Houston, as a result of winning the World Series last season, got to host the winter meetings (could someone get us a Honolulu team, please?). It was an appropriate setting, as the trade winds blew more like the hurricanes that occasionally touch down off the gulf. Some teams decided there was a major piece that they needed and got it; a few teams decided to quite a few changes, and one team (Chicago) underwent an overhaul. Here's a rundown of the major deals:
CHICAGO SNAKE TAMERS AND HOUSTON RIVERDOGS
Chicago gets: SS B.C.Stone (AA), RP Juan Martin (AAA)
Houston gets: CF Scott Diaz
Analysis: Diaz is a speedy centerfielder who basically matched his season 2 numbers last season. He's not a prototypical leadoff hitter, as he strikes out a bit too much, but he can hit well and adds yet antoher stolen base threat to Houston's lineup. Stone is a decent hitter, but his glove will be what keeps him in a ML starting lineup someday. Martin is an iffy prospect, as his lack of control could end up short-circuiting his ML career. If he can find the plate, he could contribute out of the bullpen- he has decent stuff.
New York New York and Cheyenne Nation
New York gets: CF R.J. Figueroa
Cheyenne gets: SP Manny Christians
Analysis: Aren't too many big-time 1 for 1 deals, but this could be judged as one of those. Figueroa does a little bit of everything at the plate (good average, decent power, can steal some bases) and is still very reliable in center field. Christians, amazingly, will now pitch for his 4th team in 4 seasons since signing a huge 5 year, $68 million contract before season 1. For all the hoopla surrounding him (often in this blog) and with his great stuff, he's yet to win more than 12 games in a season. Cheyenne is taking a bit of a gamble here, although quality starting pitching has been awfully hard to find.
NORFOLK DESTROYERS AND TORONTO TOROS
Norfolk gets: SP/RP Ching-Lung Feng (Hi-A)
Toronto gets: SS Victor May
Analysis: Last season May split time as SS with Joel Crosby, so Norfolk sends May north of the border. May is a better defender, but Crosby can hit better. Toronto gets a defensive specialist in May who can play any position. Feng needs to harness his control- if he can, he'll be tough on righties with a big-time curveball.
CHICAGO SNAKE TAMERS AND HOUSTON RIVERDOGS (again)
Chicago gets: SP Mateo Guerrero (AAA), RF Butch Russell (Lo-A)
Houston gets: SP Stephen Tucker, 2B/IF Alex McClain
Analysis: Tucker may never regain the Cy Young form he had in season 2 prior to his injury, but he's arguably still an ace. McClain adds more depth to an already deep lineup. Houston is not standing pat; they're looking to repeat and win now. Chicago is rebuilding and they get two more pieces in Guerrero, a guy who's not an ace but should be an inning-eater type of pitcher. McClain is a good hitter with blinding speed- he could be a leadoff hitter.
FARGO DIRTBAGS AND CHICAGO SNAKE TAMERS
Fargo gets: 3B Bud Klein
Chicago gets: 2B Victor Flores (Hi-A), SP/RP Santos Romero, 3B Paxton Coleridge
Chicago was looking to shed salary. Fargo has needed a hitter ever since season 2. So this seemed to be a good fit for both teams. Klein drove in 100 runs while hitting 34 home runs and he can hit for average (.321), so he'll fit in nicely in the middle of Fargo's lineup. The key to the deal for Chicago was the only non-ML player, Flores. He's a highly touted infielder who's pretty good defensively and should be a good all-around hitter with speed. Romero is a fireballing lefty with control issues and Coleridge is an all-or-nothing slugger; watch both the home runs and strikeouts pile up.
LITTLE ROCK RAIDERS AND NEW YORK NEW YORK
Little Rock gets: IF/OF Bernie Soriano, SP Joey Hubbard
New York gets: LF Placido Tejada , IF/OF Benji Barcelo (AAA), 2B Karl Benes (AAA)
Analysis: Little Rock gets a big-time hitter in Soriano, who bounced back from a sub-par season in Season 2 to hit 56 home runs and drive in 136. Hubbard has yet to fulfill his potential, as he's a career below .500 pitcher and has yet to post an ERA below 5. New York gets three young players in return. Tejada is a LF who'd be great as a platoon player but may not hit lefties enough to play every day. Barcelo isn't a star but should be a solid contributor on the ML level. Benes may be the best of the bunch, as he's a well-rounded player with decent speed and good power.
COLORADO SPRING CHICKENS AND CHICAGO SNAKE TAMERS
Colorado Springs gets: SP Matty Eusebio
Chicago gets: IF Evan Smith (AA), SP Graham Stark
Analysis: Colorado Springs gets one of the best pitchers in the league in the three seasons. The only question is this: does Eusebio make a 68-win team from last season a potential contender? If not, was it worth giving up Smith and Stark? Smith ripped up Hi-A pitching last season and has the look of a .300 hitter in the majors. Stark is yet another fireballing pitcher with control issues. Chicago seems to be stockpiling them.
