Teams rev engines on Day 1 in Indy
Activity spikes late with arbitration news, Pudge signing, rumors
For the first 23 hours and 59 minutes of opening Monday at the 2009 Baseball Winter Meetings, it was like Day 1 at so many of the annual conventions of trades and signings, rumors and musings -- in that there wasn't much of the first two, and plenty of the second two.
But in that last minute of the official first day of baseball's business trip to Indianapolis, the party got a little livelier and the market was altered a bit, especially for closers, with 20 players rejecting arbitration and three accepting.
And once baseball's movers and shakers have a long Monday night to draw out some discussions and ideas, there's a good chance that they'll really start revving up the engines in Indy on Tuesday.
So far, it was the normal first-day traffic jam -- especially for someone who might be dangling one of the top ace pitchers in the game.
"It's tough to get through the lobby, especially with the media talk and so on about trades and our players and Roy Halladay," Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said.
In that final minute of Monday, when the deadline for free agents to accept arbitration from their former teams hit at 11:59 p.m., there emerged a new wave of names to discuss among those who were on the fence -- such as closer Jose Valverde, who rejected the Astros' arbitration offer, one of 20 players to do so with their teams.
And several teams -- such as the Braves, who have a surplus of relievers now that Rafael Soriano accepted their offer of arbitration -- have a better idea how they'll proceed this winter, or perhaps even the next few days.
The Braves appear to be the team to watch at the moment, since they also have Billy Wagner and veteran right-hander Takashi Saito in the fold. Soriano made $6.35 million in 2009 could fetch more in arbitration after posting 27 saves, and he actually needs to consent to any trade the Braves would want to make before June 15. Mike Gonzalez, meanwhile, took the hint and rejected arbitration to find greener pastures.
"The role is not going to be, for Mike or Raffy, the roles that they left," Braves GM Frank Wren had said. "It's going to be different. To be pitching late in the game, they will want to go somewhere else."
Twins right-handed starter Carl Pavano and Rockies right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt were the only other two to accept arbitration from their clubs, therefore giving up their right to free agency this winter.
Deal or no deal
With that, the market for relievers now has changed, as the Astros are officially on the lookout, and the Braves might be ready to deal Soriano.
"With [Rafael] Soriano accepting [arbitration] in Atlanta and to some extent [Rafael] Betancourt accepting Colorado's offer, it limits the marketplace, so we might have to get creative in mixing and matching or possibly making a trade," Astros GM Ed Wade said.
Meanwhile, big-name free agents such as Matt Holliday, John Lackey and Jason Bay rejected the offers, meaning, in their cases as Type A free agents, that their former clubs will get prime compensation -- the signing team's first-round pick and a compensation pick between the first and second rounds.
Shortly after midnight, one bit of news did hit, as the Nationals came to terms with catcher Ivan Rodriguez on a two-year, $6 million deal, shortly after he'd rejected the Rangers' offer of arbitration.
But, as usual, this was a Day 1 party needing a little bit of punch.
Having arrived in Indianapolis and started up the Winter Meetings, the huddled general managers and agents and media came in from the Indiana cold and created a whole lot of may in December.
Oh, there are plenty of things that may happen, just not a lot actually happening yet.
Milton Bradley may get traded before these meetings are over. Halladay's status may become clearer by then, too. King Felix Hernandez may be crowned with a long-term deal in Seattle soon.
Every year, it's pretty much the same thing, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that Day 1 was a few decibels short of the roar of a speedway.
Adam Everett signing a one-year, $1.55 million deal to return to the Tigers marked the most significant bit of business that got finished on Monday. A year after having cornered a huge haul of free agents, the Yankees only have a player to be named so far, following their swap with the Nationals, who got right-handed reliever Brian Bruney.
Left-hander Andy Pettitte did let the Yankees know he is indeed interested in a return to the Bronx for 2010, right-hander Brad Penny appears close to a one-year deal with the Cardinals, and a few other deals may happen soon. Randy Wolf may be close to signing with the Brewers, and Curtis Granderson certainly seems like a hot commodity, with the Yankees and the Mariners reportedly in pursuit.
One thing that did actually happen is that two men who distinguished themselves in the game were honored for their careers, as White Herzog, the hugely successful manager of the Cardinals and Royals, and Doug Harvey, the face of Major League umpires for decades, were elected by the Veterans' Committee to be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Now they'll be enshrined together, the way they were often seen, although then it was bumping chests in spirited discussion. "It's strange," Herzog said, "because Doug kicked me out of more games than any other umpire."
Everything else that happened Monday followed the typical storyline of a lot of smoke but not much fire.
Mets GM Omar Minaya, for instance, spent part of Monday fending off rumors that a three-team deal for Pat Burrell was complete and that starter Edwin Jackson was headed from Detroit. "I haven't made the trades yet," Minaya said, laughing, Monday afternoon. "Maybe somebody else did."
When you actually are dangling a player, the way the Cubs are with Bradley, there often are more fictional trade talks than real ones. The Mets, for instance, were said and then said not to be joining the Rangers and Rays as interested parties. But Cubs GM Jim Hendry, who didn't get specific about Bradley, said he spoke with five or six clubs Monday.
Maybe Hendry has Day 1 of the Winter Meetings figured out best.
"You have to fight through the rumor mill. I must have had 10 calls today [about trades] that we were supposedly involved in that were just about done and some of the teams we've never even talked to. You just have to laugh it off and go on."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.