2011 Winter Meetings: Breaking the Budget in the Offseason

This article was written by Chad Hagan

This article was published in the


Baseball's Business: The Winter Meetings: 1958-2016The 2011 Winter Meetings took place in Dallas from December 5 to 8 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel. This was the sixth time the hotel had hosted baseball’s Winter Meetings, with previous meetings taking place in 1980, 1987, 1994, 2000, and 2005.

Located in the design district of downtown Dallas, the hotel is in the middle of the city, though separated from the pedestrian—friendly areas by a mile or two as well as an interstate, allowing for a resort—like sequestered feel and mentality. Inside the hotel, the Anatole has a cavernous atrium design which allows for groups of people to socialize and congregate in private spots, lounge bars, and gathering areas in the hotel lobby. Separated by partial partitions, water gardens, and contemporary interior decor, delegates are able to retain relative privacy while still being out in the open air of the main level. If talks were taking place outside of hotel and agent hospitality suites, they were happening here.  

The preconvention atmosphere was alive with offseason rumors about heavy—hitting trades, $100 million deals, and lineup changes. And when all was said and done, a number of teams committed to big trades and significant roster changes, while the press was busy gathering snippets of information from agents and managers on team adjustments, as well as reading the analyses of their fellow writers.1

 

Player Movement

Going into the winter meetings, Mark Buehrle, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson, Carlos Beltran, and Jimmy Rollins were universally considered to be the top free agents. It was rumored that the Miami Marlins2 were planning to spend heavily, but realistically every leading team was open for business and looking to make deals. The Marlins started off strong, acquiring White Sox left—hander Mark Buehrle with a four—year, $58 million contract on the very first night of the meetings. Buehrle, who threw a perfect game in 2009, received his third consecutive Fielding Bible and Golden Gloves Awards after the 2011 season. The Marlins continued to dominate the narrative with marquee moves, acquiring hard—throwing right—hander Heath Bell from the San Diego Padres and shortstop Jose Reyes from the New York Mets. Bell, who had three straight years of 40 or more saves for the Padres, signed a three—year contract worth $27 million.3 The Reyes signing was a landmark deal, well over $100 million spread over six years. The megabuck signings of Buehrle, Belle, and Reyes did not, however, pan out for the Marlins. In 2011 they had finished last in the NL East with a record of 72—90. After committing nearly $200 million to those three free agents, they finished last again, with a record of 69—93. Less than a year later, Buehrle and Reyes were swapped to Toronto in a deal that saw 12 players change uniforms, just a month after Bell had been shipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a deal that also included the Oakland A’s.4

After finishing below .500, Oakland’s Billy Beane made teamwide roster changes. At the Hilton Anatole, he sent All—Star right—hander Trevor Cahill and journeyman left—hander Craig Breslow to the Arizona Diamondbacks for right—handers Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook, plus outfielder Collin Cowgill. He was engaged in talks with the New York Yankees about left—hander Gio Gonzalez, but nothing materialized there and, after the Winter Meetings, the All—Star was sent (along with minor—league right—hander Robert Gilliam) to the Washington Nationals for right—handers A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock, left—hander Tommy Milone, and catcher Derek Norris.   

The New York Mets traded outfielder Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for right—hander Ramon Ramirez and outfielder Andres Torres. Pagan became a 2012 NL MVP contender, as well as a top performer for the 2012 World Series champion Giants, while Torres was traded back to the San Francisco Giants the following year. The Colorado Rockies, meanwhile, traded their closer, right—hander Huston Street, to the San Diego Padres for cash and a player to be named later, who turned out to be southpaw Nick Schmidt.5 And in a surprise move, the Chicago White Sox sent their closer, right—hander Sergio Santos, to the Blue Jays for minor—league utility player Nestor Molina.

On the last day of the Winter Meetings, the Los Angeles Angels paid well over $300 million to land first baseman Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. The left—handed Wilson, who had successfully transitioned from being the Texas Rangers’ closer to their winningest starter, had been linked to the Marlins, Red Sox, Angels, Yankees, and Nationals before signing with the Angels for five years and $77.5 million.6  Pujols, the Cardinals’ three—time National League MVP, had been linked to the Marlins, Rangers, and Cubs, but chose the Angels, who paid him $240 million, in what became a 10—year, $250 million deal.

