This Date In Transactions History Rumors

This Date In Transactions History: January 1st

New Year's Day isn't typically a hotbed of activity in baseball, but we have seen a few significant moves go down on January 1st.  The biggest 1/1 transaction happened just last year when the Blue Jays acquired Jason Frasor from the White Sox in exchange for right-handed pitchers Myles Jaye and Daniel Webb

Beyond the fact that the White Sox and Blue Jays didn't take a holiday (much like MLBTR), it was an interesting deal for a number of reasons.  For starters, Frasor returned to Toronto just five months after he was shipped to Chicago in a July deal.  That trade saw him packaged with right-hander Zach Stewart in exchange for right-hander Edwin Jackson and utility man Mark Teahen.  Of course, Jackson's tenure with the Blue Jays was short-lived as he was flipped to the Cardinals for center fielder Colby Rasmus later that day.

The deal was also notable because Frasor just had his $3.75MM club option exercised on Halloween of 2011. The White Sox's return on this trade wasn't spectacular – neither Jaye nor Webb were considered to be strong prospects and had yet to advance to Double-A.  However, (then) General Manager Kenny Williams would have gotten absolutely nothing had he declined Frasor's 2012 option.  It would appear that Chicago exercised Frasor's option year for the express purpose of trading him.

Frasor had a decent year in his second act north of the border, turning in a 4.12 ERA with 10.9 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 50 appearances.  The right-hander is still on the open market and is said to be receiving interest from the Brewers.  Meanwhile, the 6'3" pitchers sent to Chicago both spent 2012 in Single-A Kannapolis.  Webb (23) and Jaye (21) didn't set the world on fire, but the youngsters still have plenty of baseball in front of them.

This Week In Transactions History: Messersmith-McNally Decision

The game of baseball changed forever this week in 1975. No, not how the game was played on the field, but how the game was played off the field. Thirty seven years ago this week, arbitrator Peter Seitz issued his historic decision making pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally true free agents. Federal district and appeals courts both upheld Seitz's opinion, effectively voiding baseball's reserve clause.

The reserve clause allowed teams to renew a player's contract "for the period of one year on the same terms," except that the salary could be cut by as much as 20%. Players generally signed new contracts, so the process had the effect of holding the player to the team with which he first signed indefinitely. This eliminated competition and suppressed salaries to the benefit of the owners and to the dissatisfaction of the players.

In 1975, Messersmith and McNally were the only two players bound to their teams, the Dodgers and Expos respectively, on the basis of the reserve clause. Since neither signed a contract during that option year, both insisted that they were free to sign with other teams the following season. The owners disagreed.

The grievance was submitted to arbitration with MLBPA executive director Marvin Miller and players Joe Torre and Jim Bouton testifying for the players. Meanwhile, commissioner Bowie Kuhn, NL president Chub Feeney, and AL president Lee MacPhail testified for the owners. The hearing lasted three days and produced an 842-page transcript with 97 exhibits. Seitz sided with the players, ruling owners could not maintain a player's services indefinitely. Messersmith went on to sign a three-year deal with the Braves worth $1MM while McNally, who quit baseball in June 1975, remained retired. 

The decision created a true free agent market and salaries skyrocketed. According to Baseball Almanac, the average salary in 1975 was $44,676. Today, the Associated Press (via reports the average salary is over $3.2MM, an increase of nearly 7,100%.

The free agency windfall has continued this offseason with the top five richest free agent contracts, based on MLBTR's Free Agent Tracker, totaling nearly $500MM. This includes the richest contract ever given to a right-handed pitcher (Zack Greinke's $147MM), a record average annual value (AAV) for any pitcher on a multiyear contract (also Greinke at $24.5MM), and the fifth player in MLB history to receive a contract with an AAV of at least $25MM (Josh Hamilton at $25MM). The Indians recently agreed to sign Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56MM contract, but Swisher's AAV of $14MM doesn't even crack the top 50 list of the highest-paid players in baseball history (based on AAV), as compiled by Cot's Baseball Contracts.

In his opinion, Seitz summarized the owners' argument that eliminating the reserve clause "would encourage many other players to elect to become free agents at the end of their renewal years, that this would encourage clubs with the largest monetary resources to engage free agents, thus unsettling the competitive balance between the clubs, so essential to the sport…that driven by the compulsion to win, owners of franchises would overextend themselves financially in improvident bidding for players."

