"Jake has a strong preference to stay in the National League. If Jake's ever going to accept anything to the American League ⁈“ and I don't want this to be taken wrong ⁈“ I can safely say that it's going to be the Yankees or Red Sox or maybe the Angels. Those teams are going to be in contention and are going to spend money. If there were circumstances where he would be asked to go to the AL, kicking and screaming, those are the three places."
Also, Padres GM Kevin Towers revealed in a radio interview that the Angels asked about a Peavy-Adrian Gonzalez package deal, but the Padres don't want to trade Gonzalez. As a baseball fan, I like it when Towers reveals things like this. It must be incredibly frustrating for rival GMs though.
Herald News Services, Canwest News Service Published: Saturday, December 13, 2008
ReutersFormer Blue Jays pitcher A.J. Burnett and the New York Yankees agreed in principle to a five-year, $82.5 million US contract friday, according to multiple reports.
Baseball's winter meetings began slow, but ended with a bang as the New York Mets and New York Yankees flexed their financial muscles and addressed their biggest needs.
The Mets, Yankees and others left Las Vegas clearly better off than when they arrived, while more remained in a holding pattern.
Here are a few teams that improved this week, along with a pair of clubs that left town shaking their heads.
New York Mets: For all the criticism Omar Minaya received last season for firing manager Willie Randolph and for the team's second consecutive September collapse, he may deserve an equal amount of praise after his wheelings and dealings this week.
Minaya identified his team's biggest weakness and set about fixing it (though, to be fair, it was an obvious weakness).
Minaya made no secret about his desire to upgrade a bullpen that blew 29 saves last season and started by introducing new closer Francisco Rodriguez to the lineup.
Rodriguez was the prize of a closer pool that was unusually deep this offseason.
With the ninth inning all set, Minaya went out and acquired a reliever who may be even better than Rodriguez, bringing in J.J. Putz in a three-team, 12-player deal.
In the process, Minaya somehow managed to give up nothing of real use, at least not to the Mets next season. He included fourth outfielder Endy Chavez, but got back fourth outfielder Jeremy Reed. He also threw in right-handers Joe Smith and Aaron Heilman, but got back right-hander Sean Green.
Putz will take care of the heavy lifting in the eighth inning, while Rodriguez gets the glory in the ninth.
New York Yankees: GM Brian Cashman, like Minaya, is learning from his mistakes. After failing to address the starting rotation last offseason, Cashman this week did what the Yankees do best -- he threw money at the problem.
New York identified CC Sabathia as the best pitcher on the market and agreed with the left-handed behemoth to a seven-year, $161-million deal.
Friday, Cashman added A.J. Burnett, who is coming off an 18-10 season with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yanks are still in the running for Ben Sheets, Derek Lowe and Andy Pettitte.
Detroit Tigers: Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski, who was the star of the 2007 winter meetings after swinging a deal for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, quietly went about filling the holes on his roster in a cost-effective way.
After a hugely disappointing season in which the Tigers spent close to $140 million and finished in last place, Dombrowski identified pitching and defence as two of his team's biggest problems and found a few solutions.
After finishing 27th in the majors in team earned-run average in 2008, Dombrowski grabbed a right-hander with a big arm in former Tampa Bay Rays hurler Edwin Jackson.
San Diego Padres: Owner John Moores's divorce and the horrible economic climate have forced San Diego to slash payroll, and the club's biggest contract number and brightest star, Jake Peavy, was most decidedly on the market all week.
Peavy's no-trade clause is a problem and GM Kevin Towers spent most of the week trying to extract the Chicago Cubs' top four prospects along with a player or two from a third team.
It didn't happen.
Talks have reportedly broken off between the Padres and Cubs and no other teams appear to be in the mix, meaning San Diego is stuck with Peavy's contract and has its rebuilding plans in an indefinite holding pattern.
Additionally, the focus on Peavy all week prevented the Padres from filling other holes on their roster in the middle infield and behind the plate.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: It's not that the Angels really lost anything in Vegas, it's just that the players they want seem to be slipping from their grasp.
