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In a surprise, winter meetings end with flurry of deals

Los Angeles Dodgers outfieler Matt Kemp circles the

Los Angeles Dodgers outfieler Matt Kemp circles the bases after hitting a solo home run in the ninth inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies. (July 3, 2013) Photo Credit: AP Photo David Zalubowski

SAN DIEGO - The final morning of the winter meetings usually is the time when baseball executives pack their luggage, attend the Rule 5 draft and make a hasty exit for the airport.

That wasn't the case Thursday.

In the final hours of what turned out to be a hectic week, the busy Dodgers found a taker for $107-million man Matt Kemp, the Tigers added more muscle with the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes and the Twins reportedly agreed to a four-year, $55-million deal with righthander Ervin Santana.

All before most people on the West Coast had finished their first cup of coffee.

The winter meetings, where hundreds of media members and baseball officials are sequestered in the same hotel for four days, often yield nothing more than groundwork for future deals and Twitter-fueled speculation.

But this week began with bold moves by the Cubs and White Sox, followed by the Dodgers stealing the spotlight with a frenzied renovation of their roster. By Thursday morning, the Cubs' signing of Jon Lester to a six-year, $155-million contract and the White Sox's trade for Jeff Samardzija were almost an afterthought.

Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' new general manager, deserves much of the credit for that. Hired away from the Rays in October, a move that allowed Joe Maddon to bolt for the Cubs, Friedman pulled off three major deals late Wednesday night before finishing with Kemp a few hours later.

In the only moves officially acknowledged by the club, the Dodgers traded second baseman Dee Gordon and righthander Dan Haren to the Marlins late Wednesday night for four prospects, then flipped the most highly regarded one, lefthanded pitcher Andrew Heaney, to the Angels for Gordon's replacement, Howie Kendrick.

Shortly afterward, the Dodgers reached agreement with former Yankee Brandon McCarthy on a four-year, $48-million contract, which a source confirmed. One starting pitcher and a new double-play tandem in a matter of hours, with the Dodgers still trying to wrap up Kemp's trade to the Padres by yesterday morning.

"Obviously, we started this offseason with really good basic talent in place,'' Friedman said. "But as we looked at it and tried to figure out different ways that we could try to improve the roster, we felt like there were certain areas we could target and certain guys that fit within the range of what we were trying to do.''

Kemp had been linked for days to the Padres, who desperately have been trying to upgrade their offense in pitcher-friendly PETCO Park. The Dodgers ultimately agreed to pay $31 million of the $107 million Kemp is due through 2019, according to USA Today, and also sent catcher Tim Fedorowicz to San Diego for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland and a prospect.

The commissioner's office must approve a trade that involves the transfer of that much cash, so neither the Dodgers nor the Padres were able to announce the swap.

With the aftershocks of the Kemp deal still lingering, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski took the podium Thursday morning to talk about getting Cespedes from the Red Sox for pitcher Rick Porcello. Both are free agents after this coming season, and after losing out on Lester, Boston immediately looked to strengthen its rotation by adding Porcello and lefty Wade Miley from the Astros and reportedly signing Justin Masterson, whom Boston traded to the Indians in 2009.

The Tigers remain in the mix for free agent Max Scherzer, who Scott Boras hinted Wednesday could eclipse Clayton Kershaw's $215-million contract. But Detroit, which also traded for Reds starter Alfredo Simon, wanted lineup help after Torii Hunter's defection to the Twins on a one-year, $10-million deal.

"There's not a lot of offense around in the game,'' Dombrowski said. "So for us, once we started adding up how all the dynamics of our club fit together, [Cespedes] fit really well for us.''

Dombrowski said other teams already had called him about Cespedes' availability immediately after the trade, but he added that the Tigers plan to keep him. In this volatile market, it's worth asking.

Other big bats also switched teams, with Kendrys Morales agreeing on a two-year, $17-million contract with the Royals and Mark Reynolds going to the Cardinals on a one-year deal.

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