LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The best signing yet of this free-agent pitchers' market wasn't a free agent at all, Jose Guillen has a new team to "suitcase" him ... and did someone say, "What comes around, goes around?" Minutes of the Winter Meetings, starting with that last point: On the day plans were announced for the Civil Rights Game, a new annual event to celebrate the movement begun in baseball by Jackie Robinson, the team which 50 years ago provided his forum was saluted as MLB's top organization of 2006.
The administrative pronouncements served as backdrop to the nuts and bolts of player developments at Disney's Swan and Dolphin Resort. These were headlined by the Cards putting a long-term lock on ace Chris Carpenter, the Mariners bagging free-agent outfielder Guillen and formalization of a series of anticipated signings. And all that activity was, at least symbolically, in pursuit of the spoil handed Monday to the Dodgers -- chosen by Baseball America as MLB's top 2006 organization. The day's biggest bundle was dropped by the Cardinals, not at the free-agent counter but clearly influenced by the high demand for pitchers on that market. The World Series champions reached an agreement on a new five-year contract with Carpenter valued at about $77 million if the option for a sixth year, in 2012, eventually is exercised. The new deal keeps intact Carpenter's $7 million salary for 2007 and exercises a previous $9 million option for 2008. Added on are the seasons 2009-11 with an approximate annual value of $15 million, plus the 2012 option. Both team and pitcher thus have made out well from the $300,000 contract Carpenter signed with the Cardinals after sitting out the 2003 season following shoulder surgery. St. Louis has captured the National League Central each of the last three seasons, with Carpenter winning 51 games and a 2005 National League Cy Young Award. "It's nice to know that they believe in me this much and believe that much to keep me around for five more years," Carpenter said. "It's a great feeling, and we're obviously excited to be able to be a part of the Cardinals organization for the next five years." Later in the evening, the Rangers reacted to the same market forces to hold onto one of their own. Right-hander Vicente Padilla, who won 15 games last season and 16 in the two prior seasons combined, tentatively agreed to a three-year, $33 million deal. Padilla's contract, which includes a 2010 option at $15 million, is subject to results of a physical. Guillen joined his eighth team for his 11th Major League season, agreeing to a one-year contract with Seattle that includes an option for 2008. Both manager Mike Hargrove and general manager Bill Bavasi are excited by the defensive prospects of Guillen next to center fielder Ichiro Suzuki. "We feel like this is a signing with some real upside," Bavasi said. "Our doctors have given him a very complete physical, and we are very confident he's healthy." Guillen wasn't last season, when he got into 69 games around elbow, hamstring and elbow injuries while earning $4 million from the Nationals. So his $5.5 million deal (exclusive of a $3 million incentive package) from the Mariners is at least a healthy raise -- and, incidentally, brings the outfielder's take to $13 million since being kept off the Angels' 2004 postseason roster by manager Mike Scioscia for his attitude. Yet to pass his physical is Bengie Molina -- but if he does, the Giants will have their catcher for the next three years. Yahoo.com reported the deal as otherwise done to provide San Francisco's replacement for Mike Matheny, whose recovery from lingering post-concussion syndrome is considered unlikely.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.