Hot Stove Notes

Over the past week and a half, the Hot Stove has been slowly heating up; with a top heavy free agent class, it will take a while for the market to form for players like Pujols, Fielder, Reyes, and Wilson. As we move closer to the Winter Meetings, the market for these top tier free agents will become clearer. For the time being, there have been some deals finalized between some free agents and between teams. Some of the deals that have had the biggest impact over the last 10 days are:

  • Colorado Rockies trading Ty Wigginton to the Philadelphia Phillies
  • Texas Rangers signing free agent closer Joe Nathan to two-year deal
  • Minnesota Twins sign free agent catcher Ryan Doumit
  • Cleveland Indians re-sign free agent outfielder Grady Sizemore

It may be clear to see why some of these transactions are important, but maybe not so much for the others. Let me clear up any confusion…

Ruben Amaro Jr. has definitely pulled off one of the smartest trades of the winter by acquiring Wigginton from the Rockies. Wigginton has proved during his nine years in the MLB that he can play just about anywhere and can produce some power. With a .265 career average and 158 home runs, he will adjust just fine to Citizens Bank Park and will be a great insurance plan while Philadelphia waits for Ryan Howard to come back and to give Placido Polanco a break at 3rd base. Oh, and they’re only paying half of Wigginton’s 2012 salary of $4 million. Genius, Amaro.

The Texas Rangers were deathly close to moving Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation at the start of 2011, but they decided against it. Now, after inking longtime Twins closer Joe Nathan to a two-year deal with approximately $14 million, the organization feels comfortable making the move. After missing 2010 to rehab from Tommy John surgery, Nathan struggled with an ERA nearing 5.00. However, his velocity returned; with 261 saves and a 2.87 ERA during his career, this was worth the risk. It will allow Texas to not panic if they can’t resign CJ Wilson.

In Minnesota, the most coveted player on their roster is Twins catcher, Joe Mauer. However, he’s not Superman and like 2011, was on the DL for a considerable amount of time. While Mauer was on the shelf, both of their backup options hit under .170. so, GM Terry Ryan decided to go out and sign Ryan Doumit to a one-year/$3 million deal. This works in multiple different ways for the Twins because it not only gives them a viable offensive backup at the catcher position, but it will allow Ron Gardenhire to keep Mauer’s bat in the line-up, but at the DH position, or even First Base.

Even though Grady Sizemore has only played just over 200 games over the last three seasons and hasn’t been the same player from 2005-2008, mostly because of injuries, he was an intriguing option for many teams. Why? Well, he will come at a low price in the short term, and has the opportunity to “over produce” his contract rather easily. Sizemore agreed to a one-year/$5 million plus incentives deal with the Cleveland Indians to hopefully do what Adrian Beltre did in 2010 with Boston. If he can stay healthy and produce in 2012, teams will be drooling over him next winter, willing to give him a multi-year deal…and he most likely won’t stay in Cleveland. If he has a strong first half and the Indians are not in the playoff picture, they could dangle him in front of teams before the trading deadline.

Like I said, there hasn’t been much action yet on the open market, but with the Winter Meetings fast approaching, expect teams to start wheeling and dealing.