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Winter's wins and losses

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At this year's winter meetings, some of the top free agents found homes, while a few are still out there (Johnny Damon and Roger Clemens). But teams were ready to spend.

The money being thrown around reflects the state of the game, as the Dodgers and the Blue Jays broke the bank with large contracts for Rafael Furcal and A.J. Burnett, respectively.

After four days of wheeling and dealing in Dallas, here are my winners and losers of the winter meetings.

WINNERS

Los Angeles Dodgers – New general manager Ned Colletti made an immediate splash by signing Furcal and made a huge move by hiring Grady Little, a great baseball guy who was run out of Boston unfairly and will get the opportunity to win in L.A. Colletti is working hard and has the Dodgers on the right track.

New York Mets – Omar Minaya was able to get Paul Lo Duca from the Marlins, giving the Mets their first bona fide catcher since Mike Piazza was in his prime. They are also in the hunt for Manny Ramirez.

Juan Pierre – He got out of Florida just in time. He would have been miserable playing there while the team continues to get dismantled. Pierre will flourish with the Chicago Cubs and he'll take advantage of bunting on Wrigley Field's tall infield grass.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Give them credit for trying. The Pirates usually don't get into free-agent bidding because of budget constraints, but GM Dave Littlefield got permission to bump up the team payroll. He brought in Sean Casey, who is a great clubhouse guy and a veteran leader. Casey isn't going to hit a ton of home runs, but his numbers will go up with the short right-field fence at PNC Park.

J.P. Ricciardi – The Toronto Blue Jays GM signed his own three-year extension last weekend to ensure that he'll be with the team through 2010. He also got to spend some money this week ($55 million) to sign Burnett, who brings a solid arm to Toronto and will tag-team with Roy Halladay and Gustavo Chacin. Ricciardi also acquired first baseman Lyle Overbay, who is not going to hit 40 home runs but will get on base and hit close to .300. Ricciardi is doing a great job turning the Blue Jays around.

San Diego Padres – They were able to keep closer Trevor Hoffman and bring a solid young talent to San Diego in right-hander Dewon Brazelton.

LOSERS

Atlanta Braves – They weren't able to bring back Furcal with a hometown discount. They were able to acquire Edgar Renteria, but not having a leadoff man will hurt them. I don't see GM John Schuerholz being down for long, though. He may have lost out in the winter meetings, but he'll find a way to put a contender on the field.

Sean Burroughs – He went from one of the best baseball towns (San Diego) and one of the best new parks (PETCO) to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Tropicana Field. The Devil Rays aren't ready to win.

Florida Marlins – It's such a disappointment to see them dismantle their team for the second time in seven years. How does an organization in just over a decade win two World Series and hold two fire sales? What Cubs fans would do for just one World Series title.

What a mess new manager Joe Girardi has on his hands. I feel bad for my former teammate, but nobody will be better at grooming young talent than Girardi. He'll also have former Cubs coach Rick Kranitz on his bench as his pitching coach.

Tim Purpura – The Houston Astros GM's hands were tied. With Clemens' plans still undecided, Purpura had to begin planning as if Clemens wasn't going to pitch in Houston. He had to decline arbitration to the seven-time Cy Young Award winner and move on.

Alfonso Soriano – He just keeps moving around. Soriano doesn't want to move to the outfield, so he will have to endure some time in Washington. The Nationals aren't ready to win.

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