Let There Be News is a recap of the most interesting stories and transactions from the previous week.
Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training. Huzzah! We’re getting close to game action.
I’m open to discussing what people would like to see from the column during the season. Currently, I expect a lot of high-level injury-related coverage to outweigh transactions. I’m also toying with a “Best Game I Watched” bit that essentially would be three to six sentences describing the best game I saw during the previous week.
Athletics sign Yoenis Cespedes
The Athletics provided the shock of the week by signing Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million contract. Cespedes will benefit from a clause usually reserved for Japanese imports: He’ll gain free agency once his contract is up. Most players have to complete six years of major league service time before attaining free agency.
The Miami Marlins were thought to be the top suitors when the deal was announced. They had offered a six-year contract worth $36 million and reportedly weren’t comfortable with a shorter deal.
Most interested clubs planned to give Cespedes time in the minors to make adjustments. The Athletics may consider starting him in Triple-A, but given the position the franchise is in, it seems likely that he’ll break camp as one of the club’s starting outfielders. A poor spring training could change that plan.
Cespedes clearly wants the opportunity to earn one mega-deal in free agency. He’s entering his age 26 season now, which would make him 30 years old when he qualifies for free agency. A standard six-year deal would have pushed him back to age 32 and severely hampered his earnings potential.
A lot of noise was made about the deal not making sense for the Athletics. In a sense, it’s true, the Athletics probably won’t be serious playoff contenders in the next four years. However, that doesn’t mean Cespedes won’t provide value to the franchise.
It’s probably important to note that Cespedes did not secure no-trade protection in his deal. It’s quite possible that his time with the Athletics will be a tryout for first-division clubs who want a cost-effective outfielder but aren’t prepared to deal with the uncertainty surrounding Cespedes at this time.
The Pirates acquire A.J. Burnett
In perhaps the most public trade negotiation of the offseason, the Pirates have acquired Burnett and $20 million for pitching prospect Diego Moreno and outfield prospect Exicardo Cayones.
This is one of those trades where the narrative just makes sense. The Yankees had a wealth of starting pitching depth, an expensive, veteran pitcher who was far from a fan favorite, and the desire to trim payroll. The Pirates had a need for a veteran presence in the rotation and could benefit substantially from a successful reclamation project.
The Yankees did well to not only clear $13 million of Burnett’s $33 million contract, but to also get a decent pair of prospects in return. Moreno is the prize for the Yankees. He profiles as a reliever and has a classic power righty fastball-slider combo. His fastball can reach 98 MPH and sits in the mid-90s.
Cayones has a tweener skill set: He’s not athletic enough for center field and doesn’t hit well enough for the corners. He’s young enough (20) to develop a little more power, and he’ll have to if he wants to be a fourth or fifth outfielder. John Sickels has a more complete analysis of both players.
For the Pirates, Burnett will now headline a rotation that probably will include Erik Bedard, Charlie Morton, James McDonald, and Kevin Correia. Burnett should benefit from the move to the NL Central and pitcher-friendly PNC Park. A strong bounce-back season from Burnett could help the Pirates break their ugly streak of 19 straight losing seasons.
Burnett could also become a valuable commodity at the trade deadline since any acquiring club would only owe him roughly $10 million. It’s quite possible the Pirates could get a better prospect in return than Moreno.
The Indians have signed Jon Garland to a minor-league deal. Garland is recovering from a shoulder injury but expects to be ready for spring training. Shoulder injuries are tricky, but he could serve as a viable fifth starter or swingman if he regains most of his previous ability.
The Rays extended manager Joe Maddon with a three-year deal worth roughly $6 million. Maddon is a highly regarded manager due to his ability to get the most out of his players. He’s also reached the postseason in three of the last four seasons, no mean feat in the AL East.
The White Sox signed Kosuke Fukudome to a one-year, $1 million contract. The 35-year-old outfielder will back up Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo. The White Sox also have Brent Lillibridge in the outfield mix.
The Red Sox signed Ross Ohlendorf to a minor-league contract. He’ll likely serve as emergency rotation fodder in case the Red Sox need to reach deep for starters. Ohlendorf was respectable for the Pirates from 2009-2010 but downright terrible last year. He could provide replacement-level or slightly better performance, or he could be much worse.
Tim Wakefield announced his decision to retire. The knuckleball specialist had a 19-season career spent primarily with the Boston Red Sox. He threw over 3,000 innings of 4.41 ERA baseball, although he struggled to prevent runs over the past two seasons.
The Yankees lost one lefty reliever and signed another. Hideki Okajima, who signed a minor-league contract earlier in the offseason, failed his physical last week. The Yankees replaced his presence by signing 30-year-old Clay Rapada to a minor-league deal. Rapada’s fastball averages only about 85 MPH.
Mike Cameron has decided to retire. He signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals earlier in the offseason. A Cameron-and-Rick Ankiel platoon was seen as an alternative to starting Bryce Harper in the majors this season. The Nationals still can use Ankiel along with Roger Bernadina to bridge the gap. The Nationals may kick the tires on some of the available outfielders once teams start making cuts.
The Phillies signed Kyle Kendrick to a two-year contract worth $7.5 million. It’s a strange move given Kendrick’s skill set as a borderline ROOGY.