The free-agency period hasn't begun yet and there are still some major players changing teams via trades. Here are the biggest ones to go down so far:
Chicago Snake Tamers and Houston Riverdogs
Snake Tamers get: SP Matty Eusebio
Riverdogs get: LF Placido Sanchez, SP Jose Merced, RF Mike Schneider (AAA)
Analysis: Chicago wanted to get an ace and they've done so: Eusebio has been easily one of the top 10 starters in the league over the first two seasons. Chicago is feeling pressure to compete with Fargo and their stable of young starters. Whether Eusebio is the piece that gets them past the Dirtbags in the very difficult NL North remains to be seen. Houston's key piece in this deal is Sanchez, a potential 4 or 5 tool player who had a very disappointing rookie season in Chicago last season- if he can cut down on his strikeouts he'll be a force in the top of the Riverdogs lineup. Merced will be counted on to take Eusebio's spot in the rotation- he can't replace Eusebio, but he's a solid #2-#3 type starter. Schneider has talent but was possibly promoted through the minors too fast. His future role in the ML is uncertain, although he is talented enough to contribute in some way.
Las Vegas Gamblers and New Orleans Voodoo
Gamblers get: SP/RP Bob Delaney
Voodoo get: SP Fred Keats (AAA)
Analysis: A deal of good, if not great, young arms. Delaney was a swing man for the Voodoo last season, so whether he slides into the Gamblers rotation or pitches long relief remains to be seen. Keats is a 24-year-old minor league starter who is a fairly big risk/reward for the Voodoo- he's got a live arm and throws hard, but is coming off major elbow surgery.
Toledo Greensox and New Orleans Voodoo
Greensox get: 1B Daryle Van Poppel
Voodoo get: P Eduardo Lira (AAA)
Analysis: This is an interesting deal, and the outcome will depend on Van Poppel. He's seen part-time duty in New Orleans and has put up paltry numbers. If he hits like he is capable of hitting, this is a steal for the Greensox. If not, it's a great salary dump for the Voodoo. Lira has a decent arm but his lack of control will keep him from being a quality major league pitcher, in my opinion.
Chicago Snake Tamers and Jackson Vipers
Snake Tamers get: 2B Alex McClain
Vipers get: RP Dennys Miceli (AAA), 2B Barney Weiss (RL)
Analysis: Chicago is really going for it with this trade and the Eusebio deal. McClain is a speedy leadoff-type hitter who is relatively inexpensive ($5.5 million for the next 2 seasons). He stole 45 bases last season and will add that dimension to the Chicago offense. For Jackson, Miceli is a potential future closer with a good sinker and slider. Weiss should be a good fielding 2B with power if he can keep himself healthy.
New York New York and Trenton Traffic
New York get: SP Manny Christians
Traffic get: SP Duffy Parnell, SP/RP Bert Pierre (AAA), 2B Alex Saenz (AA)
Analysis: Christians has a gigantic contract ($38 million over the next 3 seasons) and his stamina has been an issue from time to time, but after Eusebio came off the market, he was arguably the only other potential ace out there. Parnell is an overpaid #4 starter- the key to the deal for Trenton was the 2 minor leaguers. Pierre appears to be a future #2 or 3 starter despite struggling in AAA last season, and Saenz is a 2B wih speed and power.
Scottsdale Slammers and Toronto Toros
Slammers get: LF/1B Thomas Keisler
Toros get: C Philip Reagan (Hi-A), IF Phillip Clinton (AA)
Analysis: Scottsdale's offense (back when it was Boise) was one of the league's worst last season, and they just got better with the acquisition of Keisler. Keisler combines speed with RBI production, albeit with little power. In all probability, Toronto wanted to cut some payroll (Keisler is due $11 million total for the next two seasons). They do get two guys named Phillip. Reagan should be a good defensive catcher who will hit for a decent average as well- always a good commodity to have. Clinton is an interesting player-he hits, hits for power, runs, and fields fairly well but doesn't excel at any one of them. I'd give him a plus arm- good, not great. It's hard to project exactly what type of ML player he will be.
Scottsdale Slammers and Houston Riverdogs
SLAMMERS get: IF Ivan Jones
Riverdogs get: C Mike Hitchcock (AAA), P Damaso Ramirez (AAA)
Analysis: Interesting deal for both teams. The Riverdogs, preparing to defend their second straight NL South crown, seem intent on trading away veterans while the Slammers are trying to add veteran parts to a 64-win team. Jones is a 2-time 30 HR guy who won't necessarily hit for a high average. He's maybe not a shortstop anymore, but would be a good 3B or 2B. Hitchcock should be a very good defensive catcher and Ramirez could be a 5th starter at some point.
Monterrey Sultans and Huntington Beachcombers
Sultans get: DH Tony Escuela
Beachcombers get: SP Bip Brock (AAA), SP Hal MacMillan (AA)
Anaylsis: The Sultans get a big time bat for the DH spot, but it's not King Winn (as was speculated). However, Sultan fans don't seem too disappointed as their team swings a deal for a 21-year-old slugger who drove in 97 runs in 110 games for Huntington last season. Escuela lengthens an already deep lineup. Huntington gets a middle of the rotation guy in Brock and a potential #5 guy in MacMillan. It's a win-win situation for both teams: Monterrey gets the bat they wanted without giving up a big-time prospect and Huntington gets something for a player they couldn't really use.
Austin City Limits and Toronto Toros
City Limits get: CF Lee Kennedy, CF Peter Cheng
Toros get: IF Terry Bell (Hi-A), P Shayne Gil (AAA)
Analysis: Austin gets a potential big-time outfielder in Kennedy. Whether or not he'll be good enough to handle CF defensively could be an issue, but he's hit 30 HRs and driven in 100 runs 2 straight years at AAA, so he seems to be ready at the plate. Cheng is a good CF defensively and has great speed, but may not hit enough to be a ML starter. As for Toronto's end, they get Bell, whose future probably isn't at SS but would be fairly good offensively at, say, 2B. Gil is a back of the rotation type guy who doesn't throw hard but has great control.
Nashville Sounds and Trenton Traffic
Sounds get: DH/C King Winn
Traffic get: CF George Lowe (Lo-A), RP Pablo Rojas (AAA)
Analysis: Nashville was looking for another big bat and most certainly picked up one in Winn. He's very limited defensively, but should fit in well with the Sounds as a DH. He'll fit in right behind Gregg Black in the Nashville order and should therefore get plenty of RBI opportunities- expect him to improve on last season's numbers. Trenton gets Lowe, a 19-year-old CF and leadoff hitter of the future and Rojas, who probably will be ready for the back of Trenton's bullpen by next season- expect him and Justin Beverlin to be a good combination at the end of games.