On January 5, 1984, the New York Yankees sign future Hall of Famer Phil Niekro to a two-year contract. Niekro, who went 11-10 with a 3.97 ERA for the Atlanta Braves in 1983, will fill a void in the Yankee rotation and allow the team to move Dave Righetti to the bullpen. Niekro will win 16 games for the Yankees in 1984.
On December 23, 1975, arbitrator Peter Seitz declares Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally free agents. Both pitchers sat out the option years of their contracts in the hopes they would become free to sign with any team. Messersmith will sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while McNally opted for retirement. Seitz’s decision will lead to an agreement with the owners, whereby all players will become eligible for free agency after six seasons.
On December 24, 1990, the Montreal Expos trade longtime leadoff man Tim Raines to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Ivan Calderon and pitcher Barry Jones. In 12 seasons with the Expos, Raines batted .301 and stole 634 bases, the most in franchise history.
On December 31, 1966, the Houston Astros acquire Eddie Mathews from the Atlanta Braves as part of a five-player trade. A member of the Braves since 1952, Mathews hit 16 home runs in his final season with Atlanta. As part of the deal, the Astros also acquire infielder Sandy Alomar and pitcher Arnie Umbach in exchange for outfielder Dave Nicholson and pitcher Bob Bruce.
On March 11, 1960, Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees signs a one-year contract worth $65,000. The new deal is a $7,000 cut in pay for Mantle, who batted .285 with 31 home runs and 75 RBIs for the Yankees in 1959.
On March 13, 1981, the California Angels sign free agent Rick Burleson to a six-year contract worth $4.2 million, making him the highest paid shortstop in the major leagues. The former Boston Red Sox’ standout will bat .293 in his first season with the Angels.
On March 14, 1932, the Cincinnati Reds acquire catcher Ernie Lombardi, outfielder Babe Herman, and infielder Wally Gilbert from the Brooklyn Dodgers for catcher Clyde Sukeforth and infielders Tony Cuccinello and Joe Stripp. Lombardi will star for the Reds over the next 10 seasons.