LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The first day of major league baseball’s winter meetings in Orlando was dominated by a press conference happening thousands of miles away, far from the sun of Florida or any references to Mickey Mouse.
Adrian Gonzalez donned a Red Sox jersey at Fenway Park and made official what will most certainly remain the biggest trade of the week. Observers in Orlando were limited to watching it on TV in and around the lobby of the Dolphin Hotel.
The move figures to help the Sox in their effort to return to the postseason. Meanwhile, a pair of Boston’s rivals in the American League East made efforts to end postseason droughts of their own in the two other deals of the day.
Baltimore, which had been linked to free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, instead brought in Mark Reynolds, a strikeout machine who possesses good power but is coming off a .198 season in Arizona. Reynolds was claimed for pitchers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio. Baltimore also was linked to Washington Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham, a candidate to play first base at Camden Yards next year.
That is, of course, if the Red Sox do not go after Willingham themselves. Boston has flirted with the idea of adding Willingham in the past and if Carl Crawford becomes too expensive for the Sox it could be a fall-back option. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweeted that Boston is one of the teams which has inquired about Willingham.
Anyway, back to the rest of the A.L. East.
Toronto finalized its intriguing swap with Milwaukee which sends Shaun Marcum to the Brewers in exchange for top prospect Brett Lawrie, a second baseman. Sox fans should applaud the move; Marcum usually pitched pretty well vs. Boston.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell (remember him?) told us earlier in the day that the Blue Jays’ top priorities involve finding a closer and figuring out the corner infield spots. Lyle Overbay is a free agent and likely to depart. Toronto appears very interested in free-agent first baseman Carlos Pena, but Farrell said Adam Lind is a possibility as well, even though his defensive prowess would not be on par with Pena’s.
Washington, which shook the world with its Jayson Werth signing Sunday, is also interested in Pena.
Pena, of course, is all but assured of leaving Tampa Bay, which was also in the news. The Rays appear more and more interested in trading shortstop Jason Bartlett. ESPN’s Buster Olney indicated it was almost assured that the market would allow Tampa Bay to move Bartlett without a problem.
Baltimore and San Diego are potential destinations. The Padres reportedly took a deal for Bartlett involving closer Heath Bell off the table. The Rays want Nolan Reimold from the Orioles, according to reports.
Then there’s the New York Yankees, who met with Cliff Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker on Monday and, by all accounts, will keep progressing toward a potential multiyear deal. The Texas Rangers have also met with Lee’s camp and Braunecker told WEEI.com that he has at least heard from the Sox.
The Yankees have also been linked to outfielder Matt Diaz, although that might not excite the fan base as much as Lee would.
So while the rest of the A.L. East makes moves or gets a bit closer to making moves, the Sox have some time at the top. They landed the biggest prize of the week so far and have essentially reduced their checklist to a handful of housekeeping duties.
Crawford remains on their radar but the sense at the Dolphin is that the extension given to Gonzalez will limit how high Boston can go. And with the deal that Werth got, Crawford can ask for the heavens.
That’s not to say the Red Sox will rest on their laurels. After wrapping up the Gonzalez press conference, general manager Theo Epstein flew down to Disney to press on with his remaining mission, which has to include acquiring bullpen help. Remember, that was the top priority of the offseason for Epstein. He may still be negotiating with non-tenders Hideki Okajima, Taylor Buchholz and Andrew Miller, but as it stands the pen still has some spots open.
The Arizona Diamondbacks took one reliever off the market by signing J.J. Putz. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been actively pursuing some bullpen help, including Matt Guerrier, who was reported to have been targeted by the Sox.
Now that Epstein can sit face-to-face with opposing GMs, expect that sort of move to be on his agenda over the final two days of the meetings. He’s taken care of many of the other concerns.