– The Red Sox have signed OF Carl Crawford to a 7-year/$142M deal, according to SI’s Jon Heyman. The BoSox must’ve learned Wednesday that the Angels were beginning to move aggressively. It’s a shocking amount of money, but probably fitting in this market. The 29-year-old Crawford batted .307/.356/.495 this past year with 19 home runs and 47 stolen bases for Tampa Bay. He’s an excellent defensive outfielder and is now part of a massive roster improvement in Boston. That lineup suddenly looks really, really good. Crawford becomes the highest paid outfielder in baseball history and has the 9th biggest contract in baseball history. Crawford nets $52M more than next-highest paid player who never hit 20 homers in a season–Mariners’ OF Ichiro Suzuki.
– LHP Cliff Lee will sign with a team before by Sunday at the latest, according to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. We still don’t know who the front-runner for his services might be, but we do know that the Yankees made an official offer Wednesday and that the Rangers will probably soon follow. Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman told the NY Post that the proposal was between $137.5-$150M. Reports out of New York have the initial offer worth around 6-years/ $140M at $23M per season. The Rangers now have the opportunity to either match or top that proposal, as do other interested clubs. The Rangers even met with Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker on Wednesday, but details of their offer haven’t been leaked. Lee, 32, posted a fantastic 3.18 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 28 starts this past year, striking out 185 batters while issuing only 18 walks.
– Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak met Wednesday with Dan Lozano, the agent for 1B Albert Pujols. Moze didn’t reveal any details about the meeting, but it’s safe to assume that long-term contract numbers were at least lightly discussed. El Hombre is under club control through 2011, but he has indicated a desire to limit negotiations to the offseason. They’ll do their best to work out an agreement with Pujols and Lozano up until spring training. Pujols, 30, has a ridiculous 1050 career OPS and three MVPs.
– Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Marlins attempted to swing a three-team trade Wednesday for Royals’ ace RHP Zack Greinke. It fell through, but the Marlins are still intrigued by the possibility of landing Greinke and talks are expected to continue. The Fish are hoping to see an influx of cash when they move to their new stadium in 2012 and would be able to then work out an extension with him. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, five teams are “seriously pursuing” and three teams remain in the periphery for Greinke. So far, we have heard the Rangers, Dodgers, Nationals, Blue Jays and Marlins connected to Greinke from various reports. According to Rosenthal, the Royals have received a few “fair” offers for the 27-year-old. They are said to be asking for a pitcher in return, as well “up the middle” infield help. The Royals won’t trade Greinke before Cliff Lee signs, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. The 27-year-old is signed through 2012 at $13.5M annually. Greinke, 27, boasts a fantastic 3.82 career ERA and 1.26 WHIP.
– Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that the Cubs are working toward a trade for Rays’ RHP Matt Garza. Officials from the Cubs and Rays met Wednesday at the Winter Meetings in Orlando. The Brewers and Rangers have had similar sit-downs, but Levine has been told that the Cubs’ bid was the most attractive. Garza, 27, finished with a 15-10 record, 3.91 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 204 2/3 innings this year in the tough AL East.
– The Padres have acquired SS Jason Bartlett from the Rays for RHP Adam Russell and LHP Cesar Ramos. A nice move by the Rays, who are set at shortstop next season with Reid Brignac and badly needed relief help. Bartlett struggled to hit for power in 2010 and probably won’t have better luck in San Diego’s massive PETCO Park, but he’s just one year removed from the 879 OPS that he registered in 2009.
– The Rangers are still talking with teams about 3B Michael Young, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported earlier that the Rangers told Young that he would not be traded, but it seems obvious they’d rather not be saddled with the $48M remaining on Young’s contract. Texas is reportedly interested in 3B Adrian Beltre and would need to shed Young’s contract in order to make that to happen. The Rockies, Angels and Cubs are rumoured to have varying levels of interest. Colorado has been most talked about and Morosi reports that Rockies’ prospect OF Charlie Blackmon has been discussed between the teams.
– Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that the A’s are “confident” in their ability to work out a deal with free agent DH Hideki Matsui. Godzilla has expressed a desire to stay on the West Coast and a specific desire to play for the A’s. We’ll see if Oakland meets his asking price. The 36-year-old batted .274/.361/.459 with 21 homers and 84 RBI this past season and may be seeking a 2-year contract.
– According to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles are in “serious negotiations” with the Twins for SS J.J. Hardy. The Orioles came close to a deal for SS Jason Bartlett on Tuesday, but are looking at other options after negotiations with the Rays hit a wall. According to Connolly, the O’s would likely send two minor league pitchers to the Twins, including RHP Brett Jacobson. If the Twins trade Hardy, they would likely try to play 2B Alexi Casilla at shortstop and INF Tsuyoshi Nishioka at second base next season.
– According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers have met with OF Carl Crawford’s agent. Like the Yankees, the Rangers are very much focused on LHP Cliff Lee, but Crawford could be a “Plan B” for either club. The Angels are considered the favourites to land Crawford, but it’s worth noting that the talented outfielder is from Texas.
– Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the Mariners have made a multi-year offer to free agent C Miguel Olivo worth 2-years/$7.5M, according to the Denver Post’s Troy Renck. Olivo posted a mediocre .269/.315/.449 overall batting line in 2010, but he had a .325 average, 11 home runs and 42 RBI in the first half of the season.
– F Jere Lehtinen has officially announced his retirement, according to the Stars. He played 14 seasons with the organization where he amassed 875 games, 243 goals and 514 points. Lehtinen was regarded as one the NHL’s top defensive forwards, winning the Selke Trophy three times over his career. He was a crucial part of the 1998-99 Cup-winning Stars, and will go down as one of the franchise’s best players.
