Each year GM's from across the league come together and meet in one place and talk hardcore baseball, these are the Winter Meetings. It's the Black Friday of baseballs shopping season, and the springboard that leads into MLB's Hot Stove offseason.
The meetings wrapped up last week and to review the action The Nats Blog is going to get reviews from top blogs across the league. Today will be the NL East, here will be the schedule for the rest of the week:
12/16-NL Central, 12/17-NL West, 12/18-AL East, 12/19-AL Central, 12/20 AL West, American League 12/19
Team Name: Kansas City Royals
2009 Record: 65-97
Team Needs: Center Field, someone to take Jose Guillen's contract, a GM with an actual plan
Team Moves: Signed Jason Kendall (2-years, $6M), cut C John Buck, 1B Mike Jacobs, signed Bruce Chen and Philip Humber to minor league deals, traded Mark Teahan to CHW for Chris Getz, Josh Fields, signed Cuban defector Noel Arguelles
Winter Meetings Grade: D
Evaluation: Really, anytime you can jettison a younger, better catcher in order to sign a 35-year-old whose offensive and defensive production has shown marked signs of slippage, and at the low low price of $6 million you simply HAVE to pull the trigger right? Well, not if you're a smart MLB team, but then the Royals would never have that label hung on them. What was the point of signing Jason Kendall over John Buck (who signed for 1-year, $2M with the Blue Jays)?
Oh right, there is NO point. The Royals seem to enter every offseason with no plan and so each season make baffling moves. Last year the Royals traded for Mike Jacobs who was clearly not as good as his stats suggested, and he in fact proceeded to be miserable. Meanwhile, Leo Nunez who the Royals traded earned 26 saves with the Marlins. This offseason the only good thing to be said is that BESIDES the Kendall signing and the Teahan trade the Royals really haven't made any moves. With Dayton Moore at the helm, no news IS good news.
Besides the stellar talent of Zack Greinke, Billy Butler's emergence and the hope of a full healthy season from the Mexecutioner Joakim Soria, there isn't much to like on this major league roster. The signing of Arugelles is nice and surprisingly shrewd, but he's only 19 and several years away at the earliest. Meanwhile Josh Fields and Chris Getz are both serviceable but should be backups on a good team and are expected to be starting contributors on this club. In a division where it is WIDE open and with the one of the best young pitchers in the game, you'd think the Royals would try harder to contend. They don't and won't.
Team Name: Cleveland Indians
2009 Record: 65-97 2nd 21.5 GB
Team Needs: Starting Pitching, leftfield, secondbase
Moves Made: Traded Kelly Shoppach to Tampa Bay for a player to be named
Winter Meetings Grade: C - moving Shoppach was an acceptable measure for salary relief.
Evalutation: Cleveland returns much of the team that completed 2009. A lineup that underachieved is anchored by the Designated Underachiever, Travis Hafner. Cleveland needs him to recover to restore any chance of contention in 2010. Grady Sizemore also needs to keep his focus on the field and return to the production he posted between 2005 and 2008. Shin-Soo Choo highlights the other end of the spectrum, a player who needs to hold onto gains he made in 2009. The rest of the lineup is unsettled. Matt LaPorta, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta and Luis Valbuena figure to handle infield chores. Leftfield is very up in the air, with prospect Michael Brantley a real possibility. Young catchers Carlos Santana and Lou Marson made Shoppach expendable and should handle duty behind the plate. Andy Marte could be corner infield depth. The Indians will continue to look inwards to patch holes and solve problems.
On the hill, there is much more of the same. The rotation presently holds David Huff, Justin masterson, Aaron Laffey, Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook, Jeremy Sowers, and youngsters Hector Rondon, Carlos Carrasco and Adam Miller. There is undeniable talent in the mix, as Westbrook and Carmona have been key pieces in past success. And Rondon and Carrasco in particular have very high ceilings. Cleveland's bullpen holds less promise, but like their two star hitters, grossly underperformed last season. A competent start to 2010 by Kerry Wood may spark some interest in him down the stretch.
The fans in Cleveland have waited for a winner for more than a half-century. The sharp drop off of the last two seasons, after Cleveland had advanced to within one win of the AL Pennant in 2007, have forced them back to the drawing board. Their is much talent in their system, highlighted by the catching tandem, LaPorta, Rondon, Carrasco and a half-dozen other risers in their system. Putting it all together may take more than the coming season.
Team Name: Seattle Mariners
2009 Record: 85-77
Team Needs: #2 pitcher, Power Hitter, LF, 2B, 1B
Team Moves: Signed 3B Chone Figgins (leaked pre-meetings, but official at the meetings); signed OF Corey Patterson; held talks with John Lackey, Felix Hernandez, Adrian Beltre; failed bid to acquire Edwin Jackson; Apparently laid the groundwork to acquire Cliff Lee for next to nothing.
Winter Meetings Grade: B+
Evaluation: The Mariner's entered the Winter Meetings as the "belle of the ball," with nothing but a boatload of money from expiring, ill-advised contracts (Richie Sexson, Kenji Johjima, etc). At one point, they were even linked to the trade of unwanteds - Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley. As it turned out, nothing much happened, though the rumors were enough to get fans' undies in a ruffle. As the close of the Winter Meetings came, the Mariners had made one notable move - acquiring Chone Figgins -- and laid the ground work for a game-changer: acquiring Cliff Lee.
