Anytime a general manager acquires one of the game's five best pitchers for essentially nothing and locks down another with a five-year contract, he doesn't have to do anything else to have a great winter. But trading for lefthander Cliff Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner, and negotiating a new deal for Felix Hernandez, last year's AL Cy runner-up, were no-brainers for Mariners G.M. Jack Zduriencik. More impressively, he signed free-agent third baseman Chone Figgins, which filled a hole at the top of the Seattle lineup and created one for the AL West--rival Angels, Figgins's former team; and unloaded righthander Carlos Silva (five wins in his last 34 starts) and his awful contract ($25 million over the next two years) on the Cubs in return for outfielder Milton Bradley, a much-needed on-base threat.
Zduriencik had by far the best winter of any G.M. Who came closest to matching him? Brian Cashman, which is not good news for the 29 teams that would like to dethrone the Yankees. Cashman engineered a three-team trade that brought Curtis Granderson to New York, and all the G.M. had to give up to get an All-Star centerfielder who hit 30 home runs last year was three prospects. Cashman then sent outfielder Melky Cabrera and a handful of younger players he won't miss to the Braves for starter Javier Vazquez. It's easy to attribute the Yanks' success to their bottomless pockets, but these deals had more to do with Cashman's shrewdness.
Hats off as well to the Blue Jays' Alex Anthopolous, who extricated his team from the Roy Halladay circus by trading the ace to the Phillies for three solid prospects. Anthopolous also revealed plans to build up his scouting department and brought in Tom Tango, the sabermetrician who helped turn around the Mariners, as a consultant. Anthopolous will make the Blue Jays relevant again sooner than you may think.