Two of the best moves of the year involved Matt Holliday. One was a deal to acquire Holliday, the other was a deal to be rid of Holliday.
Such are the dangers of big-league dealing.
It's all very unpredictable. But as it turned out this year, the very same GMs -- the Yankees' Brian Cashman, Rockies' Dan O'Dowd andMariners' Jack Zduriencik -- seemed to hit time and again with their deals and moves over the course of the last calendar year.
The same GMs made so many of the best moves that only 10 teams account for 28 of 30 entries on my list of the 30 Best Moves of the Year. For those scoring at home, that's 33 percent of the teams accounting for 93 percent of the entries. The Yankees and Rockies are tied for the lead with five entries, followed by four for the Mariners and two apiece by the Tigers, Cardinals, Phillies, Angels, Dodgers, Braves and Red Sox. The Nationals and Brewers had one entry apiece. Eighteen of 30 teams (or 60 percent) were shut out.
Not surprisingly, seven of the 10 teams that have multiple moves on the list are heading for the postseason, and an eighth likely will join them.
Here is the list ...
1. Rockies acquire Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith for Matt Holliday. Folks didn't like Colorado's end of this trade initially, which is usually a sure tipoff that they made a fine deal. And sure enough, for one year of Holliday, they filled their closer hole with Street (34 saves) and received a talented young outfielder in Gonzalez, who is now showing signs he has star power (.533 slugging percentage).
2. Tigers acquire Edwin Jackson for Matt Joyce. Tampa Bay made hay the year before by acquiring starting pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett in a deal for disappointing Delmon Young. But this winter they actually determined that they had too many starters, taking offers on Jackson, Jason Hammel (who was traded to Colorado) and Jeff Niemann with the intention of trading two of them. Jackson, very good in Tampa last year, became even better with a move to Comerica Park. Tampa was at least wise to trade Hammel and keep Niemann.
3. Cardinals acquire Matt Holliday for prospects Brett Wallace, Clay Mortensen and Shane Peterson. Holliday didn't take to Oakland, but he has absolutely thrived in St. Louis, batting .350 and providing the perfect complement to superstar Albert Pujols. Wallace will be a good A's-type player, but the Cardinals believed he's a first baseman and had no use for him
4. Yankees sign Mark Teixeira for $180 million over eight years. The Red Sox power brokers had a bad meeting with Teixeira at his Dallas-area home, opening the door for Yankees' GM Brian Cashman, who implored his bosses to take the big plunge and beat Boston's $170 million bid by telling them it was an opportunity to "make the Red Sox look bad.'' It also made the Yankees look good.
5. Rockies get Jason Marquis from the Cubs for Luis Vizcaino. Marquis was never a favorite of Cubs manager Lou Piniella, but he's won 15 games in Colorado and is headed for the postseason a 10th straight time. Vizcaino was almost immediately released.
6. Angels sign Bobby Abreu for $5 million. Besides putting up the very same numbers he puts up every year (he's hitting .297 with 15 homers, 102 RBIs, 94 walks and 29 steals), Abreu taught a lesson in plate discipline to all his new Angels teammates, from Chone Figgins to Torii Hunter to all the others (well, all of them except Vladimir Guerrero).
7. Rockies hire Jim Tracy as manager to replace Clint Hurdle. I love Hurdle, but his time was up. The message was getting lost. Tracy didn't seem like a very inspired choice at the time, but he defined roles (giving a more prominent one to Gonzalez) and has led the Rockies to a 73-40 record and playoff spot after they began 18-28 under Hurdle.
8. Phillies sign Raul Ibanez for $31.5 million over three years. For two months Ibanez was the best player in baseball, inspiring bloggers to speculate about how he got so good. Eventually, he came back to Earth. But he still had a great year (34 HRs, 93 RBIs, .274).
9. Braves acquire Javier Vazquez and reliever Boone Logan from the White Sox for prospects Tyler Flowers, Jon Gilmore, Brent Lillibridge and Santos Rodriguez. It seemed like a big gamble at the time, but it turned out to be the key move to rebuilding a rotation that badly needed it. With Vazquez pitching brilliantly (15-10 with a 2.87 ERA), the Braves turned a weakness into a great strength. The White Sox love power prospect Tyler Flowers.
10. Yankees sign CC Sabathia for $161 million. Some wondered whether the Yankees had to pay this much. That'll never be known, but they felt a threat from Sabathia's home-state Angels and simply had to have Sabathia, the ace they plainly needed.
11. Phillies acquire Cliff Lee from Indians for prospects Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp, Jason Donald and Lou Marson. Philly was able to add an ace without surrendering any of their top three prospects (Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown or Michael Taylor). Seemed like a decent deal for Cleveland, too, but Knapp soon after coming over required microfracture surgery on his throwing shoulder and is out a full year.
12. Dodgers sign Randy Wolf for $5 million. The Mets' second choice to Oliver Perez will start Game 1 of the Division Series.
13. Mariners hire Don Wakamatsu as manager. Wakamatsu instilled a discipline they badly needed and has led Seattle to a surprising 83-76 record.