Mark Teixeira was the No. 1 priority for the team, but the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals seem to be closer to pulling in the slugging first baseman than Anaheim.
It widely was believed if the Angels couldn't entice Teixeira to come back, they would go hard after Sabathia, who, of course, is unavailable.
Their record-setting closer, Rodriguez, is gone as well, though the Angels never made resigning him a priority.
The bigger problem is the other teams in the American League West all are making moves to improve themselves, even the lowly Seattle Mariners.
Yanks grab two prize pitchers, may have unfinished business
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Derek Lowe (pictured) will either benefit from the big contracts given to his peers or suffer if the Yankees and other clubs have lost interest in him. (Gus Ruelas/AP)
The seemingly inevitable has happened. Both CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are bringing their initials to the Bronx, just like everyone said they would. Perhaps, just perhaps, some other teams can get a deal in edgewise for a starter now. One problem: The Yankees still have a rotation spot to fill, with the two golden newbies joining Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and starter TBD. So, in a sense, the baseball world still waits for the inevitable next move. Will it be Andy Pettitte and we'll all be free of this siege on the starters market? Or will the Yankees really make a multiyear run at Derek Lowe? Or a one-year run at Ben Sheets? Whatever they do next, these two signings change the market for starters by lopping it off at the top. And they change the AL East drastically -- at least until it is changed drastically again. Do the Red Sox counter with power, closing the deal on switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira? He could take on CC one day from the right side, A.J. the next from the left and be a superstar the other 160, too. Or do the Orioles pull that one off themselves with the hometown boy and make a bold move in the most competitive division in the Majors? The Blue Jays get the double whammy and will have to watch A.J. take off from here while they backfill behind Roy Halladay. The Rays, well, they're used to not being involved in all this anyhow and they should be pretty happy with their club. They all have a more formidable Yankees rotation to face, that much is clear. At least there should be more of an open season for starters going forward and other teams can get in on the action. For one thing, Pettitte would seem to make the most sense for the Yankees, so that question should be answered soon -- the last time Brian Cashman flew to see a guy about a contract, it worked out, at least. Some reports out of the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas indicated the Yankees wouldn't take both Burnett and Lowe, and Sheets has other suitors more inclined to go more years -- most prominently, the Rangers. There remain a lot of starters on the market, including younger guys with long resumes like Brad Penny, Jon Garland and Oliver Perez, and older ones with much longer resumes like Randy Johnson and John Smoltz. You can get a Randy Wolf or a Carl Pavano, too. Lowe is kind of the wild card right now. Being third in line among free-agent starters, he can't be unhappy with the numbers being posted so far. But if it's not the Yankees and it's not the Dodgers, and the Phillies really aren't as interested as people first thought this week ... who?
The Brewers are looking at losing not only Sabathia but also Sheets, though a Lowe pursuit didn't sound promising in Las Vegas. How about the Braves? Probably not. They still need a starter, with Tim Hudson out until at least August, but with Javier Vazquez in and the big prize out, they're probably aiming lower now. But perhaps now the Braves can be re-engaged in talks regarding Padres ace Jake Peavy, who hails from Alabama and at one point about a month ago was reported to be headed there. But the Braves are said to have taken shortstop Yunel Escobar off the table, so it will have to be a different conversation if the Padres call again. Even if the Braves don't go after Peavy, there's a sense the market might expand on him after the drama surrounding the Cubs trade talks, so keep another ace on the list. Just look at him as a 27-year-old Cy Young Award winner who can be had for $63 million over four years, along with a few players to be sent to the Padres. The Angels seem to be looking at that. And, you know, the Yankees inquired about Peavy again as recently as this week ...
