The MLB Winter Meetings have ended. Reporters, GMs, players and assorted hangers-on have departed Dallas for far-flung destinations.
That has given us at Baseball Nation a chance to have an open-ended roundtable discussion on big and little things that happened there. Rob Neyer has the day off, so he missed the chance to join Jeff, Grant and Al to talk about the past week. Eric Simon, who runs SB Nation's Mets site Amazin' Avenue and who is also our baseball league manager, stopped by with a few things to say. We let him stay.
Jeff: Hello Grant and Al!
Al: Is that a fake Peter Gammons tweet?
Jeff: No, this is a fake Peter Gammons tweet:
Al: That looks like he fell asleep on his BlackBerry.
Grant: Yeah, the dog-wrestling tweets are usually longer.
Jeff: Who was it that said Gammons' weird tweets come from when he's wrassling with his dog?
Al: Picturing Peter Gammons wrestling with his dog just ruined my lunch.
Jeff: So that was quite the winter meetings we just had, yes?
Grant: I would have put the odds of Pujols leaving the Cardinals at .01% up until he signed with the Angels.
Jeff: I saw Joe Strauss on Twitter today suggesting that Pujols and Cardinals management had a divide over the last two years, and that most of the media just ignored it.
Grant: Yeah, Don Mattingly had a few quotes on that.
Jeff: Obviously, something was wrong. The Cardinals didn't exactly insult Pujols with their offer.
Grant: The line from one article I read that stuck was that the Cards were "daring" Pujols to leave.
Al: Yeah. It's still weird that he would have left there, considering he lives there and has a foundation there, etc.
Grant: When they signed Holliday to many millions first, they had to figure this was possible.
Jeff: A Cardinals fan I know recently said something along the lines of, will Pujols really be the one guy they don't overpay? Turns out yes.
Grant: With the benefit of hindsight, I think there were four teams who had a good reason for going nuts with a Pujols contract: Cubs - because screw the Cardinals; Cardinals, because he's an icon; Marlins, to build up the new image and ballpark; and Angels, to take advantage of the Dodgers' tailspin.
Al: The Cubs' reason went beyond "screw the Cardinals". It would have sent a message that Theo & Jed were serious about winning now.
Jeff: Did you read about the Angels' alleged new TV contract?
Al: No -- what's the new TV contract?
Eric: $3 billion over 20 years. With FOX.
Jeff: The Angels signed the TV contract people thought the Rangers signed.
Al: So that's where they got all the money.
Jeff: At least, according to "two parties familiar with the deal", via Bill Shaikin. Moreno A-Rodded out of the old TV contract and negotiated a new one, with delicious results.
Al: $150 million a year, if my math skills have not eroded. That's enough for an entire player payroll before selling a single ticket. The Angels are the new Yankees!
Jeff: Granted, I don't know how TV contract money translates into payroll money - I'm sure it's not 1:1 - but still, that's a lot of dough that they didn't have before. Their previous TV contract was worth $50 million per year
Eric: There's also revenue sharing to consider here.
Grant: I wrote on McCovey Chronicles that Moreno is acting like an owner who is thinking past the next quarter, looking long term unlike a board of investors. But that contract means he doesn't have to, I guess.
Jeff: Yeah, I hesitate to give Moreno too much credit here - he has a ton of money, and he spends it. Pretty easy decision.
Al: So, does that make them favorites to go to the World Series for the next five years in a row?
Jeff: Obviously, we need to let the rest of the offseason play out before we say anything
Al: Right. Just spending money assures you of nothing.
Eric: There's certainly a correlation between spending and winning, but it's not absolute.
Al: The payroll rankings of last year's playoff teams: 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 13, 25, 29
Eric: So spend a ton or GTFO.
Al: So there's correlation, but not that much. WS teams ranked 11th and 13th.
Jeff: What if the Rangers get Fielder? What if the Yankees get Yu Darvish? What if the Rangers get Fielder and Darvish? And so on.
Al: I don't think the Yankees are going in on Darvish, from what I have read.
Jeff: Teams have reasons to downplay their interest in Darvish right now
Al: Of course, during the bidding period.
Jeff: My Darvish sleeper is the Mariners, because I'm biased. My Darvish non-sleeper is the Rangers, like everyone.
Grant: Nationals wanted either Buehrle or Wilson, and got shafted on both. A Darvish, Strasburg, Zimmerman top of a rotation looks fearsome.
Jeff: Nationals are poking Oswalt, right?
Grant: If Oswalt gets three years, that's the riskiest contract of them all, other than Pujols.
Jeff: Pujols is old. Maybe he's older. He got ten guaranteed years. But how risky is this, really? What's the worst-case scenario? Pujols is hurt or terrible? The Angels would still be a huge-money ballclub.
Al: If Pujols really is the first-tier HoFer I think he is -- possibly the greatest RH hitter ever -- there's little risk. If the Angels win a couple of WS in the first five years of that deal, Angels fans won't care that much about the end of it
Grant: Part of me agrees, but teams can hit their limit. In past years, C.J. Wilson would already be a Yankee.
Al: Meanwhile, I don't see teams lining up for Carlos Beltran.
Grant: They will when this settles down. Too many smart teams with money.
Jeff: You know who we haven't heard about in a while? Yoenis Cespedes. Where by "a while" I mean like a few days
Al: He's not officially a free agent yet. Could be, since they lost Pujols. He'd be a draw for the Latino market.
Jeff: Still want a CF, Beltran not an option...
