Thirty GMs, 30 staffs, 30 sets of assorted hangers-on and about a million clean-cut 22-year-olds have descended on Orlando this week for the winter meetings. With many of the top-hitting free agents already locked up, the focus has been on the available pitchers, of which there are many, as well as the possibility that there could be an active trade market. Here's a quick-and-dirty look at what each team could be focusing on during the get-together.
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Baltimore Their additions are that of a team that thinks it's closer to winning than it is, spending money on the back of the rotation (Jaret Wright) and the bullpen (Jamie Walker, Danys Baez, Chad Bradford). Those pickups don't hurt them, but if that money isn't available to help them upgrade first base and left field, they're just treading water. Finding new homes for Jay Gibbons and Melvin Mora, whose contracts are out of line with their production, would help. Miguel Tejada, by the way, looks more and more like one of the great free-agent signings ever.
Boston If you've had Manny Ramirez for six years, and all of a sudden he's a bargain, why would you trade him? He's still a wildly productive player, he can't be that big a distraction if you've had the success you've had with him, and quite frankly, you can't afford to lose the bat. The Sox's problem last year wasn't just the bullpen; it was a lineup that didn't work after you got past Ramirez's spot. Right now, they have a declining Jason Varitek, a comebacking Coco Crisp, Alex Cora and Dustin Pedroia up the middle. That's not a team that can give up a .340 EqA guy just because he's a bit screwy. If they just replace Ramirez with J.D. Drew, as has been rumored, they're treading water. Look for the Daisuke Matsuzaka deal to get done next week. The Sox need him.
Chicago Trading Joe Crede for Chone Figgins wouldn't help them very much, as Figgins just isn't that good a player. They need a leadoff hitter whose primary skill is getting on base, not stealing bases once he's on. Figgins will have a .350 OBP or so, and that's nothing special in the No. 1 slot. He'll also be getting expensive, and there are indications that he might be losing a little speed (triples down, GIDP rate up). If they feel they have to trade Crede -- they don't -- they can likely do better than this.
GM Kenny Williams still has six starters for five spots, and Brandon McCarthy didn't take to the bullpen, so something has to happen to clear up the logjam. Mark Buerhle is a good bet to leave, although Freddy Garcia's name comes up much more often. In any case, remember that Williams is far, far removed from the Todd Ritchie deal, and very likely to win any trade he makes.
Cleveland The David Dellucci signing makes a lot of things fall into place. They'll be much better on the corners with him and Shin-Soo Choo. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find another team with as much left-handed pop as the Indians have, even though Dellucci and Choo both need to be platooned. They could be quiet this week; they have some infield depth and arms to deal, but the lineup and rotation are pretty much set. The one thing they could really use is a dominant reliever.
Detroit They may be set, or pretty close to it, after the Gary Sheffield deal. All the major contributors are locked up and they look to already know who will occupy 21 or 22 roster spots next April. They have pitching to move if they want to spring for another OBP upgrade in left field or at first base. I remain highly enamored of Wil Ledezma, who runs the risk of becoming Neal Cotts or Alan Embree if he doesn't escape to a team that will start him.
Kansas City GM Dayton Moore continues to work around the edges, having the luxury of time and the knowledge that nothing he does will make the Royals winners in 2007. He has some veterans who could be moved, notably Emil Brown and Reggie Sanders. There's no longer a market for Mike Sweeney, just at the point where he may no longer be good enough to play for a team that's just swimming in corner bats. Moore should keep collecting pitchers and focusing on the 2009 lineup.