Fauber: Baseball teams look for deals

The start of December always marks an exciting time for baseball fans, as the offseason really starts to heat up and deals are made between teams. Marquee players change uniforms and allegiances, large amounts of cash change hands between teams, and there is always guaranteed to be at least that one blockbuster trade that turns the sport on its head.

This December has been incredibly eventful in terms of baseball transactions, and we haven’t even reached the annual Winter Meetings yet.

As usual, the Yankees are in the thick of it. First, they signed former Braves catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract in late November.

Then came the first real headliner of the offseason. Jacoby Ellsbury — yes, that Jacoby Ellsbury, the guy from Boston who probably spent the first seven years of his career spewing hatred about anything New York — unexpectedly swapped his allegiance to the Yankees on Tuesday in a free-agent deal worth $153 million over seven years. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the news break on my Twitter feed.

And as it turns out, that wouldn’t be the most jaw-dropping deal this week.

That title belongs to Robinson Cano and the Seattle Mariners, who reached an agreement on a 10-year, $240 million contract on Friday in what is being billed as a desperation move by the Mariners’ front office. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Cano is going to be a Mariner. For the next 10 years. With a $240 million contract. I’ll let that sink in for a minute…

Cano’s deal, when it becomes official, will be the third-highest in MLB history, tied with the deal that Albert Pujols signed with the Angels and behind Alex Rodriguez’s two absurdly large contracts that he signed with the Rangers and the Yankees.

And while we’re talking about former Yankees, Curtis Granderson is moving across town, as he agreed to a four-year, $60 million contract with the Mets on Friday. That loss has been pretty much negated though, with the Yankees agreeing to terms with Carlos Beltran late Friday night.

Even the Nationals have made some splashes so far this offseason, most notably in a trade with the Tigers that brings starting pitcher Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67 ERA, 159 strikeouts in 2013) to Washington. The Nats gave up very little in the trade, depending on how highly you value pitching prospect Robbie Ray and utility man Steve Lombardozzi. But odds are, if you are a Nationals fan, you are happy with the acquisition (imagine a starting rotation with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Fister).

The Nats also reportedly added former Oriole Nate McLouth on Friday, giving Washington some depth in the outfield, although his role could be more significant if there is some truth to the rumors that the Nationals are willing to listen to offers for centerfielder Denard Span.

But while it seems like every other team in the MLB is making moves, the Orioles are being their usual quiet selves. I can’t say I’m surprised. I can’t even remember the last time Baltimore signed a big name that wasn’t five years past his prime and seeking one last go-around before retirement.

Baltimore’s executive VP Dan Duquette has repeatedly stated a desire to build a winning program from within, as he prefers to find talent in the draft and develop players in the Orioles’ farm system.

At some point, though, the Orioles need to be willing to spend, especially if they hope to compete in the American League East.

So far, it still doesn’t seem as though Duquette is willing to do that. Baltimore’s only noteworthy transaction came when the Orioles shipped closer Jim Johnson to Oakland for light-hitting second baseman Jemile Weeks and a PTBNL in what ultimately amounts to a pure salary dump. Baltimore’s only other transactions include the signing of a few bullpen pieces and a trade with the Giants for some guy named Francisco Peguero.

I’m hoping the Johnson trade means something noteworthy is on the horizon for Baltimore. My head tells me not to hold my breath.

The Orioles have been linked to players such as Nelson Cruz and Shin-Soo Choo, who could fill a void in the outfield, but I doubt Baltimore would be able or willing to pay the money it would take to land either one.

And the Orioles still desperately need that true ace for their pitching staff, but I doubt Baltimore finds an outside answer to that riddle, either. With Scott Feldman signing with the Astros for $30 million over three years on Friday (I can’t write that without laughing), it’s obvious that the asking price for starting pitchers is very, very high.

But here is always hope. That’s the great thing about the offseason.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD