Nine-and-a-half years later, Carlos Beltran was back in Kansas City on Tuesday, hosted by an organization that had traded him away and continued its path into the wilderness, that once viewed his worth on the trade market as its way back to relevance and now views his worth in their lineup as its way back to relevance. The Royals reportedly have offered to Beltran as much as $48 million over three years, or a little less than Beltran made in his first four seasons with the New York Mets, all those many years ago.
And that was just the start of Tuesday, which culminated with the Yankees doing a very Yankee thing: agreeing with Jacoby Ellsbury on a seven-year, $153 million deal. It was quite a day in Major League Baseball. Actually, it was more like a week in Major League Baseball.
Monday night's non-tender deadline appeared to ring an opening bell in the heads of general managers from Miami to Boston to Los Angeles to Oakland. The Players Association heard it: The union announced Tony Clark as its new executive director, replacing Michael Weiner, who passed away two weeks ago. MLB heard it: It continued negotiations with Nippon Professional Baseball over a new posting system, with Masahiro Tanaka, and a brand new "free agent" out there, in the offing. Frederic Horowitz must have heard it, assuming the arbitrator in the Alex Rodriguez arbitration isn't literally buried under a sea of documents (stolen, purchased or otherwise acquired).
With the winter meetings five days away, baseball ran head on into a 24-hour period that saw more than a half-dozen trades, scads of fresh free agents (due to the non-tenders), a good handful of free-agent signings (or agreements to sign, pending physicals and other details), some official announcements of free-agent signings, and a revelation by Curtis Granderson that he not only met with the Mets, but dined on salmon.
Even Jeffrey Loria, the curmudgeonly owner of the Miami Marlins who makes a habit of sucking the life (and a few tax dollars) out of Christmas, joined in. As of Tuesday evening, the Marlins had lured free-agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia into town with a promise there would be at least eight other players on the field with him at all times. Saltalamacchia agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract and Loria perhaps told him to go ahead and buy a house, which would be fine this time, because Saltalamacchia is from the neighborhood. The Boston Red Sox also required a catcher, one to replace Saltalamacchia, so they came to terms with A.J. Pierzynski. Then, the New York Yankees announced they'd hold a press conference in which another catcher, Brian McCann, would serve as both the honoree (he has agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract) and the doorman. He'll be checking credentials from 10 feet in front of the door.
The Yankees, by the way, appeared to be losing ground on the Robinson Cano and Beltran fronts, as their magic number continues to be 189, which, it turns out, is also the number of times they've said no to Jay Z so far. They are reluctant to go $200 million on Cano or three years on Beltran, but weren't afraid to pay big money for Ellsbury, a premier free agent who has missed major chunks of time in two of his past four seasons. They do still need a closer, and those were going fast, too.
The Detroit Tigers, not half-a-day after trading Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals, came to terms with closer Joe Nathan, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who still have four men in the outfield and none at third base, appeared to be closing in on a contract with Brian Wilson, and the Oakland A's, well, the Oakland A's also got a closer. And a setup man. And a starter. And a swing man. And an outfielder. And the day wasn't technically over.
The A's have their own way of doing things, and in this case it appears to include showing up at the winter meetings with nothing to do but sun themselves at the pool and meet with prospective interns. Maybe not at the same time, however.
Nearing the end of a breath-taking day, they'd traded for Jim Johnson (Baltimore Orioles), and Luke Gregerson (San Diego Padres), and Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom (Texas Rangers). And they'd signed left-hander Scott Kazmir to a $22 million contract over two years. This isn't likely to be the full list, either. As of Tuesday evening, the A's were still looking for more.
"We've never really straddled the fence," A's general manager Billy Beane told reporters in Oakland. "We're either all in or all out."
For a day, it seemed everyone was in. The Tampa Bay Rays, Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks went three-way, the most apparent result being the addition by the Rays of catcher Ryan Hanigan and reliever Heath Bell. Even the Houston Astros, who bought 51 wins on their $26 million outlay last season, jumped in, and at a price. They acquired Dexter Fowler – due nearly $7.5 million in 2014 – from the Colorado Rockies for a young pitcher with a frightful ERA and an average outfielder.
That's right. On the very same day, the Marlins and the Astros, whose combined payrolls in 2013 would roughly equal that of the Minnesota Twins, spent millions. Of dollars. American dollars.
And that was before dinner on a Tuesday nobody saw coming. Except maybe the A's.