Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hot Stove Heats Up in Florida

The winter meetings are closing down in Florida, as baseball's biggest free agent (Cliff Lee) still doesn't have a contract for 2011, and the best position player on the market (Carl Crawford) is heading to Boston to join the best offseason trade target (Adrian Gonzalez ... a better get than Prince Fielder from Boston's perspective because he was easier to sign long-term).

As usual, the Twins and Brewers didn't do anything terribly huge or terribly terrible, preferring the conservative route rather than the glitz and glamor of the big-time players. Milwaukee traded top prospect and apparent meathead Brett Lawrie to Toronto for starting pitcher Shawn Marcum, who could end up starting the Brewers' third game next season (assuming manager Ron Roenicke goes with Yovani Gallardo on Opening Day and Randy Wolf to follow). A good, sensible deal that gives the Brewers a good starting pitcher in exchange for a guy with exactly zero games played in the majors.

The Twins, meanwhile, decided to shake up their infield, dealing shortstop J.J. Hardy and utility guy Brendan Harris to Baltimore for a couple pitchers none of their fans have heard of. Hardy had a decent year at the dish when he was healthy, but he's streaky offensively and has shown the inability to stay healthy. With Tsuyoshi Nishioka on his way from Japan to play shortstop, the Twins could afford to jettison the more expensive and less reliable (also noticeably slower, from what it sounds like) Hardy.

Even without a guarantee of major-league talent in return, the Twins made a smart move that clears room in their infield for Nishioka, a solid hitter who has been raved as a defensive middle infielder.

If you're a Brewers or Twins fan, you're probably happy, because your team is better now than it was on Monday, especially Milwaukee. As they continue the search for quality pitching, we're reminded of the formula San Francisco used to win their championship, while the Yankees, Angels, Red Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers spent a ton of cash to combine for one playoff appearance.

It's not about the size of your payroll. It's about your ability to acquire quality pitching, play strong defense, and get just enough hitting to make the first two things relevant.

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