Editor’s Note: Across the Diamond: Hot Stove League Edition is a new weekly column that appear on Baseball News Source every Friday and details free agent and trade talk at every position.
Even with his documented track record of substance abuse and injuries, Josh Hamilton was in demand this offseason because he is one of the most productive sluggers in Major League Baseball.
That the 31-year-old outfielder agreed to a five-year, $125 million contract is not stunning. Though many teams – like the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox – were reluctant to offer more than three years, it is no surprise that one club took a gamble and inked Hamilton to a long-term deal.
That the team whose uniform Hamilton will wear in 2013 and beyond is the Los Angeles Angels is a shocker. A year after opening the club’s vault for 10 years and $240 million, owner Arte Moreno pounced on this offseason’s offensive free agent prize by swiping Hamilton from the Rangers, which appeared to have a strong chance to retain him.
Because of his versatility – he can play first base and the corner outfield spots – Nick Swisher is in prime position to find a landing spot.
Since the Rangers are open to trading top prospect Mike Olt (who is a corner infielder) and lost Hamilton along with Mike Napoli, it would seem like they are now a candidate for the switch-hitting Swisher, who is also being heavily pursued by the Cleveland Indians.
Michael Bourn is the high-profile center fielder left on the free agent market. Teams that have openings in the outfield but prefer a less expensive and shorter term commitment can dial the agents of Cody Ross and Scott Hairston.
Clubs that prefer an outfielder who is under affordable team control for several seasons will likely give the Angels a call about Peter Bourjos. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto has indicated that the club will keep Mark Trumbo to join Mike Trout and Hamilton in the outfield.
It appears that Kansas City will keep Alex Gordon and other young sluggers like DH/first baseman Billy Butler, first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas after dealing 2012 Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers to Tampa Bay in a package for James Shields and Wade Davis.
Multiple teams covet Gordon, a Gold Glove winner in left field and a productive left-handed bat, but Kansas City opted to retain him, trade Myers and enter the 2013 campaign with an outfield that is also composed of Lorenzo Cain, Jeff Francoeur and perhaps Xavier Nady, who was signed on Friday to a minor league deal.
While committing five years to Hamilton could hamstring the Angels’ payroll three or four years into the deal when there is a possibility the injury-prone outfielders starts to break down in his mid-30s, signing Anibal Sanchez to a five-year, $80 million contract is a puzzling move by the Detroit Tigers.
Sanchez, who will be 29 in February, did post a respectable 3.74 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 12 starts for the Tigers after he was acquired from the Miami Marlins last summer – and he did log a 1.77 ERA in three post-season starts – but over his seven-year Major League career he is 48-51 with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.
His win-loss record is deceptive because he has pitched for some below-average Marlins clubs, but Sanchez appears best suited as a middle of the rotation arm and Detroit is paying him like a top of the rotation starter.
Sanchez joins a Detroit rotation that features uber ace Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and left-hander Drew Smyly, Multiple media reports suggest the Tigers will trade Porcello, opening a spot for Smyly as the No. 5 starter.
Dempster reportedly sought three years, but Boston was unwilling to make that commitment to a 35-year-old right-hander who has pitched in the majors for 15 seasons.
Known for his durability – he eclipsed 200 innings for four straight years before logging 173 in 2012 – Dempster gives the Red Sox a steady presence in a rotation that also includes Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and John Lackey.
Now that Sanchez and Dempster have signed, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson appear to be the most sought after free agent starting pitchers remaining. Francisco Liriano, Joe Saunders and Brett Myers, and non-tendered arms like John Lannan, Jair Jurrjens and Mike Pelfrey will likely find homes in the upcoming weeks.
On Friday, the trade market for R.A. Dickey has escalated. Multiple media reports indicate that the New York Mets have found a trade they like.
The free agent market for infielders in getting lean with the signing of Kevin Youkilis by the Yankees and Ty Wigginton by the St. Louis Cardinals. Wigginton replaces Skip Schumaker, who was traded to the Dodgers.
Aside from them, the rest of the infield free agent bunch includes role players like Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman at first base; Casey McGehee as a utility corner infielder; and Chone Figgins as a super utility man.