It could be argued that the owners weren't far off the mark. The George Steinbrenner reign of the Yankees featured some lavish spending and the next few Dodgers teams are poised to set National League payroll records under the ownership of Guggenheim Baseball Management. 

What was Seitz's reward for changing the game of baseball? He was fired the same day he issued his opinion by the owner's representative in labor matters and asked to refrain from writing or discussing the historic decision. However, on the day of his ruling, Seitz put his decision in context saying, "I am not Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation."  

Seitz may have downplayed the effect his ruling would have on baseball, but no decision in the last half century has had such a profound impact on the business side of the sport.

Thanks to Sports Illustrated for some historical information.

This Date In Transactions History: December 29

Things tend to be fairly quiet between Christmas and New Year's Eve, but we've seen some big free agent signings go down during that week.  Today marks the anniversary for two of them: Jason Bay signing with the Mets and Barry Zito to the Giants.

In the winter of 2009, the Mets agreed to a four-year, $66MM deal with former Red Sox slugger Jason Bay.  The deal was panned by many critics at the time as they felt that the Mets were mortgaging their future with a heavily backloaded deal.  The Mets agreed to give Bay $6.5MM in 2010 and $16MM in the following three seasons.  The deal also included a $17MM club option for 2014, which could be 86'd for another $3MM.  Of course, the two sides never got close to that point.  After playing just 288 games across three seasons in Queens with a batting line of .234/.318/.369, the Mets and Bay agreed to an early expiration of his contract in November 2012.  Bay will still earn the $21MM owed to him for the remainder of the deal, but the Mets will save a bit by being able to defer a portion of it.

Three years prior to that, the Giants made a statement when they signed Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126MM deal.  At the time, the deal made the left-hander the highest paid pitcher in major league history.  The deal was widely panned as an overpay and it's not clear how much the next-highest bidder was offering.  The Rangers put a six-year, $80MM offer on the table and those spend-happy Yankees never got around to making a formal offer. 

On the whole, Zito has struggled to pitch well consistently, but the left-hander found redemption last season.  After pitching to a 4.15 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 across 32 starts in the regular season, Zito shined in a pair of postseason starts for San Francisco, including a strong effort in Game 1 of the World Series to give the Giants a 1-0 advantage.

Can Bay re-write his story as well?  The Mariners took a low-risk flyer on the veteran this winter, signing him to a one-year, $1MM deal with $2MM in performance bonuses.  Bay now has a chance at a tabula rasa, away from the scrutiny of the New York press and a short drive from his home in Kirkland, Washington.

This Date In Transactions History: December 28

Major transactions can occur at any time in baseball's offseason, even during the lull between Christmas and New Year's Eve.  Let's look back at some of the major transactions that have taken place on past December 28ths over the years…

