* It signals that the Mariners are going all-in now to attempt to compete. Cano by himself will certainly add interest and value to the franchise, but does he add enough wins to make them competitive? Probably not. That's why it's a perplexing decision by Seattle, who must believe that Cano will help with attendance and that he's the first step in many that need to happen for them to compete with Oakland and Texas consistently. And that's why it wouldn't be surprising to see the Mariners continue to spend -- or look to make some trades -- in an effort to upgrade now. Maybe they look at Shin-Soo Choo or perhaps a deal for David Price. But don't make the mistake of thinking this is it for the Mariners. If you're spending this much money on Cano, you've got to get more pieces around him.
* Man, you've got to love the AL West. Big spenders, GMs not afraid to make trades and some rivalries that should just get better.
* This puts the New York Yankees in the market for other free agents that interest the Rangers, namely Choo and Carlos Beltran. So it adds one more team with some money into the mix as the Rangers attempt to upgrade their lineup.
* It also means one more big name is off the board before anybody boards a flight to Orlando for the Winter Meetings. It puts Beltran and Choo at center stage in terms of free agents and Price as the biggest trade piece. But unlike the last few years, many of the names we thought we'd be discussing in the lobby are already signed.
* Will this mean a rush to get deals done with Beltran and Choo for fear of them coming off the board? We'll see.
* One more bit of AL West news: Scott Feldman is back in the division. And for more proof that salaries just keep climbing, Feldman got three years and $30 million from the Houston Astros, according to reports.
Today's issue: Could Winter Meetings be where David Price's market heats up?
Since it's cold and icy out there, let's talk more Hot Stove. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported this week that the market for Tampa Bay Rays' ace David Price is expected to heat up. And as you might expect, he lists the Rangers among the teams interested.
The Rays, of course, don't have to trade Price, who won the Cy Young Award in 2012. They have another competitive team and could roll with Price and see what happens. But if the Rays want to get the full value of trading Price, now is the time to deal him. He's got two years remaining on his contract and should land a nice prospect haul, considering how thin the starting pitching market is now.
Price finished the regular season in Arlington for Game 163 and gave up two runs on seven hits in a complete-game win to send the Rays to the AL wild-card game in Cleveland.
Besides paying Price -- MLB Trade Rumors thinks he'll make around $13.1 million in 2014 -- he's going to cost plenty in terms of prospects. That's what you'd expect. The question is what kind of price the Rangers would be willing to pay and how it might compare with what other teams are offering the Rays.
Tampa Bay likely won't be picky about any specific positions of need. They'll want the best package they can get. If the Rangers put Jurickson Profar in the mix, that would put them on par with just about anything anybody else can offer. But does it make sense to put Profar in a deal now that Ian Kinsler has been dealt? The club has some young, middle-infield talent beyond Profar, but they made the Prince Fielder deal in part to free up the space to play Profar.
Could the Rangers make a deal for Price without Profar? Possibly. There's plenty of young talent in the system, but for a player like Price, you would think other teams will dangle their top prospect, so it would depend on the package. Texas has power-hitting prospects, middle infielders and pitching at various parts of the lower levels of the minor-league system (names like Rougned Odor, Luke Jackson, Joey Gallo, Luis Sardinas and others). The Rays will likely want some sort of major-league starter in addition to whatever prospect package comes their way, so it could mean parting with someone currently in the rotation.
As we've seen in the past, the Rangers won't hesitate to talk and try to get creative. And if Price is made available, especially as the general managers gather in Orlando next week, you can bet the Rangers will be exploring the possibility. It's tough not to imagine what a rotation fronted by Price and Yu Darvish could do, isn't it? The question is whether, at this point, it's now too much to give up for him (signing him to an extension, perhaps having 48 hours to do so for the trade to go through, would be critical).
With so many free agents already off the board and a few big trades already in the books, Price's name could be one that we hear often next week in Disney World.
You got a package you'd be willing to send the Rays for Price? Tell us in the comment section and we'll discuss.
Arencibia, who turns 28 in January, was nontendered by the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this week, becoming a free agent. The Rangers had expressed interest in Arencibia even before he was nontendered, liking his power.
In 2013, Arencibia hit just .194 and posted a .227 on-base percentage, which would have been the lowest in the majors had he qualified. Despite the low average, Arencibia still managed 21 homers (second among all catchers) and 55 RBIs.
Perhaps going to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington could help the right-handed hitter's power numbers even more. Arencibia struck out 148 times and walked just 18 times. But the power has been fairly consistent. He's averaged 20 homers in his three full major league seasons after showing power in the minors, as well.
