Jayson Werth lands in … Washington?!?

The first big move of the winter meetings has just gone down, with Jayson Werth agreeing to a (get this) seven year contract worth $126M with the Washington Nationals. Yes, the Nationals. That works out to exactly $18M per season. Clearly, the market is rather inflated right now, so any idea of a five year contract for Cliff Lee probably went out the window. The bidding starts at six.

Update (5:14 p.m.): Joel Sherman tweets that the Red Sox offered Werth four years. Today has, so far, not been a great day for the Bostonians.

Mailbag: The Killer B’s vs. The Big Three

Viva la The Big Three. (Cataffo, NY Daily News)

Dan asks: How excited should we be about the Killer B’s (Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman) in comparison to how we were a few years ago with the Big Three (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy)? Also, when can we expect an impact at the major league level?

The first thing we have to remember is that we’re talking about a group of very different pitchers here, so it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison. Just speaking in general terms, Brackman, Betances, and Joba are all pure stuff guys. Hughes and Banuelos are a combination of stuff and polish, while Kennedy is all polish. The Killer B’s have a higher collective ceiling only because IPK drags down The Big Three, not that he’s a bad pitcher or anything.

Another difference is health. Both Brackman and Betances have had major elbow surgery in the not too distance past, but none of The Big Three have gone under the knife. Well, Kennedy did for his aneurysm in 2009, but that was a non-baseball thing, like Banuelos’ appendix. Then there’s performance. Hughes, Kennedy, and Joba completely smoked the minors, not a single one ran into any kind of rough patch where they struggled for a month or so. Brackman, as well know, sucked in 2009, and Betances had been pretty inconsistent prior to the elbow. The track records are on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as I’m concerned.

If I had to pick between the two group of pitchers at their respective prospect status peaks, I’d take Hughes-Joba-Kennedy eight days a week and twice on Sunday. Hughes and Joba we simply the two best prospects of the six, and at his peak Kennedy was a better prospect than either Brackman or Betances. In terms of hype, which is really what the question boils down to, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Big Three were more hyped and anticipated. Like I said, they all destroyed the minors, and that alone is enough to drum up some excitement. And remember, the Yankees were in a very different place a few years ago. The rotation was crap and here we had three young and exciting arms coming to save the day. That adds fuel to the fire as well.

As for when you can expect The Killer B’s to make an impact, I think Brackman’s the first one to debut, likely as a reliever in the second half of 2011. I suppose if he performs well enough and the Yankees have a need, he could come up as a starter, but there are a few guys ahead of him on the pecking order. Both Betances and Banuelos are 2012 guys at the absolute earliest. Neither has much experience at Double-A, so they still have to clear that hurdle and then deal with Triple-A. Banuelos will probably beat Betances just because he’s better and is more advanced as a pitcher, but Dellin has a 40-man roster spot to his name.

Best part of it all? The Yankees have five of these six guys, so no matter who you like best, we all still win. Developing not one, but two trios of pitching prospects like this within four years of each other is rather awesome if you ask me.

Reports: Gonzalez, Sox fail to reach extension deal

Update (2:59 p.m.): Jon Heyman, Ken Rosenthal and Joel Sherman are reporting that talks between the Red Sox and Adrian Gonzalez on a possible contract extension have fallen through. The Red Sox and Padres agreed yesterday to a deal involving Gonzalez and three top Boston prospects that was contingent upon the Sox’s coming to terms with the slugging first baseman on a long-term extension. Now that the contract talks are dead, the future of the deal remains cloudy.

Despite this development, talks between the Red Sox and Padres are not over. Rosenthal says that the Padres and Red Sox can pull the trigger on the trade, but the Sox are hesitant to give up so much for only one year of control. If the Red Sox do acquire Gonzalez, they could still take advantage of their exclusive right to negotiate during the course of the season. The Padres, says Heyman, won’t field more offers if this trade fell through. This tale isn’t over yet.

Anticipating and dreading Mariano’s last dance

Dreams of wars and liars or a nice cashmere sweater.

Mariano Rivera throws one pitch, and he throws it exceptionally well. He throws a cutter that he can control with pinpoint precision. He can bust a lefty in on the hands, and he can bust a righty in on the hands. He breaks bats; he keeps the ball down; and since becoming a reliever, he’s allowed just 51 home runs in over 1000 inning pitched.

Earlier this week, Rivera, who turned 41 a week ago, celebrated that birthday by signing a two-year, $30-million deal to re-up with the Yankees. He still has to take a physical before the deal is official, but Rivera, a Yankee since 1990 when he was 21, will star in the Bronx for two more years.

Of course, the logical question for Rivera concerns the end. Is this the end? Is this the last contract he’ll sign with the Yankees and will he retire afterwards? That question seems to come up every time Mo’s contract does, and while he once said in 2000 that he would retire after he re-upped with the Yanks that year, talk of retirement has slowed.

This week, though, the question came up again. After all, baseball is not replete with 43-year-old pitchers of any stripe. While speaking with reporters at the Last Licks in Rye Brook yesterday, Rivera talked of his future. “I think maybe that might be the last two years,” he said. “Maybe, I don’t know. I’ve been saying that since 2000, I think. But I’m glad that everything went fine and got done.”

Today, nothing screams out “the end” for Mariano. His velocity has every so slightly declined over the last decade, but he’s still throwing 92-mph cutters. He hasn’t lost the control, and while the strike outs dipped to a four-year low of 6.8 per 9 IP after hovering close to 10 for a few years, his ERA clocked in at 1.80 and his FIP held at 2.81. He keeps the ball in the park, and he generates ground balls. Five hundred and fifty nine times, he has saved a game.

