Baseball's Winter Meetings start tomorrow in Las Vegas, representing the first, tough leg for new GM Ruben Amaro Jr. It may be nothing compared to the land mines he’s going to face in January.
While Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard are ready to cash in, the two situations met with little trepidation from anyone thus far are the pending deals for Shane Victorino, arb-eligible for the very first time, and fellow outfielder Jayson Werth, following a season in which he became an everyday player.
If you’re looking for two players who could be chomping at the bit to start making the kind of money they probably deserve, look no further. Vic, 28, first broke into the league in 2003 as a Rule 5er and is has grown into a face of the franchise. The team’s batting champion (.293/.352/.447) was a post-season force and earned his first Gold Glove Award following the season. Mixing speed, power, hitting and defense, he’s a top 15 National League outfielder, easily. For every promotional giveaway and jersey sold that bears his name, it’s another reminder how he earned a near minimum MLB salary last season.
As for Werth, a sure-fire bet for a starting job in '09, the 29-year-old is surely ready for the kind of financial security granted to comparable players in the same stage of their careers. In 475 plate appearances, he hit .273/.363/.498 (121 OPS+) with 24 homers and 20 steals, nearly identical production as Alfonso Soriano. While Soriano works on his 8-year, $136 million deal, Werth, with his wrist injury now just a distant memory, has been season-to-season and earned a mere $1.7 million in 2008.
Consider this and one can begin to understand where the non-offers to Pat Burrell and Jamie Moyer came from. And so begins the winter of our discontent ...
Dec. 8-11: Winter meetings, Las Vegas.
Dec. 12: Last day for teams to offer ‘09 contracts to unsigned players.
Jan 5-15: Salary arbitration filing.
Jan. 20: Exchange of salary arbitration figures.
Feb. 1-21: Salary arbitration hearings, Phoenix.