Taking a week off is a mixed bag. While I wouldn't trade that time to recharge and hang out with my best friend, it also takes me out of the loop that I work so hard to stay in. There's nothing like sailing, nothing like the warm sun, but then again, there's nothing quite like baseball.
This is the "dead week" - teams and agents take the holiday week off for the most part, only the most creative, dedicated and desperate working to make things happen. Last year was the Curt Schilling deal and the first rumblings of the Alex Rodriguez move. This year, the Jason Kendall soap opera finally ended with his bags packed for Oakland. Beane and Co. strike again with creativity.
Kendall certainly remakes the A's, giving them a credible leadoff man and catcher. If Mark Ellis comes back healthy - and all indications are that he will - the A's really have no glaring weakness save closer. The A's will likely look for something to hold the ninth while Huston Streets "seasons." I don't think even Beane will push Streets directly into that role, though it seems he could. A late-inning run of Jairo Garcia, Octavio Dotel, and Streets in the ninth would be nasty, if not consistent.
The trade works for the Pirates only if Dave Littlefield uses the free cash to improve his team. Mark Redman may help a rotation in the same way that he was supposed to do so in Oakland - absorbing innings as a #4, but that's not something that couldn't be handled by any number of other available players. Arthur Rhodes will almost assuredly never wear a Bucs uniform, instead becoming trade bait for a team looking to solidify their pen. He could fit with several teams.
Losing Kendall hurts, but let's give Littlefield some credit. He hung on, looking for the right deal and finally got what he thought was best. He's probably built up some "Beane points" allowing him to get involved in some of Beane's more creative deals. Littlefield came out AHEAD in trading Brian Giles, so he seems to be on a roll. The Pirates will need for some of their upper level prospects to step up by mid-season to really give the Bucs any sort of chance. A team that's lost Brian Giles, Kris Benson, and Jason Kendall might not seem like they'd improved, but this time, I think it's true. They're not a contender in the NLC yet though no one really knows how much it will take. The Pirates could be a team that has a big pop in the win column in '05.
What else is happening? The Cardinals seem serious about Randy Johnson, putting up a credible trade package (comparable to the take the D-Backs took in the Schilling deal). Now, it may be up to the Unit himself. (BTW, how cool is the "Rocket Unit" ad?) This one may be the big story of the Winter Meetings.
The Mets are going hard after pitching. Letting Al Leiter go will probably be a short-term mistake but Omar Minaya is in firm control, steering to 2006. He's not giving up on the Sosa deal, but the Cubs will need to more firmly shove the slugger out the door.
Brian Sabean doesn't get much love from statheads, yet consistently puts out a winner on a budget. I'm not quite sure what they're doing in San Francisco yet though it's starting to look like it might be a one-year budget blowout in hopes of getting Barry Bonds a ring. Omar Vizquel was an ... interesting first move. Jermaine Dye, Adrian Beltre, Moises Alou and Armando Benitez might be in the next wave if Sabean can get agents to be as creative as he wants with deferred money, backloaded deals, and such.
With the Winter Meetings coming up quickly - I'll be there on Dec 10th, as will a couple other A-Bers - the shortstop knot should come undone. Someone will make a first move with the top tier and everyone will quickly fall in line. Expect these to be announced during the second or third day of the meetings - Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera, and Nomar Garciaparra. Carlos Beltran? He'll have to wait.
The biggest story - and most significant - of the meetings might be the rumored workout of Magglio Ordonez. If healthy, he becomes the #2 available outfielder behind Beltran and #2 slugger behind Beltre. All are Boras clients.
Album to listen to: Alison Krauss' new "Lonely Runs Both Ways." No new ground for Alison and her phenomenal band but that's not a bad thing.
I love new technology. Sage is an RSS add-on to Firefox that might just make it my default browser (over Mac's built-in Safari.) Safari is adding RSS to it's next iteration, but that's six months from now. Apple might do it better than Sage, but while I don't fear change, it might have become tougher for me to change by that time. Sage is definitely worth checking out - it's the first thing that's really changed the way I browser since ... well, Mosaic and that's going way back.