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Making the grades

How did each team do this winter?; news and notes

Posted: Friday February 15, 2008 1:15PM; Updated: Monday February 18, 2008 1:31PM
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Johan Santana
Johan Santana in Mets gear is a sure sign winter is over and baseball is back.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Time to finally put down the gavel, and to pick up some bats and baseballs. It was great to see Johan Santana throwing in the pen here Thursday morning and Pedro Martinez tossing on a back field Thursday afternoon, if only because it was a day I didn't have to see Roger Clemens or any of his camera-loving lawyers.

Anyway, it's finally time to get back to the game we love, the one that features great talents like Santana and great characters and talents such as Pedro, who told us on the back field Thursday, "I dominated the [steroid] era, and I did it clean.'' Yes, it was a beautiful day to be a baseball fan in the Florida sun.

As a way to break back into baseball, the game, and away from baseball, the court case, and a way to remind us what went on this winter, here are my offseason grades.

Grand Slam Division

1. Mets. They turned the bleakest of winters into the best with one brilliant (or was it lucky?) trade and sign. Mets GM Omar Minaya told his bosses the Twins would come back to them, and whether this was a lucky hunch or inside intelligence that Boston and the Yankees weren't really trying, we may never know. In any case, Santana is just the tonic the team needs to forget its dreary finish to the 2007 season. A

2. Tigers. They did it all in one day, but what a day it was, dramatically improving the lineup and rotation in one bold move. Miguel Cabrera may mature surrounded by role models Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco, not to mention manager Jim Leyland. Dontrelle Willis should thrive in better surroundings. A

3. Diamondbacks. On a tight budget, GM Josh Byrnes has formed a formidable pitching staff, led by one of baseball's best one-two punches, the heady duo of Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. Haren came in a trade from Oakland for a boatload of top prospects that didn't detract from Arizona's current team. I still wonder where they're going to get offense, though. Micah Owings for first base, anyone? A

4. Mariners. GM Bill Bavasi's back was to the wall, and he pulled out a gem, acquiring talented left-hander Erik Bedard. The price was steep, and included top outfield prospect Adam Jones. But it was worth it. On the other hand, the price for Carlos Silva -- $48 million -- might have been a tad high, but he could thrive in a big ballpark and with a superior defense. A

5. Dodgers. They spend too much time worrying about public relations, hiring, firing and switching p.r. people like George Steinbrenner used to change managers. But it doesn't take any spin to know Andruw Jones will be a major upgrade in center field. And while Joe Torre's time was really up in New York, he may just be the tonic a divided clubhouse needed. One negative is their continuing reticence to consider trading any prospects; in a year when three top-of-the-line starters were traded, the team with the best farm system got none of them. A-

Solo Home Run Division

6. Angels. Their surprise signing of Torii Hunter wipes away the $50-million mistake of Gary Matthews Jr. and adds to their clubhouse presence. Jon Garland bolsters an already fine rotation. But questions do remain, like who protects Vladimir Guerrero in their lineup? And, is Erick Aybar or Macier Izturis ready to hold a starting shortstop job? B+

7. Rays. They got rid of the Devil in their name, and also traded Elijah Dukes, which may be no coincidence. Dealing Delmon Young was a risk, but they're making a statement about the type of roster they want. And they're locking up their valuable youngsters, though attempts to extend Scott Kazmir have failed so far. B+

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