Early AM in the Grand Ballroom of Harrah's - Shreveport, the day after the Rule 5 Draft. Empty save for the lone cleaning crew gradually eroding the tide of Joey Belle detritus - Yoo-Hoo and Cutty Sark bottles, Domino's boxes, and McDonald's cheeseburger wrappers. 27 trades and 15 A/B free agent signings after beginning, the Joey Belle Winter Meetings conclude. The final Winter Meeting trades and A/B signings:
Nashville gets: RP Oswaldo Borbon and SP Peter Bolton
Austin gets: 1B Willie Magadan
The league's trend of dumping the contracts of aging stars for not much continues, as the Ramblers get a couple of minor league pitchers (OK they could get a few innings for a rebuilding team). The surprise here is Magadan's destination, as the Chaloupas are still rebuilding and are also set at 1B with All-Star Marty Daly.
Madison gets: SP Trent Lewis
San Diego gets: SP Jeromy Gordon and utility Pascual Castro
The Badgers were looking for one more inexpensive SP/LR and found one for a couple of minor leaguers. Lewis has nice pitches and good sinking action, but poor control and has trouble with righties. Looks like he'll still get a chance to stick with the Big Club though. Gordon and Castro are both 2-3 years from ML action and project to be somewhere between fringe major-leaguers and "useful as long as they're cheap".
Hartford gets SP Edwin Hill, SS Alfredo Lopez and 2B Duke Stuart
Nashville gets DH Tom Speier, RP Otto Lieberthal and LR Cyrus Lee
The Ramblers dump Hill's contract, and get a hitter who can help in Speier. Hill probably won't make Hartford's sinkerball-oriented rotation, but could help in long relief. The Katanas also nab a couple of potentially useful prospects: Lopez has some potetntial as a 2B/3B utility man, and Stuart's excellent contact skills, especially against righties, should eventually land him a platoon role.
A/B Free Agents
Kevin Brooks SP - Rochester, 2 years/$4.6MM. Brooks is a hard-throwing sinker/slider pitcher who has to stay low to be effective. He's tough on righties but put him away against lefty-heavy lineups. He had his best season in a big ballpark in Toledo in Season 10; the Phantoms are hoping this budget signee can recapture that magic. Grade B.
Jose Vargas DH - Austin, 4 years/$21.2MM. Vargas is a monster bat with stone hands and no range, meaning he's made to DH. I don't really know why I signed this guy, except I just couldn't pass on that bat for the price. Early rumors have him as part of a "Manny platoon" in LF with Willie Magadan. Grade C.
Cesar Figueroa 3B - Oakland, 1 year/$2.815MM. The versatile Figueroa can back up at 1B, 2B, 3B, LF and RF. He's not going to be an offensive force, but he is a lifetime .274 hitter and can draw a walk. Nice addition for a 1-year contract. Grade A.