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The Dead of Winter in Baseball

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

 

The Winter Meetings begin in less than a week! Christmas for baseball enthusiasts begins December 7th in Nashville and waiting for Christmas morning is the worst! 

A couple of months ago I wrote an article about the Winter Meetings and why they’re so significant to me. A big part of that is because it’s something to look forward to this time of year. This two week period of best-guess rumors and reports of some team, interested in some player based on some unnamed team sources. 

From the beginning of Thanksgiving week up until the Winter Meetings begin, there’s usually not much baseball news to report, so we start to see all of these baseball writers kicking up dust and looking for a thread to pull.

Maybe everyone’s at home with family, electing to put off business dealings until the Turkey’s settled. Another theory is that sports agents like to wait for a couple of the bigger blocks to fall and set the tone for the free agent market. In those cases, someone has to make the leap though. Someone has to set the pace and someone always does. 

Jordan Zimmermann recently signed with the Detroit Tigers for $110 million over five years. Zimmermann, who’s coming off another season of 200-inning baseball with an ERA under four, has been as steady as they come.  I think the Tigers just got a bargain, but will his contract affect the market?

Free agent pitcher, Zack Greinke is rumored to want $30 million per year. Even though he’s almost three years older than Zimmermann, Greinke will probably seek out a contract up to six to seven years in length. While many general managers will balk at the idea of $210 million over seven years for a 32-year-old pitcher, Greinke has been one of the best pitchers in the league over the last several seasons and is coming off a year in which he was as dominant as it gets. Someone might pay the man his money, but after seeing Detroit sign a great pitcher in his prime years for half of that, I imagine the price will come down to earth. I think he’ll get his seven-year deal, I just think it’ll stay under $200 million.

The Zimmermann signing may bring down the price tag for starting pitchers this offseason, but it will more heavily depend on how teams react to it. If he’s coveted enough, someone will over-spend.

You never can tell how a free agent market is going to unfold until it does. Some years there’s no action at all until the start of the Winter Meetings. Some years, most of the big deals are struck before Thanksgiving and then nothing else of major consequence happens until the week before Spring Training. 
This year, the Mariners have been incredibly active before the meetings, albeit mostly through trade.  Perhaps due to the early offseason aggression, or perhaps due to Jerry Dipoto’s voiced desires to add another outfielder and a starter, Seattle has been linked to trades and free agents alike. 

First were the reports that the Yankees and Mariners were discussing a trade for outfielder, Brett Gardner. I haven’t heard much on that front since the initial report, but that could be hinging on the Yankees ability to sign one of the top outfielders on the free agent market, making Gardner expendable. They’ve been loosely linked to Jason Heyward, though that’s purely speculation at this point.
There was the report that the Mariners were talking to the Marlins about former super-prospect turned distraction, Marcell Ozuna. The rumor being that the Mariners were interested in trading for the outfielder, but the Marlins wanted Taijuan Walker in return and Seattle was unwilling to include their up-and-coming star pitcher in the deal.

There was the tweet from ESPN reporter Jerry Crasnick that the Mariners had been shopping Mark Trumbo around, which so far I’ve heard no other whispers of. If that’s true, I’d imagine it is part of a much bigger move; as it would leave the Mariners with no starting first baseman. I can see how Trumbo doesn’t fit the Dipoto mold, but I think other pieces would have to move along with him, or before he was traded.

Bob Dutton, of the Tacoma News Tribune sighted unnamed sources in two interesting rumors recently. The first being that the M’s inner circle are considering moving Robinson Cano from second base to first base in the future, and it could be sooner than later. Maybe this is linked to the Mark Trumbo trade rumors. Considering the length of Cano’s contract and his age, I think it’s fair to speculate that at some point a move to first base is more likely than not, but I find it hard to believe that the team would make that move so late in the offseason, or so early into Cano’s contract. I’d be shocked if they didn’t give him another year to bounce back defensively and at the plate. If his defense continues to decline, make the move the moment the season ends. 

The second rumor to come from Bob Dutton recently was that the Mariners have interest in 33 year old right fielder, Nori Aoki.  Aoki fits the profile for the type of players Dipoto has gone after thus far. He gets on base at a high clip, can steal a base and plays above average defense in the corners. He’d likely be a fairly cheap option for the M’s, while not a flashy one. I think as a full-time player, Aoki would be a bad move, but I’m guessing that if we signed him, it would be as part of an outfield rotation. As a fourth or fifth outfielder, on a one year deal, I’d see upside. 

