Fast-forward to December 2015. The Winter Meetings have just wrapped up in some swanky hotel in a southern locale and a few trades have gone down, providing us with a little entertainment. Now the hard part begins. It’s a full two months before anything even resembling professional baseball starts to take place and you’re about attempt a trip to the grocery store by driving through a foot of freshly decanted snow. You’ve had better days.

Normally this would be the time of year that you’d barely leave the digital glow of your computer screen, wherein your Twitter feed resides. The tiny tidbits of hot stove information from the effervescent tweets of Ken Rosenthal and others of his ilk are your sustenance for the encroaching dark season.

There’s only one problem: The most talented free agent on the market is a 41-year-old Jamey Carroll, who because of the market, is about to garner a three-year, $20-million deal from Brian Sabean’s San Francisco Giants. Because, you know, it’s Brian Sabean.

You remember back to the good ol’ days when Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton and Cole Hamels were free agents. Names like that had the ability to keep you warm throughout the winter, and now? Now, every half-decent player has been locked up to an extension by their team long before the prospect of free agency caught their eye.

You close your laptop sadly and retire to the couch. “At least there’s hockey,” you mumble to yourself. Then you remember: Hockey sucks. It’s going to be a long winter.

Last night, the Arizona Diamondbacks locked up catcher Miguel Montero to a five-year, $60-million deal that will start next season, which would have been Montero’s first of free agent eligibility. The deal is the largest in Arizona’s franchise history.

The deal comes just hours after the Baltimore Orioles locked up centerfielder Adam Jones to a six-year, $85-million extension that will carry him through his final year of arbitration eligibility and his first five free agent seasons.

It appears as though teams have finally figured out that locking up their best players for their prime years is a much preferable option to attempting to fill holes with massive free agent deals for other players in their prime years or slightly beyond. Of course, the result is that free agency in the coming years is going to be more barren than Dick Cheney’s soul.

Montero’s deal has been one that has been rumoured since the offseason. He’s coming off a breakout year in 2011 that saw him post a career-best 116 wRC+ and a career-high 18 home runs while playing in 140 games. He’s a catcher who routinely posts above-average offensive numbers, appears to play solid defense, and is durable; or at least he was last season.

The deal takes Montero through his age-33 season and with inflation, expects him to accumulate roughly two wins per year of value. Over the last three seasons, Montero has posted the following value-based numbers:

2009: 2.8 fWAR, 3.1 rWAR, 2.8 WARP
2010: 1.5 fWAR, 1.1 rWAR, 1.4 WARP
2011: 4.4 fWAR, 3.8 rWAR, 3.8 WARP

It seems likely, if Montero can remain healthy—a big ‘if’ for catchers, especially as they head into their 30s—that he will have little problem providing a justifiable return for Arizona over the next five years. Even this year, a season in which Montero’s slugging percentage and batting average are way down despite a career-high BABIP, Montero is projected to be worth 3.2 fWAR, 3.0 rWAR and 2.1 WARP in 2012.

Provided Montero’s early season struggles work themselves out, he should provide a surplus value for the first two seasons of the deal before steady decline brings him below surplus for the final three. Either way, the Diamondbacks are smart to lock up a player of Montero’s calibre before he hits the open market. There simply aren’t many catchers in baseball that can provide you with the kind of value Montero has the potential to provide.

And the rest:

Things got pretty heated late in last night’s game between the Red Sox and Rays [Ben Buchanan, Over the Monster]. Boston reliever Franklin Morales threw at Rays DH Luke Scott several times, finally plunking him in the fifth pitch of the at-bat, causing a bench-clearing hullabaloo between the two squads. The hit-by-pitch was apparently in retaliation to Dustin Pedroia being hit earlier in the game. After the game, Rays manager Joe Maddon called the act of throwing at Scott “a weak, cowardly effort” and went on to call the actions of the Red Sox coaching staff “absurd” and “idiotic” [Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times].

It’s very unlikely that Pedroia being hit earlier in the game was intentional and so the retaliation in the top-of-the-ninth by Morales and the Red Sox coaching staff is akin to childish behaviour. Seriously, if you’re older than five and still throwing hard objects at other human beings at high velocity, you’re a child in an adult body. Grow up.

Tim Lincecum pitched again last night and he was bad…again. But Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles isn’t ready to completely panic just yet. Well, mostly.

Reasons for optimism in Philadelphia may be hard to come by these days, but they do exist [Bill Baer, Crashburn Alley].

The Rays are the best team in baseball at getting the most out of marginal role players. With the injury to Evan Longoria earlier this month, they’re proving it again [J.C. Mitchell, D-Rays Bay].

R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus takes a look at the Adam Jones extension.

Lance Berkman is expected to play again this season after successful surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his knee [Derrick Goold, Twitter].

Also on BP, the always excellent Sam Miller breaks down the game of the week by talking about banana suits and awkward swings in the 14-inning affair between the Giants and Brewers.

The Rockies are really bad at pitching. What is this 1999? [Paul Swydan, FanGraphs].

Matthew from Lookout Landing catches up with “The Magnificent Seven” and finds out where all the Mariners’ managerial candidates from the 2008-09 offseason have ended up.

Shameless self-promotion alert: I wrote about the selective story-telling of Major League Baseball when it comes to Jackie Robinson’s legacy yesterday.

Make sure you listen to the Getting Blanked Podcast where Drew, Parkes and Stoeten talk about the crappy Tigers, the crappy Angels, and the secretly crappy Orioles signing of not-so-crappy Adam Jones.

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