The Rangers signed Geovany Soto earlier this offseason and named him the primary catcher. They explored other options, but didn't want to pay the high prices for catchers such as Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz.
Contreras, who will turn 42 on Friday, spent last season with the Pittsburgh and Boston organizations. His only major league action came with the Pirates in May, when he allowed five runs over five innings in seven relief outings. Contreras had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in June of 2012 and spent spring training rehabbing.
Conteras has a 78-67 career record with a 4.57 ERA over 299 games (175 starts) with Yankees, White Sox, Rockies, Phillies and Pirates. If he appears for the Rangers next season, Contreras would be second to only Nolan Ryan among oldest players in club history.
Adcock, 25, split last season in the Kansas City and Arizona organizations, going a combined 8-6 with a 6.67 ERA in 26 games (19 starts) for Omaha and Reno in the Pacific Coast League.
Petersen, 27, batted .275 with 33 doubles, eight home runs and 49 RBIs in 136 games with New Orleans (AAA) in the Miami Marlins organization last season.
Winter league update: Neftali Feliz has a 1.80 ERA in five innings pitched with six strikeouts over 5 relief appearances for Este of the Dominican Winter League. ... OF Engel Beltre is hitting .364 (8-for-22) with two doubles, four RBIs and three runs scored over his last six games with Licey. ... LHP Joseph Ortiz has four straight scoreless appearances (4 2/3 innings pitched) with a pair of saves for La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Emily Jones was hired by the team and will serve as the on-field reporter and host of "Rangers Insider," a weekly show on Fox Sports Southwest.
This will be Busby's second full season as the play-by-play voice in the TV booth after transitioning from radio. Grieve returns for his 20th season in the booth.
"For the past few years, I've considered taking some games off to spend additional time with my family during the summer," Grieve said in the club's release. "This will allow me to do some things that I haven't had the opportunity to previously do. I really appreciate the Rangers and FOX Sports Southwest allowing me to do this."
The radio crew remains the same with Eric Nadel and Matt Hicks calling the games on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and Mike Peasley serving as pregame and postgame host and fill-in voice when needed.
Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka's baseball future was thrown into flux Thursday when the president of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles told a newspaper that the team might not make the prized starter available to major league teams as a free agent this winter.
Yozo Tachibana told Sponichi that the Golden Eagles might refrain from making Tanaka available through the posting process. Under a proposed system, major league teams would submit maximum bids of $20 million for rights to negotiate with Tanaka, and Tanaka would be free to sign with the club of his choosing among those that meet the threshold.
Previously, major league teams would submit bids and the club with the highest offer would receive exclusive rights to negotiate with the player.
"We have an obligation to explain to our stakeholders whether it's fair," Tachibana reportedly told Sponichi. He added that if Rakuten shareholders do not think the proposed rules are fair, "There's a possibility we won't take the next step."
Tanaka, 25, is a prime target for multiple big league clubs that hope he can have an impact similar to the one Yu Darvish has had with Texas. When Darvish came to the U.S. in January 2012, the Rangers gave him a six-year, $60 million contract on top of the $51.7 million posting fee they paid to his former club, the Nippon Ham Fighters. Darvish led the American League with 277 strikeouts this past season and finished second to Detroit's Max Scherzer in Cy Young Award balloting.
Three people were charged in Miami with conspiring to smuggle, kidnap and extort Texas Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin as he traveled from Cuba to the United States through Mexico, according to a report in the Miami Herald.
The report said that Joel Martinez Hernandez, Yilian Hernandez and Eliezer Lazo were charged by the U.S. attorney's office in Miami on Wednesday. The three were also charged with smuggling 13 other Cuban baseball players to the United States through Mexico.
The newspaper reports that the company Lazo and Martinez have a stake in, Estrellas del Beisbol, claims it was Martin's management agency after he was smuggled into Mexico in 2010. The company filed a lawsuit against Martin in Florida, saying he didn't pay the company up to 30 percent of his salary after he signed a $15.5 million multiyear deal with the Rangers in 2011.
Martin in his counterclaim says that he wired $1.35 million to the company but that he did it "out of fear for himself and his family, not with any intention of validating" the company's claim, according to the Miami Herald report.
Martin's lawyer declined to comment to the newspaper.
Estrellas del Beisbol, according to the suit, contends that under its agreement with Martin in November 2010 that it would provide housing, food and training for Martin in exchange for 35 percent of any future contract signed with a big league organization. The figure was reduced, the company says, to 30 percent with 5 percent going to Martin's agent. The agent, Bartolo Hernandez, was not charged in the Miami indictment, the report said.
