It promises to be a busy off-season—in fact, it already has been
Even before the newly crowned Yankees made their way through the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan for their victory parade last Friday, the rest of baseball was busy trying to catch up to them. Four players 28 and younger were traded to contenders even before the parade got started.
Milwaukee sent 27-year-old shortstop J.J. Hardy to Minnesota to obtain centerfielder Carlos Gomez, 23, one of the fastest and most gifted defenders in baseball but a player whose value is undermined by an abysmal career on-base percentage of .292. Gomez replaces Mike Cameron, who turns 37 in January, which allows Milwaukee to keep a premium defender in centerfield and use the money saved on Cameron's and Hardy's salaries to improve its pitching. Hardy hit a total of 50 homers in 2007 and '08 and was an All-Star in '07, but he hit .229 last season and lost his starting job to rookie Alcides Escobar. Hardy's upside, like his glove, remains strong, and he fills one of the Twins' greatest voids.
The Red Sox and the White Sox also got younger. Boston traded two minor leaguers to get 25-year-old outfielder Jeremy Hermida, an underachiever who could become a breakout hitter the way Jason Kubel has in Minnesota. Chicago acquired 28-year-old Mark Teahen from the Royals to replace Jermaine Dye. It's a pick up of eight years in youth but a loss in power.
Here are some other features of the hot-stove season to watch for:
1 | Blockbuster deals
Look for the Red Sox to revive their pursuit of San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and Seattle pitcher Felix Hernandez, whom the Mariners would prefer to sign to a long-term extension. The Blue Jays are likely to put Roy Halladay on the market the way Minnesota did with Johan Santana after the 2007 season. Like Santana, Halladay is an ace one year away from free agency who might require a contract extension as part of any deal. The Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Mets will listen—so will the Dodgers and the Rangers, though ownership turmoil with both clubs makes such a big payroll addition questionable.
2 | Trades over free-agent signings
The free-agent market is one of the weakest in years. The Braves have a surplus of starting pitchers and most likely will deal either Javier Vazquez or Derek Lowe for a needed bat. The Marlins, always aggressive with arbitration-eligible players, could move second baseman Dan Uggla rather than up his $5.35 million salary. Other players thought to be available are third baseman Garrett Atkins of the Rockies, outfielder Milton Bradley of the Cubs and closer Heath Bell of the Padres. Keep an eye, too, on Tampa Bay, where Carl Crawford and Carlos Peña are both entering their walk year.
3 | The Yankees' impact on free agency