Ferguson: Baseball's winter meetings to begin in Nashville

Scott Ferguson
11/30/2012 11:22:00 AM
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Baseball's winter meetings are upon us. Over the years they've been held in exotic locations such as Mexico City and Honolulu, Hawaii. This year for the sixth time, and the first since 2007, they will be held in Nashville, Tennessee.
The last time baseball's wheelers and dealers met at Nashville, the Marlins dealt Miguel Cabrera and lefty Dontrelle Willis to Detroit as part of a massive eight-player swap. Oddly enough, five years later Miami became the talk of the baseball world by making that massive 12-player deal with the Blue Jays. Only this time, they didn't wait until they got to Nashville to pull the trigger.
The meetings don't officially start until Sunday evening but there have already been some interesting moves. Pittsburgh, of all teams, signed free agent catcher Russell Martin away from the Yankees with a two-year deal worth $17 million. The Yankees didn't want to go beyond a year for the 33-year-old Montreal native, who only hit .211 last season but still managed to clout 21 homers and played some solid defence. New York is left without a solid established veteran catcher now.
The New York Mets made their franchise player David Wright the highest paid player in club history, giving him a seven-year extension worth $122 million. Combined with the $16 million option year he has for 2013, Wright will make $138 million through 2020 and is now the highest paid third baseman in the game.
Minnesota swapping their 28-year-old starting centre fielder Denard Span to Washington for highly touted 6'9 right-hander, Alex Meyer.
Though B.J Upton signed that five-year deal with Atlanta worth just over $75 million, all the dominos on the free agent market won't start falling until Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton sign new contracts.
Toronto played host to the winter meetings once; back in 1979. I was moving from one job to another and had some time off, so I didn't attend. I've been regretting that ever since.
The meetings were held at the Sheraton Centre Hotel complex. There were rumours galore about big name veterans being traded, including Orioles legend Jim Palmer and Padres young star outfielder Dave Winfield.  In the end, those two stayed put and only 11 trades in total were completed; the fewest in years.
The Blue Jays actually made the first swap of the week, sending 1B Chris Chambliss - who had been picked up from the Yankees only a month before along with shortstop Luis Gomez to Atlanta - for outfielder Barry Bonnell, reliever Joey McLaughlin and infielder Pat Rockett.
The Expos were considered to have made the best trade when they dealt left-hander Dan Schatzeder to Detroit for speedy outfielder Ron LeFlore, who went on to swipe 97 bases for Montreal in 1980.
The other interesting swap saw Cleveland  deal 34-year-old Bobby Bonds to St. Louis for right-hander John Denny and outfielder Jerry Mumphrey.  It was the sixth time in seven years the elder Bonds had been dealt.
Since that chilly week in Toronto in 1979, the winter meetings have been winter in name only. They haven't been held in a Northern clime since.
Back to Nashville for second.

In 1998 when the meetings were held there, the L.A Dodgers signed right-hander Kevin Brown to a seven-year deal worth $105 million. Brown had just been to the World Series where his Padres were swept by the Yankees. Nevertheless, the Dodgers were ripped for spending this much money and giving that long a term. It was called then - and turned out to be one of the worst free agent signings ever.
Certainly you have to take into account inflation, the times, and the fact he's a position player rather than a pitcher, but no one is criticizing the Mets for giving David Wright even more money at $122 million over seven years.
The Blue Jays have already added eight players in this off-season, so they don't figure to be very busy in Nashville this time around. But Alex Anthopoulos insists he's still looking to add to the depth of the starting rotation and the bullpen. Adding another left-handed bat wouldn't be out of the question either.

The meetings run through Thursday.

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