the “Year of the Trade.” As I noted in my forward looking article, Crystal Ball Predictions: What's in Store for 2008 :
Trading Places: Doing the math...
Thin free agent pool + teams wrapping in contracts before players become arb eligble or hit free agency = trades.
This off-season, more than most in the past, will be about trades rather than free agent fireworks. Watch... it would not be at all surprising to see at least one trade over shadow anything happening on the free agency front.
Well, it remains to be seen if the deal between the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez (10/$275 million guaranteed, a possible $30 million more in “homerun milestone” related bonuses, plus the $9 million the Rangers owe in deferred contract monies, which could push A-Rod’s total contract worth to $314 million) gets blown over, but it seems more than possible with the trade winds in the works.
If there was “the deal” that kicked this off, then the deal between the Nationals and Mets on Friday has to be the prelude to the dance. Few have not looked at the deal and said it was a clean win for the Nationals, with “Trader Jim” Bowden picking Omar Minaya’s pocket in a deal that sent catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church from the Nationals to the Mets in exchange for outfield prospect Lastings Milledge.
As I said, that’s nothing more than the prelude. We all now know what the big prize trade may be.
I alluded to it somewhat in the “Crystal Ball” piece (see Throwing Green at Pitchers), but back in October, the rumor mill was already churning on Johan Santana being traded from the Twins. At the time, it was thought that the Dodgers would make a play for Santana, but now we see a bit of high stakes poker going on with the usual suspects: The Yankees and Red Sox. By next year, could we see a contract length of possibly 10-years for a pitcher? Seems more than possible.
With the Yankees throwing in Philip Hughes (something that was given a flat “no” by the Yankees all but early in the last week of November), along with center fielder Melky Cabrera and a third player, who would be a midlevel prospect, thus outlining the seriousness of the trade that is taking shape. You have to look at it this way: the loser in this deal isn’t a loser. Whoever lands Santana will have had to trade away key, young talent for the rights to Santana. That will be addition by subtraction for the team that doesn’t land Santana (they can be warm in knowing that they got their chief competitor to cough up a chunk of the future for the talented Twins pitcher).
The Red Sox have pitchers Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester to dangle out there, but have pulled the one player that the Twins have had solid interest in off the table, that being center field prospect Jacoby Ellsbury, who's stock rose considerably during this year's World Series run.
UPDATE - SUNDAY, 12/2 - Buster Olney is reporting that the Red Sox have shifted their stance on Ellsbury and are now willing to consider him as part of a possible deal for Santana.
As for the Twins, well, short of Carl Pohlad suddenly becoming more than a miserly owner (he is, after all baseball’s richest owner who has year in and year out been unable to open his incredibly deep pocketbook) and throwing big money and contract length at Santana, he’s all but gone. They will, however, be the benefactor of rich young talent from the Red Sox or Yankees (yes, the Mariners have said they are interested, but what could they offer that even comes close to the Red Sox or Yankees at this stage?).
And remember, this is just Santana. The environment seems ripe for a steady stream of trades to occur, so get ready.
I should add this: there is money to spend, and so, look for those that do get in the FA mix to still unload lots of green. Someone will be dying for Andruw Jones, and it’s not out of the question for him to get a deal that meets or exceeds the Torii Hunter deal with the Angels.
Remember… mark it down… it doesn’t say on the Chinese Calendar, but this is the “Year of the Trade.”
FYI...Unless I hit the cutting room floor, look for quotes by me in an article by Jorge Ortiz with USA Today on Monday talking about the financial landscape as the Winter Meetings begin.
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also an author for Baseball Prospectus, Basketball Prospectus and is an available writer for other media outlets.
Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.