February 10, 2013

Offseason was a moving time for baseball

The free-agent market was not strong, but that didn't stop many clubs from making major moves.

By RONALD BLUM Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Arte Moreno, Josh Hamilton
click image to enlarge

Josh Hamilton, right, was among several high-profile players who switched teams this offseason, moving from the Texas Rangers to their AL West rival, the Los Angeles Angels.

The Associated Press

But Miami skidded out of contention, stars were traded, the TV show was cut short an episode early and Manager Ozzie Guillen was fired after one season. A payroll that bulked up to about $97 million last April was sliced in half, leading to harsh criticism of owner Jeffrey Loria.

"It's not a lot of fun," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said.

Merriment was found on the other coast.

The San Francisco Giants had the most convivial offseason after sweeping Detroit to win their second World Series title in three seasons following a 56-year drought. San Francisco kept its core together, re-signing outfielder Angel Pagan, infielder Marco Scutaro and left-hander Jeremy Affeldt for a combined $78 million.

"We're very proud that our players want to return and we can embrace them," said the Giants' president, Larry Baer. "It's also comforting that so many players are returning by virtue of youth and not for free agency. So, yes, I'm very appreciative in a world of lots of movement in pro sports that we can essentially stay together."

Ineffectual franchises searched for someone to guide them to success. Gibbons is among six new managers in the majors, joined by Boston's John Farrell, Cleveland's Terry Francona, Colorado's Walt Weiss, Houston's Bo Porter and Miami's Mike Redmond.

Weiss is making the rare switch from high school coach to major league manager, leaving Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., for Coors Field.

"There is no question the pink elephant in the room is I haven't done this before," he said. "This is a job that I'm going to have to figure out on the fly."

Entering his third season as Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly will be expected to at least lead Los Angeles to its first postseason appearance since 2009. The Dodgers, without a World Series crown since 1988, have boosted their payroll to $215 million-plus and could end the New York Yankees' streak of 14 years as baseball's biggest spender.

In the Dodgers' first full season since they were bought by a group that includes Mark Walter, Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten, they are likely to join the Yankees in paying the luxury tax.

A BREAKTHROUGH FOR ANGELS?

Down Interstate 5, the Angels gave Hamilton the biggest free-agent deal of the offseason for a position player, a $125 million, five-year contract that puts him in a batting order that already included Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. The Angels, who also could be near or above the $178 million tax threshold, hope the signing ends a streak of three seasons without playoff ball, and lifts them above Texas and Oakland in the AL West.

"It was a great investment," Angels owner Arte Moreno said.

Oakland won the division despite baseball's lowest payroll at $59.5 million and came within a victory of reaching the AL Championship Series.

"My expectations are the same as last year. We're going to compete hard and expect to win," said Bob Melvin, voted AL Manager of the Year. "We'll have that much more confidence coming into spring training."

With the downtrodden Astros joining the AL West, the Angels, Rangers and Athletics could pick up wins that will help them in the race for the two wild-card berths at the expense of the East and Central.

CHANGES FOR YANKEES, RED SOX

The Yankees, wanting to get under the $189 million tax threshold in 2014, allowed Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez to leave as free agents -- they totaled 80 of New York's team-record 245 home runs. Rodriguez is likely to miss at least the first half of the season following hip surgery.

After finishing with their worst record since 1965, the Red Sox replaced Manager Bobby Valentine. Boston jettisoned Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett in a trade with the Dodgers last summer that eliminated more than $250 million in future obligations, then obtained closer Joel Hanrahan from Pittsburgh, and signed Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew.

"Coming off a 93-loss season," General Manager Ben Cherington said, "we've got a lot to prove. We're trying to build something."

 

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