CHICAGO SNAKE TAMERS AND TRENTON TRAFFIC
Chicago gets: CF Paul Turnbow (AAA), 2B Alex Saenz (AAA)
Trenton gets: IF/OF Denny Moss
Analysis: Trenton gets one of the more dynamic players in the entire league in Moss, who is a rare combination of immense power and speed; health and durability are his issues. When healthy, he is maybe the most talented player in the league. He's now playing for his third team, however. Chicago didn't just give Moss away, as they get two big-time prospects in return. Turnbow is a speedy CF who can run anything down and adds some pop at the plate. Saenz is a speedy 2B with good power- they should both crack Chicago's starting lineup soon.
CHICAGO SNAKE TAMERS AND MONTERREY SULTANS
Chicago gets: LF Trever Russell, RP Guy Moore
Monterrey gets: SP Ajax Drabek
Analysis: Drabek is still a very good pitcher- for some reason the pitcher's park in Seattle didn't sit well with him and pitched much better after being dealt to Chicago. Now he gets sent south of the border to Monterrey to join a starting staff that already has Philip Allensworth and others. Russell could start the season in LF- he has big time power. Moore is a "tweener"- not enough stamina to start and not enough durability to pitch every other day. Chicago has a good arm on their hands, but need to pick his role carefully.
MONTERREY SULTANS AND NEW YORK NEW YORK
Monterrey gets: DH Vin Logan (Lo-A)
New York gets: SP Max Jacquez
Analysis: The most shocking thing here isn't that Monterrey traded a pitcher who has won 36 games in the last two seasons for a minor league DH or that a 37-year-old gets traded for a 19-year-old, but that Chicago wasn't involved in this trade. Jacquez is an aging starter who doesn't appear to be done yet. I don't think he'll win 36 over the next two seasons, but he'll win games and eat innings for New York. Logan is a guy without a position- he's got very average pitch calling and can't really play anywhere but catcher. He will eventually wear out big league pitching no matter what his position.
CHEYENNE NATION AND LITTLE ROCK RAIDERS
Cheyenne gets: 3B Wendell Durrington
Little Rock gets: SP Hipolito Pujols
Analysis: Halfway through season 1, Pujols was one of the best pitchers in the NL and a runaway candidate for ROY. Who could have imagined he would be dealt just 2 1/2 seasons later? He hasn't been the same since that night against Chicago when he blew out his elbow. He'll try to rehabilitate his career in Arkansas with the Raiders. The Nation will welcome Durrington in return, one of the best all-around players in the game.
TORONTO TOROS AND SALEM SACRIFICES
Toronto gets: SP Earl Cedeno (AA)
Salem gets: IF Travis Bush
Analysis: Salem has to hope it's getting the season 2 Travis Bush (.292-8-70) and not the season 3 version (.247-6-48). He's good defensively, but not good enough to play SS- he'd be very good at 2B or 3B. Cedeno has a live arm but can't go very deep into games- if monitored he could be a solid starter.
AUSTIN CITY LIMITS AND NEW YORK NEW YORK
Austin gets: LF Tony Percival
New York gets: RP Dan Daley
Analysis: Another bat-for-an-arm deal. Percival is a power hitter; Austin is looking for everyday players. New York gets a good arm out of the pen- Daley is a young reliever who should be around for a long time and is tough on righties.
SYRACUSE SIMPLETONS AND ST. LOUIS SILLY NANNIES
Syracuse gets: SP Ryan Martin, SP Charlie Miller, SP Tony Rowan
St. Louis gets: 2B Rico Guevara (AAA), DH Rex Kent (Hi-A), RP Tino Okajima (Hi-A)
Analysis: Syracuse apparently wanted St. Louis's entire starting staff, so the Silly Nannies just shipped them en masse. Martin and Miller are solid #2-#4 type starters- not great, but guys needed to fill a rotation spot and eat innings. Rowan may be a season or so away but he's a potential ace. In return, St. Louis gets Guevara, a potential star second baseman- he'll hit for power, run, and make plays in the field. Kent is a big-time potential hitter who just doesn't fit in defensively. Okajima should become a solid reliever who can get out hitters on both side of the plate.
MONTERREY SULTANS AND MILWAUKEE MANIC MAULERS
Monterrey gets: RF Ryan Snyder
Milwaukee gets: SP Slash Ruffin (minors)
Analysis: Two of the titans of the AL since the birth of the league pulled off a major deal here. Snyder hit 40 home runs last season, so Monterrey improves its offense with yet another big-time power hitter. Ruffin helps add depth to Milwaukee's pitching staff down the line- he's a few seasons away but should easily be a #2 starter, possibly a #1 on some staffs. He's got all the tools to be a very good starter.