Figgins' signing was a double win for the M's as it took a valuable asset from the arms of division rival LAA Angels and added a Get-On-Base Machine. Figgins will hit second in the line-up following Ichiro after eight years of leading off in Anaheim. With Adrian Beltre denying the M's arbitration offer, it is likely that C-Figgy will start at third base. Mariners' GM Jack Zdurenciek has made it clear that a) the M's will continue to pursue Beltre for a long-term contract, and b) that the current fix at 2B is not working out.
At the Winter Meetings, the Phillies and Blue Jays began talking about a trade for Roy Halladay. The Phillies quickly started looking for a third leg in the trade and, rumor has it, basically made a cattle call. Jacky Z was first in line and put together a nice offer: three of the Mariner's top prospects for Lee. The prospects will be modestly missed, but none project to an All Star. In the meantime, the Mariners get Lee and suddenly have among the most formidable 1-2, Righty-Lefty pitcher combos in recent years.
Team Name: Minnesota Twins
2009 Record: 76-67
Team Needs: SP, 3B, 2B
Team Moves: arbitration accepted by Pavano, traded Boof Bonser to Red Sox
Winter Meetings Grade: C-
Evaluation: Going into these Winter Meetings, the Twins had two gaping holes in the infield, both at third and second base. One of those positions will most likely be filled by Nick Punto, but action was needed nevertheless. Fans were pushing for the acquisition of someone along the lines of Placido Polanco, Orlando Hudson, or even Pedro Feliz, in order to address one of these infield needs. Although not unexpected, the offering of arbitration to starting pitcher Carl Pavano was well received in Minnesota. This helped shore up the starting rotation, but fans wanted more action.
Save for the DFA of Boof Bonser, and the ensuing trade for a PTBNL (who eventually ended up being Chris Province), the Twins sat on their hands for the duration of the Winter Meetings. Minnesota didn't even make a Rule V draft acquisition. Because of the inactivity -- which is far from abnormal for the Twins -- Minnesota's front office returned to an irked population in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Team Name: Chicago White Sox
2009 Record: 79-83
Team Needs: Left fielder, designated hitter, leadoff man, bullpen help
Team Moves: Signed J.J. Putz, non-tendered D.J. Carrasco
Winter Meetings Grade: B
Evaluation: The White Sox were not horribly active at the Meetings, but that’s not to discount a relatively active offseason for the South Siders. The only move made while the team was in Indy was the signing of J.J. Putz. This is a great signing. Just two years ago Putz was a marquee closer in the American League. He then went to the NL with the Mets and struggled through an injury-ridden season. For the Sox to go out a sign a guy who has closer abilities and has proven success in the AL, this is a definite upgrade to the Sox bullpen.
The move that was a little bit of a head shaker was the non-tendering of D.J. Carrasco. Carrasco led the majors in innings pitched out of the bullpen, and was the go to guy for the Sox in long relief situations. He’s a young pitcher who has already proven himself as a reliever and spot starter, and has a chance to become a solid starter in the future. To just let this guy go for nothing didn’t make too much sense to me.
The Meetings also proved to be worthwhile for the Sox as just a week later they traded two prospects for LF leadoff man Juan Pierre and cash. This filled two voids in the teams needs and has the 25 man roster almost 100% set. Add Putz and Pierre to the acquisitions of Mark Teahan, Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones, and full seasons of Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, and the Sox are eons better in 2010 than they were in 2009.
Team Name: Oakland A's
2009 Record: 75-87
Team Needs: 3B, SS, middle of the order bats
Team Moves: Traded for Jake Fox/Aaron Miles, signed Dallas McPherson, non-tendered Jack Cust
Winter Meetings Grade: C
Evaluation: My assessment of the A's at, and just after, the Winter Meetings, is that "it's always darkest before the dawn." Right now things look bad because Billy Beane has not made any apparently meaningful additions while allowing the team's only power threat (Cust) to become a free agent.
But the season doesn't start in mid-December and the A's tend to subtract first, add later. Most of Beane's significant trades have occurred closer to Christmas and he prefers to be a late player on the free agent market, waiting for values to drop.
So if you ask me in April how the Winter Meetings went, for all I know I may give the A's an "A" -- but at the moment, all the holes Oakland had in October remain holes today and the starting lineup actually looks a tad worse than the inadequate one Oakland trotted out in 2009. Here's hoping Santa is kind to the A's this holiday (but not Holliday) season.
Team Name: Boston Red Sox
2009 Record: 95-67
Team Needs: LF, Bullpen, Power Hitter 1B or 3B
Team Moves: signed Atchison, Traded for Boof Bosner, Traded Mike Lowell for Max Ramirez, signed Ramon Ramirez
Winter Meetings Grade: C
Evaluation: I'll give them a C for what they accomplished at the meetings but the jury is really still out. Theo setup the groundwork for a different looking team by trading Mike Lowell and freeing up a corner infield spot. This could be a precursor to signing Beltre but that is yet to be seen. The Sox filled the hole at short before the winter meetings but they still have a big hole in left field. The negotiations with Jason Bay's agent went nowhere at the Winter Meetings and there seemed to be little engagement with Scott Boras about Matt Holliday.
The Red Sox lost Wagner and Saito to the Braves and picked up two project relievers as a replacement in the bullpen. Theo still has some work to do to to field a better team than last season but that may not be possible. He has said that 2010 will be a bridge year much to the shegrin of Red Sox Nation.
In the A.L. East you always have to be worried about the Yankees and by them bringing aboard Granderson there is more to worry about.