End-of-year deals land Latinos in news

In a frenzy to curtail fan fallout, the St. Louis Cardinals decided to sign veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran to a fat, two-year contract. In another controversial decision, Oakland A’s ace Gio Gonzalez was traded to one of those “mystery teams,” the Washington Nationals, for four front-line prospects. Both deals involve a certain level of risk, but that’s what makes them intriguing.

Many loyal Red Bird supporters understandably are bitter at management for losing out on the Albert Pujols sweepstakes, especially when management held all the cards, so to speak. In hindsight, failing to reach an agreement with Pujols before the 2011 season was a blunder of major proportions. But that’s ancient history. So, not wishing to pursue Prince Fielder, St. Louis GM John Mozeliak choose to select Beltran, the next best free agent hitter available.

A longtime New York Met who was later “rented” to the San Francisco Giants, Beltran surprisingly played in about 140 games last season. But given his advancing age (35 in April)) and history of injuries, I was shocked when the standout from Puerto Rico was offered a two-year deal at $26 million. Beltran can still play, but that’s a lot of money to tie up for a gimpy-kneed outfielder. Mozeliak should have used some of that money to sign Yadier Molina to a long-term pact. By electing to simply exercise a team option on Molina for 2012, the Cardinals risk losing him to free agency, just as they did with Pujols.

Oakland’s desire to move Gonzalez was equally puzzling to me. Now, I know “Moneyball” Billy Beane figured his southpaw star was a great bargaining chip to pull in a haul of inexpensive talent. The Nats offered a nice, four-player package that included Brad Peacock, a right-handed pitcher expected to be as good as Gonzalez in a couple of years. But Gonzalez was a very popular player, and A’s fans are not happy, branding their team as “irrelevant” and threatening to not renew season tickets. That’s not a good sign, since attendance in Oakland is awful, anyway.

From a D.C. prospective, the situation is equally iffy. Washington GM Mike Rizzo wants to contend now, but did he sell the farm to get Gonzalez? Do the Nats have enough horses to contend in the tough National League East? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

The Milwaukee Brewers tried to compensate for the anticipated loss of Fielder’s bat by signing third baseman Aramis Ramirez to a three-year, $36 million agreement. It wasn’t the deal the Dominican veteran expected, since he will receive only $6 million next year in a backloaded contract. So, would Ramirez have been better off staying a Chicago Cub? Probably not. Word has it that tag-team executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are cleaning house in the Windy City, and only shortstop Starlin Castro is considered untouchable.

Yuniesky Betancourt, who played shortstop for the Brewers last season, signed with his old team, the Kansas City Royals. The Dominican accepted a one-year, $2 million deal and is expected to shore up the middle infield. The Royals also added left-handed reliever Jose Mijares, and are looking more and more like contenders.

In case you missed it, infielder Ramon Santiago re-signed with the Detroit Tigers in a two-year, $4 million deal. Other recent acquisitions include infielder Cesar Izturis (Milwaukee), relief pitcher Manuel “Manny” Corpas (Chicago Cubs), infielder Jose Lopez (Cleveland) and outfielder Endy Chavez (Baltimore). That leaves quite a few Latino free agents still looking for work. The following is a partial list of the most prominent players, including their position, age and former team:

Luis Ayala
Relief pitcher, 34 (New York Yankees)

Wilson Betemit
Infielder, 30 (Detroit)

Orlando Cabrera
Infielder, 37 (San Francisco)

Ronny Cedeno
Infielder, 28 (Pittsburgh)

Bartolo Colon
Pitcher, 38 (New York Yankees)

Francisco Cordero
Relief pitcher, 36 (Cincinnati)

Vladimir Guerrero
DH, 36 (Baltimore)

Livan Hernandez
Pitcher, 36 (Washington)

Magglio Ordonez
Outfielder, 37 (Detroit)

Carlos Pena
Infielder, 33 (Chicago Cubs)

Joel Pineiro
Pitcher, 33 (Los Angeles Angels)

Jorge Posada
DH, 40 (New York Yankees)

Edgar Renteria
Infielder, 36 (Cincinnati)

Ivan Rodriguez
Catcher, 40 (Washington)

Javier Vazquez
Pitcher, 35 (Miami)

Omar Vizquel
Infielder, 44 (Chicago White Sox)

Joel Zumaya
Relief pitcher, 27 (Detroit)

Happy New Year to all my Latin Link friends and readers!

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