2014 Winter Meetings: More rumors, more change

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— San Diego, CA.

Pitching is always the big news in trade and signing rumors. The Red Sox have interest in 15-20 starters in free agency, according to Boston GM Ben Cherington. Now that the Sox have Panda locked in, they want to beef up their starting rotation.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect player. If you try to teach walking in your organization, you’re going to fail. That’s been proven.” Orioles manager Buck Showalter on finding the perfect hitter.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect player. If you try to teach walking in your organization, you’re going to fail. That’s been proven.” Orioles manager Buck Showalter on finding the perfect hitter.

The Sox made an offer to right-hander Justin Masterson of the St. Louis Cardinals. They drafted him in the second round of the 2006 amateur draft. He’s played with the Sox, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and then the Cards. He had a one-year deal with St. Louis, due to health issues, but he and the Red Sox are betting he will have his best year in 2015. Masterson sounds very confident about it.

With Rick Porcello and Wade Miley signed, the Red Sox could have a good starting rotation. Porcello’s vitals from 2014: 15-13 with an ERA of 3.43. Miley’s 2014 numbers: 8-12 with and ERA of 4.34. But, his career ERA is 3.79 and win-loss is 38-35.

Masterson will be 30 years old when the season starts in April, with an ERA of 4.24.

The Chicago White Sox signed right-hander Jeff Samardzija, sending infielder Marcus Semien and some prospects (minor league players) to Oakland. The A’s are said to be looking for a shortstop.

Jon Lester and his ERA of 2.46 are now with the Chicago Cubs. Lester says what attracted him to the Cubs was the challenge of making Chicago a World Series contender. The Cubs haven’t been to the World Series since 1908, but with all the changes they made this off-season, starting with manager Joe Maddon, the team’s management appears to be ready for a championship. Lester said, “I’m going in with the intention of winning.”

And he gets, besides the $155 million, a hotel suite when he’s on the road and 25 hours per year of flying time on a private jet for he and his family. He will be 31 years old when the season starts so this is a big — expensive — gamble for the Cubs.

“At the end of the day it’s about us developing our methodologies and promoting them into the future. And that’s kind of what we did in Tampa Bay and that’s what I’m interested in here.” Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
“At the end of the day it’s about us developing our methodologies and promoting them into the future. And that’s kind of what we did in Tampa Bay and that’s what I’m interested in here.” Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

Even thought the Cubs re-signed right-hander Jason Hammel, everyone thought he was just on the Cubs roster right now to attract the right trade. So far he is still part of a potentially great starting rotation.

The Dodgers pitching staff is changing. They put Brian Wilson on assignment, a form of waivers, but because of his contract, L.A. will still have to pay him $9.5 million, no matter what happens. The new management in L.A., Faran Zaidi, doesn’t think he has anything left as a pitcher. But, because other teams can claim him at the league minimum salary, $500,000, he just might get a shot to prove the Dodgers wrong.

But L.A. had to get rid of one pitcher to make way for Brandon McCarthy on the 40-man roster. McCarthy was just signed Wednesday to a four-year deal worth $48 million. Some people, like the Yankees, consider McCarthy to be a gamble due to his injury history. New York wasn’t even willing to give him a three-year deal.

GM Zaidi had a string of tweets to explain his decision: “There was not other starting pitcher I felt better, like Brandon. He is able to execute.” “We got a better feel of how our roster is going to look like.” “Brandon is a guy we have history with and we feel better going with him.”

McCarthy tweeted a little himself: “This was a very special place for me ”

If you’re not familiar with Twitter, you can only use 140 characters, including spaces, and grammar is often the first victim of tweets.

Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner (YouTube)
Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner

He went on to say he strengthened his upper body, especially his shoulder so he expects 2015 to be a good year for him and the Dodgers.

Madison Bumgarner

This is really off the topic of trades, but he is a pitcher: during the Winter Meetings Sports Illustrated named Madison Bumgarner their Sportsman of the Year. Winning two World Series games and setting records doing it will get you awards and the cover of Sports Illustrated every time.

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Around the rest of the diamond:

The Chicago Cubs signed catcher Miguel Montero from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cubs are keeping their starter Wellington Castillo for now, telling everyone having Montero would give them depth behind the plate. But Montero hit 13 homeruns with 72 RBI last season, despite being in a little slump. The rumor is the Cubs will try to trade Castillo.

The Mariners wanted to sign Melky Cabrera. He was a free agent after two years with the Toronto Blue Jays. But right after the Winter Meetings ended the outfielder signed with the White Sox for $42 million over three years. White Sox management said they were not only impressed with his numbers from his two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, they liked the way he accepted responsibility for getting busted for PED use, declining any batting title considerations for the year he might have won (2012). He also chose not to appeal, which prevented him from playing in the post season with the San Francisco Giants, a year when they had won the World Series. Everyone agrees he has earned his second chance and the White Sox like what he’s done with it since returning from the 50-game suspension.

Matt Kemp, maybe with the Dodgers, maybe the Padres. (Wikipedia)
Matt Kemp, maybe with the Dodgers, maybe the Padres. (Wikipedia)

The big new out of Southern California today involves the Los Angeles Dodgers of course. Throughout the Winter Meetings everyone talked about the Dodgers trading away Matt Kemp and Faran Zaidi, the GM of the Dodgers kept denying it — until he traded Kemp to the San Diego Padres.

Well late Wednesday afternoon the buzz around the rumor mill was that Kemp had failed his physical on Tuesday. Management from both the Dodgers and the Padres denied of course, until Thursday morning (Dec. 18) when the Padres tweeted the outfielder had “severe” arthritis in his hip. If the arthritis kills the deal, it creates all kinds of problems with other deals, including the deal for shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

In the deal for Kemp, the Dodgers get pitching prospects Zack Eflin and Tim Windle. And then they trade those two players to Philadelphia for Rollins. If the Padres back out of the deal then the Dodgers need to figure out some other option to get Rollins.

The other rumor involved is that the Padres are trying to squeeze more money out of the Dodgers to help defray part of Kemp’s salary. When the deal was made the Dodgers were giving the Padres $30 million. The hip arthritis changes things. But apparently that is illegal.

Claudia Gestro
Claudia Gestro

We can expect Kemp will be a Padre next season and Rollins will be with the Dodgers, the question is: how will these three teams make that happen?

  • A late update to the Kemp deal: Late Thursday night (Dec. 18) the deal was officially finalized. Kemp, catcher Tim Federowicz and the $30 million will go to the Padres and catcher Yasmani Grandal, along with right-handed pitching prospects Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin will go to the Dodgers.

There are more trades to come. These three reports didn’t get to them all, but opening day for Spring Training is less than two months away and the regular season not long after that. Deals will be going down from now until Spring Training and throughout the season. But it’s the Winter Meetings when most of the action takes place.

Next year the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, TN will host the Winter Meetings and I plan to be there.

In this video we have parts of the press conferences from sports agent Scott Boras, Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter, Joe Maddon from the Chicago Cubs, Clint Hurdle of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Dee Gordon, the second baseman traded to the Miami Marlins by the L.A. Dodgers.

(All photos by Claudia Gestro unless otherwise noted)