LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – In the spirit of the winter meetings, where everything that happens seems to do so over a drink, we raise a glass to the winners and pour a little out for the losers.
Best Contract: Jason Schmidt, Los Angeles Dodgers, three years, $47 million. Locking down pitchers in their mid-30s for anything more than three years is foolish. In upping the average annual value of Schmidt's deal, the Dodgers landed the best pitcher on the domestic market and poached him from their rival.
Worst Contract, Vol. 1: Gil Meche, Kansas City Royals, five years, $55 million. If the Royals were going to give out that amount of years and dollars, why didn't they just go after A.J. Burnett last season? In Meche, they get a sinkerballer who spent time in the minor leagues two years ago and has found minimal success at the big-league level.
Worst Contract, Vol. 2: Ted Lilly, Chicago Cubs, four years, $40 million. If every single man with a son in the U.S. is not teaching him to throw left-handed, he should have the Department of Family Services called, because if an average innings-eater can make $10 million a year, who's to say your kid can't?
Special Achievement Award: Toughest Guy: It was unfortunate that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry spent Wednesday night in the hospital undergoing an angioplasty. The fact that he hammered out the final details on Ted Lilly's contract while hooked up to an EKG, however, is rather impressive. Hey, at least now when someone calls Hendry sick for handing out close to $300 million of the Tribune Company's money in guaranteed contracts this offseason, they won't be slandering him.
Best One-Sided Trade: Atlanta receives Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez. Soriano could eventually close for the Braves. Ramirez will never be anything more than a serviceable No. 4 starter for Seattle, and even that is a long shot.
Best Trade For Both Sides: Philadelphia receives Freddy Garcia for Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez. Garcia fortifies the Phillies' rotation – for now, at least, as they must trade one of their side starters – and Floyd can learn to work out of the White Sox's bullpen with his hammer curveball while Gonzalez stays in the minor leagues for another year of seasoning.
What We've Learned
Every team is ranked in order of how their current roster looks (including Japanese players whose posting rights were won), along with an arrow indicating how the teams have fared this offseason.
1) Boston Red Sox: Assuming they get Daisuke Matsuzaka … that is some kind of rotation, and they'll find enough to fill out their bullpen.
2) New York Yankees: Assuming they get Kei Igawa … the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry could be hotter than ever.
4) Los Angeles Dodgers: No power? No problem. The pitching is that good.
10) Cleveland Indians: More because they weren't nearly as bad as they showed last season (though the AL Central is quite the meatgrinder).
13) Chicago Cubs: Entering the offseason, they may have been 30th.
16) San Diego Padres: Bringing in a 40-year-old pitcher doesn't offset losing a starting catcher, center fielder and trading a pre-arbitration second baseman.
19) Colorado Rockies: If their pitching keeps improving, the Rockies could make a run at second place.
20) Texas Rangers: With a rotation that includes Zito, they would jump at least four spots.
21) Milwaukee Brewers: From darkhorse to disappointment, the Brewers have done little to improve.
23) Seattle Mariners: Even in a weak division, this team needs a bundle of pieces and parts.
24) Pittsburgh Pirates: Doing nothing is not the answer.
25) Baltimore Orioles: Spending $41 million on middle relief really isn't the answer.
26) San Francisco Giants: The Giants do not contribute to half their players' Social Security taxes because they're already collecting.
27) Cincinnati Reds: So how, exactly, did this team win 80 games last season?
28) Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Still. No. Pitching.
29) Kansas City Royals: Meche will make them better. Just not $55 million better.
30) Washington Nationals: They're starting to look more and more like the Expos.