The Winter Meetings have come and gone and it turns out that there was more action immediately before (for most of baseball) or after (for the Cubs) the meetings than at the actual meetings. Seattle proved the exception there signing Robinson Cano to a massive 10-year, $240 million contract. After that they added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. But before they even got enjoy their new toys reports surfaced that they bid against themselves to get Cano. This was a very odd set of moves for the Mariners. I liked either Hart or Morrison for the Cubs, but that was as lottery tickets with a high upside. The Mariners made a huge financial commitment in acquiring Cano. Relying on Hart to protect him seems more than a little risky. If they're as in as the Cano deal makes it appear, there's no reason not to go get Nelson Cruz to hit behind Cano,or even consider using their strong minor league system much like the Blue Jays did last winter to acquire multiple pieces. I really want the people of Seattle to have a winner but this team feels like a marginal contender at best in a division with the A's and Rangers.
That doesn't even take into consideration a rapidly developing Astros franchise that added several major league pieces at the meetings. The biggest of these was ex-Cub Scott Feldman, who signed a 3-year $30 million deal with Houston. The Astros had to go pretty high to get a guy who may well be the #5 starter on that team when the pact ends, albeit still the highest paid. However, this does establish that the darkest days of the rebuild may be over in Houston. Part of me wonders if Jeff Luhnow was forced to move after sinking ratings and attendance last season, highlighted by the mind-boggling 0.0 rating for their September 22nd game.
Yesterday, the Royals got in on the fun by adding Omar Infante on a 4-year $30-million deal. The money here isn't terrible on its surface for a guy that fills in the giant black hole that was second base but Jeff Passan raises an interesting point: for the $62 million they gave Omar Infante and Jason Vargas, they could have had Ervin Santana back. However, Buster Olney counters that the Royals might be able to have their cake and eat it too. Draft pick compensation could force Santana to work something out with Kansas City. If Olney is right, I hate this deal less but everything the Royals have done feels kind of half-hearted given what they gave up to open a two year window with James Shields. Putting Samardzija aside for a moment, Kyle Zimmer, Adalberto Mondesi, and to a lesser extent Bubba Starling are major assets that won't contribute to the Royals this year. Using one of them to acquire a cost controlled piece to complement the major league team seems fair given how important this year is. Because next winter, we're all going to be speculating on who will sign James Shields and it won't be the Royals.
A team that usually does things well, on the other hand, made a move yesterday, too. The Tampa Bay Rays re-signed James Loney for 3-years and $21 million. Loney is certainly not the best first baseman in the game, but his career OPS+ of 106 makes him just above league average offensively and he was a 2.7 WAR player for the Rays last season. By comparison, Infante -- with a higher AAV and commitment in years -- has a career 93 OPS+, making him slightly below average. True, Loney can't play second and the Royals needs were pretty specific but it is a sign of one small market team getting value from their free agent signings and the other struggling to do so.
Moving leagues, the signing of Loney directly impacts the Pirates, who are still looking for a first baseman and, with Hart, Morrison, and Loney off the market, find themselves with increasingly few dance partners. The Mets. Ike Davis is the best of the available options and it looks like they'll have to compete with the Brewers to acquire him. MLB Trade Rumors has a list of available first basemen, and the list gets pretty thing pretty quickly. Matt Adams at the top is only going somewhere if a team can convince the Cardinals to give him up. That will not be cheap. Second is free agent Kendrys Morales, whose bat barely makes up for his somewhat limited defense. In addition, he comes with draft pick compensation.
This takes us back full circle. The Mariners gave Kendrys Morales a qualifying offer and they only get a sandwich pick if he signs with someone else. If this happens, they will acquire and forfeit that pick for signing Robinson Cano. If Morales can't find a new home, though, they get no compensation selection. So the Robinson Cano signing will wind up costing them $240 million and their second round draft pick. They may need something a little stronger than coffee up there in the pacific northwest.
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