There was also that report out of Boston that the Red Sox are kicking the tires on trying to move Hanley Ramirez. The rumor hinted that they’d be willing to eat a substantial chunk of the $68 million owed to Ramirez over the next three seasons and then speculated that if the Mariners see him as a candidate for first base it might be a good fit. 
 
If I were Mark Trumbo, I’m probably not giving anyone a Mariners jersey for Christmas…

All of these rumors came from somewhere. Most of them sound like smoke with no fire to me, but usually there are some grains of truth or threads worth pulling. Beyond the rumors, it’s been a scarcely found, quiet week for Jerry Dipoto and the new-look Mariners. In fact, the one thing I thought would have happened by now hasn’t. Hisashi Iwakuma is still a free agent. 

At this point in the offseason, I figured we’d have at least heard some rumblings, or that the two sides were talking. But the last bit of news I’ve read about between the player and team was that the M’s were willing to offer two years at $12 million, and that Iwakuma’s camp was wanting a third year at somewhere closer to $14 million per year. That’s mostly speculation, but if those numbers are accurate, it doesn’t seem like they’re that far apart and I have to wonder why we haven’t heard more. Maybe Iwakuma wants to test the market, or maybe Dipoto figures that for the years and money Iwakuma is seeking, he can do better.

With the Winter Meetings beginning on Monday, it’s reasonable to think that we’ll be adding a starting pitcher and an outfielder within the next seven days. Something might get done before the meetings, but if not, I’ll be refreshing Twitter until the button on my mouse breaks. 

 

Related Slideshow: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time

Hank Stern ranks his top twelve favorite sports films. 

Prev Next

#12 Rollerball

Some of the non-athletic scenes in this dystopian classic show their age, but Rollerball is a strangely prescient film that anticipated both the corporatization of sport and fans’ limitless taste for violence. Bonus points for the ominous intro music.

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#11 A League of Their Own

A comedy that looks back to the antithesis of corporate sport – a women’s baseball league during World War II with many memorable lines to choose from (e.g.,”There’s no crying in baseball.”)

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#10 Remember The Titans

Yes, filmmakers took liberties with some of the facts dealing with the integration of a high school football team in Virginia. But there’s a reason football teams often screen this film on the eve of big games. It’s a damn inspirational tale.

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#9 The Natural

This film has grown on me over time. Originally, it seemed slow and schmaltzy. Now, it seems well-paced and charming. Then and now, the re-created scenes of pre-World War II ballparks arrive like perfectly preserved postcards from the past.  

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#8 The Longest Yard

Not the remake with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. But the hilarious original with Burt Reynolds and Eddie Albert as a wonderfully villainous warden who pits the guards against the inmates in a grudge football game that includes former Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke and other ex-football players like Sonny Sixkiller and Joe Kapp, both stalwart Pac-8 quarterbacks long, long ago.  

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#7 Slap Shot

The Hanson brothers. Enough said.

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#6 Rocky

Often imitated, but never replicated. The definitive underdog boxing story featuring Sylvester Stallone before he became a self-caricature in multiple sequels. Impossible to hear the theme song without being motivated to get off the couch.

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#5 Seabiscuit

A fantastic book as well as a great movie. Like “The Natural,” Seabiscuit captures its Depression-era setting for modern-day viewers taken back to an era when horse racing actually meant something in America. 

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#4 Requiem for a Heavywei

A too often-forgotten film these days but a wonderful boxing drama that shows the sport’s underside with memorable  performances by Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason and Anthony Quinn.

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#3 Hoosiers

Want to know something about small-town America in the 1950s and about Indiana basketball? This hoops movie does all of that with a healthy dose of redemption throughout. 

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#2 Bull Durham

There’s a pretty good case to be made this movie played a huge part in the rebirth and re-marketing of minor league baseball. As written by former minor leaguer Ron Shelton, there are many great scenes to choose from but this one is a favorite. 

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#1 Raging Bull

A rags-to-riches-to-rags story of boxer Jake LaMotta meets the actor born to play him, Robert De Niro. Not a false moment in this black-and-white powerhouse.

 
 

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