NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Baseball's winter meetings have turned into the sport's version of Us Weekly. They're supposed to be glitzy and glamorous, and they end up full of bad rumors, tainted innuendo and very little of consequence. Sure, the Tigers pulled off the move of the meetings with a trade that shook the American League, and that places them square atop the list of winners. Their partners in that deal, the Marlins, head the cavalcade of losers – though not because of the players they received. Here are the rest of their brethren in triumph and disappointment.
Detroit Tigers: Even with the Red Sox returning everyone from their dominant championship team and the Yankees determined to spend the GDP of Qatar and the Los Angeles Angels even better than last year and the Cleveland Indians a brutal challenger in their own division – which is to say, against all good judgment – the Tigers are going for it now after mortgaging their farm system for the implacable Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Give general manager Dave Dombrowski credit: He wants to win and wants to win now, and he might maneuver better than anyone in the game to make that happen.
Jose Guillen: OK, kids, here's your lesson for the day. Brood and be moody, blow up at your former manager, snitch on your ex-teammate for using an illegal substance in his glove while you're allegedly pumping your body full of human growth hormone and emerge from that Gomorrah with a three-year, $36 million contract from the Kansas City Royals. Ah, right-handed power. The next-best thing to throwing left-handed. So he's been hit with a 15-day suspension by MLB to begin next season. There will still be at least 147 games to play, and doesn't every employee need two weeks off once in a while?
Flirtation and indecision: So, like, did you see Bill Smith down the hallway? Oh, I know, he's Minnesota's new GM, and he's got the hottest guy! Isn't Johan Santana the best? I totally want to ask Bill if I can get him. And I have plenty to offer … but I don't want to give away too much. No, I'm a little cautious. But, well, Johan is just so good, and … oh, Bill wants everything, huh? Listen here. I'm not that kind of trade partner. Except this is Johan, and …
Boston Red Sox: For constructing an ideal situation more than anything they did this week. Unlike the other teams involved with the Santana talks, the Red Sox can consummate the deal without drastically altering the look of their team. Santana replaces Jon Lester in the rotation. Coco Crisp is a backup, and Justin Masterson and Jed Lowrie, solid prospects, probably would have started the season at Triple-A. If the Yankees made the deal, they would need to put the increasingly immobile Johnny Damon in center. With Seattle, Adam Jones' outfield position would sit empty.
Japanese free agents: As the rest of the market stagnated, the price on right-hander Hiroki Kuroda and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome rose. Kuroda, who turns 33 before opening day, will fetch at least $44 million – he'll get that over four years from the Seattle Mariners if they miss out on Santana – and after he completes a tour of Seattle, Los Angeles and Phoenix next week, it could jump to $50 million. The deep-pocketed Chicago Cubs covet Fukudome, though they've got plenty of competition from the San Diego Padres, among others, so $12 million a year isn't too far-fetched.
Tampa Bay Rays: The Elijah Dukes Experiment, which went about as well as metal in a microwave, is finally over, and GM Andrew Friedman even managed to procure a decent prospect from Washington in the trade. For too long, the Rays tolerated Dukes' sociopathic behavior because his talent. His Crazy Factor – the formula for which is DTTW+JPD/BA (death threats toward wife plus joints per day divided by batting average) – finally spiked too high even for their liking, though, and somehow they found a willing buyer in the Nationals. This is six months late, yes, but better than never.
Baltimore Orioles: With a big caveat – so long as someone can take owner Peter Angelos somewhere to hibernate for the month. New GM Andy MacPhail needs room to maneuver, and he laid the groundwork this week with intense talks centering around star left-hander Erik Bedard, plus peripheral talks about infielders Miguel Tejada and Brian Roberts. The Orioles are moribund, likely the AL's worst team, and MacPhail must start rebuilding now
Los Angeles Dodgers: Bravo, Ned Colletti, for the Andruw Jones signing. It solidifies the Dodgers in center field, puts a big bat into their lineup and does so with committing only two years (albeit averaging $18.1 million apiece). More important, it clears impediments if they do decide to package prospects for the starting pitcher they so desperately need. Perhaps this was the move to get the trade and free-agent markets rolling.
Florida Marlins: Not from a baseball-operations perspective. Landing a pair of prospects the caliber of Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller is a coup no matter who you surrender, and the Marlins' evaluation skills lead you to believe at least one of the other four players in the Cabrera-Willis trade will pan out. On the other hand, the way Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has stripped down the team like a crooked chop-shop operator is embarrassing – for baseball, which allows it, more than for Loria, that farce, who lost his shame long ago.
Minnesota Twins: This could change, if Smith's posturing yields an increased offer from the Red Sox or a reemergence from the Yankees. Otherwise, every day the Twins' new GM holds out marks another day for his potential partners to reconsider their offers. Already the suitor with the best available individual – the Yankees and Phil Hughes – dropped out of the bidding. Though the permanence of that decision is dubious, the question remains: How much longer can the Twins wait until Santana's value drops?
Jim Bowden: The most dangerous qualities a baseball player can exhibit simultaneously are ability and disappointment. Because more than anything, people around baseball love to fix things. They love to believe they can fix that flat curveball, and that they can find the hitch in that long swing, and, in Bowden's case, that they can turn a monster into a mite. Elijah Dukes needs a coterie of good doctors, not the Washington Nationals' GM trying to rescue him. If there's an upside, it's that Lastings Milledge will look like a choir boy in comparison.
Hank Steinbrenner: Well, he's a Steinbrenner. There's no question about that. In his first two months as the public face of the Yankees, he stared down Scott Boras and won, essentially canned Joe Torre and endeared himself to 12-year-old boys everywhere by declaring his favorite actress Jennifer Love Hewitt. This week, though, Steinbrenner's deadline on the Santana deal took the Yankees out of the bidding. Perhaps, in the long run, it's what's best for the franchise, and if so, he has done his job as owner. And yet there's a lingering feeling that Steinbrenner's tactics, brusque as they are, will begin to define him the same way they did his father, and that's not always a good thing.
Scott Boras: Ubiquity is Boras' forte, so to troll the Opryland lobby for three days without a showing of the emperor shocked and awed. Apparently, he did take a quick poke around on the third day, perhaps just to show he was still around, and struck an early-morning deal Thursday for Andruw Jones. Of course, Boras intimated that Jones should get $100 million, and he ended up settling for $36.2 million over two years, which marks three consecutive disappointments after the Alex Rodriguez debacle and Kenny Rogers firing. Hey, he's still got Kyle Lohse!
National Baseball Hall of Fame: The museum, a must-see for anyone who loves the game, usually gets it right. The continuous overhaul of the Veterans Committee, however, left the Hall open to a pair of abysmal decisions this week: the inclusion of former commissioner Bowie Kuhn and exclusion of Marvin Miller, perhaps the game's most influential person in the last 35 years. That Miller didn't get in was no surprise; the selection committee, comprised mostly of management, saw Miller as an adversary, and some even an enemy. But for him to have received only three of 12 votes is shameful and an indication that the voting process needs at least one more overhaul so it can right the wrong that was done Monday.