14. Red Sox acquire Victor Martinez for Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price. The versatile V-Mart has been Boston's best player since arriving, batting .332 for the Red Sox and lengthening a lineup that was struggling at the time.
15. Dodgers sign Orlando Hudson for $3.38 million plus incentives. Originally looking for $50 million, Hudson had to settle for a small fraction of that due to an iffy wrist and disappearing market.
16. Nationals acquire Nyjer Morgan in a deal for Lastings Milledge. Morgan was known to be a very good defensive center fielder, and heaven knows he's exactly what they needed in Washington. But exciting offense, including a .351 average and 24 stolen bases, is a pleasant bonus.
17. Yankees sign Andy Pettitte for $5.5 million plus incentives. Pettitte held out for long enough for the price to drop, but he made it up in incentives after delivering an excellent year in the Bronx.
18. Yankees acquire Nick Swisher for Wilson Betemit, Jhonny Nunez and Jeff Marquez and a pitching prospect. It seemed like an extravagance once the Yankees acquired Teixeira, as Swisher appeared destined to become an expensive and dissatisfied bench player. But when Xavier Nady went down with elbow trouble, Swisher moved to right field where he became a power threat and fan favorite.
19. Mariners acquire David Aardsma from Boston for minor leaguer Fabian Williamson. Aardsma becomes the Mariners closer, saving 37 games.
20. Cardinals acquire Mark DeRosa for Chris Perez and Jess Todd. Several teams sought DeRosa, a late bloomer with versatility and power who's made an impact. John Smoltz and Julio Lugo also worked out for St. Louis on the cheap.
21. Angels sign Brian Fuentes for $17 million over two years. Some suggest Fuentes doesn't have closer stuff. But he does have 46 saves, which is 12 more than the departed K-Rod had for the Mets at twice the total cost.
22. Mariners get Franklin Gutierrez and five others in a trade for J.J. Putz. The pundits loved the Mets' end of this, as well. We won't know the damage to their system for a while, but chances are that new GM Jack Zduriencik found a few nuggets for the Putz, who broke down almost immediately with the Mets (who hasn't?). The Indians have a glut of outfielders, but Gutierrez (18 HRs, 67 RBIs, .282) exceeded expectations in Seattle.
23. Tigers make deals for defensive specialists Gerald Laird and Adam Everett. The Tigers wisely revamped their roster around pitching and defense, and he got two of the best here.
24. Brewers sign Trevor Hoffman for one year, $6 million. After the Padres decided to let Hoffman go, Milwaukee surprised folks by luring the lifetime Southern Californian to the Midwest when the Dodgers were in the mix.
25. Mariners sign Russell Branyan for $1.4 million. Russell the Muscle finally blossomed at age 33 with 31 home runs. Terrific first year for Zduriencik.
26. Red Sox acquire Alex Gonzalez for shortstop prospect Kristopher Negron. The slick-fielding Gonzalez really solidified the all-important shortstop position in Boston. The Red Sox had a fabulous summer altogether. On top of Martinez and Gonzalez, Boston also acquired Billy Wagner.
27. Rockies pick up Jason Giambi after he's released by the A's. Giambi didn't work out back in Oakland, but has been magical in a limited role in Colorado (11 RBIs in just 20 at-bats).
28. Braves acquire Adam LaRoche for Casey Kotchman. LaRoche produced big back with the Braves while Kotchman is nothing more than a defensive replacement in Boston. LaRoche is batting .347 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in Atlanta (compared to Kotchman's .215, one and seven with Boston). Kotchman in a year went from being traded for Teixeira to being traded for LaRoche. Next time it will be far less.
29. Rockies acquire Rafael Betancourt for prospect Connor Graham. Betancourt, flawless for almost a month in Colorado, is 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA overall there.
30. Yankees pick up Chad Gaudin off the waiver wire. For $100,000, Cashman got a pitcher that may supplant Joba Chamberlain as the team's No. 4 starter if the Yankees need one later in the playoffs. Twenty eight teams passed before Cashman pounced.
Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell is believed to be at the top of the Indians' wish list to replace Eric Wedge as manager. In fact, Farrell is seen as such a strong candidate he may at the moment be the whole list.
Farrell appears to be the perfect man for the job. Beyond being Boston's very successful pitching coach, he pitched for the Indians and worked in their front office. He is also an intellectual heavyweight who should mesh well with GM Mark Shapiro, a Princeton man.
The firing of Wedge wasn't entirely fair, of course, as many -- if not most of the Indians' issues -- were not necessarily his fault, starting with the annual abomination otherwise known as Cleveland's bullpen. The Indians haven't drafted very well in recent years but rather came to rely heavily on helpful trades and big-league acquisitions; however, they have had mixed results in those transactions this year. Neither the trade of center fielder Franklin Gutierrez to Seattle in an 11-player trade that brought them reliever Joe Smith nor the signing of closer Kerry Wood worked at all. The signing of Carl Pavano and trade for Mark DeRosa produced better outcomes, but both of those players went in a summer fire sale that became necessary.
