NY the big winner in latest arms race
Posted: Friday, December 12, 2008 7:15 pm
By: By MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two teams from New York took over the town at baseball’s winter meetings.
It helps to arrive in Vegas carrying plenty of cash.
As baseball’s annual swap session broke up Thursday, the boys from the Big Apple went home big winners. Highlighting a hectic week, the Yankees landed pitching prize CC Sabathia while the Mets solidified their previously wretched bullpen with All-Star relievers Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz.
“The New York teams, we have I guess the flexibility and the ability to do things — sometimes financially,” Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.
“But look, it’s not that other clubs, I mean, there’s a lot of financial parity out there right now. There might be 10 teams or more that are over $100 million in the game. So it’s not that teams don’t have money now. It’s just the desire to make some moves.”
While teams and agents cleared out quickly following the Rule 5 draft of minor leaguers, San Diego GM Kevin Towers said the Chicago Cubs had pulled out of the Jake Peavy sweepstakes.
Several small-market clubs struck quiet deals, however.
Kansas City and reliever Kyle Farnsworth reached a preliminary agreement on a $9.25 million, two-year contract. The deal was pending a physical, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been finalized.
The Royals also agreed to one-year contracts with pitchers Horacio Ramirez ($1.8 million) and Doug Waechter ($640,000).
Minnesota retained versatile infielder Nick Punto with an $8.5 million, two-year deal.
And the Arizona Diamondbacks reached a preliminary agreement with infielder Felipe Lopez on a $3.5 million, one-year contract. The deal was pending a physical, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.
Outside of New York, it seemed almost everyone was being cautious in a slow-moving market.
With clubs concerned about the national recession and determined to keep inexpensive young talent, the winter meetings included a string of minor deals — but few big ones.
“It’s active. It’s busy. The phone rings a lot,” new Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said.
Speculation had the Boston Red Sox as front-runners for free-agent slugger Mark Teixeira, thought to have received offers of about $150 million or more. Manny Ramirez was still available, too.
“Most of it’s just a big, old dance. You get some things done but not a lot,” said manager Joe Maddon of the AL champion Tampa Bay Rays. “It’s kind of an interesting event.”
After the Yankees and Sabathia agreed Wednesday to the framework of a $161 million, seven-year contract, A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe are the top free-agent starters still searching for work.
Guess what? The Yankees are ready to keep paying hefty prices for more pitching.
“If you try to compete through monetary means, you’re not going to do it,” Maddon said, adding that the free spending by New York clubs doesn’t surprise or bother him. “You’ve got to figure out another way to get it done and for us that’s through execution.”
Sabathia got a rude welcome to New York in tabloid headlines that focused on his girth and compared him to Mets ace Johan Santana.
“FAT CITY!” read the back page of the New York Post.
“HE’S NO JOHAN” blared the Daily News.
Burnett could command a deal worth at least $80 million. He was told the Yankees would be prepared to give him five guaranteed years — matching the length of Atlanta’s offer.
The Yankees and Mets both expect an economic boost when they move into new ballparks next season, and each club was aggressive in Las Vegas. Minaya secured Rodriguez with a $37 million, three-year contract and acquired Putz from Seattle in a three-team, 12-player trade.
“There was no way that I thought I would be able to come here and get both those guys,” Minaya said. “I think our goals have been met.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman left town early Thursday and planned a pit stop before going home. He traveled to Texas to meet with Andy Pettitte as New York tries to re-sign the veteran left-hander.
The Yankees also renewed talks this week with Milwaukee about a possible trade that would send Melky Cabrera to the Brewers in a deal for center fielder Mike Cameron.
As for Ramirez, the NL West champion Dodgers made an offer to the free-agent slugger this fall but haven’t heard whether he’ll accept it.
“This is like watching the San Andreas Fault,” general manager Ned Colletti said. “Some days you can see it move probably, and other days it’s going to sit there. And in a week or two it may move a lot. It’s a slow process. It speeds up and it slows back down.”
Before departing, Minaya said he planned to meet with agent Scott Boras about pitcher Oliver Perez.
“I think for today we’re done — for today. We’ll go home and regroup,” Minaya said. “I need some rest, no doubt.”
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley and AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.