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December 15, 2003

Live from the (Mock) Winter Meetings

Team-by-Team Breakdowns

by James Click

As 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.

AL EAST

Baltimore Orioles

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

Acquired Jose Vidro from the Expos for Byun-Hyung Kim, Kevin Youkilis, and $5 million
Acquired Scott Rolen from the Phillies for Bill Mueller and Hanley Ramirez

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

Acquired Carlos Beltran from the Royals for Alfonso Soriano, Jeff Weaver, Jon Lieber, and $15 million over two years

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

Acquired Jermaine Dye, Graham Koonce, and Mario Ramos from the Athletics for Aubrey Huff
Acquired Jeremy Bonderman for Julio Lugo and Carl Crawford

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
Acquired Orlando Cabrera from the Expos for Alexis Rios and Selwyn Langaigne
Acquired Shigetoshi Hasegawa from the Mariners for Chris Woodward
Signed Kevin Millwood for 2 years, $20 million
Signed Reggie Sanders for 2 years, $3.5 million

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.

AL CENTRAL

Cleveland Indians

[No moves.]

"Most of these guys never had a prime."
"This guy here is dead."
"Cross him off then."

Chicago White Sox

Acquired Bobby Abreu from the Phillies for Magglio Ordonez and Dan Wright
Acquired Jaime Cerda from the Mets for Billy Koch and $2 million

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.

Detroit Tigers

Acquired Jarrod Washburn, Adam Kennedy, and Casey Kotchman from the Angels for Dmitri Young
Acquired Julio Lugo and Carl Crawford from the Devil Rays for Jeremy Bonderman
Acquired Luis Vizcaino from the Brewers for Bobby Higginson, $7 million in 2004 and $9 million in 2005

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
Acquired Greg Myers from the Blue Jays for Brian Anderson
Acquired Alfonso Soriano, Jeff Weaver, Jon Lieber, and $15 million from the Yankees for Carlos Beltran
Acquired Pat Burrell from the Phillies for Jeremy Affeldt and David DeJesus
Acquired Michael Barrett from the Expos for Jamey Wright
Signed Jeremy Giambi for 1 year, $800,000 with a $2 million team option for a second year and a $200,000 buyout

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.

Minnesota Twins

Acquired Mark Redman from the Marlins for Jacque Jones and Boof Bonser
Signed Ricardo Rincon for 3 years, $6 million

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.

AL WEST

Anaheim Angels

Acquired Dmitri Young from the Tigers for Jarrod Washburn, Adam Kennedy, and Casey Kotchman
Signed Miguel Tejada for 5 years, $60 million
Signed Arthur Rhodes for 4 years, $15 million

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.

Oakland Athletics

Acquired Aubrey Huff from the Devil Rays for Jermaine Dye, Graham Koonce, and Mario Ramos
Signed Keith Foulke for 4 years, $25 million

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.

Seattle Mariners

Acquired Ken Griffey Jr. from the Reds for Jeff Cirillo, Jose Lopez, Chris Snelling, Brian Falkenberg and $2 million per year through 2008
Acquired Chris Woodward from Toronto for Shigetoshi Hasegawa
Signed Chris Stynes for 2 years, $4 million with a team option of $3 million or a $500,000 buyout

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.

Texas Rangers

[No moves.]

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.

NL EAST

Atlanta Braves

Acquired Scott Podsednik from the Brewers for Bubba Nelson
Acquired Shea Hillenbrand and Quinton McCracken from the Diamondbacks for Paul Byrd and $750,000
Signed Miguel Batista for 3 years, $9.5 million

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.

Florida Marlins

Acquired Alex Gonzalez from the Cubs for Alex S. Gonzalez
Acquired Jacque Jones and Boof Bonser from the Twins for Mark Redman
Signed Javy Lopez for 4 years, $36 million

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.

Montreal Expos

Acquired Jamey Wright from the Royals for Michael Barrett
Acquired Alexis Rios and Selwyn Langaigne from the Blue Jays for Orlando Cabrera
Acquired Byun-Hyung Kim, Kevin Youkilis, and $5 million from the Red Sox for Jose Vidro
Acquired J.J. Davis from the Pirates for Tony Armas Jr.
Acquired Peter Zoccolillo and Francisco Campos from the Brewers for Noah Hall
Signed Olmedo Saenz for 1 year, $400,000 with a team option for $500,000 or a $200,000 buyout
Signed Rickey Henderson for 1 year, $300,000

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.

Philadelphia Phillies

Acquired Magglio Ordonez and Dan Wright from the White Sox for Bobby Abreu
Acquired Jeremy Affeldt and David DeJesus from the Royals for Pat Burrell

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.

NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs

Acquired Junior Spivey from Milwaukee for a player to be named later
Acquired Alex Gonzalez from the Marlins for Alex S. Gonzalez

Zzzzz...

Cincinnati Reds

Acquired Jeff Cirillo, Jose Lopez, Chris Snelling, Brian Falkenberg and $2 million per year through 2008 from Seattle for Ken Griffey Jr.
Acquired Guillermo Mota, Kazuhisa Ishii, Edwin Jackson, Joel Hanrahan, Joel Guzman, and $2.5 million for Adam Dunn
Signed Rondell White for 2 years, $4 million
Signed Wilson Alvarez for 2 years, $5 million
(VETOED -- Acquired Dallas McPherson, Jeff Mathis, Alberto Callaspo, Bobby Jenks, and Francisco Rodriguez from Anaheim for Adam Dunn -- VETOED)

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.

Houston Astros

Acquired Morgan Burkhart, Brandon Berger, Alexis Gomez, and $3 million from the Royals for Lance Berkman
Signed Jose Guillen for 4 years, $13 million

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.

Milwaukee Brewers

Acquired Bubba Nelson from the Braves for Scott Podsednik
Acquired a player to be named later from the Cubs for Junior Spivey
Acquired Bobby Higginson, $7 million in 2004 and $9 million in 2005 from the Tigers for Luis Vizcaino
Acquired Noah Hall from the Expos for Peter Zoccolillo and Francisco Campos
Signed Steve Sparks for 1 year, $800,000

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."

Pittsburgh Pirates

Acquired Tony Armas Jr. from the Expos for J.J. Davis

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
Signed Andy Pettitte for 3 years, $33 million
Signed Jeff Suppan for 2 years, $4 million
Signed Vinny Castilla for 2 years, $3 million with a team option for $1.5 million or a $250,000 buyout

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.

NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks

Acquired Paul Byrd and $750,000 from the Braves for Shea Hillenbrand and Quinton McCracken

When is moving Quinton McCracken not a bad idea?

Colorado Rockies

[No moves.]

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

Acquired Adam Dunn for Kazuhisa Ishii, Edwin Jackson, Guillermo Mota, Joel Hanrahan, Joel Guzman, and $2.5 million
Signed Armando Benitez for 3 years, $11 million

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

[No moves.]

Hey, we already got Terrence Long on the roster. What else do you want?

San Francisco Giants

[No moves.]

With all the other late-30s has-beens signing elsewhere, the Giants had nowhere to go.

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