The Winter Meetings concluded in Nashville the past week and made news more by not making news. The biggest fish in the free agent pool, 2009 AL Cy Young Award-winner Zack Greinke and 2012 AL Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton, remained afloat. The biggest deal discussed and rumored, a three- or possibly four-team trade centering on the Arizona Diamondbacks’ young outfield star Justin Upton, remained unfulfilled. The New York Yankees, for heaven’s sake, seemed to fall off the fiscal cliff, losing free agent targets Jeff Keppinger (to the Chicago White Sox) and Eric Chavez (to the aforementioned D-backs), while they struggle to find replacement parts to make up for the loss to hip surgery of third-baseman Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod may be back by the All-Star break, maybe later, maybe never. The five years and $114 million remaining on his contract are a constant reminder of why we don’t hear much from Hank Steinbrenner these days.
The Yankees appear to be bound and determined to squeeze under the 2014 luxury-tax cap of $189 million. There are definite financial benefits for doing so; the price, however, may be fielding a team that will not be as competitive as expected in the Bronx. A late bid for free agent Kevin Youkilis was unresolved as of this writing, and certainly will be more expensive than the earlier unrealized plans if the $12 million, one-year offer reportedly on the table is accepted by The Greek God of Walks. Complicating the matter is the two-year, $18 million offer by the Cleveland Indians to reunite the versatile slugger with his former manager from the Red Sox, Terry Francona. Were I Youk, I might try to squeeze the Indians for $10 million per year, but in any event I would give that offer every consideration. Youkilis knows what it’s like playing in an East Coast, big-city fishbowl where every at-bat, every fielding chance is mercilessly dissected and subject to withering criticism if not scorn.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will have a different look next season. Unlike last year’s meetings, when Arte Moreno and General Manager Jerry DiPoto hauled in biggest fish Albert Pujols and the most-prized pitcher in C.J. Wilson, the Angels, out of the money for consecutive seasons now, have been in makeover mode. First they traded starter Ervin Santana to the Kansas City Royals for minor-leaguer Brandon Sisk; they let outfielder Torii Hunter walk to the Detroit Tigers; they bought out the option of starter Dan Haren, who signed with the Washington Nationals; they traded young fire-balling reliever Jordon Walden to the Atlanta Braves for declining starter Tommy Hansen; and they signed lefty bullpen piece Sean Burnett, late of the Nationals. Lower-impact moves to be sure, revamping their rotation and replenishing their bullpen in an increasingly tough American League West.
We’ll keep track of developments next week.