The Indians made the courageous step to deal stars Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez plus Rafael Betancourt and Ryan Garko, as well, and received a bevy of under-25 prospects, most of them pitchers. Trades the year before brought Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and top catching prospect Carlos Santana. Yet, with the value of prospects shooting up, the Indians didn't appear to receive those types of top prospects in 2009. Last year they also rebounded in the second half under Wedge, but this time they sank into an abyss that left them 6-20 in September when Wedge's firing was announced.
With the Indians tanking, Wedge lost support from fans. Ownership eventually came to believe a change was needed and is believed to have relayed this belief to Shapiro, a longtime supporter of Wedge. While Shapiro's long-held intention was to keep Wedge, the manager's position became untenable by the time the decision was made.
Orioles manager Dave Trembley had to be relieved to finally win in Tampa Thursday night after 13 straight defeats. But the great likelihood is that Trembley will soon be relieved of his duties.
Orioles GM Andy MacPhail made clear this summer he was looking for a better finish for the Orioles, who are now two defeats from 100. This was not it.
Meanwhile, Jerry Manuel and Ken Macha are expected to return as lame ducks next year, while Nationals manager Jim Riggleman appears now to have a chance to stay in that job when it was widely presumed Washington would bring in a new manager. The Nats have improved vastly since Riggleman replaced Manny Acta, though they obviously still have a long way to go.
Star shortstop Jose Reyes, who personifies the Mets' disastrous and injury-wracked season, now has received an initial recommendation to have the hamstring tendon that's been bothering him for several months to be surgically fixed. The new recommendation came after Reyes suffered a tear in his hamstring this week but months after injuring the tendon behind his knee.
The decision was made not to have surgery in June on the tendon, and that now looks like a mistake. After the latest setback, doctors are re-evaluating whether the tendon issue led to the hamstring tear, and Reyes will learn in the next day or two if a second doctor also suggests surgery.
If the tendon is repaired, the Mets believe Reyes will be ready for spring training next year. Of course nothing they've thought all along regarding Reyes' injury has come true. He was originally only supposed to miss a few days.
The day before tearing the hamstring (that tear is said not to be complete and expected to heal with rest), Reyes remarked to friends that he was feeling as well as he had in months and even whispered that he was hoping to play in one last game this year. Reyes, who is known around the team has an especially hard worker, may have pushed himself too hard this week. But the question has to be asked whether the Mets pushed too hard this summer when they were suggesting Reyes' hamstring tendon injury might be only a matter of days.
Reyes is one of a long list of Mets who were out with injury a lot longer than originally expected. Carlos Beltran and John Maine eventually made it back after long layoffs, but Oliver Perez, J.J. Putz and Carlos Delgado never did.
A high-ranking Mets person suggested the Mets were hampered by bad luck and a couple wrong personnel choices in an apparent suggestion that their medical protocol is fine. But based on what's gone on, they might be best advised to re-evaluate all their medical practices.
• Cardinals star Chris Carpenter probably has the edge now over teammate Adam Wainwright following five more shutout innings Thursday in a 13-0 win at Cincinnati in which Carpenter also hit a grand slam (and had six RBIs). Carpenter leads the NL in ERA (2.24) and winning percentage (.810), a strong combination that's rarely overlooked by voters (only a handful of times has a pitcher led in both categories and not won the Cy Young). He also is second in WHIP at 1.01 (Dan Haren is at an even 1.00), compared to Wainwright's 10th-best 1.21. Carpenter has gotten significantly less run support than Wainwright while winning a higher percentage of games than his teammate (or anyone else). Whoever wins the award, both Cy Youngs should be from Missouri, as the Royals' Zack Greinke is the overwhelming favorite in the AL.
• The Dodgers are struggling mightily offensively. Andre Ethier has one hit in his last 29 at-bats, while Manny Ramirez is batting .229 in September. Folks are worried out in Hollywood.
• Diamondbacks people are perplexed that the whole isn't equal to the sum of their parts. Big years by Mark Reynolds, Justin Upton and others aren't adding up to very many wins. So the team's attitude has to be analyzed.
• The Braves made a smooth exit for Bobby Cox, who announced he will retire after next year, but he still has a year to figure out a way to stay. Chipper Jones said he doubted Cox will ever really leave, echoing the thoughts of many.
• The Red Sox should not have hung around the clubhouse to celebrate the occasion of their backing in. This is a team that's won two titles in the last half decade, so backing into a wild-card spot should not have been worth staying at the park 'til past midnight to toast. They turned it into a late night, making their matchup the next day vs. Roy Halladay the surest bet of the season. They lost 12-zip.
• Joba Chamberlain appeared to pitch himself out of any hope of an October start. The Yankees should put him in the 'pen this weekend with an eye on relief work for Chamberlain, who hasn't been nearly as effective as Gaudin as a starter in recent weeks.
• Kudos to the Padres and manager Bud Black for playing hard until the end. San Diego was 17-9 in September. The A's and Royals also kept playing long after they were finished. Good for them. Not every team can say the same.
• The tweets are here: http://twitter.com/SI_JonHeyman.