Hope that everyone had a good week and good holiday. First, let's catch up. Then we'll discuss what's on tap for this week.
Four big transactions:
1. The Rangers won the rights to Yu Darvish. It's a mild surprise, only because Texas worked so hard in recent weeks to lower expectations on this front not only in the media, but in the baseball world, as well. Just mild, however, because the Rangers entered the offseason as the co-favorites to wind up with Darvish.
I understand that Darvish is regarded as a significantly better pitcher than was Daisuke Matsuzaka, but I don't believe we can overlook the adjustments that Japanese pitchers must make to come over to Major League Baseball. Most notably the larger baseball, different pitching schedule, far more extensive travel and tougher opposition.
Having written that, Texas is on such a baseball operations roll that if the Rangers determined that Darvish was worth the $51.7 million posting fee plus whatever it takes to sign him ($75 million over five years?), I'm inclined to think it'll work out all right.
2. The Cardinals signed Carlos Beltran. St. Louis lost an all-time icon when Albert Pujols jumped to the Angels, but if you're a Cardinals fan, I don't see how you're not feeling very good about your team right now.
Adam Wainwright should be back in the club's starting rotation after missing all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery, Lance Berkman replaces Pujols at first base on a one-year deal (and coming off a superb 2011) and now Beltran takes Berkman's place in rightfield, with Allen Craig (rehabbing from right knee surgery) rejoining the mix eventually.
Yes, we know first-hand what Beltran endured the past few years with his right knee, but he had a pretty darn good 2011. He plans to intensify his winter workouts, now that the knee held up for an entire campaign. For a two-year deal, he's a pretty good risk with a very high reward.
3. The Nationals acquired Gio Gonzalez. It sure feels like an overpay, for a guy who's good but not great, and if the A's have loaded up their system by dealing Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill (to Arizona). But I like the deal for Washington.
I like it because the Nationals can slot Gonzalez as their second starter behind Stephen Strasburg, so the focus on Gonzalez shouldn't be blinding. I like it because the AL-to-NL transition almost always pays off for pitchers, even for someone who pitched his home games in Oakland's pitcher-friendly ballpark. And I like it because Washington controls Gonzalez for an enviable four years, even with Gonzalez eligible for arbitration this year.
It's just another reason, of course, to peg the Mets for the National League East cellar.
4. The White Sox extended John Danks. This was the shocker of the bunch, although it's not altogether inconsistent with the history Chisox GM Kenny Williams, who extended Mark Buehrle and Jermaine Dye during a lousy 2007 season rather than trade either or both. The White Sox apparently aren't 100 percent committed to rebuilding, after all.
As for what this means locally, the Yankees liked Danks better than Gonzalez and figured that, eventually, Williams would relent on his high price for Danks in trade discussions. So now what? Hiroki Kuroda is still out there, although his peripheral numbers trended the wrong way in 2011. Edwin Jackson is still out there, but with the Yankees trying to get their payroll to the $180 million neighborhood by 2014, they're trying to avoid more long-term, eight-figure commitments.
Brian Cashman will have to bring in some warm bodies, at the least, and hope to somehow replicate the remarkable performances that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia (who has re-signed) delivered last season. It's not exactly a reassuring way to approach the upcoming season, yet it worked in 2011.
--OK, so what do we have coming up? If we have action, then it'll be your standard Hot Stove week. But given that most teams do ramp it down this week, we could be slow.
My 2012 Hall of Fame ballot has been filled out and mailed, so tomorrow morning, I'll discuss the entire ballot and divulge my selections. On Friday, we'll have our standard Comment Winter Olympics.
In between? If we have to, perhaps we'll go into the vault and assess some old posts. See how they turned out.
In the meantime, have a great day.