December 15, 2003
Live from the (Mock) Winter Meetings
Team-by-Team BreakdownsAs promised, here's a team-by-team breakdown of last week's NorCal Mock Winter Meetings. With the real winter meetings in New Orleans winding down, it's interesting to compare the two for like transactions as well as differences.
Signed Ivan Rodriguez for 4 years, $48 million
The Orioles, cursed with an organization with few tradable commodities, decided instead to turn their enormous coffers, enlarged by the end of the Albert Belle contract, into some talented players. Unfortunately, some overaggressive agents got in the way and the Orioles were unable to come to terms with anyone except Pudge. Vladimir Guerrero hadn't signed by evening's end, so the Birds may still be able to get him.
Boston Red Sox
Despite what the Rangers seemed to think, the worst-kept secret in baseball didn't happen tonight as Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez stayed put for a few more hours. Instead, the Sox decided to shore up their infield at the expense of their limited farm system. Now when Pedro Martinez's arm falls off or when Derek Lowe is on the mound the Red Sox will still be able to win games 10-8 instead of 10-3.
New York Yankees
Perhaps George was too busy firing, re-hiring, and re-firing his entire organization for the Yankees to send a delegation to the meetings. Despite lack of representation, the Pinstriped Parade still managed a single deal that's typical Steinbrenner. Unless they're planning to play Beltran or Bernie Williams at second, they're still left with some holes to fill. But a $200 million payroll will buy a lot of things.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Freeing up spots for the premature arrivals of Delmon Young and B.J. Upton, the Devil Rays made a couple of dubious deals. Once again, it appears they may have been fleeced by the Athletics. At least this time the older, much more expensive version of Ben Grieve came with PCL MVP Koonce and waiver wire claim Ramos. Koonce's numbers look great and he definitely deserves a shot in the bigs, but he's already 29. Ramos is slightly younger and slightly worse. By trading Crawford for Bonderman, the Rays moved upside for upside and managed to jettison Lugo in the process.
Toronto Blue Jays
Acquired Brian Anderson from the Royals for Greg Myers
The Toronto GM did an excellent job of mimicking J.P. Ricciardi, patching the few remaining holes in the Jays lineup quietly and efficiently. While the Millwood signing may have been a reach, moving Woodward for Hasegawa was quite possibly the steal of the meetings. A few moves like these will allow the Jays to silently keep pace with the behemoths in New York and Boston.
"Most of these guys never had a prime."
Chicago White Sox
There's really nothing wrong with treading water in a division that could be had with 82 wins. Then again, one or two key moves could have almost locked things up for the southsiders. The White Sox saved themselves some money with the Koch deal, but didn't put it to good use before the end of the meetings. If they can dig up some pitching with those dollars, they should be in good shape.
Acquired Jarrod Washburn, Adam Kennedy, and Casey Kotchman from the Angels for Dmitri Young
If you're a Tigers fan, Spontaneous Generation may have been your only hope for acquiring talent this off-season. Unfortunately, that theory was disproved centuries ago. Nevertheless, Detroit seemed to magically generate something from nothing. True, there wasn't anywhere to go but up, but turning Young, Bonderman, and Higginson into Washburn, Kennedy, Kotchman, Crawford, and some spare parts was more than could reasonably be expected.
Kansas City Royals
Acquired Lance Berkman from the Astros for Morgan Burkhart, Brandon Berger, Alexis Gomez, and $3 million
Kansas City was possibly the busiest bee in the hive and while activity can easily be mistaken for effort, the Royals put themselves in good position to steal the Central next year. With Berkman, Burrell, Soriano and what's left of Giambi in the lineup along with Mike Sweeney and Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa, the Royals offense could put up respectable numbers. Of course, they're going to have to do it with a rotation with more questions than answers.
The Twins were the first victim of the rapidly disappearing free agent market, signing the last lefty reliever to a healthy contract. Though the real GM may not realize it, no one has more excess outfield talent than Minnesota, allowing them to easily move Jones. One or two more moves like that and the Twinkies would be in much better shape.
Being one of the few true spenders in the free agent market, the Angels had a great deal more options available to them than everyone else. The Halos probably overpaid for Young, but signing Tejada does offer a solution to the Eckstein quandary. With money to burn, it's nice to sign guys like Rhodes, but with holes at first base and wherever Darin Erstad plays, plus an already solid bullpen, the money might have been better spent elsewhere.
Much like real life, the A's tried to make several deals, but only came through on one of them. With the preponderance of Oakland fans present, simply moving Dye got the A's GM consideration for honors, but in the end, the A's did little more than stand pat. With the Dye savings, they put themselves in good position to make some moves later this winter. It's just too bad we didn't host a Mock Off-Season.