  • It was one year ago today that the Red Sox acquired Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney from the Athletics in exchange for Josh Reddick and prospects Miles Head and Raul Alcantara.  Boston had Bailey tapped as the team's replacement for Jonathan Papelbon at closer, but Bailey struggled with injuries and posted a 7.04 ERA in 19 games.  Reddick, meanwhile, had a breakout year, winning a Gold Glove and hitting .242/.305/.463 with 32 homers to help lead the A's to the AL West pennant.  Even if Bailey gets healthy and returns to form, a good closer doesn't have the value of a good (and controllable through 2016) everyday outfielder, so I'd say Oakland has won this trade already.
  • Jon Garland signed a three-year, $29MM contract to remain with the White Sox on this day in 2005.  Garland never quite developed into anything more than a nice innings-eater, averaging 210 IP with a 4.37 ERA and 4.5 K/9 rate over the next two seasons.  Chicago dealt Garland to the Angels for Orlando Cabrera following the 2007 season.
  • The Diamondbacks acquired their most beloved player in franchise history on this day in 1998, picking up Luis Gonzalez from the Tigers in exchange for Karim Garcia.  Gonzalez had been a solid player for his first nine years in the majors but he exploded in Arizona, posting a 1.001 OPS over the next three seasons including a 57-homer outburst in 2001.  Gonzalez is best remembered for his walkoff bloop single against Mariano Rivera in Game Seven of the legendary 2001 World Series.  Garcia, meanwhile, had a .708 OPS in 104 games with Detroit before being dealt during the 2000 season.
  • Tim Raines is in the news due to his Hall of Fame candidacy, and it was on this day in 1995 that Raines was dealt from the White Sox to the Yankees for future considerations.  Raines was 36 years old at the time of the trade but he still had plenty of value as a platoon player, hitting .299/.395/.429 in 940 PAs over his three seasons in New York and winning two World Series rings.
  • The Astros and Padres swung a whopper of a trade on this day in 1994, with 12 players eventually changing teams once all was settled.  Houston acquired Derek Bell, Ricky Gutierrez, Pedro Martinez (not that one), Phil Plantier and Craig Shipley while San Diego picked up Ken Caminiti, Andujar Cedeno, Sean Fesh (as a player to be named later), Steve Finley, Roberto Petagine and Brian Williams.
  • Warren Cromartie surprised many by instead signing a three-year, $2.5MM deal with the Yomiuri Giants on this day in 1983, a rare case of a player going to Japan in his prime. (Baseball Reference believes collusion may have played a role in Cromartie not finding a good Major League offer.) Cromartie played in Japan for seven seasons and wrote a book about his experiences in the NPL following his retirement. 
  • Danny O'Connell may not be well-remembered today, but the infielder was so highly-sought by the Braves that they sent six players and $100K to the Pirates in exchange for O'Connell on this day in 1953.  It remains the only six-for-one trade in Major League history, topped only by the A's dealing Vida Blue to the Giants for seven players in 1978.  O'Connell, by the way, didn't quite live up to the hype in Milwaukee.  He posted a .647 OPS in three-plus years with the Braves and was part of a trade package sent to the Giants partway through the 1957 season for Red Schoendienst, who ended up playing a key role in the Braves' 1957 World Series run.

This Date In Transactions History: Mo Vaughn

On this date in 2001, the Mets acquired first baseman Mo Vaughn from the Angels in exchange for right-hander Kevin Appier.  Vaughn had missed the entire 2001 season with the Angels due to a ruptured tendon in his left arm, but General Manager Steve Phillips & Co. opted to roll the dice on the slugger anyway.  The trade was meant to bring some power to the Mets' lineup, but Vaughn's injuries wound up making the deal one of the worst moves of Phillips' tenure in New York.

The media got wind of the trade almost a week prior to its completion when sources told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that Phillips, manager Bobby Valentine, and Assistant General Manager Omar Minaya traveled up to Massachusetts to watch Vaughn work out, which was unusual given that Vaughn was under contract with Anaheim.  ''I understand it was very positive.  I heard that they really liked what they saw," said one source.  That would presumably include Vaughn's physical shape, despite the slugger's reported increase from 245 pounds to 275 pounds in his first two seasons with the Halos. 

Less than a week later, the Mets agreed to take on Vaughn and the roughly $50MM owed to him over the next three seasons.  As part of the deal, the Mets got to defer some of the money paid to the first baseman while the Angels covered the $8MM he was still owed as part of his signing bonus.  Meanwhile, they would also part with Appier, who was coming off of an impressive season in his first (and only) campaign in blue and orange.  The right-hander posted a 3.57 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9, his best numbers since his time in Kansas City.

Vaughn wasn't able to mash the ball as well as he had in years past by the time he got to Shea, but the veteran still managed to hit .259/.349/.456 with 26 homers in 139 games in 2002.  The 2003 season was an entirely different story, however, as a knee injury in early May would bring his career to a close.  Meanwhile, Appier pitched to a 3.92 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 32 starts for the Halos in 2002, helping to propel the Halos to their first World Series title.  The Angels wound up releasing Appier the following year as he struggled with a flexor tendon injury, but one has to imagine that they were pretty happy to get out from under the money owed to Vaughn.

This Date In Transactions History: Marlins Fire Sale

Two weeks ago, the Marlins agreed to send basically every player making decent money on their roster to the Blue Jays for a package of prospects. The 12-player blockbuster became official a week ago, leaving Miami with just three players scheduled to make $2MM+ in 2013. Ricky Nolasco ($11.5MM) and Yunel Escobar ($5MM) could both still be moved before the end of the winter as well.

This isn't the first time the Marlins have torn things down and rebuilt from scratch, of course. They did it immediately following their 1997 World Series win, then again a few years after bringing home the 2003 World Championship. On this date in 2005, the team officially swung a pair of trades sending three of their highest paid players elsewhere.

