Meetings wrap up with Tigers on top
Detroit's roar loudest in Nashville, thanks to blockbuster
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The 2007 Winter Meetings can be summed up by two trends: The Detroit Tigers became better and the rumors outnumbered the facts by a ratio of roughly 300:1.
The Tigers were no rumor, obtaining third baseman Miguel Cabrera and left-handed starting pitcher Dontrelle Willis from the Florida Marlins at a substantial cost in legitimate prospects.
The Tigers already had an imposing lineup. With the addition of another first-class run producer, they have upgraded from imposing to scary. And with both Cabrera and Willis in their mid-20s, it is not as though the Tigers have completely mortgaged the future.
The Marlins followed their typical path, trading players they would not be able to afford for youth, but youth with real talent, in this case particularly outfielder Cameron Maybin and lefty starter Andrew Miller. So this wasn't a one-sided, bail-out transaction. But for immediate impact, the Tigers were the landslide winners of this entire gathering.
Elsewhere? Well, there really wasn't any elsewhere at these Winter Meetings. That's where the 300:1 rumor-to-fact ratio comes in. You figure 10 rumors per club, and then you factor in how many of the rumors eventually turned out to be true. You're right, 300:1 is probably a conservative estimate. The distance between talk and action at this gathering could probably be measured in light years.
Here at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, you can be awakened by a recorded phone message from a country music star. (Personal favorite wake-up call, George Jones: "Get up outta there!") The vastness of the property lends a surreal quality to the proceedings. There is an indoor river populated with gondolas carrying guests. There are miles of ornate Christmas decorations. You spend four days here without going outside -- and yet, you still need a map to find your room. It is distinctly possible that some of the general managers were never actually able to find each other and simply gave up and did some country Christmas shopping.
The Tigers-Marlins deal was truly large. But after that, it was a little thin. The second-biggest transaction that was accomplished during the Meetings was the signing of center fielder Andruw Jones by the Los Angeles Dodgers, for $36 million over two years.
This would have been a bigger deal -- in dollars and years and news value -- a few seasons ago. But Jones was coming off a season in which he hit .222, with 26 home runs, 94 RBIs and 138 strikeouts. This was easily his worst campaign in 10 years as a full-time player.
Jones has won 10 Gold Gloves and he is only 30, so the Dodgers can hope that this year was the aberration and that this is not a career in decline. The relatively short contract limits the Dodgers' exposure in case this is actually a career in decline, while giving Jones a shot at rebuilding his numbers and his reputation for another try at a free-agency windfall.
The centerpiece of the event was supposed to be the trade of Johan Santana. That would be a trade from the Minnesota Twins to somebody with both enough money to re-sign Santana to what might be the largest pitching contract in history and with enough outstanding young prospects to make the Twins feel fulfilled with their half of the deal.
That didn't happen here. The Yankees backed out of talks after their deadline for wrapping up a deal was not met. But they also said that they were done with Alex Rodriguez, and he returned to them with a $275 million deal in hand.
That left the Red Sox as the apparent leaders in the Santana sweepstakes, but they have been unwilling to include both their prized young center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, and one of their top young pitching prospects, in the same trade package. If the Red Sox could land Santana, their pitching, already a strong point, could be changing categories, from strong to semi-legendary.
Other teams with the ability to pay seemed eager, including the Mets, but the Twins might not value their prospects as highly as they regard those of the Yankees and/or the Red Sox. In any case, the Twins, not seeing a deal that met their demands, decided that there was no rush. They may not be able to retain Santana, but with his ability and his value, they don't have to be stampeded into a deal they don't truly like.
"I'd still take my chances with him over anybody in the game," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It doesn't get any better, I can tell you that. Right now, he's still ours."
There were other bits and pieces of baseball news that occurred during the Meetings, but these were not always satisfying bits and pieces. A Hall of Fame Veterans Committee managed to elect former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn without electing players union leader Marvin Miller. Given the record when these two met head-to-head, this seemed a bit like picking Alf Landon over Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But even the National Baseball Hall of Fame is not quite perfect.
And word came through his agent that Barry Bonds wants to play in 2008. It is possible that clubs that have never had someone under federal indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice playing for them could find some novelty value in employing Bonds. But perhaps not.
In any event, the relative lack of activity at the Winter Meetings leaves plenty of transactions yet to be transacted. So into the chill of December the Hot Stove League burns on.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.