 

As with almost all previous meetings, not every prediction came true. Jimmy Rollins stayed with the Phillies, though the press had linked the shortstop to the Giants or Brewers. Prince Fielder was considered a prime free agent and his agent, Scott Boras, had held conversations with the Mariners, Brewers, Cubs, Blue Jays, Nationals, Rangers, and Marlins prior to the meetings, but his $200 million asking price seemed to stall any deals. That would eventually change, though not until January of 2012, when the big first baseman, a three—time All—Star, signed a nine—year contract with Detroit worth a reported $214 million.7

A similar story played out in the case of Yoenis Cespedes. A Cuban defector, he was rumored to be talking to the Tigers, Red Sox, Marlins, Yankees, and Nationals, but was unavailable until he established a residency outside Cuba. A month after he was declared a citizen of the Dominican Republic, the outfielder signed a $36 million, four—year contract with Oakland.8

On the international front, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, posted right—handed pitcher Yu Darvish. After the customary 30—day negotiation period, the Rangers won out and bought the rights to negotiate with him from the NPB, under a system in which major—league teams bid on securing the exclusive rights to talk to the player. In the case of the 25—year—old Darvish, the release fee reached was a record $51.7 million. The Rangers then negotiated with Darvish’s agents, Arn Tellem and Dom Nomura, and signed the 25—year—old for six years and $60 million.9 Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, then a Rangers executive, said: “When I look at my career and his career and where I was at 25 years old, there’s a substantial difference. I still had a control problem. I was very durable, but I didn’t have the feel for the baseball or my delivery as he does with his.”10

Baseball Business

There is always more to the Winter Meetings than player movement, and 2011 was no exception, as the Hilton Anatole hosted baseball’s annual trade show, social events, and business seminars. 

The annual Bob Freitas Business Seminar was held on December 5. Later in the day there was an awards luncheon and then came the main event – Opening Night at the Baseball Trade Show, a reception for baseball executives, convention exhibitors, and attendees, which is routinely the most—attended event during the conference. The trade show was held in the hotel’s 128,000—square—foot Trinity Complex exhibition space.

The next day featured the Women in Baseball Leadership Seminar, a forum held since 2008 and designed to encourage collaboration among women baseball professionals. And the Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities job fair took place throughout the convention. An annual feature of the Winter Meetings, the job fair is a way for young people interested in starting a career in the business end of baseball to meet team executives (primarily on the minor—league level) looking to fill job openings. 

On December 8, the Rule 5 Draft was held from 9 to 11 A.M., followed by a closing session and then the awards banquet, which honored the award winners for The King of Baseball (Cuauhtemoc “Chito” Rodriguez), John H. Johnson President’s Award (Tennessee, Southern League), Larry MacPhail Promotional Award (Lake Elsinore, California League), Warren Giles Award (Chuck Murphy, Florida State League), Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award (Bob Gebhard, Arizona Diamondbacks), and the Mike Coolbaugh Award (Mike Jirschele, Omaha Storm Chasers manager).

The Rule 5 Draft, baseball’s ultimate crapshoot, produced several players who had varying degrees of success in the majors. The prize proved to be infielder Marwin Gonzalez, a Cubs farmhand who was drafted by the Red Sox, then immediately traded to Houston for Marco Duarte, a right—handed pitcher. Since then, Duarte mostly pitched in Mexico, but Gonzalez became a super—sub for the Houston Astros and an important player in the team’s rise from one of the worst teams in the majors to one of the best. The Cubs also lost another infielder, Ryan Flaherty, who became a valuable utilityman for the Orioles. Other players who were drafted and spent some time in the majors included right—hander Rhiner Cruz (drafted by the Astros from the Mets), left—hander Lucas Luetge (Mariners from the Brewers), left—hander Cesar Cabral (drafted by the Royals from the Red Sox and traded to the Yankees), right—hander Lendy Castillo (Cubs from the Phillies), and outfielder Erik Komatsu (Cardinals from the Nationals).

