INDIANAPOLIS – There'll be no telling for weeks, maybe months, but for a few days in December the American League West leaned a little more toward the Pacific Northwest.
Not a lot. But, a little.
The Seattle Mariners have more talented teams in Anaheim and Arlington to overtake, which hasn't happened. They dusted away that 101-loss 2008 season, however, tried a season of faux contention, started feeling good about themselves again, and then this week signed Chone Figgins(notes), so their gain was the Los Angeles Angels' loss, when for a while now every inch is going to count.
Moreover, the Mariners haven't ruled out re-signing Adrian Beltre(notes) (which, apparently, would send Figgins to second and that could send Jose Lopez(notes) to first), and are involved in talks for premier starter John Lackey(notes) and stud left fielder Jason Bay(notes). Way down the coast, the Angels' offseason is a little slow in developing, so far consisting of renouncing any affection for Matt Holliday(notes).
The second day of the winter meetings was dominated by the New York Yankees and what the Yankees do – trade for an established star, center fielder Curtis Granderson(notes), the centerpiece in a three-team deal that also put young arms in new places – but a lot of it was lost on Figgins. He flew Tuesday from Seattle to his home in Tampa, landing to discover he'd passed his physical and would be a Mariner.
The contract is for $36 million over four years with a fifth-year club option that would take it to $45 million. The ballpark is perfect for him. The coaching staff, some of them former Angels and Rockies, is familiar. His game's never been better.
''It was a good fit,'' he said Tuesday night. ''I was wanted there. It's always a good thing to be wanted.''
''When it comes down to business, you just deal with it,'' Figgins said. ''Maybe they have to move on and I have to move on as a player. I would love to have come back to Anaheim. Things were different. They chose to go a different way and I chose to go a different way.''
It is that time of year.
And with a cold raining falling outside the bustling hotel lobby, the Yankees found yet another opportunity to spend where other teams choose otherwise.
No, not on Holliday or Bay or Lackey. Not yet. Teams dealing in Holliday and Bay are beginning to predict a drawn-out process.
So, with the Detroit Tigers rethinking the wisdom of a payroll that two years ago was $138 million and last year was $115 million, the Yankees arrived and accepted Granderson for some ready prospects. The Tigers also ran starter Edwin Jackson(notes) to Arizona, and became younger, deeper and more fiscally agile in a single gray afternoon.
The Tigers certainly can contend in the AL Central and the Diamondbacks like what they added in terms of depth and stuff and potential, but this was, of course, about the Yankees, who added speed and a good character guy and another bat that will take dead aim at the right-field bleachers.
In a market limited in talent and scope, the Yankees were aggressive and likely will continue conversations about the left fielders, about Lackey and about Roy Halladay(notes), even if it's only to keep the Red Sox, Mets, Angels and whoever else engaged.
There does seem to be a widening gap between baseball's willing and its able, still being capably sorted out by agents Scott Boras (Holliday), Joe Urbon (Bay) and Steve Hilliard (Lackey).
The Red Sox spent the day discussing/charting/eyeballing Holliday and Bay, an exercise presumably heightened by the news the Yankees had gotten a little better. The Angels are particularly interested in Bay and Hideki Matsui(notes), for a Matsui contract perhaps even willing to go to a second year, though manager Mike Scioscia went on L.A. radio and called a Bay signing ''a longshot.''
The odds felt a little long all day. For the Mets, who seem to be getting itchy for a bat – John Maine(notes) for Corey Hart(notes)? – and an arm – Lackey? Joel Pineiro(notes)? For the Brewers, who've got a three-year offer out for starter Randy Wolf(notes). For the Giants, who need a bat but don't seem willing to go that big, so will compete for the likes of first baseman Nick Johnson(notes) with the likes of the Mets, Mariners, Diamondbacks and Orioles.
Meantime, Halladay is still in Toronto, almost all of the free agents are still free agents, and Figgins has a whole new life.
''We finally made the decision'' he said, ''that was right for me.''