1914 – Walter Johnson accepts a $6,000 bonus from the Federal League’s Chicago Whales and signs a three-year contract for $17,500 per year. Clark Griffith threatens to take Johnson to court, claiming he has paid Johnson for the reserve option in his contract. American League President Ban Johnson asserts that Johnson was on the market and is “damaged goods,” worth getting rid of. Griffith travels to Coffeyville, KS, to persuade his franchise player that the option clause is legal and binding. Two weeks later Griffith signs Johnson for three years at $12,500 per year and returns the bonus to the Feds.
The White Sox send fan favorite Minnie Minoso and infielder Fred Hatfield to the Indians for P Early Wynn and OF Al Smith. Wynn, coming off his first losing season, will rebound with the White Sox, topping the American League in wins and innings next season. The trade is the first for the new Indians’ general manager, Frank Lane.
The Dodgers trade Gino Cimoli to the Cardinals in exchange for former Rookie of the Year Wally Moon and right-hander Phil Paine. The club’s new outfielder will quickly become known for his ‘Moon Shots,’ 250+ foot high fly balls to left field at the LA’s Memorial Coliseum which clear the 40-foot-high screen for home runs.
The major leagues restore to the commissioner’s office all powers rescinded after Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis’s death in 1944. Principally, they waive their right to take legal action in the event of disagreements with the commissioner and grant him authority to judge whether actions taken by the owners in concert are, automatically “in the best interests of baseball.” Voting for the annual All-Star teams is turned back to the fans.
The owners vote to use a free-agent draft with clubs selecting in the inverse order of the previous year’s standings to choose players every four months. The new system, scheduled to begin next month, is designed to level the playing field by preventing rich clubs, like the Yankees, from using their wealth to lock up all of the talented players.
The Astros trade 3B Bob Aspromonte, who lost his job to Doug Rader, to the Braves for infielder Marty Martinez. Aspro was the last original Colt .45 on Houston’s roster, and when he retires, he will be the last Brooklyn Dodger to play in the majors. Houston also swaps P Mike Cuellar and infielders Elijah Johnson and Enzo Hernandez to the Orioles for outfielders Curt Blefary and John Mason. Cuellar, 8-11 this past season, will average 20 wins a year for five years in Baltimore. This ranks as one of the best trades in Oriole history, along with the one which brought in Frank Robinson.
1974 – In a dismal trade for Montreal, the Expos sed OF Ken Singleton and P Mike Torrez to the Orioles for P Dave McNally, OF Rich Coggins, and minor league pitcher Bill Kirkpatrick. McNally and Coggins will be gone before the end of June, while Kirkpatrick will never reach the majors; meanwhile, Torrez and Singleton will both be top-notch players for another decade.
Michael Stirn, a 32 year-old carpenter, who caught the home run ball Cal Ripken hit on the night Baltimore infielder tied Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-game record, sells the historic horsehide to a Maryland businessman at an auction for $41,736. The lucky Orioles fan had offered the ball back to the Baltimore third baseman through the club but never received a reply.
Rafael Furcal, reaching a preliminary deal with the Dodgers a day before baseball’s winter meetings, agrees to a $39 million, three-year contract to play shortstop in the City of Angels. The 28 year-old Dominican infielder was also strongly pursued by the Braves, his former team for the past six seasons, and the Cubs.
2007 – The Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers pull off a blockbuster deal. Florida sends 3B Miguel Cabrera (an All-Star in four of his five seasons) and two-time All-Star P Dontrelle Willis for prospects Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Dallas Trahern. The Marlins also get Mike Rabelo, Eulogio De La Cruz and Burke Badenhop in the deal. Maybin and Miller had been Detroit’s first-round picks in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
The Seattle Mariners also dip into the free agent pool, signing infielder Chone Figgins to a four-year, $36 million deal. It’s still not certain whether Figgins will play 2B or 3B for his new team, as this hinges on whether Seattle re-signs 3B Adrian Beltre. While the deal is announced today, it will only be finalized on December 8th. However, Figgins will be a huge disappointment and will be released before the end of his contract.
The Red Sox have found their new shortstop, after struggling with Jed Lowrie, Julio Lugo, Nick Green and Alex Gonzalez in 2009. Free agent Marcos Scutaro signs a two-year deal worth $11 million, with an option for a third year. Ironically, Gonzalez signed with the Blue Jays earlier this week, where he will fill Scutaro’s shoes.
The Red Sox acquire All-Star 1B Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego for three prospects, P Casey Kelly, 1B Anthony Rizzo and OF Reymond Fuentes; Kelly and Fuentes are former first round picks in the amateur draft and are considered prize catches for the Friars, although Rizzo will turn out to be the best of the three. The move also means that 1B Kevin Youkilis will move across the diamond to 3B, where he played in the minor leagues, and signals that the Sox have given up hopes of re-signing 3B Adrian Beltre, their best hitter last season. The deal will be official in two days when Gonzalez signs a seven-year contract with Boston, worth $154 million.
2012 – In the second day of the annual Winter Meetings, the Red Sox sign free agent OF Shane Victorino to a three-year contract and the Nationals sign P Dan Haren for one year. On the trade front, the Astros send P Wilton Lopez to Colorado for Ps Alex White and Alex Gillingham and the Marlins trade SS Yunel Escobar, acquired in last month’s 12-player blockbuster deal with Toronto, to Tampa Bay for minor leaguer Derek Dietrich.
The Marlins hire the former steroids-tainted superstar Barry Bonds, who joins the staff of newly hired manager Don Mattingly as the team’s hitting coach. Some see the return of the 51 year-old all-time home king to baseball as a way for him to enhance his Hall of Fame chances, but his presence in Miami may also be beneficial for a 71-91 team that finished next to last in the majors in runs and home runs, and last in walks.
2016 – The Veterans Committee elects two executives, former Commissioner Bud Selig and GM John Schuerholz from the “Today’s Game” ballot featuring players and executives active after 1988. Schuerholz is a unanimous choice, while Selig receives 15 of 16 votes. Both will be formally inducted in July, 2017.
1989 – Astros acquire righthander Xavier Hernandez from the Toronto Blue Jays’ system in the major league phase of the winter draft. The Astros lose infielder Chuck Jackson in the same draft. Hernandez would provide 22 wins and 25 saves over five seasons in Houston. Jackson batted .221 in reserve duty for the Astros in 1987 and 1988.
1969 – First Baseman Curt Blefary is traded to the Yankees for first baseman Joe Pepitone. A year to the day since being acquired, Blefary is dealt and his career is never able to recapture the magic of his first three years in Baltimore. Pepitone turns out not to be the answer at first base either and spends less than a year in Houston.
1968 – Lefthander Mike Cuellar and two minor leaguers are traded to Baltimore for Curt Blefary and a minor leaguer. Despite a 37-36 record with Houston and an All-Star appearance, Cuellar’s best days are ahead of him – posting four 20-win seasons with the Orioles. In a separate deal, infielder Bob Aspromonte, the last of the original Colt .45s, is shipped to Atlanta for infielder Orlando “Marty” Martinez.