LAKE BUENA, VISTA, Fla. -- Baseball's Winter Meetings got off to a rousing start even before they officially began on Monday. Jayson Werth signed the most under-the-radar -- and, some might claim, over-the-top -- $126 million contract in baseball annals. New Mets GM Sandy Alderson said as much, when he cracked about Washington's deficit and also suggested the Werth deal made some of the Mets' old deals look "pretty good.'' And not long after Werth's stunning deal, which GM Mike Rizzo aptly called "monumental'' in Washington history, the Red Sox and superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez found enough common ground for Boston to sign off on their four-prospect trade with the Padres.
Some might take exception as to whether Werth was worth it (MLB bigwigs were said to be apoplectic over the deal), but few could disagree with the Red Sox-Padres swap, which solved Boston's need for a big bat and got San Diego started on a rebuilding process with blue-chip prospects Casey Kelly (an athletic right-handed pitcher), left-handed-hitting power first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and speedy outfielder Reymond Fuentes, Carlos Beltran's cousin whose tools much more closely resemble Jacoby Ellsbury's. One GM wondered if San Diego might have added "at least one major leaguer'' but it wasn't a bad haul considering Gonzalez had only one year left on his contract and an arm in a sling following offseason shoulder surgery.
The Red Sox and Gonzalez do not have an official agreement on a new deal, but people in the know said they have worked out the parameters and the new contract was expected to be for about $160 million over seven years, on top of his $6.2 million 2011 salary, bringing the grand total to close to $170 million, which is exactly what Boston bid for Mark Teixeira two winters ago before being outbid by the Yankees by $10 million. Gonzalez, who consistently put up monster numbers in the game's worst hitters stadium (PETCO Park) and with very little lineup protection, saved the day for Boston, which also had sought Werth, and understood it was running well behind in the bidding for its own third baseman, Adrian Beltre, who's talking to the A's, Angels, Orioles and another team or two.
Sunday was a nice warmup, and it'll be tough to top. But the elements are there. "It's going to be a wild week,'' one assistant GM said. There is a lot of money in the game, a few exceptional free agents and a long list of other available hopefuls, only one bona fide superstar starting pitcher and some teams with obvious needs. Here are some of the biggest players here at Disney, which may become an even happier place for several of these fellows.
• The Diamondbacks are still talking to the Orioles about a trade involving Mark Reynolds. Arizona is interested in Chris Tillman and young relievers to rebuild its 'pen. New GM Kevin Towers specializes in the bullpen, and is making that his area of major concern.
• The chances for a Justin Upton trade now appear to be just about nil. The value of a young stud outfielder with a $51 million contract has to be high (considering Werth, eight years his senior, got $75 million more than that), and Towers has judged what he could get for Upton and determined they will fill their needs in other ways.
• The Cubs and Nationals are considering Carlos Peña.
• The Nationals, who are in on a lot of folks, are looking at recovering starter Brandon Webb. "He's a bigger gamble than Chris Young or Jeff Francis at this point,'' one scout said of the former Cy Young winner who has pitched just one game since the end of the 2009 season because of shoulder problems. But Rizzo, a former Diamondbacks employee, loves him from his days in Arizona. He may be competing with the Cubs on that front, too.
• The Mets are looking at Chris Young and Jeff Francis.
• Baltimore, Boston and Philly were the other teams in on Werth. But Philly only offered about "Jason Bay money,'' or close to $66 million over four years (in this case, it was believed to be $64 million over four).
• Mariano Rivera's deal, which was for exactly $15 million a year, has an AAV of $14.7 million due to some deferred monies. Derek Jeter also had some deferred monies in his deal.
• Jason Bartlett, a fine shortstop, should help the Rays begin to rebuild their 'pen if he is moved in a trade. The Cardinals are among teams to have shown interest, and if they were to get Bartlett, Ryan Theriot could become a super utility player and aid their depth. The Giants earlier showed interest in Bartlett and the Orioles, Pirates, Padres and Angels could make some sense.
• The Brewers and Blue Jays made a second trade with each other, and it was an interesting one, with top Brewers prospect Brett Lawrie, a fine hitter, going to Toronto for very solid proven starter Shaun Marcum. Milwaukee desperately needs pitching, and there doesn't appear to be much evidence they will trade Prince Fielder to get it.