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December 8, 2006

Will's Mill

The Rumors Just Keep On Coming

by Will Carroll

As we close up the Winter Meetings Mill, there's still some unfinished business that teams leave Orlando with. Lots of free agents remain to be signed, and the trade discussions that started here will be finished later. No team completed its winter makeover, though some will be far less extreme than others.

The Houston-Chicago trade seems to have fallen through, though you get different answers as to why. Jason Hirsh was the key to the deal, and several Houston sources say that he's as close to untouchable as any Houston prospect. Whether he was pulled or Buchholz failed a physical or if this really wasn't as close as several sources indicate, it does show how aggressive Astros General Manager Tim Purpura is, and that Chicago's Kenny Williams isn't done dealing.

Barry Bonds signed quickly after his Rod Tidwell act didn't generate much interest. As neat as the Edmonds-Pujols-Bonds-Rolen lineup sounded in abstract, it was never close to becoming a reality. However, $16 million is a nice consolation prize as Bonds returns to San Francisco. What teams were interested? Oakland, but not as much as reported, and Los Angeles, who never made an offer. Other teams were looking for a bargain.

The Phillies have six starting pitchers now. Considering the contracts and how it's been assembled, Jon Lieber is the hurler most likely to go. Teams have questions about his conditioning, but not much else. A deal with the Brewers fell through during the meetings and that could be revisited, but Lieber should draw a nice return from any of several teams.

Yes, it's funny to see the Yankees as the fiscally conservative team this year. Brian Cashman seemed genuinely distressed by the valuations he was seeing. The Yankees were in to the last on a couple free agents, including Ted Lilly, but weren't going to go beyond the value they had set as fair. The team thought the Andy Pettitte deal was done, but Pettitte hasn't committed yet despite the deal being agreed to in principle.

Scott Boras is always busy this time of year, but he'll be working nearly full-time on Daisuke Matsuzaka. This one's going to go right down to the wire, and several Boston sources I spoke with are pessimistic. Many worry that Boras will try to find some loophole or get litigious if Matsuzaka is forced back to Japan for the next two seasons. That's right--the Monster wouldn't be eligible to be a free agent until after 2008, not next season. Something tells me Bud Selig might be involved in this deal.

After that, Barry Zito will become the center of attention. The Rangers are reportedly kicking the tires on Mark Mulder, but also remain the top suitor for Zito. The Rangers could easily afford both former A's. The Mets won't go more than their value on Zito, complicating what was thought to be one of the more clear free agent moves of the offseason.

Yes, the Royals are well aware they're overpaying. The 2003 Tigers were invoked by two teams this week. The Royals are making deals not unlike those Tigers, trying to draw free agents back, though the return they've gotten looks nothing like what Dave Dombrowski did for Detroit back then. On the other side, the Nats are hoping that they can disguise a very bad team under the guise of the Tigers quick rise to the Series.

Thanks to everyone who's been reading the Mill and Unfiltered this week. See you at the July trading deadline, when the Mill will be churning anew...

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