Sorting out winners, losers

Jeff Passan
Yahoo! Sports

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?

Worst Contract, Vol. 3: J.D. Drew, Boston Red Sox, five years, $70 million. He's got all the talent to succeed. Question is if he can stay healthy – physically and mentally.

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.

3) Detroit Tigers: Gary Sheffield will look tremendous in the middle of that lineup.

4) Los Angeles Dodgers: No power? No problem. The pitching is that good.

5) New York Mets: Hitting will keep them afloat until Pedro Martinez returns.

6) Chicago White Sox: Brandon McCarthy should match Garcia's numbers, plus the White Sox got two young power arms.

7) Minnesota Twins: Simply because Francisco Liriano isn't likely to pitch next season.

8) St. Louis Cardinals: Depending on how they fill out their rotation, this could jump back to even or, perhaps, up. So long as it doesn't include Braden Looper.

9) Oakland A's: Even if Mike Piazza does replace Frank Thomas, who fills in for Barry Zito?

10) Cleveland Indians: More because they weren't nearly as bad as they showed last season (though the AL Central is quite the meatgrinder).

11) Philadelphia Phillies: Adding Garcia and Adam Eaton to an already-good rotation makes them a legitimate threat to the Mets.

12) Los Angeles Angels: If only because replacing Maicer Izturis' bat with Gary Matthews' is an upgrade.

13) Chicago Cubs: Entering the offseason, they may have been 30th.

14) Toronto Blue Jays: The loss of Lilly, who proved he could pitch against the AL East, could force them to deal Vernon Wells.

15) Atlanta Braves: If Mike Hampton comes back healthy and Tim Hudson returns to form, watch out (in a good way). If not, watch out (in a bad one).

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.

17) Arizona Diamondbacks: Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin, Miguel Montero and others could make this a scary team in two or three years.

18) Florida Marlins: Rocco Baldelli would look very nice in this lineup.

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.

22) Houston Astros: No matter the offense Carlos Lee provides, the pitching suffers mightily without Roger Clemens and, in all likelihood, Andy Pettitte.

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.

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