By John Shea | San Francisco Chronicle
Outfielder Shane Victorino, three years and $39 million. Infielder Jeff Keppinger, three years and $12 million.
Apparently, those are the new prices for a middle-market player (Victorino, signed by the Boston Red Sox) and lower-market player (Keppinger, Chicago White Sox), and the impact of the most stunning contracts of last week's winter meetings in Nashville will be felt in the coming weeks as teams amp up to renovate their rosters.
Suddenly, the trade market is a logical alternative, though the price for trading for top players, especially those with team-friendly contracts, is going up, too. "Some of these free-agent signings might change the landscape of what people think of our players in trades," said Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, who dangled outfielder Justin Upton at the meetings.
If Victorino is worth $13 mil annually -- nothing should shock us anymore -- Upton's value must have risen sharply since the trade deadline, the last time he was shopped. In fact, with Upton due $38.5 million through 2015, an average annual salary of $12.8 million (suddenly a reasonable price for a high-end player), the Diamondbacks might have second thoughts about trading him.
Keep in mind another outfielder, B.J. Upton, got $75 million over five years from the Atlanta Braves.
"In our eyes, it probably makes it even more difficult for us to move him," Towers said. "For the type of outfielder we think he is, for where the market is headed for those types of players and for his age, there's a lot of value there."
Four trades were made at the meetings -- Yunel Escobar (Miami Marlins to Tampa Bay Rays), Ben Revere (Minnesota Twins to Philadelphia Phillies), Wilton Lopez (Houston Astros to Colorado Rockies) and Andy Oliver (Detroit Tigers to Pittsburgh Pirates) -- but there was constant dialogue, including talk on Michael Young, whom the Texas Rangers traded to Philly on Saturday.
The Cleveland Indians would part with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. The Red Sox might be exploring dealing Jacoby Ellsbury. The Rays could be moving pitchers James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson. Ditto for the New York Mets and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey. And plenty more.
Once the top free-agent dominoes fall -- pitcher Zack Greinke (reportedly going to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a $147 million, six-year deal) and center fielders Josh Hamilton (Rangers? Seattle Mariners?) and Michael Bourn (Phillies? Mariners?) -- a feeding frenzy should ensue.
Not just with free agency but also trades.
"Everybody would like to obtain a player without giving up players. That's the first priority," said Mets GM Sandy Alderson, explaining why free agency can be a simpler process than a trade. "Once the free-agent market settles down, whether it's Greinke or somebody else, clubs turn to other means."
Meantime, agents are taking advantage of the upcoming national TV revenue (an extra $25 million a year for all clubs) along with through-the-roof regional packages, and some teams don't mind spending the money in advance.
Victorino's deal with Boston was supposed to be inferior to Angel Pagan's, but a day after Pagan got four years and $40 million from the San Francisco Giants, Victorino cashed in with $3 million more per year from the Red Sox.
"In this particular market, because of the increase in value of the franchises and increase in immediate cash flow with the television contract, more teams are competing for midlevel players," agent Scott Boras said. "Even with franchise players, you have teams saying, 'You're going to be very surprised who I'm going to ask about.' Where before it was always, 'We cannot participate in that player.'
"I think every team in baseball can now retain a franchise player or two and certainly compete on a wide range of midlevel players. That drives the value for the goliath teams to compete and provide, if not greater years, a higher average annual salary to attract the player."
Or just trade for a guy.
Dodger derby: When the Dodgers' new ownership took over, Magic Johnson vowed to knock on doors of top free agents at 12:01 a.m. the day they're eligible to sign. GM Ned Colletti issued a reminder at the meetings that the only free agent they had signed was their own, reliever Brandon League.
"There's a perception we're in on a couple dozen starting pitchers, three dozen outfielders and infielders, 17, 18 catchers," Colletti said. "People like to have us in. I guess it's great (for agents) to have us in even when we're not in. We might have to hire someone next year just to tell everybody who we're not in on."
Don't be fooled. With Greinke, the Dodgers' payroll will top $200 million. And they showed last year they need upgrades to keep up with the Giants, whose World Series success is a sore subject in Dodgerland.
"Hey, let me tell you something, that's something you hope never happens," Tommy Lasorda said. "But they had a magnificent year. Everything fit right into place. We had them down by seven games. We were ready to throw some dirt on them. Damn if they didn't start breathing again."
(Contact John Shea at email@example.com. Twitter: (at)JohnSheaHey)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com.)