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December 8, 2005

Will's Mill

Winter Meetings

by Will Carroll

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Posted Thursday, December 8, 7:59 a.m. ET: Day 3 of the Winter Meetings seemed as cold as the weather outside. We spent more time with small signings than with big ideas as teams prep their arbitration lists, prep for the Rule 5 draft this morning, and figure out where they stand. In the game of musical chairs that is the Meetings, many teams are realizing now that they don't have a chair--or that the team that has their chair isn't going to give it to them for what they thought.

The Cubs made their move bringing in Juan Pierre for three middling arms. Ricky Nolasco is the best of the bunch, even if you believe--like most today--that he'll end up in the pen. Sergio Mitre is a known quantity and, in that ballpark, could look like a good starter. As it stands now, he's the Marlins #2. The Cubs are also seeming close to a Milton Bradley deal. The troubled but talented Dodger OF is likely to come relatively cheap given the baggage he carries with him, but Dusty Baker and the Cubs front office don't seem scared.

The Padres continue to be a mystery with some even speculating that Kevin Towers' goatee may have held some Samson-like properties (and I don't mean David Samson). Now cleanshaven, Towers has added Doug Mirabelli, Vinny Castilla, and Dewon Brazelton. If that improves the Pads, then the NL West is worse than I thought and I'd be happy if I were a Diamondback fan.

Late deals began flying just as people returned from dinner. Ray King to the Rockies? Alfonso Soriano to the Nats for Brad Wilkerson? A group of prospects for Lyle Overbay? These are the deals that had been building for the past couple days as teams tried over and over to make moves that didn't quite happen. The bases set by those discussions eventually paid off, or, should we say ended up with real trades rather than rumors. Sure, there are deals out there still waiting to be made, but they won't all be finished by the time we leave the Anatole.

As I came from the lobby to my room on the third floor, I passed three GMs on their phones. Things are still working, as they always are. The Winter Meetings may be baseball's best meeting of the minds but it's far from the end of the story.

Posted Tuesday, December 6, 12:26 p.m. ET: Thus far on day 2, there are only rumors and schedules. A.J. Burnett's eventual signing will follow an extension for J.P. Ricciardi. We would have assumed that the extension for the GM might not be as long as the contracts he's giving out, but he'll actually be in Toronto as long as his new contracts. Burnett could finally sign this afternoon now that the market for pitching appears to be picking up.

Scott Boras and his pitching clients--Kevin Millwood, Jarrod Washburn, and Jeff Weaver--are beginning to talk more seriously with teams, though no teams that I've spoken with this morning would call those talks "serious." The market for pitchers certainly seems ripe for a Boras-style picking.

What doesn't seem to be happening quite yet is the panic that many teams expected from the teams that missed on their targets. With Brian Giles, A.J. Burnett, and Rafael Furcal gone and the Marlins all but full disassembled, Plan A has come and gone for most teams and the panic moves that are most regretted haven't occurred. Several teams I spoke with last night and today are specifically attempting to not make those very moves.

We'll see if they can stick with that plan as the Meetings pick up in intensity on Day 2.

Posted Tuesday, December 6, 11:30 a.m. ET: Monday at the Winter Meetings is like a first date. There's a lot of show, a lot of talk, and not a lot of action. While there's lots of hope and potential and even some feeling out, the real action is all in the mind, hoping that something might happen next time you get together, something real.

The Meetings here in Dallas are an endless loop, walking the long walks from lobby to bar, bar to other bar, media workroom to MLB Radio set up. It's a conversation with a beat writer, a GM, shaking hands with Kevin Kennedy, and looking for a place to set the computer. It's inaction, all in motion, and marketing swirling around us.

The World Baseball Classic seized the day, the marketing machine churning into high gear as we try to figure out who will play, what they'll play, how long they'll play, and if just anybody can be Italian. If you stop thinking of the Classic in baseball terms and start thinking of it as three weeks of baseball with bursts of emotion and All Star Game quality, you might find something you like. One reporter gave Bud Selig pause when asked if the Classic might force baseball to rethink calling the World Series champ the World Champion. Watching Gene Orza and Bud Selig exchanging compliments might make most baseball fans reconsider everything they know.

When Scott Boras walked into the hotel near midnight, a cotillion of workers around him, the Meetings really got started. None of Boras' clients--Johnny Damon, Kevin Millwood, or Jeff Weaver, to name a few of the more prominent--expect to sign during the meetings let alone this calendar year, but the spectre of Boras still hangs over the proceedings. As he bloodlessly watches money chasing Juan Pierre and B.J. Ryan, he just waits, patiently, for the money to chase him and his clients.

The biggest news of the day was well, a Chad Gaudin trade is seldom news, let alone for a PTBNL. The detritus of the Ryan signing was the scattering of a useful reliever among the Beane continuum. A.J. Burnett went from signed twice--Cards, then Blue Jays--to signing nowhere, taking offers from teams including the Nationals, that make one wonder if Burnett will be signed anytime soon. The Blue Jays continue to be the odds-on leader for his services, but it's hardly the slam dunk that many expected (Ed. note: Burnett agreed to a 5-year $55 million deal with Toronto this morning--JDE).

The other interesting rumor of the day involved the Red Sox and their recent acquisition, Josh Beckett. As the rumor circulated, the Red Sox had found something in Beckett's MRI that forced a recision. According to several sources, this was not only not true but not even possible. Trades follow certain rules and procedures and while there are mechanisms for returning damaged goods, they usually take place during the trade. One where outside physicians were consulted hardly seems one where something could sneak by and MRIs are as reliable as the boozy blonde wandering between Common Ground and Gossip, the aptly named bar in the Anatole.

What we're left with is some guarded optimisim for more deals on Tuesday and Wednesday, while realizing that we may well have overstated our optimism for an exciting Meetings. The deals we expected have, for the most part, happened already. There are a couple signings, some minor trades, and the various and sundry tweaking that we see about this time every year. Again, adding Chad Gaudin doesn't sound exciting, no matter how many Macallan 18's you've had. Still, it's the hope that something might happen that keep me walking an endless loop around the lobby, that keeps me shaking hands, and keeps the cell phone pressed to my ear. With Ken Rosenthal, Peter Gammons and others on the beat, hope will be covered.

Eventually, so will the facts.

Related Content:  A.J. Burnett

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