When the end comes, Yankee fans will be in for a shock. My dad, a Yankee fan since the late 1950s, says Rivera is his all-time favorite and probably the best he’s ever seen. No one does his job better than Rivera and with as much ruthless efficiency as Rivera. The Yankees will try to find The Next Mariano, but despite what everyone thinks, that’s next to impossible. Greatness doesn’t come around that often.

So for now, I’ll kick back and go along for the ride. I’ll listen for the strains of Metallica and cheer as Rivera comes in to throw that cutter. One day, he’ll be gone, back home in Panama to start his post-baseball career. But we still have at two more years before that happens, and I’m going to enjoy every Mariano Rivera appearance until then. You just don’t know which one will be his last.

The Tough Get Tougher

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

As I’m sure you are well aware, the Red Sox and Padres have agreed in principle to a trade that would sent All Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston in exchange for a package of four prospects. A contract extension is holding everything up, but it’s only the matter of time before Gonzalez caves and accepts the millions of dollars Boston is throwing at his feet. The deal will undeniably make the Sox a better team not just in 2011, but for the next half-decade as well.

Still just 28, Gonzalez is a .285/.387/.523 hitter with 107 homeruns over the last three years, but outside of Petco Park he’s hit .310/.390/.599 with 70 homers in just 282 games (40.2 per 162 games) during that time. Ready to be blown away? Here’s Gonzalez’s 2010 spray chart from Petco overlaid onto Fenway…

Click for larger. (Courtesy of katron.org)

Yeah, that’s nuts. I count about 18 non-homers that would have theoretically cleared the fence in his new park, but of course we can’t assume that. It’s just fun to look at, more than anything. Even if the Petco-to-Fenway transition adds just five homers to Gonzalez’s output, that’s a ton. About the only negative thing you’ll fine in his game is that he’s merely very good against southpaws instead of great (.258/.347/.440 over the last three years). Ultimately, as Marc at Red Sox Beacon puts it, the Sox just landed themselves a Joey Votto. Boston improved its team immensely, but then again we all knew they would this winter.

I fully expected to end up thinking the Padres didn’t receive enough, but once I saw the names involved I thought it was actually a pretty fair trade. The Sox gave up their first, third, and sixth best prospects (according to Baseball America), two of which are top 100 guys. A corresponding Yankee package would have been something like Manny Banuelos, a better version of Brandon Laird, and Slade Heathcott. Plus there’s the player to be named later, who may not be significant, but is still someone that holds some kind of value. All that for just one year of Gonzalez and the right to talk to him about a contract.

With Victor Martinez heading to Detroit, the Sox have already lost one of their best hitters this offseason. The Gonzalez pick-up also signals the end of the Adrian Beltre era as well, and he was brilliant for them in 2010. Kevin Youkilis will slide over to third base and most assume he’ll be fine there, though he hasn’t started more than 55 games at the position since 2003. When you add Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, and David Ortiz to Gonzalez, the lineup suddenly becomes very lefty heavy, which can be a problem when you’ve got CC Sabathia, David Price, Brian Matusz, Ricky Romero, and Brett Cecil in the division. Nevermind mind the possibilities of Andy Pettitte and/or Cliff Lee.

Given how Gonzalez’s current contract is structured, with just a $6.2M salary in 2010, Boston can still go out and sign a Jayson Werth or a Carl Crawford. Werth in particular would make sense, given the left-handed issue I just mentioned. Once the big money in Adrian’s presumed contract kicks in after next season, Boston will have shed about $50M off its payroll in the form of Ortiz, Drew, Mike Cameron, and Jonathan Papelbon. Factor in healthy returns from Josh Beckett and Dustin Pedroia, and the Red Sox are getting monumentally better this winter.

In the end, there’s nothing the Yankees can do but sit back and watch. Their offseason plans don’t change at all; they still need two starters (one being Pettitte or his replacement) and a few spare parts here or there, but no major makeover. They don’t need to make a move to answer Boston’s pick-up of Gonzalez because it’s not a game of one-upmanship. The Yankee lineup is good enough to win as it is. There’s no getting around it though, life in the AL East just got a little tougher, but that’s what we all expected to happen anyway.

Berkman lands in St. Louis

Lance Berkman wasn’t a Yankee for too long, and many fans didn’t warm up the mid-season acquisition. He was a fine role player though and cost the club only Mark Melancon and some dollars. We knew he wouldn’t stick around the Bronx, and since he made $14.5 million in 2010, the Yanks weren’t going to offer the Type B free agent arbitration. Today, we learn that Berkman has landed in St. Louis.

The Cardinals will pay him $8 million for the 2011 season, and what makes this signing somewhat strange is the Cardinals’ plan for the the erstwhile DH. The Cardinals, you see, plan to use Berkman in left field. As Zach Links wrote at MLBTR, “The 34-year-old last played in the outfield in 2007, and he owns an ugly -2.1 UZR/150 for his career, with most of his work coming in right field.”

Open Thread: The Brackmonster turns 25

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

A very special RAB Happy Birthday goes out to 2007 first round pick Andrew Brackman. The big guy turns the ripe old age of 25 today, which is kinda old in prospect years but still young in every other aspect of life. With any luck we’ll see him with the big league team at some point next season. Here’s a fun Fact: Brackman issued 37 fewer walks in 2010 than he did in 2009 despite facing 105 more batters. That’s good. Oh, and a belated happy birthday goes out to Gary Sanchez, who turned 18 on Thursday. They make them so young these days.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Devils are the only local team in action, but there’s a ton of college football on as well. You guys know the drill, so have at it.