– The Blackhawks have placed F Marian Hossa (lower body) on the IR. He has been out of action since a November 29 collision during practice.
– Tom Pelissero of ESPN 1500 Twin Cities reports that Vikings’ WR Percy Harvin (migraines) has suffered a setback in his recovery. The setback “apparently” occurred in the last 48 hours. Coach Leslie Frazier indicated Wednesday that he still tentatively anticipates Harvin playing in Week 14, but at the same time conceded. “That’s too far ahead. We’ll see how things go. My understanding of the migraines is they can come and go. So, we’re just being precautionary with Percy.”
– The Colts have placed SS Bob Sanders (biceps surgery) on the IR, ending his season. One of the most injury-prone players in football at this point in his career, the 29-year-old Sanders lasted all of one game in 2010. On the books for a $5.5M salary in 2011, he’s not a strong bet to return to Indy.
– Despite the fact that Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford (shoulder) has resumed playing soft toss, Tom Kowalski of MLive.com does not believe that he will play again this season. Kowalski’s prediction appears to be based on Stafford’s comments after Wednesday’s extremely limited workout, as the 2009 No. 1 overall pick clearly doesn’t sound anywhere near 100%. “It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t too bad.” Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press also is less than convinced that Staffod will play another down this season.
– The KC Star reports that Chiefs’ QB Matt Cassel (appendicitis) could miss two weeks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy Wednesday. The report runs a bit contrary to Adam Schefter’s, which said the Chiefs were still hopeful Cassel could tough it out and start Week 14. The Star points out that Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger underwent a similar, “laparoscopic” procedure in 2006 that cost him Pittsburgh’s season opener. Beat writer Adam Teicher suggests that the Chiefs’ claim that Cassel would “return to work this week” means attending meetings and watching tape, not starting.
– Answering questions in an online chat Wednesday, FOX Sports’ Adam Caplan said that Giants’ WR Hakeem Nicks (leg) will not play in Week 14 against the Vikings. “I can tell you that Nicks won’t play this week,” wrote Caplan in response to a fantasy-related question. Caplan is typically very reliable, and all along Nicks has seemed more likely to play in Week 15 than 14. Coach Tom Coughlin will address the media again on Thursday.
– The Lions have placed RE Kyle Vanden Bosch (bulging disc in neck) on the IR, ending his season. Vanden Bosch needs surgery, which could very well be a career-threatening development for the 32-year-old pass rusher. His first season in Detroit was largely a success, until injuries again caught up with him after a productive first half.
– Tentative plans call for Triple H to return next month at the Royal Rumble for a match with Sheamus.
– According to the WO, discussions between Bill Goldberg and WWE officials regarding induction into next year’s Hall of Fame class in Atlanta, Georgia are said to be cold at this point.
– Current creative plans call for Melina to turn heel and feud with Divas Champion Natalya. It’s expected to be a slow turn. The idea was first conceived a few weeks ago and it said that Melina garnered heat because she was negative about going bad. Meanwhile, a renewed on-screen relationship with John Morrison which was recently teased on Raw is considered a dead idea.
– Creative has devised long-term storyline plans for Randy Orton, The Miz, Sheamus, Edge, John Cena and Nexus through February.
– In recent weeks we’ve been covering the story that WWE is testing a new masked character for John Cena, his “Mexican cousin,” Juan Cena. Juan Cena has been competing at live WWE events, wrestling in main events against The Miz, Wade Barrett and Kane. This past weekend, Juan Cena wrestled at live events in Kentucky and Tennesse, challenging Kane in the main events. Both matches ended with Nexus storming the ring, attacking Cena and removing his mask – only to have Cena fight back and send Nexus running. From what we’ve heard, WWE is still testing out the character and there are no immediate plans to introduce him as an on-air character. However, fans who attend live events in the coming months have a good chance of seeing Juan Cena.
– According to video game industry sources, sales for SmackDown vs Raw 2011 are at the same level as last year, which would be considered a major positive considering that sales throughout the industry are down. It’s also a positive because sales for the game were down the past two years.
– At Tuesday’s WWE SmackDown tapings, it was announced that the Rey Mysterio vs. Alberto Del Rio match at the upcoming Tables, Ladders & Chairs PPV will be a Chairs match. With that match set, here’s the updated card:
Tables Match for the WWE Title
The Miz (c) vs. Randy Orton
TLC Match for the World Heavyweight Title
Kane (c) vs. Edge
Alberto Del Rio vs. Rey Mysterio
– TNA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy returns to Superior Court of Moore County in North Carolina today to face multiple drug trafficking charges. The charges against him are as follows: conspiracy to traffic in Opium, trafficking in Opium by possession, two counts of possession with Intent to Distribute, felony possession of cocaine, felony maintaining a controlled substance in a vehicle/dwelling/place and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.
– While Samoa Joe is free and clear from all contractual obligations with TNA Wrestling, he is available to appear at this week’s television tapings if officials choose to use him. Both sides remain in negotiations for a new contract.
– Many backstage are impressed with Tara (torn ligament in elbow) and Mickie James (knee) working through injuries at this week’s television tapings. Tara revealed on Twitter that her elbow will not require surgery.
– According to sources within TNA Wrestling, Taylor Wilde is through with the company. However, officials are open to bringing her back in the future.
– Ric Flair didn’t appear at Sunday’s Final Resolution PPV because TNA Wrestling were already over his allotted dates for the year and didn’t feel it was necessary that he work the event.