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Winter Meetings Day One Wrap-Up: Dan Johnson, Jason Bartlett, JP Howell, and Optimism

While I hesitate to call day one of the Winter Meetings "finished" (that place never sleeps), it appears as though the majority of news concerning the Rays is stopped for now. There have been a couple news items since we last updated our open thread:

  • According to Tommy Rancel, the Rays have signed Dan Johnson to a contract for the 2011 season, avoiding arbitration. Marc Topkin reports that the contract is worth around $1M.
  • Marc Topkin sat down and had a few words with Andrew Friedman, who says that he had an "extremely productive day" and he is optimistic about working some deals out before the end of the meetings. I found his entire quote quite enlightening about the insanity and process behind the Winter Meetings:

    "I would characterize the day so far as being extremely productive. It  definitely gets extremely hectic, especially on day one. You have a lot of conversations with different teams and free agents leading into these meetings. Once you get here under one roof, the conversations escalate and it's extremely important to be very prepared coming in because things have a propensity to move extremely fast. We've had some conversations that have moved faster than we might have anticipated yesterday, we've had some that have been a little slower. All in all, it's been productive and something that I wouldn't be surprised if it yielded something over the next couple days.''

    Topkin also noted in a recent tweet that the Rays have made progress toward re-signing JP Howell.

  • Toward the end of the afternoon, there were multiple rumors swirling concerning Jason Bartlett. One rumor had him going to the Orioles for Nolan Reimold, while another linked him with the St. Louis CardinalsJason Collette and Tommy Rancel did some work on them, and decided there was nothing substantial behind either rumor.
  • What a day. While the Rays didn't complete any deals (outside of the Dan Johnson contract), there has certainly been plenty of action in the AL East and many rumors concerning Bartlett. My assumption is that the Rays will get some large deals done by the end of these meetings, but only time will tell exactly what they are.

    At the moment, my only concern is that the free agent market is turning into a money-fest. Jayson Werth's contract was insane (7 years, $126M), and Carl Crawford will likely get even more than that. J.J. Putz got a contract today for 2 years, $10M, and some players that we thought might be available for cheap (like Matt Diaz) have attracted lots of attention. Luckily there are a large number of options on the free agent market, but I'm beginning to wonder if many of our "buy low" targets won't be as cheap as we predicted.