With a few more free-agent dominoes falling and the first trades of the week coming down Tuesday, the 2012 Winter Meetings are about halfway over, in terms of clocks and calendars. But they're most likely just beginning, in terms of deals and signings.
Through Day 2 of the annual gathering of baseball's brain trusts at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., it's evident that free-agent markets are starting to line up, particularly starting pitching and outfield with right-hander Dan Haren agreeing with the Nationals and Shane Victorino coming to terms with the Red Sox on Tuesday.
As the second overnight session in the lobbies and bars began, the pace picked up a bit with the first significant trades and another re-signing for the defending World Series champions. The trades sent former first-round pick Alex White from Colorado to Houston and shortstop Yunel Escobar across Florida to the Rays, and the Giants nabbed their second postseason star in as many days by locking up free-agent second baseman Marco Scutaro.
And with that mini-flurry of activity, the Winter Meetings are over the hump, with Wednesday the last full day before a shortened getaway day on Thursday.
It remains to be seen how much action will be announced or at least discovered in Nashville and how much will be prelude to later deals. But what has been accomplished already shows that teams are willing to spend to fulfill their needs.
The Nats' signing of Haren to a one-year deal worth $13 million might not affect what Zack Greinke will get at the top of the starting-pitching market, but other free-agent starters don't mind having that figure on the board.
And with Victorino's reported three-year, $39 million deal with Boston coming on the heels of Angel Pagan's four-year, $40 million agreement with the Giants on Monday, outfielders like Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher might have a better idea of their market -- as long as there are still plenty of suitors out there. Any effect on top target Josh Hamilton, however, is likely minimal.
Haren, who went 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA with the Angels in 2012 while battling some physical issues, will make more than he has made before in his career -- a tick more than last year's $12.75 million but considerably less than the $15.5 million for his 2013 option year, which the Angels didn't pick up. Then again, with the $3.5 million the Angels paid him to buy out the option ... well, the math comes out pretty well for Haren at $16.5 million for 2013.
For the Nationals, adding a starter with All-Star credentials who has established an impressive resume through his first four stops in the Majors means the National League's best rotation just got better. An experienced 32-year-old, Haren will bring some veteran savvy to a group that already has some, despite the rest of the starters being in their 20s.
Said Nats manager Davey Johnson: "I've got some young guys that act like veterans, and they pitched like veterans last year for me, and a veteran like Dan Haren is just going to make things even better. I think he's a great addition."
Victorino also seems to fill the bill for what the Red Sox needed in right field -- a guy who's basically a center fielder, thanks to the unique confines of Fenway Park.
"It's probably the toughest right field in baseball to play, just in terms of the space to cover, so that range comes into play," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And yet you try to combine the best range ... along with offensive production."
Victorino, 32, is a two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner coming off a slight down year offensively as he left his longtime home with the Phillies for the Dodgers in a midseason trade. He brings a passionate brand of play and speed (39 steals last year) that the Red Sox don't have outside of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
With the Red Sox nabbing Victorino, the Indians were left out after offering slightly more overall at four years, $40 million, and they might turn their attention to Jason Bay -- who played well for new Indians manager Terry Francona in Boston and figures to be far less expensive -- while looking at the likes of Kevin Youkilis or Mark Reynolds for their opening at first base.
Meanwhile, the Giants' deal with Scutaro developed swiftly Tuesday night, with the incumbent team for the NL Championship Series MVP agreeing to a full three years at $20 million to secure their 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup a day after Pagan signed.
And after almost two days of silence on the trade front in Nashville, two seemingly star-crossed talents changed uniforms again. Escobar, who was dealt to the Marlins only two weeks ago, will go to Tampa Bay for Minor League infielder Derek Dietrich, and White, the 15th pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft by the Indians who was acquired by the Rockies in the 2011 Ubaldo Jimenez deal, will head to Houston in a package that sends reliever Wilton Lopez to the Rockies.
Other news on Tuesday:
The defending World Series champions are picking up the 2014 options on the contracts of GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy.
"It's a no-brainer," said Giants president and CEO Larry Baer, who added that extending their deals beyond 2014 remains a priority.
The Rangers officially announced the reported deal with reliever Joakim Soria, a two-year deal for $8 million with an option for 2015. Soria, who missed all of last year with Tommy John surgery and might not be ready for Opening Day, will serve as a setup man for closer Joe Nathan.
The Mets announced that their eight-year, $138 million deal with David Wright is official with the third baseman passing his physical. Wright will be in Nashville for a news conference Wednesday to commemorate the deal. Running through 2020, the contract will take Wright through his age-37 season.
While both sides were adamant that a rumor of the Phillies' Cliff Lee going to Arizona for Justin Upton was false, it's evident the D-backs, as we've heard a few times over the past couple of years, are willing to listen to offers for Upton.
"My style is not to say we're not going to listen on any of our guys," Arizona GM Kevin Towers said. "If people inquire, I'll listen on all of our players. Some clubs might take the position that, 'This guy's untouchable, we're married to him, he's our guy.' I've never done it, never will. You may not like that style, but that's how I do it. The players may not like it, but so be it."
The D-backs did make a move Tuesday, signing corner infielder Eric Hinske to a one-year deal.
MLB.com's own Paul Hagen will be honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the 2013 recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in sportswriting. Hagen, based in Philadelphia where he covered the Phillies for more than 25 years, will be honored alongside the inductees in Cooperstown when ceremonies take place in July as the 63rd recipient of the Spink Award.
MLB.com handed out the annual GIBBY Awards, honoring Greatness in Baseball Yearly, and Miguel Cabrera took honors as MLB's MVP and as the best hitter, while four Giants took awards -- Buster Posey (Best Comeback), Pablo Sandoval (Postseason MVP), Matt Cain (Pitching Performance of the Year for his perfect game) and Sergio Romo (Setup Man of the Year). The Orioles got a couple with Buck Showalter being named Manager of the Year and the O's tying with the Nationals for Storyline of the Year.
As the Winter Meetings continue, the Orioles are among many teams that have yet to make a splash, either in Nashville or before arriving. But like many, they wouldn't mind getting something done before leaving Music City.
"We are hopefully going to come home with a signed player by the end of the week," said O's executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.
Thing is, the Winter Meetings are now half over. Or are they only just beginning?