Monday afternoon is the deadline for Major League clubs to tender contacts to players who are arbitration eligible. It's usually a routine matter, but every year a few players are non-tendered and become free agents.
The Blue Jays have four players who fall into this category, including catcher J.P. Arencibia, centrefielder Colby Rasmus, lefty reliever Brett Cecil and righthander Esmil Rogers, who started in the bullpen and moved into the rotation as injuries took their toll.
All four figure to be offered contracts, even Arencibia, who is coming off a horrible year at the plate and not much better behind it.
The most interesting case is Rasmus, who can become a free agent after this season. The Jays will tender him, but have to decide relatively soon if he is the long-term answer in centre and thus deserves a long-term contract.
All this deadline talk takes me back 32 years to one of the most tumultuous off-season's in Boston Red Sox history. In those days, players had to have their contracts mailed out to them by December 20. By some oversight or office error, the contracts of two of the BoSox' biggest stars didn't get to them on time.
The two were centrefielder Fred Lynn, the first American Leaguer to win the Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards (1975) and Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, who hit the iconic extra-inning homer run to send the World Series against the Reds to a seventh game.
Arbitration threatened to make both players free agents. In another time, it would have been like the Yankees losing Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra.
As it turned out, the Red Sox traded Lynn to the Angels for outfielder Joe Rudi and lefty Frank Tanana. Oddly enough, this trade didn't help either team as Tanana only won four games for the BoSox in 1981, while Rudi, nearing the end of a solid career, only hit .180 in his lone season in Boston. Lynn didn't fare much better, hitting only .218 for the Angels.
Fisk ultimately did leave Boston as a free agent, signing a five-year $2.9 million contract with the Chicago White Sox and went on to further cement his Hall of Fame credentials. A mailing error like that could never be repeated in this day and age, but it sure made for a stormy winter in Boston in 1981.
Phil Hughes was once a prime prospect and later an All-Star with the Yankees. But first shoulder troubles then back issues made him a shadow of his former self the last three years in New York. In 2013, he was 4-14 with a 5.19 earned run average and an even worse 1-10 record at Yankee Stadium with a 6.32 ERA. That's why it was so shocking on the weekend to see him get a three-year, $24 million deal from Minnesota. Josh Johnson must be scratching his head becausee only got a one-year, $8 million deal from San Diego.
Past Winter Dealings
With the Winter Meetings just a week away at Orlando, it was interesting to look back at the biggest trade of the 1989 meetings. San Diego dealt catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. (Robby' older brother), outfielder Chris James and minor league third base prospect Carlos Baerga to Cleveland for one Joe Carter. Just after the trade was announced, Carter signed a three-year, $9.2 million contract with the Padres, making him the highest paid position player in the Majors at that time.
The Indians did just fine in the deal thanks to the contributions of Alomar and Baerga. Carter, meanwhile, only lasted one season in San Diego hitting only .232 albeit driving in 115 runs.
At the following Winter Meetings almost one year to the day later, Carter and Roberto Alomar were dealt to the Blue Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. The Blue Jays went on to make the playoffs in 1991, and then won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 93. I still believe if Sandy Alomar hadn't been part of that first trade, Roberto may not have been dealt to the Blue Jays.