Martin's lawyer claims his client signed the agreement "under duress" and that Martin was held "against his will" in Mexico.
Masahiro Tanaka, who plays for the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles, is expected to be posted. And the new rules, assuming they are made official soon, would mean that more teams could jump in the fray for him. Only the team that eventually signs Tanaka would have to pay the posting fee.
So how does this apply to the Rangers? Well, if you're Texas, you might as well put in the $20 million bid. It took a bid of $51,703,411 to negotiate with Yu Darvish (if you'll remember the last four digits were the uniform numbers for Nolan Ryan and Darvish) and then another $56 million guaranteed (with another $4 million easily attainable if Darvish stays healthy) to sign him. It was an investment of $111 million to land the pitcher. But Darvish's portion is a little shy of $10 million per season. So if Tanaka gets something close -- or slightly above that -- the overall investment still wouldn't hit Darvish's number. That is, of course, as long as one team doesn't drive up the bidding.
It's still a large investment for the Rangers to make. But Tanaka is 25 years old and was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 starts this past season. This story, in the New York Daily News, describes Tanaka as someone who can touch 97 mph and that his fastball and splitter are his best pitches.
But if Tanaka gets to choose his next team, why not put in a bid and negotiate (and increase the club's starting pitching depth and open up even more options in terms of trade possibilities)? The Rangers have worked hard to scout Japan in recent years, and the signing of Darvish likely has Texas in Tanaka's mind at the very least. Perhaps it's all about taking the most money. But you don't know until you negotiate. So I'd expect to see a fair number of teams put in that max bid and see what happens. The Rangers should be among them.
Choice called his family to inform them that he was coming home after he was caught him off guard by the trade.
"I was running errands when they called," Choice said.
He said he couldn't calm his dad down when he gave him the news and that his phone was full of text message from friends and family. He said he's yet to get any ticket requests.
"But I'm sure that's coming," Choice said.
The 24-year-old knows that nothing is guaranteed. He'll have to earn a job in spring training, something he was geared to do if he was heading to spring training with the A's anyway.
Choice isn't worried about the pressures of playing so close to home (he played high school baseball in Mansfield and college ball at the University of Texas-Arlington), saying that the fact that it's familiar should make it comfortable and maybe even "less nerve-racking" because it's familiar.
DETROIT -- Joe Nathan expects to fit in just fine in Detroit -- and now the Tigers don't have to face the closer who has dominated them more than perhaps any other in baseball.
Nathan agreed with Detroit on a two-year contract with a club option for 2016, enabling the Tigers to accomplish one of their main objectives this offseason by adding one of the game's most accomplished closers to the bullpen. The three-time defending AL Central champions announced the deal Wednesday, two days after trading right-handed starter Doug Fister to Washington. Terms were not disclosed.
"Why would I come here?" Nathan asked rhetorically. "I think the question is, why wouldn't I? This team is ready to win. They're ready to win now. ... It's not just about getting to the postseason. For me, it's about getting to the big one."
Nathan, who turned 39 last month, has never pitched in the World Series. He had 43 saves in 46 chances for the Texas Rangers last season.
It's been a busy offseason already for Detroit, which traded slugger Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler in a move that, coupled with the trade of Fister, gave the Tigers more financial flexibility.
Detroit's bullpen was unsettled for much of last season. Joaquin Benoit eventually performed well as the closer, but he is now a free agent.
"A very big part of what we were trying to accomplish was to get a closer," general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "This was always a goal of ours."
It's an art, and Daniels is approaching Picasso's creativity level. For those of us in the business of disseminating information, it can be a little frustrating. But it's absolutely the smartest move.
Why would Daniels want to tip his pitches, giving others a chance to gain an advantage? That's not to say Daniels won't toss out a few pieces of information. He does talk in generalities about what the club needs. But he does it all with a purpose. And he's careful not to get backed into a corner or give away too many secrets.
Take Robinson Cano, for instance. He was asked directly about the club's interest in the biggest name on the free-agent market. Daniels admitted that he's talked to agents of "most" of the known names on the market. He then added: "Upgrading our infield is pretty low on our priority list."
It was Daniels' way of saying that Cano's price -- at least what he's looking for -- is too high for the Rangers. But why come out and say flatly that the club has no interest in Cano? What good does that do? Just like it makes no sense to praise Cano, either. Who knows what could happen? What if Cano doesn't get anywhere close to what he's looking for and the Rangers decide to jump in late and see what may or may not happen? It's doubtful that would happen, but not impossible. Again, Daniels is careful not to completely rule anything out.
