Without further ado, here are the winners and losers of the week:
1. Red Sox and Red Sox Nation. Boston's beloved team and its faithful fans cheered over $302 million worth of lineup alterations. First there was the completion of a trade-and-sign (the parameters of a new contract, anyway) for superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and then the surprise signing of superstar outfielder Carl Crawford, immediately enhancing their lineup to the point where it's quite possibly the best in baseball. Gonzalez, who apparently came to the framework of an extension agreement for about $154 million over seven years with the Red Sox with the aid of a short deadline extension, is one of the very best hitters in baseball, while Crawford brings dynamic athleticism to the field and to the batting order. With those two on board, the Red Sox stole the show. They even were identified as one of the mystery bidders for Cliff Lee, the top free-agent pitcher available, though that may have been done in part to block or trigger the Yankees, and two Boston people say they are now out or just about of the Lee derby.
2. Darek Braunecker, agent. He didn't make a deal here for Lee, his ballyhooed client, but he played the market and used his leverage perfectly, showing how a little patience can turn into big bucks. Braunecker delayed taking offers, waited until a good but lesser player in Jayson Werth signed with the Nationals for seven years and $126 million, brought new stalkers into the mix and enticed the Yankees and Rangers to get into an all-out war. Two mystery teams (one of which remains a mystery) entered the sweepstakes for seven years. By the end of the meetings, the favored Yankees were also bidding seven years, presumably at bigger bucks, and the incumbent Rangers were on their way to Little Rock, Ark., to meet with Lee and Braunecker. The Yankees had been adamantly against going to a seventh year, and the Rangers were obviously going far beyond where they intended, as well. Texas' new ownership group, led by Chuck Greenberg and some nice oil men, seem ready to do A-Rod II, which is to say they may pay beyond what should be feasible for a team in a very nice but not overwhelmingly large market. They were never going to go above five years, but they appear to be wiling to do at least six now for the great but 32-year-old pitcher. The Rangers, who had a payroll just north of $50 million in 2010, appear ready to commit at least 25 percent of its payroll to one pitcher, at least in the short term. Greenberg, a former minor league owner, seems to be relishing his time in the big time. But it didn't work when Tom Hicks handed out the biggest player contract to Alex Rodriguez, so it'll be interesting to see what happens if Texas makes Lee the highest-paid pitcher ever.
3. Carl Crawford. With a $142 million deal, he became the highest-paid position player never to hit 20 home runs in a season, beating the $90 million deal the Mariners gave to Ichiro in 2007 by more than $50 million. He also received the highest average annual salary for an outfielder on a deal of at least three years ($20.29 million), not bad for a player who's never led the league in anything beyond stolen bases and triples. He's an excellent all-around player, and scouts see power coming after he hit a career-high 19 last year. But the fact remains that he's a corner outfielder who's not yet a bona fide power hitter and by far the richest player whose greatest attributes are speed and defense. Early word that he preferred the Angels may have been correct, but he couldn't ignore about a $30 million gap in the offers (Los Angeles of Anaheim was thought to be at around $110 million for six years). He also probably didn't mind staying in the AL East, a division where he thrived with the Rays. The Yankees love Crawford as a player but appear now to have been in it mostly to monitor the situation and perhaps try to drive up Boston's price if they could.
4. Jayson Werth. The seven-year, $126 million deal the Nationals gave Werth was a real eye-opener, especially for him. The deal represents about 10 times what he had made to date in his big-league career, and was actually $1 million more than ex-teammate Ryan Howard's recent extension with the Phillies (though Howard's was for five years and came two years before free agency). Estimates were that Werth would receive between $80 million and $100 million, and he easily beat those numbers with a total that's become infamous in baseball for being the same amount Barry Zito and Vernon Wells got, two deals that haven't exactly paid off for the Giants and Blue Jays, respectively. Werth, like Crawford, is a terrific all-around talent, but he had been a complementary player on the Phillies, albeit an excellent one. The only real knock on Werth is that he is unproven in the prestigious No. 3 or 4 holes in the lineup, which is where he's likely to hit in Washington. But the deal looks a tad long for a 32-year-old, even one in great shape from a family of athletes.
5. Scott Boras, agent. He got the deal for Werth, and he also got a $10 million, one-year deal for a player who didn't even hit .200 last season. Carlos Peña, who signed with the Cubs on a one-year "pillow'' contract, became the highest paid sub-.200 hitter ever in free agency. Boras so dubbed it a "pillow'' contract because such a deal enables a historically very good player coming off a bad year to have a soft landing. Affable Cubs GM Jim Hendry arrived in Boras' suite toting a pillow to honor Boras' "pillow contract" phrase, demonstrating he indeed wanted to provide Peña a soft landing. The last obvious example of such a contract was Adrian Beltre, who signed for $8 million with the Red Sox last offseason and took advantage by posting a huge individual year.