Acquired Ken Griffey Jr. from the Reds for Jeff Cirillo, Jose Lopez, Chris Snelling, Brian Falkenberg and $2 million per year through 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bill Bavasi era! Swapping Cirillo for Griffey didn't help the M's budget problems and moving the best reliever from a depleted bullpen for a shortstop with, um, limited upside didn't do that much for the team on the field. The simple act of jettisoning Cirillo drew applause, but on the whole, the Mariners failed to make any significant upgrades and are still left with the problem of too many guys making too much money.
Much like real life, the Rangers seemed convinced that the Alex Rodriguez for Manny Ramirez deal was already done. Of course, trying to trade players that you don't have doesn't yield too many results, as you can see.
Acquired Scott Podsednik from the Brewers for Bubba Nelson
They're still missing a catcher, but the Braves addressed their major needs at starting pitcher and third base. Assuming Adam LaRoche can step in at first base when Julio Franco has to attend his grandchildren's graduations, the Braves only need a backstop and a bullpen and they'll be in good shape. There's no truth to the rumor that the Bravos got Batista for under market value because their GM was kind enough to split a 2-for-1 pizza coupon with me before the meeting. None whatsoever.
A friend of mine often talks about the fear that someone will break into his house, steal all his furniture, and replace it with exact replicas. The Marlins don't seem to have those nightmares as they've replaced one aging backstop with another and one Alex Gonzalez with another. Bringing in Jones fits with the Marlins style as the team will try to pepper its way to another championship.
Acquired Jamey Wright from the Royals for Michael Barrett
Montreal Spring Training is going to be an exciting place to be. The Expos sent the middle of the infield packing for about eight right fielders, perhaps expecting to platoon two and convert the rest into infielders. The Commissioner is undoubtedly happy about the team's financial moves as the payroll looks like it's rapidly approaching the $7.5 million minimum.
New York Mets
Acquired Billy Koch and $2 million for Jaime Cerda
See, this is what happens when you don't show up.
The Phillies knew they needed some pitching. They picked up Wright and Affeldt, hoping one of them might improve under the cuddly love of Larry Bowa. It's tough to know what to make of Burrell these days and the Phils seemed happy to let the Royals worry over it. The savings from shipping him out of town could come in handy later in the winter.
Acquired Junior Spivey from Milwaukee for a player to be named later
Acquired Jeff Cirillo, Jose Lopez, Chris Snelling, Brian Falkenberg and $2 million per year through 2008 from Seattle for Ken Griffey Jr.
Gary sends the fake Dan O'Brien away to get some "real major leaguers" for Dunn and he comes back with Ishii, who instantly become the ace of the staff, and Mota, the new closer. On the whole, Cincy's moves showed a clear recognition that the team needs two or three years before returning to contention. However, any time you end the day with Cirillo, Alvarez, and Ishii on the payroll, you can't really claim victory.
The Astros, under intense pressure to shed some payroll, ended up moving Berkman instead of Craig Biggio, Richard Hidalgo, or Jeff Bagwell. That four-year deal for Guillen could turn out to be gold or another Hidalgo. Of course, ownership's demand to reduce payroll looked hollow after the Stros signed Andy Pettitte in real life a few days later.
Acquired Bubba Nelson from the Braves for Scott Podsednik
The Brewers' succession of moves is likely to make up for the loss of Sexson, meaning they'll end up with 68 wins instead of 64. Will Carroll put it best: "They're a little worse, but a lot cheaper."
You know what would turn this team around? Another mediocre pitcher!
St. Louis Cardinals
Acquired Bill Mueller and Hanley Ramirez from the Red Sox for Scott Rolen
To their credit, the Cards are stuck. Most of the payroll is wrapped up in a few players, all of whom deserve the money in the first place, but it's hard to build a winner without a few bargains here and there. Forced to deal Rolen to save cash, the Cards used the savings to pick up Pettitte, leaving them a solid top of the rotation propping up a disaster the other two days of the week. Sounds like some other teams in the NL Central.
When is moving Quinton McCracken not a bad idea?
Probably as realistic as it gets. Hamstrung by Mike Hampton, Preston Wilson, Todd Helton, Larry Walker, and Charles Johnson, the Rockies have to figure out how to hire 21 players with about $1 million. Discussions with the MLBPA for a reduction of the minimum salary aren't going well.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Getting Dunn without sacrificing too much of the deepest pitching staff and pen in the majors was a steal. Dunn is likely to be one of those players who gets the shaft in arbitration because he has a .241 career batting average, despite putting up a .379 OBP and 53 HRs the last two years. The Dodgers offense has a long way to go, but this was a step in the right direction.
San Diego Padres
Hey, we already got Terrence Long on the roster. What else do you want?
San Francisco Giants
With all the other late-30s has-beens signing elsewhere, the Giants had nowhere to go.