Other than attempting to distinguish Hank Steinbrenner's drop-dead deadlines from his sub-deadlines and completely arbitrary deadlines (hint: there are no drop-dead deadlines), and witnessing another play-the-martyr week from the Florida Marlins, and wondering how Milton Bradley slipped through Jim Bowden’s healing fingers, and determining if Andruw Jones can throw Juan Pierre farther than Juan Pierre can throw a baseball, these six weeks since the World Series have passed reasonably quietly (non-Barry Bonds division).
Dave Dombrowski, thanks again to the Marlins, maybe made the Detroit Tigers the team to beat in the AL Central, the New York Yankees ponied up to maintain the core of a team that for the first time in a decade finished out of first place, and, yes, the Tampa Bay Rays – rebuffed by the San Francisco Giants when they offered Delmon Young for Tim Lincecum – made the bold move to acquire Matt Garza instead.
Still holding stubbornly to the theory that the marginal free-agent market will foster the best trading climate in years, we say there's plenty left to be done here, both in trades and the fallout from the few deals and signings that have come down.
With only a few shopping days left before the Mitchell Report hits, the following is a partial guide to what's next:
Johan Santana. As the winter meetings came to a close, Theo Epstein was said to be leaning toward meeting the Twins' price and pulling the trigger on the trade that would give him a Josh Beckett-Johan Santana top end, while potentially costing him a Jon Lester back end. In the internal debate pitting Get Santana vs. Don't Be the Next Yankees, Get Santana was winning out. The Yankees and New York Mets are still players, and the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers should be. My money is still on the Yankees, as irrational as that may be, because they can't possibly start the season with two or three of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy in the rotation, no matter how polished all three could be in a season or two.
Tigers. I'd like to rush to the conclusion that, with Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, a healthy Kenny Rogers, Edgar Renteria at shortstop and Jacque Jones in left, the Tigers go to the head of the AL Central and just behind the Red Sox in the AL. Their new payroll alone justifies it. And the Tigers are better. But, here's the thing, I'm still not thrilled with the back end of their bullpen (Joel Zumaya will miss at least three months, Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones just experienced shaky seasons), Renteria didn't take to the AL his last time through (granted, Boston does things to people), Gary Sheffield is recovering from shoulder surgery and Willis, if he pitches in the AL like he did recently in the NL, might not be in the rotation long. If I were Dombrowski, I'd at least have to consider flipping Willis to the Mets, Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds or some other pitching-starved franchise. And, due to the Cabrera acquisition, Dombrowski has to find a taker for Brandon Inge, a really athletic third baseman who struck out 150 times and batted .236 last season and is due $19 million over the next three years.
Erik Bedard, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton. Wouldn't you feel better about Bedard if he'd even once thrown 200 innings? That said, he's a strikeout machine and had a 3.16 ERA at Camden Yards, so who knows what he could be at Dodger Stadium, Shea Stadium, Safeco Field or Yankee Stadium. The Mets would seem to have the greatest incentive to give up the farm (system) for Bedard or Haren, given that not a single member of their projected rotation – Pedro Martinez, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Orlando Hernandez and, presumably, either Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber – is without questions. Within the division, the Phillies have added a closer (Brad Lidge) and therefore a front-end starter (Brett Myers) and the Braves get a full season of Mark Teixeira, though we're not sure the Tom Glavine signing is a good or bad thing. Andy MacPhail is asking for close to Santana packages for Bedard, as he should, and could try to tie Miguel Tejada into it. Based on the fact his pitchers are younger and cheaper than Santana, Oakland's Billy Beane also expects a lot, which hasn't completely scared off the Arizona Diamondbacks, Yankees, Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers. Blanton is a bit less pricy, but not much.
Jose Guillen. The man can hit and play right field, no doubt. And, like Gil Meche before him, he got a nice check to sign up for Kansas City's newest rebuild. I'm just not sure I'd like to be Trey Hillman, who will have to tell Guillen every day for 15 days that he's not in the lineup. Somehow, Brendon Donnelly will pay for this.
Barry Bonds. Could there possibly be anything we don't know already? Call it a witch hunt if you'd like. Keep in mind there were no such things as witches.
Coco Crisp and Juan Pierre. The Red Sox want to play Jacoby Ellsbury in center field, and two of the three high-profile free-agent center fielders (Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter) are off the market. That leaves Aaron Rowand (still thinking Chicago White Sox, but the Giants and San Diego Padres might bite) to sign before the real action starts on Crisp. A hand injury fouled up Crisp's postseason (.182 batting average, two at-bats in the World Series) and he seemed pretty cranky because of it, but he's better than that offensively and still a high-end defensive center fielder. Given the choice of the two, I might even take Crisp over Rowand, depending on the ballpark. Meantime, the Dodgers are up to their little blue necks in center fielders. They'll pay Jones and Pierre a combined $22.1 million next season, and Pierre might not have a position. Being one of the few who actually appreciates (parts of) Pierre's game, I believe the Dodgers could find a new home for him, if not for all of his contract. Pierre has not played a single big-league minute out of center field, and his arm would play just as poorly in left as it does in center, although the carte blanche from first to third might be stemmed.
Or, you could go with Kosuke Fukudome, which I'm pretty sure is not the ballpark in which the Yomiuri Giants play. Fukudome, in case the hysteria hasn't reached you yet, is a 30-year-old Japanese right fielder who bats left and has decent pop. It sounds as though he's decided to come West and, if so, the Chicago Cubs, Padres and White Sox are expected to greet him at the airport.