1. Padres re-sign outfielder Brian Giles Great move for everybody involved, especially Giles' wife and kids, as well as the Padres. San Diego's on-base machine (.423 in 2005) was a hot commodity, with the Yankees, Cardinals and Blue Jays in pursuit. But Giles declined bigger money elsewhere for the comfort of home. As a result, the Padres wound up with perhaps the best free agent value of the winter, nabbing him for only $30 million over three seasons.
2. White Sox trade for right-hander Javier Vazquez Not content to stick with what won them their first championship since 1917, the White Sox made two splashy moves. The first sent Aaron Rowand to the Phillies for Jim Thome. The second added Vazquez to an already accomplished starting rotation in exchange for the easily replaceable duo of El Duque and Luis Vizcaino and outfield prospect Chris Young. Vazquez is a quality starter who should benefit from the tutelage of pitching coach Don Cooper.
3. Brian Cashman re-signs with the Yankees Considering the up-and-down offseason the Red Sox have endured after losing GM Theo Epstein, it's hard to imagine what might have transpired in the Bronx had Cashman left the Yankees. The well-respected Cashman has endured, and even thrived in the Yankees' often chaotic front office for eight years, the most ever for a Yankees GM under George Steinbrenner.
Cashman signed on for three more years and a total of $5.4 million. For many Yankee fans, he more than earned his keep simply by unloading Tony Womack for more than a metro card, but Cashman didn't stop there. It's funny to think that for a minute there the Yankees were being given credit for restraining their usual free-spending ways -- mostly because of Cashman's unwillingness to part with youngsters Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang. In the end, the Bombers still managed to spend more than $100 million on thirtysomething outfielders Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. Nevertheless, Cashman, coupled with Joe Torre, represents a kind of stability that is unique during Steinbrenner's reign.
4. Dodgers trade for right-hander Jae Seo You didn't have to be an irate Mets fan to know that the organization's decision to start Victor Zambrano (7-12, 4.17 ERA) and Kaz Ishii (3-9, 5.14) ahead of Seo (8-2, 2.59) for much of the season cost the team any chance of making the playoffs. In exchange for Seo and lefty Tim Hamulack, the Dodgers gave up a couple of decent relievers -- Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll. Jon Weisman, author of Dodger Thoughts, agrees that L.A. got the better end of the deal. "Seo blew me away in August after he replaced Ishii in the Mets' rotation," he says. "I realize that some of that may have been luck, because he wasn't striking a lot of batters out, and he regressed a bit toward the end of the season." Though Weisman likes Sanchez's surging strikeout rate (7.79 per 9.0 innings) as well as his durability, he concludes, "Relievers are easier to come by, and I like the chances for Seo to add stability to the Dodger rotation and help the team more than Sanchez would have."
5. Twins trade for second baseman Luis Castillo In the wake of the frenzy of deals made by the Marlins, this one looks like one of the tidiest -- for the Twins. The acquisition of Castillo alone may not reverse the regression the Twins experienced in 2005. It doesn't catch them up to Chicago and Cleveland, but it's a nice deal. Minnesota did not give up much in return (two minor league pitchers). Castillo -- a legitimate Gold Glover with a career .370 OBP -- immediately becomes the best all-around second baseman Minnesota has seen since Chuck Knoblauch sold his soul to play in New York.