6. Legacy Sports (agents Greg Genske, Brian Peters, Scott Parker). The agency that's right up the road from Boras' place by Fashion Square Mall in Newport Beach acquitted itself nicely with Crawford's Red Sox deal, the ninth-highest in baseball history. Earlier this offseason, the White Sox signed outrageously consistent slugger Adam Dunn, another client of theirs, for $56 million over four years, $20 million more than his incumbent Nationals hoped to pay (their offer was for three years). In that case it probably took some doing to convince Dunn that it would be better for his career (not to mention his bankroll) for him to put his glove mostly to the side for now and instead do a lot of DHing after the defensively challenged player spent his entire career in the National League. Other clients of theirs still on the market include Orlando Hudson, Jeremy Bonderman and Brad Penny, who got $7.5 million last offseason coming off a year in which he had been released.
They are also the agents for CC Sabathia, who can opt out of his seven-year, $161 million contract with the Yankees after next season. Sabathia loves New York but he could use that opt-out to his advantage.
7. White Sox. By the standards of this market, the contract they gave Paul Konerko -- $37.5 million for three years with heavy deferrals in the third year -- was a downright bargain for the excellent hitter and loyal employee of owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Konerko and Reinsdorf talked via phone, but assistant GM Rick Hahn worked out the agreement with agent Craig Landis that was a sound and solid deal.
8. Adrian Beltre. He looks like he's in good shape for a big contract this offseason, not only because he posted impressive numbers (.321, 28 home runs, 102 RBIs) in his one year in Boston but also because the Angels have to be desperate. While the Angels usually don't pay what it takes via free agency, it would appear there's no free agent left who could bolster their sagging lineup. The AL West-rival Rangers may also need a third baseman. They spent a fair amount of time trying to deal third baseman and longtime star Michael Young, mostly to the Rockies, who like his makeup and versatility but would likely need a third team, making it "complicated'' and a "long shot,'' according to Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd.
9. Cubs and Carlos Peña. Peña didn't have to take a pay cut, an impressive feat for a guy who hit .196 last season, and the Cubs get a lefthanded power hitter they badly need. Peña hit 28 home runs in 2010, led the American League in that category in 2009, once had a 1.037 OPS in 2007 and is a two-time Gold Glove winner hungry to re-prove himself. Peña should benefit from a reunion with noted hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. He seemed genuinely excited to be going to the historic and fun franchise. He even showed up at the press conference (he happens to live in Orlando). If Peña reverts to the form of his first few years with Tampa Bay, maybe he can stay beyond the one year. But this deal seems to set up the Cubs perfectly for a run at Prince Fielder of the NL Central-rival Brewers, who will be a free agent next winter.
10. Nationals. Sure, $126 million for Werth doesn't exactly look like a bargain for a 31-year-old outfielder, no matter how many times Boras talks about how "fresh'' Werth is for missing so much time from a wrist injury several years ago. The contract seems a tad high, but the goal is to win, not to make bargain deals, and Werth is a player who can help them do that. Besides, the Nats have to pay a bit more to get players to come to Washington. "Elite players get elite contracts,'' GM Mike Rizzo said. Rizzo favors athleticism and defense, which is why Dunn wasn't really a target (their $36-million offer was made when Stan Kasten was the club president) and Werth has both of those attributes.
11. Cardinals. After meeting with Albert Pujols' agents, Cardinals people appeared to be all smiles. It has to be early in the process, and Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt made it clear a few weeks ago at the GM meetings that he didn't want to repeat the $305 million A-Rod contract, which has to be the starting point from Pujols' perspective. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said he was going on "radio silence'' regarding the highly sensitive subject. But manager Tony La Russa, who's under no such constraints, pointed out the likelihood for a deal is very good when both sides want to make it happen, as is the case here.
12. Dodgers. GM Ned Colletti added a sixth starting pitcher, Vicente Padilla, who seems to have resurrected himself in L.A. after coming over from Texas late in the 2009 season with a reputation as a bad teammate. Even with that surplus of starters, the Dodgers are one of the teams talking to the Royals about trading for ace Zack Greinke.
13. Orioles. Sure, they can't lure free agents who aren't relievers. They failed in their bids for at least Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn, and Konerko and Peña went elsewhere after having brief chats with Baltimore. The Orioles are sensitive about this weakness, but they also understand that they need to thrive in the drafts and trades. They filled their third base and shortstop holes with trades for the power-hitting Mark Reynolds for third and solid J.J. Hardy for short. There could be other deals forthcoming, as they appear to have an extra outfielder, and the outspoken Luke Scott (more on him below) could be trade fodder.
14. Kevin Correia. In an under-the-radar signing, he got $8 million over two years from Pittsburgh after a 10-10, 5.40 ERA season with the Padres, raising the hopes of free-agent Jeff Francis to duplicate that deal. The Pirates also beat out the Dodgers for solid outfielder Matt Diaz, inking him to a two-year, $4.25 million deal. Diaz told folks he didn't want to deal with L.A. traffic and generally preferred the East Coast. But it still looked good for Pittsburgh to beat a contending team for a player.
