Winners and losers from relatively uneventful winter meetings (cont.)
11. Nationals: They look like they have a pulse at least. GM Mike Rizzo brought in big-armed Brian Bruney in addition to Pudge and has his sights set on a bona fide starting pitcher. Rizzo spoke of his interest in Jon Garland, and he'd help. But some see Rizzo aiming just a bit higher, perhaps at improving sinkerballer Joel Pineiro, who's drawing interest from the Mets, Cubs and Dodgers and who would cost the Nats $40 million. They won't get Lackey, but they may get someone significant. If so, good for them. Meanwhile, the winter went well for No. 1 draftees Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, who looks ready soon. They will be better.
12. Rays: They specifically sought a $7 million closer, and lo and behold, one fell out of the sky in Rafael Soriano, who has a career 1.03 WHIP but was lucky to find a spot to close on a contender. The Rays also remain "far apart" in talks for Milton Bradley, a blessing.
13. Braves: A little more work was made for them when Soriano surprised them by accepting arbitration, but they found him a new home in Tampa within 24 hours. The real benefit at the meetings, though, was seeing the price of pitching rise to the point where the $45 million (over three years) left on Derek Lowe's deal looks almost reasonable. Perhaps if they could save $35-to-40 million of that by trading Lowe, they could even make a play for Bay or Holliday.
14. Astros: While they overpaid for Lyon, he still makes the ballclub better and will cover the Astros if they don't get closer Jose Valverde back (though Lyon's better as a setup man than closer). Pedro Feliz is dependable at third base (not to mention very reasonable at $4.5 million).
15. Andy Pettitte: The most accomplished pitcher on the market showed again what a mench he is by quickly coming back to the Yankees for $11.75 million (though he could have tripled his take elsewhere).
1. Mike Lowell: His previously pristine reputation took a small hit when Boston had to pay $9 million of the $12 million remaining on his contract to be rid of him in a deal that's likely to be finalized next week (they are just checking Lowell's surgically repaired hip) for good-hitting prospect Max Ramirez, whose poor work habits annoyed his bosses. And while Texas people were pleased to be getting a very smart guy with a nice personality in Lowell (as opposed to original target Milton Bradley), people who communicate often with the Red Sox front office painted Lowell in another light after the deal was agreed to -- that of an occasionally disgruntled clubhouse guy (that's certainly not the Lowell I remember more than a decade ago coming up with the Yankees). Plus, having been traded two seasons into his three-year, $36-million contract, he has to wonder why he didn't take the $45 million offer Philly made that included a no-trade following his 2007 World Series MVP season.
2. Giants: The worst-hitting team in baseball announced through continually cantankerous GM Brian Sabean that it didn't have the funds to play for Holliday or Bay, which ought to be real encouraging news for Tim Lincecum, the freakish talent who could only manage 15 wins due to a lack of run support. They continue to wait in the unrealistic hope that power-hitting Dan Uggla will be non-tendered by the Marlins (he won't be) and haven't really seemed to figure out how to field an offense to match the pitching talent they've assembled. Even if they eventually get Uggla, they'll have to figure out how to rework their defensive alignment to fit two second basemen (with Freddy Sanchez being the other).
3. Cubs: It is starting to become clearer after more than a month of shopping malcontent Milton that he's going to have to be basically a giveaway. Texas says it's no longer interested, Tampa is offering a dime on the dollar and no clear other suitor has emerged, at least not publicly. One person familiar with their talks says they are getting only "nibbles."
4. Chone Figgins: The excellent new Mariner has to realize now that he signed the only obvious under-market contract this winter. The improving, newly patient All-Star (he led the AL in walks with 101) may actually wind up receiving the same salary in 2010 as Penny, who was a mid-2009 giveaway by the Red Sox. He led the league in walks and is maybe the most versatile star player in the game.
5. Dodgers: It appears the storied franchise may sit on the sideline as the McCourts duke it out this winter. They will need to find two starting pitchers at some point, but they may have to do it on the cheap. Pineiro would help, but at this point, there's a chance they may suffer the indignity of having Washington outbid them for someone they want.
MLB Truth & Rumors