Trade #1: Boston Red Sox
Josh Beckett, then just 25, was coming off a 3.38 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 178 2/3 innings for Florida. He earned $2.4MM in 2005 and was due a significant raise in his second trip through arbitration, plus the team was unlikely to re-sign him long-term when he hit free agency after 2007.

Beckett had significant trade value, so the Marlins took advantage by attaching then-31-year-old Mike Lowell to him in talks. If a team wanted Beckett, they had to take Lowell as well. The third baseman slipped to .236/.298/.360 with eight homers in 558 plate appearances that year, but more importantly he was scheduled to earn $18MM total from 2006-2007.

Few teams could meet Florida's demand for a young shortstop, but the Red Sox were one of them. The two sides worked out a seven-player trade that sent Beckett, Lowell, and Guillermo Mota to Boston in exchange for prospects Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Harvey Garcia, and Jesus Delgado. The Marlins saved all $18MM owed to Lowell in addition to second- and third-year arbitration salaries for Beckett and a third-year arbitration salary for Mota. The trade worked out well for both teams as Beckett and Lowell helped the Red Sox to the 2007 World Championship while Ramirez developed into an MVP candidate and Sanchez became a rock solid innings-eater for the Marlins.

Trade #2: New York Mets
During the 2004-2005 offseason, Florida landed the top free agent slugger by signing Carlos Delgado to a four-year, $52MM contract with a fifth-year vesting option. The then-33-year-old hit .301/.399/.582 with 33 homers in the first year of the contract, good enough to earn him a sixth-place finish in the MVP voting. However, like the contracts of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, Delgado's deal with the Marlins was heavily backloaded. He earned just $4MM in 2005, then his salary was scheduled to jump to $13.5MM in 2006, $14.5MM in 2007, $16MM in 2008, and potentially $12MM in 2009 if the option vested ($4MM buyout).

Rather than pay him that huge salary over the next three years, the Marlins traded Delgado to the Mets for three minor leaguers: Yusmeiro Petit, Mike Jacobs, and Grant Psomas. The Mets also received $7MM from Florida in the trade, but it was a drop in the bucket compared to the $48MM left on the contract. Delgado hit .265/.349/.505 with 100 homers during his first three years with New York, which was enough for the team to exercise his option even though it didn't vest. Jacobs had three decent years with the Marlins while Petit and Psomas flamed out, but the real get for the club was the $41MM in payroll savings. Combined with the Red Sox swap, the Marlins shed more than $59MM in contract obligations with these two moves seven years ago today.

This Date In Transactions History: Chris Carpenter

On this date in 2002, the Blue Jays released their Opening Day starter, right-hander Chris Carpenter.  The 27-year-old was removed from the 40-man roster after a trying season in which he went just 73 1/3 innings before being shut down to undergo shoulder surgery.  He posted a 5.28 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in his final year in Toronto, but the former first-round pick had a stronger season in 2001 finishing with a 4.09 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 powered by a solid first-half of the year.  The Blue Jays did offer Carpenter an incentive-laden minor league deal to stay on board, but the hurler instead decided to try his luck on the open market.

The Cardinals, of course, would be the team to roll the dice on 6'6" right-hander.  Carpenter was signed to a deal with a club option for 2004 with the hope that he would be ready to return by the mid-season in 2003.  The club bought out his '04 season for $200K rather pay the him the $2MM he would have made, but the two sides were able to negotiate a new deal later on that winter.  The Cardinals were grateful that they did, as Carpenter returned in 2004 to register a 3.46 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 across 28 starts to help the Cards win the National League pennant.  That was a sign of great things to come as he would edge Dontrelle Willis for the Cy Young Award in 2005 and delivered an almost equally strong campaign in '06.

In his time with St. Louis, Carpenter's legacy has been one marked by quality pitching and frustrating injuries, but the resilient pitcher has always found a way to bounce back from his extended absences.  A torn labrum delayed his Cardinals debut, but he certainly managed to make it worth the wait.  Four years later, Tommy John surgery limited him to four starts across two seasons.  Tomorrow afternoon, Carpenter will take the mound against the Nationals in Game 3 of the NLDS despite undergoing surgery to repair his thoracic outlet syndrome which was supposed to sideline him all season long.  Despite his battles through multiple injuries, it's safe to say that the Blue Jays' decision ten years ago is one that they would like to have back.

