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Take Me Out to ... The Winter Meetings In Vegas, Baby, Vegas
JOE POSNANSKI
December 22, 2008
Baseball's annual swap meet was a mere sideshow to the circus of showgirls, rodeo, slots and neon kitsch, but it ultimately delivered a $161 million jackpot, a 4 a.m. free-agent signing and a 12-player—12!—trade. (Plus the usual frenzy of rumors, half-truths, outright lies and the stem-winding stories from the old baseball men)
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December 22, 2008

Take Me Out To ... The Winter Meetings In Vegas, Baby, Vegas

Baseball's annual swap meet was a mere sideshow to the circus of showgirls, rodeo, slots and neon kitsch, but it ultimately delivered a $161 million jackpot, a 4 a.m. free-agent signing and a 12-player—12!—trade. (Plus the usual frenzy of rumors, half-truths, outright lies and the stem-winding stories from the old baseball men)

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SA: Wait. Which thing are we talking about?

And so on.

DAY 1
Nothing happens

THERE ARE TWO progressive jackpots at these winter meetings. Well, there are more than two, but nobody expects such big-ticket sluggers as Mark Teixeira or Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn to sign with teams anytime soon, not with everybody but the Yankees moaning about the baseball economy. The biggest jackpot is the big free-agent lefthander Carsten Charles Sabathia, CC for short. He could be the heaviest pitcher in baseball history,* not that his weight has anything to do with it; Sabathia won the Cy Young Award in 2007. He was even better in '08, especially after he was traded in July from the Cleveland Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers (11--2, 1.65 ERA after the deal, delivering the Brewers their first playoff appearance in 26 years).

*That title of heaviest pitcher usually goes to Jumbo Brown, a reliever for five teams from 1925 through '41. Jumbo was listed at 295 pounds. Sabathia is officially listed at 290—but there are reasons to believe that his official weight would be overturned upon further review.

Sabathia was so good in Milwaukee that the Brewers are cashing in all of their savings bonds, pulling out the money they stuffed into mattresses and borrowing from various grandparents in an effort to keep him. The down-market team has reportedly offered him $100 million for five years, a staggering sum, almost double the salary they have ever offered a player. But because the Yankees are said to be interested, nobody believes the Milwaukee money will be nearly enough.

The second jackpot is 27-year-old righthander Jake Peavy, who has the second-best ERA in baseball over the last five years, behind that of Johan Santana, who at the moment is the highest-paid pitcher in baseball. Peavy is the property of the San Diego Padres, but that's what baseball people call a "fluid situation." The Padres are owned by John Moores, and he is in the midst of a nasty divorce from Becky, his wife for 45 years.

Divorce details are not public, of course, but rumors fly. Most assume that Moores will have to sell the team and split the money. Therefore, most assume that the Padres will have no choice but to deal Peavy and his $70 million contract. Therefore, most assume that the Chicago Cubs will get Peavy. There are a lot of assumptions at the winter meetings.

Then, as one baseball executive says, "The good thing about these meetings is that I don't know s---, but I look around and I realize everyone around here knows even less."

Here's how dead it is on Day 1: The big story seems to be the Detroit Tigers' trade of two minor league pitchers to the Texas Rangers for part-time catcher Gerald Laird. "I think he's the type of guy that may not only hit doubles, but he'll hit triples," Detroit manager Jim Leyland says. And to show you how slow things are, I write this down.

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