The Winter Meetings have come and gone, and while there have been a few fireworks made on the free agent market, by and large the heavily lifting was done before the sessions opened in Orlando and there is still plenty left to go now that they have closed. But that does not mean that meaningful moves were not made. To the contrary, several teams made the type of smaller headline, but key acquisitions that truly add substance to a team.
That is what this edition of the CTC will show: teams adding the players that do things in-between the lines to put a team over. The Mariners added two power bats to help add punch around Robinson Cano, while the Royals made a glue signing to fix one of the last remaining holes in their everyday offering. It saw a run on projects, that if they find their form can be major contributors, yet also saw a few leaps of faith that make a little less clear sense–but that’s why they are leaps in the first place.
All in all, it has been a run of strategy in recent days, before the final big money run is made in headed into January. This highly active, yet deliberate, MLB offseason continues to bring brand new intrigue, and here are the most recent pages to the story.
(All ranks are original from the first Top 75 Free Agent rankings. Ages are what each player’s 2014 playing age will be.)
25. Omar Infante-Second Baseman-32 years old-2013 Team: Kansas City Royals
Signed: Kansas City Royals—4 years, $30 million
The Royals addressed their biggest everyday need by ponying up and acquiring the top second baseman generally affordable by everybody this winter. Infante finished fifth at the position in pure runs generated, and has hit over .300 three times in the last five years. He can contribute at virtually every position and betters a young team on the verge in need of veteran presence. It is a signing that improves the best defense in the American League, yet also provides some intriguing lineup flexibility. Strong substance builder for a team that is on the verge of a make or break stretch.
37. Bartolo Colon-Starting Pitcher-41 years old-2013 Team: Oakland Athletics
Signed: New York Mets—2 years, $20 million
The Mets put forth the extra year that Colon was looking for, and land a steady bookmark arm to hold over the time of the growth of Zach Wheeler and the return of Matt Harvey. A year ago, Colon two-seam fastballed his way to an 18-win season at age 40.
40. Corey Hart-First Baseman/Outfielder-32 years old-2013 Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Signed: Seattle Mariners—1 year, $6 million
Hart missed 2013 with a knee injury, but returns to a new league and a likely return to the outfield in Seattle. At his best, Hart twice hit 30 home runs and finished with a .280 plus average from 2010-2012. He’ll provide versatility between right field, first base and the designated hitter spot for the rebuilding Mariners.
41. James Loney-First Baseman-30 years old-2013 Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Resigned: Rays—3 years, $21 million
It is a bit surprising that the Rays put the money and contract length into Loney that they did. A $7 million annual value is a bit high in Tampa, but even if Loney regresses back closer to the form he had in 2012, he solves what seemed to be a very big hole in the Rays regular offering at first.
44. Boone Logan-Relief Pitcher-29 years old-2013 Team: New York Yankees
Signed: Colorado Rockies—3 years, $16.5 million
The workhorse lefty is a coup for the Rockies, who are very focused on reworking their bullpen situation. Over the last two years, he has averaged over 11 strikeouts per nine innings, and along with Rex Brothers, gives the Rockies a formidable southpaw collection to win late matchup wars with.
45. Gavin Floyd-Starting Pitcher-31 years old-2013 Team: Chicago White Sox
Signed: Atlanta Braves—1 year, $4 million
Floyd is rehabbing from a torn UCL in his elbow, but is a buy low candidate with a chance to contribute to a rotation that lost Tim Hudson, and doesn’t appear to be in on spending big to replace him. It’s a wish and a prayer signing, with little loss if it doesn’t pan out.
46. Jason Kubel-Designated Hitter-32 years old-2013 Team: Arizona Diamondbacks/Cleveland Indians
Signed: Minnesota Twins—1 year, minor league terms
After a disappointing 2012, Kubel returns to the team that drafted him and he spent his first seven years with. Despite the down year, Minnesota may have landed a steal if he can recapture his form and make the team in the spring. In 2012, he hit 30 home runs in Arizona, and has topped 20 three other occasions.
47. Mike Morse-First Baseman/Outfielder-32 years old-2013 Team: Seattle Mariners
Signed: San Francisco Giants—1 year, $6 million
He could prove to be one of the best signings of the winter if he can recapture the stroke that saw him launch 64 homers for the Nationals from 2010-2012. For a lineup devoid of a true hammer, Morse changes the everyday potential in San Fran.
57. Mark Ellis-Second Baseman-37 years old-2013 Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed: St. Louis Cardinals—1 year, TBA
A smart signing by the Cardinals which will keep them from being left exposed if rookie Kolten Wong does not adjust as quickly as hoped to as an everyday starter. Ellis had the second best defensive zone rating in the National League last season, and will be a very strong safety net.
59. J.P. Howell-Relief Pitcher-31 years old-2013 Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Resigned: Dodgers—2 years, $11.25 million
The Dodgers came to a smart agreement with lefty J.P. Howell, which will keep their stated goal of having a shutdown end of the game lineup. In his first NL season, he posted an ERA just slightly north of 2.00 and comes at a bargain price due to the plethora of left-handed options on the market this winter.
65. Juan Uribe-Third Baseman-35 years old-2013 Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Resigned: Dodgers—2 years, $15 million
The cat and mouse game between the Dodgers and Uribe finally came to an end with the agreement on the two year deal. Uribe became a superb defender last season, but the underrated portion of his return is keeping Yasiel Puig’s clubhouse mentor in tow as well.
71. Rajai Davis-Outfielder-33 years old-2013 Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Signed: Detroit Tigers—2 years, $10 million
Forced out of the regular lineup by the presence of Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera, Davis still managed to steal 45 bases despite playing in only 108 games. He will likely get a chance to display that speed more often in a time share with Andy Dirks in left field.
73. Joba Chamberlain-Relief Pitcher-28 years old-2013 Team: New York Yankees
Signed: Detroit Tigers—1 year, $2.5 million
The Tigers took a flier on Chamberlain to fill in the back end of their bullpen in the roles vacated by Jose Veras and Joaquin Benoit. But Chamberlain hasn’t been healthy in nearly four years, and is more of a bonus than anything that should be relied on too heavily very late in the game.
76. John Axford-Relief Pitcher-31 years old-2013 Team: Milwaukee Brewers/St. Louis Cardinals
Signed: Cleveland Indians—1 year, $4.5 million
While he likely will never return to the form that made him one of the top relievers in baseball in 2011, he still pumps the heat and should be in line for first crack at the ninth for Tito this year.
77. Garrett Jones-First Baseman-33 years old-2013 Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Signed: Miami Marlins—2 years, $7.5 million
Just before they traded Logan Morrison, essentially they paid for a slightly more expensive (and older) version of him. Jones was being slowly forced out of Pittsburgh over the last two years, but will now get a chance for 600 at-bats in the far less talented Miami mix.
For more on the still developing MLB free agent scene, follow me in real-time on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan