|MLB Power Rankings|
|1||--||Boston Red Sox|
They let Pedro Martinez and his $17.5 million price tag from last season walk, in effect trading him for David Wells and Edgar Renteria. That's a pretty good trade and an impressive start to a title defense.
To any writers working on their annual "This is the year the Braves' run ends" stories, stop typing and back away from your laptops. This run of division titles (13 and counting) is never going to end ... ever. Especially not after they recast the top of their rotation to include Tim Hudson and John Smoltz.
|3||--||San Francisco Giants|
This winter has been all about erasing last year's mistake -- the Joe Nathan-for-A.J. Pierzynski trade. Robb Nen's injury cost Barry Bonds another shot at the World Series while the Twins rode Nathan's 44 saves to another AL Central title. Signing closer Armando Benitez, catcher Mike Matheny and shortstop Omar Vizquel helps make up for that.
They overpaid for Richie Sexson (four years, $50 million), and got a bargain with Adrian Beltre (five years, $64 million). Together, they might help Seattle contend for third place in baseball's toughest division. At least the M's -- who are usually too stingy to make midseason pickups -- are acting like a high-revenue club for a change.
Rather than participate in a Scott Boras Dance of Death for Carlos Beltran, the Angels filled their outfield need with the dangerous Steve Finley, who carried the Dodgers down the stretch last season. Now let's see what they do with the rest of their war chest.
Hudson will be missed more in spirit than production. Youngsters Rich Harden and Joe Blanton will step up, and now they will be throwing to a catcher (Jason Kendall) who boasts a .400 on-base percentage.
Bad teams don't need All-Star closers, which is why they shipped Danny Kolb to the Braves for a blue-chip pitching prospect (Jose Capellan). Then they swapped a former waiver pickup (Scott Podsednik) for a guy who instantly becomes their best right-handed hitter (Carlos Lee). What is GM Doug Melvin going to do next, trade Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson?
|8||--||New York Yankees|
How about this for a Big Three: Randy Johnson-Mike Mussina-Carl Pavano? Yankees fans, please try to contain your drool as the Big Unit trade talks continue.
|9||--||New York Mets|
That run on the back pages of the tabloids lasted, what, a day? Such is life for New York's "other" team. With Martinez and Kris Benson in tow, the starting pitching looks stout. But they still need a right fielder, a first baseman and a taker for the gimpy Cliff Floyd.
Any starting pitcher with a pulse (and some without) is getting huge years and huge dollars this winter, but the Twins retained workhorse Brad Radke for $18 million over two years. That could end up being the best deal of the offseason.
If Kenny Lofton is the answer, I don't want to know the question. Otherwise, the Phillies have done well, signing a healthy Jon Lieber and keeping lefty workhorse Rheal Cormier.
|12||--||Chicago White Sox|
Pairing speedster Podsednik with Aaron Rowand gives them a fleet-footed outfield, and they will have midseason pickup Freddy Garcia for a full season. How skipper Ozzie Guillen's smallball style will play in a sluggers' haven such as U.S. Cellular Field is anybody's guess, but at least they will be more fun to watch.
Their roster begins to make sense if this Big Unit trade goes through and Brad Penny's arm is healthy. If it doesn't happen, then we can go back to ripping them for giving Russ Ortiz $33 million.
Al Leiter on a one-year deal is nice, but the highlight of this offseason has been the flirtation with Las Vegas. Nothing like showgirls to ease the pain of geting dusted in the Pavano sweepstakes.
With Kendall out of the way, a useful outfielder (Matt Lawton) in the fold and a new catcher (Benito Santiago) in place, the Pirates can look forward to their annual bottom-feeding frenzy after the Dec. 20 non-tender deadline. Few teams do it better.
|16||--||St. Louis Cardinals|
In case the Cardinals missed it, the license plate of that truck that ran them over says "RED SOX." After sweeping St. Louis in the World Series, Boston came around for another pass and took its All-Star shortstop, Renteria. What will the chowds take next, the Arch?
|17||--||San Diego Padres|
Anna Benson has nothing on David Wells' wife. The portly left-hander said contract negotiations failed with the Padres because he used his wife, Nina, instead of his agent to broker the deal. When talks broke down, Wells said it was because she "screwed up the deal." Wells rehired his agent and signed with the Red Sox.
The front office must be watching a lot of World Series of Poker on ESPN, because the Astros are "all in" on the combo of Roger Clemens and Carlos Beltran. If those two bolt, it's going to be a long summer at Minute Maid Park. If they come back, start printing World Series tickets.
Considering how close they came to the playoffs last season, the Rangers are showing remarkable restraint in not picking up one of these $7 million-a-year pitchers. Reportedly, they are trying to bring in Jose Valentin as a DH against righties. That type of outside-the-box thinking will serve them well.
As much as anybody, the Indians have suffered from the skyrocketing price for starting pitching this winter. Their offseason appears to hinge on signing Matt Clement, who has no shortage of suitors.
The Tigers have taken the collar on free-agent hitters, whiffing on Renteria, Troy Glaus, Corey Koskie and Finley. Maybe the Tigers would have a better chance with sluggers if you didn't need binoculars to see the outfield walls at Comerica Park.
Former broadcaster Steve Stone on ESPN about the Sammy Sosa situation: "If you create Frankenstein, you can't be real surprised if he eats the village." So if Sosa is Frankenstein, who plays Igor the humpbacked assistant?
|23||--||Los Angeles Dodgers|
These aren't your daddy's Dodgers. They failed to match the Mariners' more-than-reasonable offer for Beltre, and now they are trying to shed millions more off their payroll in this three-team Big Unit trade. What are they trying to do, become the Oakland A's?
After missing out on Pavano and Sexson, the Orioles are left with a lot of money and a bunch of holes to fill, most notably at the top of the rotation. With the Red Sox and Yankees well into their winter arms race, what are the Orioles waiting for?
Of the flurry of deals Cold Pizza's Jim Bowden made, only the Jose Guillen trade made any sense. (Then again, that's what you get when you find your GM on the set of Cold Pizza.) So even before the D.C. council pulled the plug on the team's sweatheart stadium deal, this offseason wasn't going very well. Now it's apocalyptic.
|26||--||Toronto Blue Jays|
Who needs Pavano and Renteria when you can sign Koskie and Frank Menechino? The Blue Jays aren't quite the Devil Rays, but they might as well be.
What were they thinking trading for a halfway-decent pitcher like Ramon Ortiz? As Cold Pizza's Bowden will tell you, the key to building a team is to put as many five-tool outfielders as possible on the 40-man roster.
That was mighty big of them to take such a morally righteous stand and terminate Denny Neagle's contract after a solicitation arrest. It couldn't have had anything to do with his fat contract, injured shoulder and career 19-23 record with the Rockies, could it? No, of course not.
|29||--||Kansas City Royals|
At least we won't have to hear about what a great sleeper left-hander Darrell May is going to be this season. The Royals gave up on their best pitcher from 2003 after he hit the skids last season, trading him to the Padres for -- ouch -- Terrence Long.
|30||--||Tampa Bay Devil Rays|
Poor Devil Rays. They thought they were trading pitcher Chad Gaudin for cash, not Kevin Cash.