All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes and the Miami Marlins provided quite a warmup for the winter meetings.
A day before the annual swap session officially began, the NL batting champion and the Marlins reached agreement on a $106 million, six-year deal, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Sunday night.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the free-agent deal had not yet been announced.
The 28-year-old Reyes had spent his entire career with the New York Mets. But the Marlins courted him hard, even though they already had All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Reyes will join another key free-agent acquisition, All-Star closer Heath Bell, when the Marlins move into their new ballpark next year.
Reyes, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder were the top free agents available going into the weekend, all with a chance of finding a landing spot for the future. Gil Hodges, Ron Santo and Minnie Minoso could lock up a legacy forever this week.
Baseball's four-day gathering starts in earnest Monday, and speculation about more moves was rampant.
Going into the weekend, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson had a theory on why there had been a lack of movement.
"It may have something to do with the top free agents not having moved, Pujols and Fielder and Jose Reyes," Alderson said then. "It may just be the tension — not the tension, but the dynamic between clubs and free agents. The free agents would like to think that a certain market exists. And the clubs, at this point, are holding out some hope that that market doesn't exist."
"But it can all change in three days in Dallas," he said.
As Alderson's team discovered, it can happen even faster than that.
Surely, there were other general managers itching to get busy. Six teams have hired new GMs, and Houston will become the seventh.
A big name who will be available, if any team wants to take the risk: Manny Ramirez.
Major League Baseball announced Sunday the All-Star slugger had applied to be reinstated from the voluntary retired list and his drug suspension had been cut from 100 games to 50. MLB and the players' union agreed to trim the penalty because he sat out most of last season, when he played a week for Tampa Bay. He turns 40 in May and has 555 career home runs.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland was among the early arrivals Sunday at the 1,606-room Anatole, a familiar baseball site. The hotel is hosting the meetings for the sixth time — inside its walls in 2000, more than a half-billion dollars was spent in a hurry as Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Mike Hampton each got nine-figure contracts.
Last year's meetings got off to a rousing start, too, when free-agent outfielder Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals reached a $126 million, seven-year deal. The agreement came on a Sunday, a day before the official opening. In fact, workmen were still assembling the podium when the Nationals and agent Scott Boras walked into the press room to make the announcement.
Also in town early this year were former Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten, and Chicago White Sox special assistant Dennis Gilbert, both part of groups lining up to bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Kasten is aligned with former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson and investor Mark Walter in a group called Guggenheim Baseball Management. Gilbert, a former agent, is aligned with former talk show host Larry King and Jason Reese of Imperial Capital.
Earlier Sunday, representatives from MLB and the umpires' union met, and replay was a prominent subject. Baseball is still figuring out when and how to expand the system, with fair-or-foul calls and trapped balls likely to be reviewed next season. Also under discussion is how to pick umpires for extra wild-card playoff games that could occur as early as next year.
On Monday morning, history is at stake. The Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee will reveal whether it has elected any new members.
Hodges, Santo, Luis Tiant and Jim Kaat are on the 10-person Golden Era ballot covering 1947-72. The 16-member voting panel talked about the candidates Sunday and turned in the secret ballots. The announcement is set for 11 a.m. EST.
Minoso, Ken Boyer, Tony Oliva, Ron Santo, Charlie Finley and Buzzie Bavasi also are under consideration. It takes 75 percent for election, and those picked will be inducted into Cooperstown next July.