SAN DIEGO (AP) — As players and teams waited for Jon Lester to make a decision and start defining the high-end pitching market, baseball’s winter meetings opened Monday with Oakland jettisoning yet another All-Star and the Chicago White Sox adding a closer.
In the first swap of the four-day session, the Athletics sent first baseman-outfielder Brandon Moss to Cleveland for minor league infielder Joey Wendle. That followed Oakland’s trade last month of third baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto.
The White Sox agreed to a $46 million, four-year contract with David Robertson, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the deal had not yet been announced.
Chicago also acquired right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa from Oakland on Tuesday for right-hander Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley, first baseman Rangel Ravelo and infielder Marcus Semien. Samardzija had pitched for the crosstown Cubs before he was traded to the Athletics in July.
Big-name moves among free-agent starting pitchers are taking more time to percolate. Traded from Boston to Oakland last summer, Lester was sought by the Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs.
Athletics general manager Billy Beane is watching the bidding without getting personally involved from his position with the low-payroll A’s.
“That one’s more just for my industry curiosity as much as anything,” he said. “Like Arthur Miller being married briefly to Marilyn Monroe — that’s who we are. We’re the Arthur Miller in Lester’s career.”
Max Scherzer and James Shields appeared content to wait for Lester to reach a deal first. And trade talks for top pitchers seemed secondary.
“Almost any move that’s made has some kind of domino effect, some more pronounced than others,” said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ new president of baseball operations. “But obviously when you’re talking about the bigger guys coming off the board, there’s a more pronounced trickle-down effect.”
Lester helped Boston go from worst to first and win the 2013 World Series, and then was part of a purge as the Red Sox again dropped to last in the AL East.
“We’re still optimistic that he’ll be in a Red Sox uniform. There’s a lot of history between the Red Sox and Jon,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “We obviously have a strong desire to bring him back. And yet, hopefully, this is coming to a little bit of a head here.”
The perennially woeful Cubs got a player back at the less pricey level, agreeing to a $20 million, two-year contract with right-hander Jason Hammel — a pitcher Chicago traded to the A’s last summer. That deal was confirmed by a person familiar with those talks, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to the AP because the deal had not been announced.
Arizona completed its $68.5 million, six-year contract with Yasmany Tomas, a 24-year-old Cuban defector the Diamondbacks may move from the outfield to third base.
“Initially, you’ve got to believe that that’s a lot of money to be passing out on any player,” new Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart said. “And in this day and time when a player has not played here, he’s not proven yet here, that makes it even a little bit uncomfortably. But once you get the right information and you’ve checked the right sources, it makes it a lot easier to make the move.”
Cleveland obtained the 31-year-old Moss, who hit .234 with 25 homers and 81 RBIs in 2014. He batted .268 with 21 homers in the first half of the season to earn his first All-Star selection, but a nagging hip problem cut into his production over the final months.
On Oct. 21, Moss had a hip operation. Moss said Dr. Thomas Byrd was prepared to perform microfracture surgery, but all he needed was a labrum repair and cartilage cleanup.
“It’s a really difficult market to acquire offense, whether that’s in free agency or the free-agent market, but we thought the deal for Brandon made sense because we felt we were getting one of the better power hitters in the game,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said.
As the meetings began, the doors to baseball’s Hall of Fame remained shut to this year’s Golden Era committee candidates.