In other activity, the Orioles traded a pair of minor leaguers, utilityman Tyler Henson and southpaw Jarret Martin, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the much—traveled lefty Dana Eveland.11  The Kansas City Royals, meanwhile, traded utility player Yamaico Navarro, whom they had picked up from the Red Sox at the trading deadline, to the Pirates for minor—league right—hander Brooks Pounders and infielder Diego Goris.

Despite the high volume of trading activity, the meetings were still heavily overshadowed by the Marlins and the Angels. While the Marlins led the effort with their early investment of over $150 million, the Angels ultimately stole the show. Signing Pujols was easily the major story to come out of Dallas, and the Angels’ commitment of over $300 million continues to cast a long shadow over major—league baseball’s winter meetings.

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also relied on Baseball—Reference.com, milb.com/milb/events/winter_meetings/y2011/events.jsp, a 2012 sponsorship information packet for exhibitors presented by Minor League Baseball, and the following:

Calcaterra, Graig. “Greetings From the Winter Meetings,” mlb.nbcsports.com/2011/12/05/greetings—from—the—2011—winter—meetings/, accessed February 4, 2017.

Caramela, Vince. “2011 Winter Meetings Preview,” hardballtimes.com/2011—winter—meetings—preview/, accessed February 4, 2017.


Moore, Jack. “A Brief History of Winter Meeting Madness,” Vice Sports, December 12, 2014,
sports.vice.com/en_us/article/vvakvb/a—brief—history—of—baseball—winter—meeting—madness.

Notes

1  Craig M. Williams, “Winter Meetings Winners and Losers,” mlbdailydish.com/2011/12/10/2626011/2011—winter—meetings—winners—and—losers

2 The Florida Marlins had officially become the Miami Marlins on November 11.

3 Eddie Ravert, “MLB Free Agents 2012: Jose Reyes Signs With the Miami Marlins,” bleacherreport.com/articles/968813—mlb—baseball—jose—reyes—signs—with—the—miami—marlins, accessed July 4, 2017.

4 Matthew Pouliot, “Update: Marlins, Jose Reyes Agree to Six—Year, $106 Million Deal,”
mlb.nbcsports.com/2011/12/04/report—marlins—go—to—111—million—in—bid—for—jose—reyes/. Other sources (see Ravert, above) stated that Reyes received $111 million. Gregor Chisholm, “Blue Jays’ 12—player deal with Marlins Official,” m.mlb.com/news/article/40363638//, accessed July 4, 2017.

5 baseball—reference.com/players/s/streehu01.shtml, accessed July 6, 2017.

6 “Angels, C.J. Wilson agree to deal,” espn.com/los—angeles/mlb/story/_/id/7330909/los—angeles—angels—add—texas—rangers—cj—wilson—5—year—775m—deal, accessed July 4, 2017.

7 Jason Beck, “Prince, Tigers Reach Nine—Year Deal,” m.mlb.com/news/article/26452690//, accessed July 5, 2017.

8 Susan Slusser and Demian Bulwa, “The amazing saga of Yoenis Cespedes,” sfchronicle.com/sports/cespedes/, accessed July 5, 2017.

9 Richard Durrett, “Rangers, Yu Darvish Reach Deal,” espn.com/dallas/mlb/story/_/id/7476104/texas—rangers—japanese—pitcher—yu—darvish—agree—six—year—60m—deal, accessed July 5, 2017.

10 Jeff Wilson, “Not All About Yu: Ryan Loves Rangers’ Pitching Potential,” Fort Worth Star—Telegram, February 22, 2012, star—telegram.com/sports/article3830475.html.

11 ”2011 MLB Trade Rumors: Dodgers Interested in Mets Daniel Murphy,” calltothepen.com/2011/12/11/2011—mlb—trade—rumors—dodgers—interested—in—mets—daniel—murphy/.

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