Grant: I can't imagine a world where Cespedes isn't a Marlin.
Jeff: We are living in it right now! Earth to Grant!
Al: My only question about him: does two years of solid pitching make him the ace teams were looking for? He's not that much younger than Mark Buehrle.
Grant: The innings pitched/ERA+ combo Wilson has over the past two years isn't common at all.
Jeff: Is Wilson a guy you like more because of a relatively low career workload, or a guy you like less because of a relatively high recent workload?
Grant: I've always figured that relievers get hurt quite a bit, so I don't buy the idea that his arm has fewer miles on it. Well, technically they do, but they were bumpy, off-road miles.
Jeff: It's an amazing rotation they've built, except for the Jerome Williams part, which I guess is amazing in a different way
Grant: Hold on. Now I have to find Williams's winter-ball stats. According to some jerk who writes for the OC Register.
Jerome Williams is in Venezuela, where he’s rocking a 1.00 ERA in 36 innings
Al: So it's settled. The Angels are going 162-0 and winning 11 straight in the playoffs.
Jeff: The Angels will be a good team with weaknesses that emerge over time
Al: How much time do you think Pujols will DH? Or will they just put Mark Trumbo there?
Jeff: Pujols is too good of a defensive first baseman to DH much in the short-term
Grant: Not much at first, I'd imagine.
Jeff: Whoa, you know what I really want to talk about is this:
Leland Tang, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, said Loney "sideswiped three cars on the 101 Freeway in Sherman Oaks, stopped in the fast lane, passed out, then awakened and tried to flee the scene, only to crash again."
There are metaphors here.
Grant: "Let he who has not sideswiped three cars on the 101 Freeway in Sherman Oaks, stopped in the fast lane, passed out, then awakened and tried to flee the scene, only to crash again cast the first stone."
Al: Besides the fact that he's in a heap o'trouble?
Jeff: James Loney's career: Fast! Sloowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww Fast!
Grant: Nothing was hit with enough power to do serious damage.
Jeff: I was going to say there are a lot of potential jokes, but maybe that's the only joke. What else do we want to talk about with the meetings, before we quit? Did anything else even happen? I honestly don't remember the days before Pujols.
Al: Jose Reyes! Hanley Ramirez has to move to 3B! No, he wants to be traded! No, he doesn't!
Jeff: Oh right, there was Mark Buehrle. What do you guys think? Will the Marlins work? Will this all blow up in their hands?
Al: Regarding the team itself, the new stadium will be a draw, the first year. New parks always are. After that, they will have to win to keep people coming. If they don't, yes, it could blow up in their faces.
Grant: I wish I were more knowledgeable with how the Heat drew, and if that meant anything.
Al: I think Heat fans and Marlins fans are two different breeds. The Marlins don't really have a solid fanbase. This is their attempt to create one.
Eric: From what I understand, fans don't care about the Marlins (at all) until the Heat are done playing.
Grant: It's a big market, but the two previous fire sales were serious strychnine-in-the-Tylenol P.R. disasters.
Al: Exactly. They have two World Series, but only four other winning seasons out of 19 total.
Jeff: It's easy to interpret the Marlins' offseason so far as being their attempted quick fix, where maybe the better solution would be to take time and put together a solid, long-term plan for developing a fan base. But maybe they don't have that time?
Al: If they win again soon, they can build on that if they want instead of having a fire sale.
Grant: The roots go a little deeper, too. In years past, Hanley and Josh Johnson would already be gone. They were clearly kept with an eye on the rebranding.
Eric: It's a fair point, Jeff. Taxpayers are footing the bill for the new stadium so maybe there's a sense that they need some big names to point to as justification.
Al: Also, they are clearly aiming at the Latino community with the signing of Reyes, and Ozzie as manager. That's one reason they wanted Pujols so much.
Jeff: I seem to recall the Florida flipping Panthers drew well during their Stanley Cup run
Grant: Wait, the Florida Panthers won a Stanley Cup?
Jeff: Went to one. Got swept. Maybe the thing about sports in Miami is that they draw well when the teams are good, like everywhere, but they're less dedicated so attendance plummets when they're not
Grant: Man. The Marlins, Panthers, and Heat all winning championships make me think that Dan Marino did something really shady in his past life.
Jeff: Maybe the community isn't much for absolute commitment. But I'm just talking, and guessing, and painting with a giant brush
Al: In general, all teams stop drawing when they're not good. There are only a handful of exceptions to that. The difference with the Marlins is they haven't drawn even when they are good.
Grant: Yeah, I remember hearing that San Francisco wasn't a baseball town my whole life.
Al: Part of that was how awful Candlestick Park was
Grant: Absolutely. So the same would go for Joe Pro Land Sun Life Shark Robbie Player Stadium.
Jeff: There was a Land Shark phase that completely passed me by. I have no idea what Land Shark even means. Isn't there a beer called Land Shark?
Eric: Yes, it's a beer. Budweiser makes it and Jimmy Buffett is attached to it.
Al: Land Shark Stadium (the name) lasted from May 2009 through January 2010. So it's not surprising that it could have been missed.
Al: Final thought: why is Prince Fielder still a free agent?
Jeff: Wanted to wait for the Pujols sweepstakes to end
Grant: Because the Rangers haven't wised up yet.
Jeff: Now Fielder is The Guy.
Al: But all the writers have returned their rental cars! How will they tweet about it?
Jeff: Ken Rosenthal is tweeting from the White House right now so I think they'll find a way.