This Date In Transactions History: Tim Salmon

Had MLBTradeRumors been in existence during Tim Salmon's strongest years, it's unlikely that you would have seen him featured prominently on the site.  For the most part, it was difficult to picture the outfielder known as Mr. Angel donning another uniform.  On this date in 2006, Salmon announced that he would end his career with the only franchise that he had ever known. 

Salmon quickly made a name for himself in the majors as he hit .283/.382/.536 with 31 homers in his first full season in 1993, earning AL Rookie of the Year honors with 100% of the first-place votes.  The right fielder didn't let up in the years that followed and finished seventh in MVP voting in both 1995 and 1997, seasons in which he posted an OPS of 1.024 and .911, respectively.  Injuries would limit Salmon to just 98 games in 1999 – his lowest total since becoming a full-time major leaguer – but he bounced back in spectacular fashion in 2000, matching his career-high of 34 home runs.

The strong season came at the tailend of his four-year, $16.5MM deal with the Halos.  The lifelong Angel wasn't short on suitors, but quickly chose to stay put with the Angels on a four-year, $40MM extension.  Salmon's 2001 regular season was somewhat forgettable and it stayed that way thanks to his strong bounceback in 2002, culminating in the Angels' 2002 World Series championship.

The veteran would later reach another crossroads in his career where he may have entertained the idea of playing elsewhere.  After missing all of 2005 thanks to a pair of significant surgeries, Salmon hooked on with the Angels in Spring Training with the hope of auditioning himself for other clubs.  However, the veteran's play earned him a spot with the club in 2006 in which he saw 54 games at DH with a handful of appearances in the outfield.  On September 28th, Salmon announced that he would call it a career after 14 big league seasons. 

On a day in which the Braves are paying tribute to their own longtime superstar, it seems fitting to also reflect on the career of another lifelong franchise pillar who plied his craft on the opposite coast.  While Chipper Jones' body of work is obviously quite different from Salmon's, it's rather remarkable that the outfielder never received an All-Star nomination throughout the course of his lengthy career.  However, he will always be remembered fondly by Angels fans for his power bat, his resilience in the face of multiple setbacks, and his instrumental role in the club's 2002 championship.

This Date In Transactions History: Colby Rasmus

Colby Rasmus - Blue Jays (PW)

It’s been exactly one year since the Blue Jays, Cardinals and White Sox completed the complicated three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to Toronto. The Cardinals have an 88-70 regular season record in the last calendar year, plus the 11 postseason wins they earned en route to the 2011 World Series championship. Meanwhile, Rasmus has hit 20 homers and posted a .224/.283/.419 batting line in 543 plate appearances with the Blue Jays. He struggled after arriving in Toronto last summer, but has hit for power so far in 2012, and now has 17 home runs on the season. 

I spoke with Rasmus earlier in the month. Here are some of his reflections on the trade, his ability and playing in Toronto: 

MLBTR – Looking back, what are your thoughts on the trade?

Colby Rasmus – I’m definitely happy I got traded. I’ve enjoyed my time here since I’ve been here. When I look back at my time here, I feel like I’ve worked hard, played hard and that’s all I can do. So I’m happy with it.


Draft Signings: Mariners, Mets, Royals, A’s, Pirates

Here are today's latest draft signings, with the most recent updates up top..

  • ‪The Mariners‬ signed sixth-round pick Timmy Lopes for $550K, well over the pick value of $198K, according to Callis (via Twitter).  The infielder out of California is said to have a good bat, not unlike his older brother Christian Lopes who was drafted by the Blue Jays last year.  The M's also announced that they signed 26 others from this year's draft and have now inked 25 of their first 30 picks.
  • The Mets‬ signed third-rounder Matt Koch for $425K, slightly below his pick value of $445K, tweets Jim Callis of Baseball America.  The right-hander has a 92-96 mph fastball and flashes good slider and changeup. 
  • The Royals‬ signed fourth-round pick, Stanford infielder Kenny Diekroeger, tweets Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.  Just one of Kansas City's top ten picks remain unsigned.
  • The A’s announced that they agreed to terms with center fielder Herschel Powell (20th round), right-hander Lee Sosa (26th), shortstop Christopher Wolfe (30th), and first baseman John Wooten (37th).
  • The Pirates announced that they signed eight draft picks, including infielder Eric Wood (sixth round).  Pittsburgh has now inked nine draft picks in total and continues to negotiate with eighth-overall pick Mark Appel.