John Schlegel is an executive editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Luring CC, A.J. signals club's clout, willingness to win at all costs
Baseball Perspectives Mike Bauman
Right-hander A.J. Burnett led the AL in strikeouts this past season with 231. (Frank Gunn/AP)
In these troubled economic times, everyone looks for businesses that are in the classic category of recession-proof. One of these businesses is apparently the New York Yankees. The Yankees encored from their record $161 million, seven-year contract with CC Sabathia by reaching a reported five-year, $82.5 million deal with right-handed starter A.J. Burnett on Friday. Before the deal becomes official, Burnett must pass a physical. The Yankees have scored early and they have scored big in the search for free-agent starting pitching. Sabathia was the class of this free-agent class -- left-handed, 28, healthy and dominant in his most recent work with the Milwaukee Brewers. And now, in the midst of global economic distress, the Yankees have upped the ante to more than $240 million for two pitchers with the signing of Burnett, a supremely talented, but not always healthy hurler. Wow. Burnett, who will be 32 in January, put up a big 2008 season for the Toronto Blue Jays, going 18-10 and striking out a league-leading 231 in 221 1/3 innings. But it must be said that, as talented as he is, this season was the exception, rather than the rule for Burnett, because he made 34 starts. He has made more than 30 starts only twice in his Major League career. It could easily be argued, given the relative durability of the two pitchers, that the risk factor is much higher in Burnett's $82.5 million contract than it is for Sabathia's $161 million deal. Prior to last season, the only other time Burnett had exceeded 30 starts was in 2005, which, coincidentally or not, was the last time he was eligible for free agency. He has made 10 trips to the disabled list in his career.
But, as his work in 2008 suggested, he still has overpowering stuff. The Yankees are apparently willing to pay on the basis that this season represents what Burnett will be over the next five years. His overall record does not support that notion. He is, after all, a pitcher with dominant stuff and a pedestrian 87-76 lifetime record, and he is a pitcher who has not been routinely whole over the course of his career. But the Yankees were not the only people bidding princely sums for his services. And, as in the case of Sabathia, they have won this competition, with a devastatingly effective combination of superior resources and a willingness to spend them. The phrase "money is no object" comes readily to mind. The Yankees needed starting pitching. Their shortcomings in this category represent the first and foremost reason that they have not won the World Series since 2000. There can be little dispute with the notion that adding Sabathia, a genuine top-of-the-rotation pitcher and an individual with real leadership qualities, brings them closer to regaining what they see as their rightful place in baseball. The addition of Burnett is not a sure thing in that direction, but the expenditure involved proves how serious and committed the Yankees are about coming up with a reformulated rotation. These signings, taken together, will leave the rest of baseball envious and stunned across the board, and in some cases, appalled. There has been a feeling in the game that in a time of lost jobs, lost homes, pervasive economic uncertainties, baseball ought to exercise a degree of fiscal conservatism, not only for the sake of the clubs' own economic well-being, but to send the message to the customers, that, yes, we get it, times are tough. The Yankees are not playing by those rules, nor do they have to play by those rules. They needed dramatically improved starting pitching. And they had the money to pay for it, even more than usual, with more than $80 million in salaries coming off their books, and with even more dollars to come with the opening of the new Yankee Stadium next season. The $240 million-plus for two pitchers would be a remarkable show of spending at any time, but at this time, it is truly out there by itself. But then again, the Yankees are a singular entity. The Yankees are not in the business of being role models for fiscal restraint. They are in the business of winning, or at least attempting to win, on an annual basis. They have been frustrated that the ultimate championship has eluded them for eight years. They were even more frustrated that even the postseason eluded them in 2008. They knew what they were missing and they had the money to make that shortcoming disappear, at least in theory. The two most expensive starters on the market, one lefty, one righty, are going to become Yankees. This should not be a particular surprise, even if the dollar amounts to seem, at this moment, a tad excessive.
The Yankees' needs and the Yankees' willingness to bury the competition in an avalanche of dollars, turned out to be very good news for the Sabathia and Burnett families. And the way things are going, there might be more than a chunk of change left over for Derek Lowe, too. This offseason, the Yankees have aimed high and spent higher. They're probably better off with Sabathia than with Burnett, but their direction, their effort and their ability to pay are unmistakable, and, to the prominent free-agent pitchers of their choice, apparently irresistible.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.