Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hot Stove News and Notes: Big Chips Waiting to Drop

-So far, the biggest Hot Stove news is the Derek Jeter-Yankees negotiations. Thankfully, both sides seem to have come to their senses a little bit, and now are content to negotiate to each other and not to the media.

Ultimately, my feelings on the whole situation is that both sides were wrong. The Yankees should have made their initial offer and shut up after that, while whatever Jeter and his agent were asking for was probably too much. Plus, playing on the icon status coming off the worst year of his career was probably not a good strategy.

Now that everybody’s calmed down, look for Jeter to sign a 3-year, $52 million deal, possibly with a mutual option for a fourth year that could become guaranteed. Also expect for Mariano Rivera to come to terms shortly after that, with something along the lines of a two-year, $36-$40 million deal.

-Once the two Yankee mainstays are taken care of, the big fish in the free agent market is looking ready to sign. Cliff Lee still seems like either a coin flip between the Yankees and the Rangers, and with the Rangers offering a five-year deal, don’t be surprised if the Yankees offer a sixth year to try and make the difference.

I’m thinking it either comes down to Lee’s comfort with the Rangers last year, as well as being close to home, or the Yankees giving him the most money and years. Considering this is the guy who turned down Roy Halladay’s contract and has talked for the past two years about maximizing his chance at free agency… Advantage, New York (if only slightly).

-I wouldn’t feel so bad if the Rangers miss out on Lee, since their backup plan is to try and pry Zack Greinke from the Royals. It may take a good chunk of their farm system to get it done, and it’s questionable whether they have the pieces to get it done after trading for Lee, but they’ll definitely have the motivation.

-The news on Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth has been very quiet, with most of the focus on Jeter and Lee. The Yankees’ backup plan if Lee goes to the Rangers is Crawford, and considering Brett Gardner just had wrist surgery, expect to see Nick Swisher or Curtis Granderson to hit the trade block if they land Crawford.

Things playing out as expected and Lee signing with New York, the Angels and the Red Sox are still considered the favorites for Crawford, with Werth option 1A for Boston.

-Detroit made the early noise in free agency, signing Joaquin Benoit and Victor Martinez, and they’re still not done spending either. Werth could be the play here, as Magglio Ordonez is not expected back, and he would add even more depth to their lineup.

-No huge news on Adam Dunn either – it’s really been a quiet start to free agency for most. Dunn is looking for the most money, and since he projects to a DH, look for him to end up in the AL, possibly with the A’s who could use a big bat to give their young pitching some run support.

-Don’t feel too bad for Washington, though, as they’re considered the favorites for Carlos Pena, and he’s both cheaper and significantly better defensively than Dunn. This is a team that’s still a couple years away, and their SS of the future Ian Desmond could use the help to lower his errors from last year.

-The Marlins made a couple curious moves, especially in combination when they traded Dan Uggla to the Braves and signed Javier Vazquez. Uggla, while a mediocre at best defensive player, is still a huge offensive threat, and certainly should’ve been worth more if he was shopped harder than an inferior infielder in Omar Infante and a middle reliever in Mike Dunn. At the same time, they’re taking a calculated gamble that Vazquez is better suited for the NL than the AL (especially the AL East).

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d rather spend the money on the sure thing, even if Uggla wasn’t signing a contract extension.

-The big trade rumor early on was that Arizona was going to put Justin Upton on the block. Those talks seem to have quieted down a lot, and expect them to pick up once Crawford and Werth land somewhere.

The biggest hope for Arizona to get a big package, if they’re serious about moving him, would be this: Crawford to the Angels, Werth to the Tigers, and the Red Sox can’t pry away Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres and get desperate.

Normally, I’m not a big proponent of dealing prospects for position players, but consider that Upton is signed to a reasonable long-term deal and is only 23, and I think you could argue that the Mets should make a run here as well.

-Speaking of the Mets, they’re holding tight to the initial plan of not spending this year. The big questions for them are going to be filling holes in the rotation and bullpen on the cheap, with Hisanori Takahashi being released and Pedro Feliciano not expected to return. Oliver Perez is expected to be moved, although the Mets might have to eat a ton of money to make it happen.

Expect a couple small moves from the Mets, but no big names for new manager Terry Collins.

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