The chances of Cano coming to Texas have always seemed a bit remote. Paying Prince Fielder and freeing up a spot for Jurickson Profar with the trade of Ian Kinsler (one that didn't get leaked until after it was completed prior to Thanksgiving) makes it even more unlikely. But that doesn't mean the club is out of the big-ticket items either.
Tigers president/GM Dave Dombrowski has made the biggest splash of the offseason so far after dealing first baseman Prince Fielder and right-hander Doug Fister, and signing free-agent closer Joe Nathan.
But St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak isn’t far behind after trading for center fielder Peter Bourjos and signing free-agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Likewise, Minnesota Twins GM Terry Ryan has been active, bolstering his starting rotation by signing free-agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to long-term deals.
However, 12 out of the top 15 free agents this offseason are still without homes, and there are several prominent players being mentioned in trade rumors, including David Price and Jeff Samardzija.
So let’s take a look at some of the GMs who could join Dombrowski, Mozeliak and Ryan in making a huge splash of their own at the winter meetings.
Brian Cashman | Needs: starting pitching, second base, closer
I know what you are thinking: Cashman already made a splash by signing Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract and Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year pact. But as I see it, that was just the appetizer.
Cashman remains focused on second baseman Robinson Cano, and once CAA and RocNation move a little closer to Cashman’s numbers, an eight-year, $200 million deal could get done before Cashman leaves the winter meetings.
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The A's signed right-handed starter Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million deal on Monday (it should be finalized today, according to reports) and then later that day GM Billy Beane traded for closer Jim Johnson from the Orioles. On Tuesday, he dealt one of the club's top prospects in Michael Choice to obtain Craig Gentry. And he shipped outfielder Seth Smith to the Padres to get right-handed reliever Luke Gregersen.
It was a crazy two-day period that has the A's attempting to plug some holes and improve the team. In giving up Choice for Gentry, the A's decided to give up some of the long-term possibilities with Choice to get Gentry. He fits the profile for what the A's needed -- a defensive outfielder with speed that can play all three positions. Gentry will probably stay as the "fourth" outfielder and the A's know what they're getting in the scrappy Gentry. But that came with a cost, having to give up a player in Choice that has power potential and a higher ceiling at 24 years old. Still, for 2014, the move improves the A's defense.
"Playing against them, they handle themselves well, they play hard," Gentry told Oakland reporters. "That team is the exact type of player I am. I feel like I'm going to fit in well over there, and I'm excited about it."
A bullpen that was already good has only gotten better with Johnson and Gregersen. The latter gives the A's a right-handed setup man with a track record and Johnson is an All-Star closer. If the A's can get the lead late, they'll be tough to deal with as an opponent.
You couple Oakland's moves with the Rangers obtaining Prince Fielder, signing Geovany Soto and grabbing Choice, who is a candidate to play left field (with Engel Beltre) should the club not make any more moves, and you've got the two top teams in the AL West staying aggressive in this offseason. And the winter meetings haven't even started yet.
Let's start with the Astros acquiring Dexter Fowler from the Rockies. The Rockies have seemingly been shopping Fowler for years, but apparently the market for him was more lukewarm than a three-day-old cup of Starbucks. Jordan Lyles is still young and throws strikes but has been hit hard at the major league level (5.35 career ERA with 65 starts) and doesn't possess a quality strikeout pitch; he's the kind of pitcher who will get absolutely destroyed at Coors Field.
Even if the Rockies will put a better defense behind Lyles than the Astros did -- Troy Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado will help in that department -- Lyles appears to be a long shot to succeed. Brandon Barnes was a 27-year-old rookie center fielder who posted a .289 on-base percentage, struck out 127 times while walking just 21 times, and was 11-for-22 in stealing bases, a package that made him one of the worst percentage players in the majors. His defense is OK but he looks like a fourth outfielder at best.
What did the Astros get? A player with two years remaining until free agency who has averaged a consistent 2.4 WAR over the past three seasons. He's a good player whom the Rockies always expected more from, perhaps creating a poor read of his actual value. There is the possibility that his numbers will crater outside of Coors Field -- he's hit .298 there in his career, .241 on the road -- but as a guy who takes his walks I like his chances to produce once he gets away from the Coors effect. Kudos to the Astros for acquiring some talent without giving up much in return. With prospect George Springer presumably ready to take over center, I wouldn't be surprised to see Fowler move to left field; his bat won't play as well there but he'll improve the Astros' defense dramatically over the statue-like Chris Carter.
