The baseball world gathered at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego last week for the annual Winter Meetings. Executives from around the game were busy making deals all week, and former general managers Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) and Jim Duquette (@Jim_Duquette) handed out their winners and losers of the meetings on MLB Network Radio’s The Front Office.
Bowden and Duquette agreed that the White Sox, Cubs and Marlins were the winners in San Diego. Both Chicago teams lived up to expectations by adding front-of-the-rotation starting pitchers. The White Sox acquired right-handed starter Jeff Samardzija from the Oakland Athletics and added the best relief pitcher on the market, former Yankees closer David Robertson. The Cubs cashed in on a two-year promise to fans to add an ace to their rotation this offseason and agreed to a six-year, $155 million deal with free agent left-handed pitcher Jon Lester. The Cubs also signedJason Hammel to join Lester in the rotation, and catcher Miguel Montero was acquired in a trade with the Diamondbacks for two minor leaguers.
“This has been a phenomenal offseason for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer,” Bowden said. “Bringing in Joe Maddon, one of the top two managers in the game, to manage the team, brought Jason Hammel back on a decent deal [two years, $20 million], picked Montero, and topped it off by getting the ace that he promised he would get two years ago – and he got him in Jon Lester.”
Maddon joined Jim Memolo in the lobby of the hotel just moments after Lester was reported headed to Chicago.
It’s very exciting to get him. It’s something that we were really working hard to get done and I obviously could not be happier.
Bowden called White Sox general manager Rick Hahn “the most underrated GM in baseball,” and Hahn talked about his busy offseason with Duquette and Mike Ferrin on Power Alley.
“If you saw the bullpen last year, I apologize,” Hahn said on the addition of Robertson. “We knew entering this offseason that cleaning up the bullpen would be a priority. We wanted to add at least one from the left and one from the right.”
The White Sox locked up Robertson to a four-year, $46 million deal, and left-hander Zach Duke signed a three-year, $15 million contract on Nov. 18.
Duquette added the Nationals to the winners list for not trading four players entering the final years of their contracts: right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, shortstop Ian Desmond, right-handed pitcher Doug Fister and reliever Tyler Clippard.
“I think that’s the right move personally, to hang on to those guys,” Duquette said.
The teams that left Duquette “scratching his head” were the Reds, Yankees and Diamondbacks. The Reds traded two starting pitchers on the final day of the meetings; right-hander Alfredo Simon was shipped to the Tigers, while righty Mat Latos went to the Marlins.
“I don’t know what they are going to do to replace them, so I don’t care for that at all,” Duquette said. “After the season they had, they shouldn’t be shaving payroll, but I will feel better about that if they sign [Jonny] Cueto.”
Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty joined Casey Stern, Bowden and Duquette on the Winter Meetings Wrap Up Show to explain his two deals.
“We’re over-budget on our payroll and we needed to get some flexibility with that,” Jocketty explained. “We accomplished our first objective of the offseason to give us that flexibility to do some other things.”
Latos and Simon are due to be free agents after the 2015 season, along with Reds ace Johnny Cueto and right-handed starter Mike Leake. Does trading Latos and Simon allow Jocketty to sign Cueto to a long-term extension?
It’s something that we’ll address. We did have a brief meeting with his agent down here [in San Diego] and we’ll see how it progresses. It’s not going to be easy with some of the recent signings.
Bowden gave three playoff teams losing grades for their moves – and lack of moves – at the Winter Meetings. The Athletics traded slugger Brandon Moss and ace Samardzija, while the two teams that met in the ALCS just two months ago, the Orioles and Royals, haven’t done much of anything (although the Royals agreed to a two-year deal with designated hitter Kendyrs Morales).
“It’s sad to me,” Bowden said. “Here is Baltimore one series away from the World Series and [Nelson] Cruz is gone, [Nick] Markakis is gone, and they haven’t replaced either one. When you’re that close to a World Series, I think that’s the offseason you finish the job; they are not finishing the job.”
Since the meetings ended, the White Sox continued their spending spree, signing free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera to a 3-year deal. The Yankees re-signed third baseman Chase Headley to fill one of their many needs that enticed Duquette to put them on his losers list.
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