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MLB's top 5 offseason story lines

Rap artist Jay Z, left, one of the

Rap artist Jay Z, left, one of the founders of Roc Nation Sports, stands with company president Juan Perez, right, as they are introduced at an event honoring Robinson Cano as the newest member of the Seattle Mariners on Dec. 12, 2013. Credit: AP / Ted S. Warren

Robinson Cano moved to Seattle, Curtis Granderson now calls Flushing home and Alex Rodriguez, after months of drama, finally chose exile. After an inspirational season of Boston Strong and another Red Sox title -- that's three in the past decade -- the Big Chill permeating Major League Baseball for much of this winter had nothing to do with the Polar Vortex. That was all A-Rod, and things didn't really begin to thaw until he ultimately was stuck with a 162-game suspension on appeal. For the moment, that's nudged Rodriguez into the background and let the rest of baseball start to think spring -- now without the worry of A-Rod showing up in Tampa anyway. But let's sweep that mess to the side for now. Yes, there were other things that happened this offseason that somehow escaped the gravitational pull of Planet A-Rod, and here's just a few to consider as we spend the next six weeks warming up in Florida and Arizona.

1. Brooklyn's finest

The laugh figured to be on Jay Z when it looked like baseball's rookie super-agent couldn't find another suitor other than the Yankees for Robinson Cano. But just when it seemed Cano would have to go crawling back to the Bronx, up popped the Mariners, and Jay Z - along with his CAA partners - rapidly closed a 10-year, $240-million megadeal. So maybe that contract wasn't the $310 million Cano initially tried to wrangle from the Yankees. But it was plenty to show Jay Z is for real in this business, and he landed CC Sabathia as a client last month as well.

2. Will play for food

The Aussie-bound Dodgers and Diamondbacks already opened camp, with the rest of the league to follow next week, and yet a handful of significant free agents have yet to find employment for the '14 season. The fact that many of them will cost their new club a draft pick certainly has been a drag on the process, but we're not talking marginal fill-ins here -- Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, A.J. Burnett, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales, Nelson Cruz. The Mets alone could use three of those players -- if they had the cash -- and when it gets this late, the free-agent dance looks more like a game of chicken. Someone will pay up eventually, but now it's a buyers market with this crowd.

3. Crime does pay

When it comes to PED suspensions, the prevailing sentiment among MLB teams is to let bygones be bygones. Just check out the case of Jhonny Peralta, who was among the 13 players nabbed in the Biogenesis sting and didn't appeal his 50-game suspension. The cost-conscious Mets anticipated that the PED stain might hurt Peralata's market value and allow the shortstop to slip into their needy hands. Not so much. Peralta signed a four-year, $53-million deal with the defending NL champ Cardinals and made sure to do it quickly on Nov. 24, two weeks before the winter meetings feeding frenzy. Such payoffs aren't great for Bud Selig's anti-PED crusade, but they also won't be his problem after this season either.

4. Prince of Arlington

There are rebuilding projects, and then there are seismic offseason shakeups. The Tigers executed the latter in the wake of losing last October's ALCS to the Red Sox. First, it was Jim Leyland stepping aside for Brad Ausmus, followed not long after by Detroit trading Prince Fielder to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler in late November. The most interesting part? Fielder was only two seasons into his nine-year, $214-million contract and gladly waived his no-trade clause to bolt Motown. The Tigers also wrote the Rangers a $30-million check to help offset the difference in salaries with Kinsler only due another $75 million over the next four years. Oh, and Detroit traded Doug Fister to the Nationals, too.

5. So long, posting process

Technically, the new agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball regarding the acquisition of Japanese players is not free agency. But it's awfully close, and Masahiro Tanaka became the first to cash in by signing a seven-year, $155-million contract with the Yankees, easily eclipsing Yu Darvish's six-year, $60-million deal from 2011. The difference? A $20-million cap on compensation to Japanese teams that makes the process accessible to more MLB clubs, who now just need to pledge the money to negotiate directly with the players.


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