1. Angels. An otherwise terrific franchise, they don't seem to have a handle on this free agency thing. While they occasionally have made a good deal with free agents (Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter), they also seem to get blown out of the water for their prized target a lot, too. Crawford was supposed to be their No. 1 guy, yet word is they made him an offer of six years, one year less than the older Werth received, and were beaten by the Red Sox by about $30 million.
There's really no chance they are going to try to outbid the Yankees and Rangers for No. 2 target Lee. Which means that they are down to Nos. 3 and 3A on their list (Beltre and closer Rafael Soriano) with no guarantee to get either. From their history they are a threat to continue to go home empty-handed, even with having a bit of a home-field advantage for Beltre (he still lives in Los Angeles from his Dodgers days). But take heart, Angels fans. GM Tony Reagins said they already made a big move, securing reliever Hisanori Takahashi on a two-year deal. He wasn't kidding, we think.
2. Luke Scott. Somehow, he got himself into trouble at a meeting that's supposed to be a place for players to make nice with executives and writers. He did so by making critical comments about President Obama to Yahoo! writer David Brown, among them that "He wasn't born here" and "He's hiding something." The team issued a statement distancing itself from Scott's opinions, and club president Andy MacPhail, asked if he's upset about Scott's remarks, said, "Yeah, it's goofy ... and we're here in Walt Disney World.''
3. Billy Beane, A's GM. The brilliant executive can't seem to give his money away. He was said to be turning away from Beltre after Beltre sat on Beane's $64-million, five-year offer for weeks, and a union of the two sides now appears to be a long shot at best. Lance Berkman turned down a two-year offer from the A's to sign for one year in St. Louis. And Oakland failed to sign Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma after winning the right to bid on him with a $19.1-million posting fee, which drew the ire of agent Don Nomura, who didn't like the $15.25-million offer that didn't get a deal done before the Dec. 7 deadline. Beane also got into a bit of a verbal tiff with a writer who responded to Beane's suggestion that the writer needed to step up his game by telling the GM, "You haven't signed a significant player in 10 years.'' Ouch.
4. Rays. Crawford and Peña officially left, joining reliever Joaquin Benoit out the door, with Soriano sure to follow. They have a trade that isn't finalized yet to send shortstop Jason Bartlett, coming off a down year, to San Diego and were said to be considering deals for a starter, either James Shields or Matt Garza (to the Cubs?), though they'd have to get a decent haul to consider moving the talented Garza. They have built a superb system, and have Reid Brignac, Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson ready to step in to holes at shortstop, left field and the rotation, respectively.
It's hard to bet against the team that has won two of the past three AL East titles, but they have an entire bullpen to rebuild (they stand to get two relievers for Bartlett), and one agent opined, "They are now a last-place team in that division.'' That may be a bit of an overstatement, even if they will be hard-pressed to get back to the playoffs.
5. Padres. The Bartlett deal helps, and they are in play for Derrek Lee for first base (so are the Diamondbacks, Jays, Nats, A's and Orioles). They also received a very decent package back for Gonzalez, considering he had only a year to go before free agency. Casey Kelly is a talented pitching prospect, lefthanded Anthony Rizzo is viewed as almost a sure thing at first base and Reymond Fuentes is in the Jacoby Ellsbury mold. They did a terrific job considering the constraints, but it's not possible to make up for the loss of Gonzalez, at least not in the short term.
6. Mets and GM Sandy Alderson. Alderson showed he has a sense of humor when he jabbed at Washington's $126 million deal for Werth by saying, "I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington.'' But he went a bit too far when he said the contract "makes some of our deals look pretty good.'' Every team has a bad one or two, and deposed GM Omar Minaya doesn't need to hear that. Meanwhile, Alderson was handing out only nickels and dimes, securing Ronny Paulino, D.J. Carrasco and Boof Bonser. It doesn't help matters that Paulino will miss the first eight games due to a PED suspension at a time the Mets don't need any more adverse publicity. They are also talking to pitcher Chris Young, who could take an incentive-laden deal.
7. Relief pitchers. There's a staredown between teams and relievers, borne out of the large number of relievers and many open spots. But eventually things should work out fine for useful relievers like Pedro Feliciano, Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg, Chad Durbin, Arthur Rhodes and especially Kerry Wood.
8. Rangers or Yankees. The Lee loser will have to do some hustling to make up for the loss. The Rangers have been talking about importing Greinke, who seems likely to go somewhere, with the Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Blue Jays and Dodgers so far among the most aggressive team in pursuit of the star righthander. Texas has also been talking to the Rockies about a deal for longtime Ranger star Michael Young, a possibility that is complicated by Young's $16-million salary and the apparent need to get a third team involved.
If the Yankees fail to land Lee, their options are unappealing. They really don't want to force Greinke to go to New York, but if they lose Lee, they may have to revisit that possibility in light of the poor pitching options out there.