What were the Rockies thinking? Who knows. The Rockies and Mariners seem like the two franchises without any semblance of a game plan right now. Are the Rockies trying to win now? Are they trying to rebuild? Were they merely dumping a salary (Fowler will make $7.35 million in 2014, a relative bargain for a 2-WAR player)? Are they trying to improve the rotation or the offense? If I had to guess, the Rockies see this as a salary dump to clear space to sign a free-agent pitcher. Last year, Roy Oswalt, Jeff Manship, Drew Pomeranz, Collin McHugh and Chad Bettis combined to go 0-19 in 26 starts with a 7.42 ERA. Can't wait to see the Rockies sign Ervin Santana and be shocked when he gives up 40 home runs.
But there was more that happened on Tuesday ... much more!
- The A's traded for Orioles closer Jim Johnson. The Rays traded for Diamondbacks closer-by-default Heath Bell. What's going on here? Are the A's and Rays, the beloved darlings of the sabermetric guild, admitting they believe in Proven Closers? Well ... yes and no. The A's aren't going to pay big bucks for a closer with a long-term deal, so with Grant Balfour leaving as a free agent they picked up Johnson, who has one year remaining before free agency. It's a rental without giving up anything of value (no, Jemile Weeks doesn't count as "value"). The A's may have gone with Ryan Cook as their closer, but he struggled down the stretch with his command last year so Billy Beane undoubtedly wanted more of a sure thing. Now they just need Johnson not to blow nine saves like he did for the Orioles. As for Bell, I don't quite see what the Rays see in him (he gave up 12 home runs in 2013), but they turned Fernando Rodney into a top closer, so Bell will probably go out and record 45 saves with a 2.50 ERA. Bell is due to make $9 million, but the Marlins are paying $4 million of that, so the Rays get a potential closer for the tidy sum of $5 million.
- The A's added further depth to their bullpen by acquiring Luke Gregerson from the Padres for Seth Smith. The A's get another one-year rental, but Gregerson has been one of the majors' most consistent relievers the past few seasons. He held batters to a .203 average in 2013, .226 over the past three years. Yes, Gregerson pitched in pitcher-friendly Petco Park, but he moves to another pitchers' park and his sinker means he's pretty good at preventing home runs anyway. The A's gave up outfielder/DH Smith, who didn't really hit like a corner outfielder/designated hitter needs to hit. Score this as a win for the A's.
- Have I mentioned that I love Billy Beane? To replace Smith and the departed Chris Young, he picked up Craig Gentry from the division rival Rangers for Michael Choice. Gentry is the perfect fourth outfielder, a plus defender in center who can hit left-handed pitching. He doesn't have power but has a .391 OBP the past three years against lefties. He's a terrific platoon-slash-role player. The Rangers get Michael Choice, a former top prospect who hit .302 with 14 home runs at Triple-A. The Rangers get some potential upside here in the former 10th overall pick, but outside of a big year in the California League, his power potential hasn't completely materialized. A worthwhile gamble by the Rangers, however.
- The Tigers are apparently close to signing Joe Nathan -- the move everyone has been predicting all offseason. Clearly the Doug Fister trade was made to clear some salary space. Is there another move in the works? Do the Tigers still bring back Joaquin Benoit to set up Nathan? Is there another big signing -- Shin-Soo Choo? -- coming? Stay tuned!
- The Red Sox signed A.J. Pierzynski. Makes sense. One-year deal, leaving the possibility of Blake Swihart or Christian Vazquez to take over at catcher in 2015. Love what the Red Sox are doing here. They could have an extremely young core of Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Swihart in a couple years ... leaving plenty of payroll to spend on David Price when he becomes a free agent after 2015. It's good to be a Red Sox fan right now.
- What else? The Rays acquired Ryan Hanigan. Interesting because they just signed Jose Molina. That gives them two of the best defensive catchers in the game. Brian Wilson looks like he's returning to the Dodgers. Makes sense for the Dodgers; surprising only because everyone thought Wilson wanted to close. Oh, yeah ... the Mariners have emerged as major players in the Robinson Cano sweepstakes, according to an ESPN New York report. The Mariners have money; they want to spend money; Cano wants money. Who knows, maybe it actually will happen. And then don't be shocked when the Mariners also sign Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ubaldo Jimenez. Of course, that could just be my head spinning after this crazy day.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.