For the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox, as well as for the other 28 teams in baseball, the winter meetings are over. It always seems like they should last a full week but, no, big league GMs are busy folks and who can eat that much room service anyway? So, now that the dust as cleared, and as a very brief and off-the-cuff follow-up to my Top Five earlier this week, here are some parting impressions:
For the White Sox, it was the feel-good movie of the
summer winter. Kenny Williams slapped all of baseball upside the head by making a decisive move for much-sought-after slugger Adam Dunn, followed that up by bringing back fan favorite A.J. Pierzynski behind the dish, kicked reliever Scott Linebrink to the curb for some salary relief and knocked just about everyone out by re-signing first baseman Paul Konerko to a three-year, $37.5 million deal. In short, if the winter meetings were a PR prize fight, KW had his hands in the air at the end.
About the only other thing he could've done to get/keep Sox fans cheering is deal third baseman/outfielder Mark Teahen somewhere, anywhere, for anyone or -thing. But that didn't happen, which could set up an interesting spring training position battle at third base between the former member of the Kansas City Royals and hot Sox prospect Brent Morel.
Other than that, the bullpen remains somewhat in flux as does the very back end of the starting rotation, but those are issues best not focused on until after the meetings anyway. There's also the little talked about issue of the lack of top-of-the-order hitters in the Sox lineup. Plenty of thunder, sure, but they'll need guys on base to elevate the RBI totals of Konerko, Dunn and Carlos Quentin. (Alex Rios probably wouldn't mind either.) If Gordon Beckham can get his numbers back up to respectable levels, though, he'll make a great No. 2 hitter -- with Juan Pierre likely claiming the lead-off spot (though his mediocre OBP has always made that a debatable move).
For the Cubs, the signing of Carlos Pena, if nothing else, distracted a frustrated fanbase from the team's narrow off-season range. At this point, most fans are too busy wringing their hands over the $10 million price tag and/or Pena's low batting average to wonder about what else GM Jim Hendry can or should do to shore up the team that made "Year One" a season to forget. Rumors that the Cubs may trade for another Tampa Bay Rays player -- Matt Garza -- seem to be dying down a bit. (Or not.) Rays manager Joe Madden reportedly dismissed them out of hand.
And there's still talk that the Cubs could snag recovering sinkerballer Brandon Webb. It would be a good move as long as the price is low and the team doesn't count on Webb for anything. The good news is, if the Hendry does sign him, Webb could take his sweet time getting in game shape, as the Cubs have plenty of arms to fill out the rotation -- too many, in fact.
Last but not least, a quick summary of the Rule 5 Draft activities undertaken by both teams. This is an annual player draft in which each team can take a player or three (there's a "major league," "Triple A" and "Double A" phase) who isn't listed on a team's 40-man roster. (Other restrictions may apply.)
The White Sox sat out this year's Rule 5 draft, though the Baltimore Orioles snagged two Sox minor leaguers (second baseman Dale Mollenhauer and right-handed pitcher Jacob Rasner) and the New York Mets took right-handed pitcher Richard Brooks.
The Cubs picked right-handed pitcher Mason Tobin from the Los Angeles Angels of Annaheim, but immediately traded him to the Texas Rangers for cash. (These types of arrangements are often planned before the draft.) The North Siders did lose right-handed pitcher Ronny Morla to the Mets as well as left-handed pitcher Casey Lambert to those pesky O's.
Any player taken in the Rule 5 draft can be returned to his original team if he is deemed unworthy. Otherwise, he must remain on the selecting team's 25-man major league roster for the entire season following the draft. (Again, various other rules and restrictions may apply. See the back of your game card for details.)