CHICAGO, December 4, 2013 — Wednesday was relatively quiet around MLB as Paul Konerko re-signed with the White Sox on a one year deal, which will serve as his farewell tour. This slow day, however, could be because MLB teams are still tired from the flurry of activity on Tuesday. Tuesday saw a variety of trades and free agent acquisitions headlined by the Yankees signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven year $153 million deal.
The day featured five trades with the A’s being involved in two of them. Oakland traded OF Michael Choice and minor league IF Chris Bostick to the Texas Rangers for OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom. The A’s also traded OF Seth Smith to the San Diego Padres for RP Luke Gregerson. Oakland will likely slot Gentry into the roster spot previously occupied by Smith, while Gregerson will likely assume a seventh or eighth inning role.
The Houston Astros reversed the course they have charted the last three years or so and acquired the best player in their trade with the Colorado Rockies. The Astros acquired OF Dexter Fowler for OF Brandon Barnes and RHP Jordan Lyles. The Astros will likely slot Fowler in center field and slide top prospect George Springer to right field. At first look, it seems that the Rockies should have gotten more, but teams may have been skeptical about Fowler’s ability to hit outside of Coors as there is a large difference in his home and away splits.
The Philadelphia Phillies traded C Erik Kratz and RHP Rob Rasmussen from the Toronto Blue Jays for RHP Brad Lincoln. This trade is not as high profile as many of the others, but Lincoln, the fourth overall pick in 2006, should slot in nicely in the Phillies’ bullpen. Kratz will compete for a backup catcher spot with the Blue Jays after J.P. Arrencibia was non-tendered, and Rasmussen will likely start the year in the minors after spending last year at AA.
Finally on the trade front, the Rays, Reds and Diamondbacks pulled off a three team trade. Catcher Ryan Hanigan and RP Heath Bell went to Tampa Bay and LHP David Holmberg went to Cincinnati. Arizona received RHP Justin Choate and a player to be named later.
The Rays quickly extended Hanigan with a three-year deal and will attempt to work their magic once again to see if Heath Bell can be salvaged in the last year of his contract after Bell struggled the last two years. Holmberg was the Diamondbacks number six prospect, according to Baseball America, and could compete for a spot in the rotation if Bronson Arroyo departs.
Teams were also busy in the free agent market on Tuesday with Jacoby Ellsbury taking the Yankees’ millions being the headliner. Ellsbury will assume the leadoff spot and play center field for the Yankees, but his acquisition may mean little if the Yankees are not able to re-sign Robinson Cano. New York still needs more pitching. The Yankees have now spent over a quarter of a billion dollars on Ellsbury and the previously announced Brian McCann signing.
The Marlins made a splash by signing C Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year, $21 million contract. There was speculation in the industry that the Marlins would have difficulty luring players to sign after they blew up their roster last offseason merely one year after signing Mark Buerhle and Jose Reyes. This deal may go a long way toward rebuilding the players’ confidence in the team depending on how they treat Saltalamacchia going forward.
The Red Sox signed C A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year, $8.5 million contract. Pierzynski will join David Ross to handle the catching duties for the Red Sox next year. The Red Sox seem to be sticking to the plan put in place last offseason, maintaining their roster flexibility by signing veterans to short term deals. The Sox have catching prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart in the minors so did not want to go beyond two years for Saltalamacchia and were able to fill their need with Pierzynski.
The Tigers solidified the back end of their bullpen by signing closer Joe Nathan to a two-year, $20 million deal. The Tigers have struggled to find stability in the closer role since Jose Valverde began struggling in the role in 2012. Nathan has been the best closer in baseball not named Rivera for over a decade, but is entering his age 39 season and his effectiveness will bear watching.
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