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Winter meetings

by Matt Smith

The winter meetings in Nashville are now over. On the surface, it appears to have been more of a social event than a constructive working week.

The winter meetings are really the product of a bygone era, but I think that adds to the occasion. Never mind video conferences, e-mails, faxes or telephone calls; if you want to secretly discuss a possible blockbuster deal, where better than in a hotel swarming with reporters? I can just imagine Dave Dombrowski and Larry Beinfest trying to slip away unnoticed, hiding behind pillars, knocking bins over to trip up potential followers, before diving into a room for their covert meeting.

The way the meetings are set up nowadays, they are bound to cause disappointment among baseball fans. With so many reporters twiddling their thumbs, the rumour mill goes into overdrive with reports of possible deals flying on to the internet barely seconds after a GM is seen to briefly lock eyes with a player’s agent. Many reporters are looking back at the meetings and writing comments such as “all talk, no action”, wilfully disregarding the fact that they no doubt embellished every minor discussion in the first place. It produces lots of stories though and that’s really the point of it from a fan’s perspective.

Of course, the winter meetings didn’t pass completely without incident. Detroit and Florida made sure of that with their eight-player trade. The Tigers’ batting lineup looks a frightening prospect with Cabrera added to an already potent mix and that should help Dontrelle Willis recapture his previous form (to some degree) after a dispiriting 2007 season. As for the Marlins, they’ve picked up several talented youngsters while reducing their payroll even further. Their actions really make a mockery of Selig’s ideas of creating a competitive landscape via revenue sharing. It’s frankly wrong that a team can trade away their top players and reduce their payroll to an extent that the owner can pocket a sizeable chunk of the money that they should be spending on the team. No system is perfect, but the way in which teams can be rewarded for not trying (through revenue sharing and obtaining top draft picks) is a serious flaw that needs to be looked at. The Marlins (and MLB for that matter) are basically throwing a prolonged hissy fit because the locals won’t help to pay for a new stadium. I’m not sure how these actions are supposed to encourage them to change their minds.

Anyway, GMs and agents have departed from Nashville claiming that foundations have been laid for deals to be signed over the next couple of months (they’ve got to justify their expenses, after all). Everyone is waiting for the seemingly inevitable Santana trade before they make their moves. The Red Sox are reportedly in pole position, although I don’t know many people who believe the Yankees’ self-imposed deadline means they are now out of the running. The Mets have been mentioned as a possibility, yet whether they have enough desirable parts to compete with their rivals remains to be seen. The Dodgers are in the race as well and signing Andruw Jones perhaps increases their odds of success as it may be easier to part with Kemp and/or Ethier now. It’s a good example of how deals are not made in isolation: one move can set off a long chain of events.

Maybe a few dominoes will start to fall over the next couple of weeks before Christmas?

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