Lots of talking and one huge deal
Marlins-Tigers eight-player trade highlights Winter Meetings
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- MLB Nation checked into the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center four days ago, geared up to turn Music City into "Smashville."The Marlins and Tigers did their parts, hitting the high notes in engineering an eight-player deal that starred Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. The other teams mostly provided the beat -- necessary to the music but perceptible only to those listening closely. The Gaylord halls, lobbies, pathways and rooms hosted the usual array of dialogues among general managers and between GMs and agents. But for the most part, they weren't able -- yet -- to unleash the expected trade monsoon. The life of the party, Minnesota left-hander Johan Santana, couldn't find a new dance partner, and as they say at the Grand Ole Opry, "left with the one who brung him." However, the courtship does seem to have been weaned down to the Red Sox, who at least seem to have reached the "steady" stage. Boston general manager Theo Epstein departed with the luxury of time, the Yankees' withdrawal having apparently left him without much competition. "I think both sides agreed just to have an open dialogue going forward," Epstein said, referring to Minnesota GM Bill Smith. "I don't see any need at this time to put on a deadline or an ultimatum of any kind. I respect the position they're in. They have a lot of big issues facing them, and we'll be there to talk." There was lots of talk. With an insider's perspective, new Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker was privy to "probably the most activity that I've seen at a Winter Meetings in a long time." "Usually," Baker elaborated, "people are posturing here to make deals. So, it appears that you'd better pull the trigger around here pretty quickly." But when the baseball people pulled out of Nashville, many of the fingers were still on the triggers. The impression they left behind is that the two weeks between now and Christmas could be hectic.
"I'm probably more disappointed there wasn't more done down here," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "I thought there'd be more, industry-wide. You just sit around and, really, how many trades went down outside of the Tigers-Marlins? Maybe Buck Coats. That was probably the headline after that."Exclusive of a few waiver-wire transactions, a total of 10 deals were swung -- including the Jays picking up Coats, an outfielder, from the Reds for future considerations. The others were easily dwarfed by the Florida-Detroit blockbuster. That swap accounted for eight of the 24 players involved in moves here -- barely exceeding the 18 players who swapped organizations during the Major League phase of Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft. In addition, new Dodgers outfielder Andruw Jones was the brightest marquee name among the free agents to agree to deals. Infielder Aaron Boone, who worked out a one-year deal with the Nationals on Thursday afternoon, was the latest. Other prominent free agents to officially reach deals during the Meetings were second baseman Kazuo Matsui, with the Astros; outfielder Jose Guillen, with the Royals; and pitchers Randy Wolf, with the Padres, and David Riske, with the Brewers. Three other free agents re-upped with their 2007 teams: Yankees catcher Jose Molina, Boston reliever Mike Timlin and outfielder Milton Bradley, who was reported early Thursday to have reached a 2008 deal for about $3.75 million with the Padres. During the Major League phase of the morning's Rule 5 Draft, with Minnesota, the most-watched team at the Meetings that did not make a move, ironically being the only franchise to lose three unprotected Minor Leaguers during the first phase. The foes in the 2007 American League Championship Series -- Boston and Cleveland -- lost two players each. The Red Sox lost a pair of left-handers, Jose Capellan to the Giants and Travis Blackley to the Phillies. The Indians were plucked for two of the four position players taken in the entire process: third baseman Matt Whitney (Nationals) and center fielder Brian Barton (Cardinals). By the Draft's second round, all teams passed except for the Nationals, Padres and Phillies -- hence the only three clubs to make two selections. With the Draft's first pick, Tampa Bay chose Tim Lahey out of the Minnesota organization, with the Rays promptly pivoting to deal the 25-year-old right-hander to the Cubs for cash considerations. Originally a catcher, Lahey was converted to a pitcher in 2005, the year after having been the Twins' 20th-round choice in the First-Year Player Draft, with immediate success. He earned 15 saves that season with Elizabethtown in the Rookie League, and is 15-6 with 38 saves in 123 Minor League appearances overall.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.