12/13/08 1:34 AM EST
Hot Stove has no letdown after Vegas
Post-Meetings deals include signings of Burnett, Ibanez
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Surprisingly enough, the day began with someone else getting in on the action, as one of the best under-the-radar free agents signed with the defending World Series champions. Outfielder Raul Ibanez -- previously considered a fallback option for teams seeking Mark Teixeira's services -- reportedly agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Phillies.So the first day away from Las Vegas delivered two big signings, as well as a host of other news and moves. It also delivered a new batch of free agents: players who were not tendered contracts by Friday night's deadline. Last year's Major League steals leader is available to anyone, as center fielder Willy Taveras was not tendered a contract by the Rockies after swiping 68 bags this season. Also on the market: third baseman Ty Wigginton (Astros), left-hander Chris Capuano (Brewers), and right-handers Daniel Cabrera (Orioles) and Tim Redding (Nationals) -- who only a few days ago was rumored to be heading to the Rockies for Taveras. And there's Takashi Saito, who was tremendous as the Dodgers' closer before injuries sidelined him much of 2008. Had Saito been tendered, he would have been eligible for salary arbitration and a raise from $2 million to about $3.5 million. The two sides couldn't come to an agreement, so Saito joins the ranks of free-agent closers, although the Dodgers wouldn't mind bringing him back if they can down the road. "We're expecting quite a few teams to be calling in regards to Takashi Saito," agent Nez Balelo said. Also, the White Sox went off the mainland to officially bring in 19-year-old Cuban Dayan Viciedo, signing him to a four-year deal worth $10 million and sending him on his way toward being a third baseman in the Major Leagues next season. With the removal of Burnett from the market, Derek Lowe now stands as the top free-agent starter. The Yankees could make a run at him; sources close to him say he'd entertain a return to the Red Sox as well. Ben Sheets is also high on some teams' lists -- perhaps the Yankees, and definitely the Rangers. Meanwhile, the Braves are regrouping after they went all the way to the wire with Burnett, hoping he'd become their ace while Tim Hudson mends from Tommy John elbow surgery, and beyond. But the Braves made it clear they're not jumping at Lowe or any other top free agents now that they're out of the Burnett battle. "We're going to have to build our rotation with depth," said Braves GM Frank Wren, who added to the staff's depth with last week's acquisition of Javier Vazquez from the White Sox. For the first time in several weeks, it seems, there was no news on the Jake Peavy trade front, with the Padres apparently taking a breath to regroup after negotiations with the Cubs broke down in Las Vegas. The Braves were the first ones in on Peavy discussions, bowed out weeks ago and would probably need some serious cajoling from Padres GM Kevin Towers to restart negotiations. The trade some thought would get done -- with the Yankees acquiring Mike Cameron from the Brewers in exchange for Melky Cabrera -- was still in limbo as of Friday night. But there was a deal announced in the evening, sending Scott Schoeneweis to the D-backs and Connor Robertson to the Mets in a swap of relievers. Throw it all in the mix with Burnett and Ibanez, and letdown is hardly the word that leaps to mind.
John Schlegel is an executive editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.