Baseball's Winter Meetings used to be the highlight of the off season. They still are, to a certain degree, but not nearly what they once were.
Last year at Nashville, for instance, things were pretty quiet. You might say what turned out to be the biggest story was Boston signing outfielder/DH Jonny Gomes to a two-year deal worth $10 million. The biggest trade, if you can believe it, was probably Miami dealing former Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar to Tampa Bay for shortstop prospect Derek Dietrich.
Alex Anthopoulos has presided over four Winter Meetings and has made just two trades of note over that span. In 2010, he dealt right-hander Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee and in 2011 he shipped pitching prospect Nestor Molina to the Chicago White Sox for reliever, maybe future closer, Sergio Santos. To be fair to Alex, he did most of his heavy lifting last year before the meetings; including that mammoth 12-player deal with the Marlins.
If you dig a little deeper over the past four years, some of the biggest moves have backfired on the teams that appeared at the time to be striking gold.
In 2010, the Red Sox pulled off a four-player deal with San Diego to get Adrian Gonzalez and then signed Carl Crawford to the largest deal ever given to a position player who had never hit 20 home runs in a season; Crawford leaving Tampa Bay to sign a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Bosox.
Less than two years later, on August 25, 2012, Boston packaged Gonzalez and Crawford into an eight-player deal with the Dodgers that in the long run helped change the fortunes of both clubs.
In 2011 at Dallas, the Angels stole the show with a couple of major free agent signings, getting Albert Pujols on a 10-year, $240 million deal and left-handed starter C. J Wilson on a five-year pact worth $77.5 million.
Pujols had a decent first years with the Angels but then had his second year cut short by a foot injury and only hit 17 homers in 99 games. Some questioned whether he will ever return to the "superstar" form of his St. Louis days; especially when he will be 34 next season.
Wilson has pitching pretty well for the Angels, racking up a 30-17 record with a 3.60 ERA, but the Angels haven't come close to making the playoffs since these two arrived on the scene. The Halos only compounded their troubles by signing Rangers free agent left fielder Josh Hamilton to a five year, $125 million deal on December 13 of last year. Hamilton only hit .250 with 21 homers and 79 runs batted in.
So in the last four Winter Meetings, there seems to have been more questionable moves than good.
In 2009 at Indianapolis, the biggest news might have involved the media. Baseball print and broadcast legend Peter Gammons left ESPN to join MLB.com, the MLB Network and NESN.
Oddly enough on the eve of these Winter Meetings in Orlando, ESPN announced Curt Schilling would be moving into the both on Sunday Night Baseball with Dan Shulman and John Kruk; Schilling replacing Orel Hershiser, who is heading for the Dodgers' new network.
After all that happened last week, including Robby Cano signing with Seattle and Carlos Beltran joining the Yankees, you have to wonder if this is going to be a relatively quiet week in Orlando. For the fans sake, I hope it isn't.
I mentioned in my last article that the new executive director of the Players'
Association, Tony Clark, once hit three homers in a game against the Blue Jays. Well, I researched it a little further. The game was at Rogers Centre on August 28, 2004. Clark had started the game going 0-for-2, and then in the 6th inning he slugged a three-run homer off lefty Ted Lilly. In the 8th inning, he added a solo shot off Jason Frasor and in the 9th another bases empty blast off Kerry Ligtenberg. So Clark wound up going 3-for-5 with five runs batted in, in an 18-6 Yankees blowout win.
That, however, wasn't the most unusual aspect of that game. The Blue Jays scored two runs in the bottom of the 8th and actually shaved the Yanks' lead to 9-6. Things were getting dicey, so skipper Joe Torre brought in Mariano Rivera with two out in the 8th. Rivera did his job retiring all four men he faced.
The Yankees, though, scored nine runs in the top of the 9th to turn it into a laugher. Nevertheless, Rivera got his 45th save in a 12-run victory. I would doubt that ever happened before or since. It's amazing the stuff you can discover on Baseball Almanac.
Roy Halladay, who's battled through shoulder issues the last two years, is going to retire. In fact, he is going to call it a career as a Blue Jay. He will sign a one-day contract with the Jays before officially retiring. That would lead you to believe that if Roy makes it to the Hall of Fame one day he will go in as a Blue Jay. Also quite the coincidence that Halladay would retire in the same off-season as his good friend and former Jays teammate Chris Carpenter. The game will miss them both.