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MLB: Winter Meetings End, but Work Remains

Zack Greinke

Anyone hoping for resolutions to the two biggest free agent mysteries is surely disappointed as neither Josh Hamilton nor Zack Greinke signed with a team before the 2012 Winter Meetings came to an end. Instead, the four-day gathering fizzled with a handful of signings and rampant speculation and rumors of multi-team trades.

Zack Greinke

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Zack Greinke (23) throws to the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves are keeping one of their key bench contributors from last year by retaining Reed Johnson with a one-year deal and an option for 2014. Johnson posted a .290 batting average last year with the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves and was the best pinch hitter in the National League in 2012. The 36-year-old fared particularly well against left-handers, hitting .311/.354/.444 in 151 at bats. Johnson will serve as a backup outfielder and a late game bat off the bench next season.

After two solid relievers came off the market yesterday, the Boston Red Sox signed one of their own today, inking Koji Uehara to a one-year deal. Uehara was one of the best bullpen arms in the Majors last year, posting a 1.75 ERA and an AL second-best 14.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38 innings. With the Rangers’ signing of Joakim Soria, it was not a priority for them to keep Uehara. The Red Sox, meanwhile, continue to add quality, short-term pieces, as they currently have no players under contract for the 2016 season and seem committed to keep from issuing long-term contracts.

As we addressed yesterday, the New York Yankees remain in the market for a third baseman due to Alex Rodriguez’s hip surgery, but are looking at limited options, after both Jeff Keppinger and Eric Chavez signed with other teams yesterday. One of the best alternatives remaining is Kevin Youkilis and the Yankees have reportedly offered him a one-year, $12-million contract. Due to the fact that Rodriguez is still under contract through the 2017 season, the team is probably not looking for a long-term solution to a short-term problem and Youkilis has reportedly received multi-year offers from other teams, including the Cleveland Indians managed by his former skipper in Boston, Terry Francona. Youkilis is coming off of the worst season of his career, split between the Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, however some are hopeful he can be productive again if he stays healthy and gets regular playing time.

The main issues seemingly bringing the free agent action to a halt are the uncertain fates of Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, which may both be linked to the Texas Rangers. Many believe the Rangers prefer to sign Greinke and trade for Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks, rather than just keeping Hamilton and trading for another pitcher. The teams have been discussing 3- and 4-team deals involving Upton, but haven’t been able to get other clubs to agree, at least as of yet. Should a deal get done, Greinke, who indicated he likes what the Rangers have going, could sign with Texas, as well, more or less giving the green light for Hamilton to sign elsewhere, as it’s highly unlikely the club would take all three stars. As for other potential landing spots, the Seattle Mariners continue to make a hard push for the outfielder.

With that, the 2012 Winter Meetings come to an end with many signings still to be made. Stay tuned. The fun is only just beginning.

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