Hark! The L.A. Angels spend
The winter season's first true blockbuster transaction took place last week, as the L.A. Angels signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year contract worth $125 million, with a full no-trade clause. Preliminary negotiations began on December 4, and after no comparable offers came forth, the deal was made on December 12. Hamilton is 31 years old, and the owners of his old team (the Texas Rangers) evidently didn't think he was worth competing with big-market teams. He said of that, "I'd be lying to you if I said it didn't bother me a little bit, that they didn't put the press on." But the main thing is, he is excited to be with a team that is determined to compete in the postseason. See MLB.com. Hopefully they'll get more bang for the buck than they did with Albert Pujols, who is past the peak of his career but with nine (9) years left on his $200+ million contract.
The Angels also acquired free agent pitcher Sean Burnett, one of the most reliable relief pitchers for the Washington Nationals this year. That's too bad for the Nats, who are going to need a solid left-hander in the bullpen. The Angels also obtained starting pitcher Jason Vargas from the Mariners in a trade for their designated hitter Kendrys Morales. Franchise owner Arte Moreno is getting eager for his team to make it back to the World Series, but he denies his big spending is motivated by the cross-town rivalry with the Dodgers (see below); see MLB.com. It was just after the Angels' first (and only) world championship in 2002 that he bought the team for $184 million.
Meanwhile, the L.A. Dodgers acquired free agent Zack Greinke, who was demanding more money than the Angels were willing to pay. He spent the first two months of 2012 season in Anaheim, before returning to the Milwaukee Brewers. He played his first seven years in Kansas City, and had his best year in 2009, with an ERA of 2.19, a 16-8 win-loss record, and 242 strikeouts. A player of his caliber is surely tired of bouncing around like he has been for the past couple years. See MLB.com.
Other big transactions
Supposedly, negotiations between the Nationals and Adam LaRoche are getting close to a positive resolution. See MLB.com. If they sign LaRoche, I don't see how they can keep Michael Morse, who would return to first base if LaRoche plays elsewhere next year. Of course, anyone who has been following the budget negotiations between the White House and Congress should have a skeptical view of [this]; talks in Washington often go right down to the last minute.
John Lannan, the former ace pitcher for the Washington Nationals until he was relegated to the minors for most of this past year, signed a one-year contract with the Phillies. He's usually very good, and will get many more opportunities to prove himself in Philadelphia.
Outfielder Raul Ibañez reportedly signed a one-year contract with the Mariners; he had played in Seattle on two prior occasions. He made a big splash with the Yankees in Game 3 of the AL divisional series against the Orioles in October, hitting both the game-tying home run in the 9th inning and game-winning home run in the 12th inning.
Finally, the Cubs are close to finalizing deals with two free agent pitchers, Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva. Jackson was the fifth man in the Nationals' rotation this year, but did not receive an offer for a new contract. By the way, on November 22, discussing upcoming nuptial ceremonies of Nationals players, I mistakenly referred to Edwin Jackson as "Henry Jackson." I may have confused him with former U.S. Senator Henry Jackson from the state of Washington, the guy who was nick-named "Scoop."
Wrigley Field (L.A.) update
In recognition of the recent ambitious acquisitions made by the Angels, I have updated the diagram of their original home, Wrigley Field (L.A.). It reflects various minor corrections in the positions of the light towers, bleachers, etc. If you look closely you can see the architectural embellishments that mark each section of the grandstand; in the future I intend to include a lower-deck version showing the entry portals, and those section divisions are important for that.
Of perhaps greater interest is a brand-new feature on that page: a "hypothetical alternative" diagram, based on the proposal that the double-decked grandstand be extended around the corners, toward center field. The Dodgers would have moved into it rather than the outrageous Memorial Coliseum when they relocated from Brooklyn to L.A. in 1958.
The mail bag
Mike Zurawski kindly responded to my query about the Vikings' future stadium plans. It appears that they expect to play the entire 2015 season at TCF Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota across the Mississippi River, and possibly at least part of the 2014 season as well. See dailynorseman.com. [In other words, the Metrodome has at least one more year to go before any demolition begins. The Vikings' future stadium will occupy the same land where they now play.] It's very strange that the plans are still up in the air, however.
Finally, you might want to check out Fantasy Baseball Hub, soon to appear on the list of baseball-related Web sites in the left column of the Baseball blog page. (I know, that list is really out of date. Stay tuned...)