LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With the exception of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning, the formal period of the baseball winter meetings came to an end Wednesday evening. There was the usual glut of rumors flying around the Swan and Dolphin Resort for three straight days, but in the end, not a ton of action. Still, some teams did themselves some favors while others made some curious maneuvers.
Here is a look at the winners and losers at this year’s winter meetings, in no particular order.
San Diego Padres
Yep, the club that ridded itself of one of the top sluggers in the game, and possibly curbed its chances in 2011, may have come out on top. Remember, we have to look at positives and negatives relative to each team’s situation, and the Padres were never going to keep Adrian Gonzalez. They should be applauded for receiving three players that should be solid major leaguers down the road in Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes. Also, San Diego acquired veterans Aaron Harang and Dustin Moseley for pitching depth and traded for shortstop Jason Bartlett. All in all, it was a pretty good haul for San Diego over a three-day span. Probably won’t make Padres fans feel any better about the loss of Gonzalez, however.
Boston Red Sox
They did all their legwork before coming down, locking up a premier bat in Gonzalez in a trade we obviously view as positive for both sides. In addition, they have made offers on several relievers and will likely begin to fill out that bullpen very soon, although nothing was solidified in Florida. Gonzalez will be a lineup-altering presence for a lineup that was one of the best in baseball for much of the 2010 season. Boston has a few items left on its checklist but they may involve mostly complementary pieces. The offseason became much easier for the Sox this week.
While the loss of Prince Fielder to free agency next year remains a very realistic possibility, the Brewers made themselves more of a contender in what could be Fielder’s last year by trading for Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Shaun Marcum. A 13-game winner in 2010, Marcum fills a much-needed void in a starting rotation that was brutal at times last year. The Brew Crew did have to give up highly rated second baseman Brett Lawrie, but kept Rickie Weeks for at least another year. He'll hopefully just be hitting his prime.
In the span of a few hours Monday, D-Backs general manager Kevin Towers made a flurry of moves, most designed to improve what was an absolutely horrendous bullpen in 2010. Towers made his biggest splash by signing J.J. Putz to be the new closer. Putz had a solid season in a setup capacity for the Chicago White Sox in 2010 and was very good as the closer with Seattle earlier in his career. Arizona also traded third baseman Mark Reynolds, a .198 hitter last year, to Baltimore for two more guys who can help out in the pen, David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio. Then, to fill the void at third base he got a cheap option in veteran Melvin Mora, who will likely platoon with Geoff Blum.
Tampa Bay Rays
Their hands are tied. The Rays knew they would have to clean house this winter. Seeing it actually happen is another thing. First, Carlos Pena signed a $10 million deal to go to the Chicago Cubs. Then, shortstop Jason Bartlett was shipped to San Diego. All the while, outfielder Carl Crawford and closer Rafael Soriano drew closer to finding new homes. What can make Tampa Bay a winner out of this whole thing is the bevy of draft choices it figures to grab — the organization could have as many as 10 picks between the first round and the supplemental round.
OK, so all they did was come down and scoop up one of the top free agents on the market in Jayson Werth, and technically it happened the night before the meetings began. But they drew the ire of the baseball community with the seemingly outlandish lengths they went to lock him up, signing Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract. Werth may be an integral part of some promising seasons in Washington going forward, which would make the deal a positive one. However, by giving the world to a good but not great outfielder in his 30s, the Nats had many wondering what they were thinking.
They gave up two intriguing arms in exchange for the powerful but maddening Reynolds, saw talks fall apart on Paul Konerko and Jason Bartlett and had to issue a statement to distance themselves from the political views of one of their better hitters. Not the best of weeks for the AL East doormats.