Starters strike it rich

Originally Published: December 13, 2004
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

As general managers stampeded toward the airport, and Pedro Martinez reflected on the beauties of Flushing Meadow, another edition of baseball's winter meetings ended Monday. Here's a look at the winners and losers:

Carl Pavano
The Yankees get younger and Carl Pavano gets richer.

The Yankees
After their October el foldo to the Red Sox, the Yankees embarked on a new offseason urban-renewal project -- their starting rotation. By Monday, they'd headed home with two of the top six free-agent starters -- Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. So, thanks to 60 million of those handy George Steinbrenner dollars, the Yankees are WINNERS.

The Boss' favorite teams
But what do we make of Steinbrenner's two biggest obsessions -- the Mets and Red Sox?

If Pedro Martinez passes his physical, signs with the Mets and makes it through four years healthy, the Mets are WINNERS. But so many baseball people have their doubts on that, they could still be LOSERS.

If the Red Sox use Pedro's money to sign Edgar Renteria and find a starter (Odalis Perez?) to replace Martinez, they can still be WINNERS. But for now, since they lost both of their prime free-agent targets -- Pedro and Pavano -- they tilt slightly into the LOSERS column.

The Angels
The Angels were the best team in the Pacific Time Zone before they signed ageless center fielder Steve Finley. But by reeling in Finley for eight fewer years and 186 million fewer dollars than Carlos Beltran's current price tag, they left enough money in the checking account to chase free-agent pitcher Matt Clement. So score the Angels WINNERS.

The Orioles
There's no shortage of dollars in the Orioles' checkbook, either. But this was a team that couldn't find a big-name free agent willing to accept Peter Angelos' money. They headed home with no Finley, no Sexson, no Pavano, no Carlos Delgado. So until somebody finally says yes, they, too, have to be considered LOSERS.

The Milwaukee connection
The Braves and Brewers made one of the meetings' biggest trades. Amazingly, it's a deal that works for everybody. The Braves got an established closer in Danny Kolb, which finally springs John Smoltz from bullpen incarceration. The Brewers got Jose Capellan, a 23-year-old pitching prospect who throws 100 miles an hour. So in this deal, both teams come out WINNERS.

Danny Kolb
Kolb

John Smoltz
Smoltz

And the Brewers weren't through. Trading for Capellan enabled them to include another live arm, Luis Vizcaino, in the deal Monday that brought them Carlos Lee. They'll miss Scott Podsednik, as fun a player (when he's getting on base) as there is on the planet. But Lee is the right-handed thumper this team has been searching for forever (or at least since Richie Sexson headed west).

The Diamondbacks
A week ago, lots of people thought the Diamondbacks were going broke. Then they found 78 million reasons to overspend on one free agent coming off a major injury, Troy Glaus, and another who scared off many teams by allowing nearly 14 baserunners per nine innings, Russ Ortiz.

Granted, both guys have a chance to make this team better. But given the length of the contracts and those 111 games the Diamondbacks just got finished losing, we haven't found anyone who considers this 78 million dollars well spent. And since Arizona still hasn't figured out what to do with an unhappy Randy Johnson, much of the baseball world voted them LOSERS.

The free agents
It's been a great winter to be a No. 3 starter. Ortiz, Kris Benson, Jon Lieber and Jaret Wright signed for a combined $97 million -- an average of nearly $7.5 million a year. So they're sure WINNERS.

It's been a lousy winter to be a free-agent outfielder. Carlos Beltran, Magglio Ordonez, Moises Alou and J.D. Drew haven't found a job. So until that changes, they're LOSERS.

The agents
This offseason was supposed to be the Scott Boras Show. But, with only a dozen shopping days until Christmas, Beltran, Drew, Ordonez, Adrian Beltre, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe were all still jobless. So for now, the agent in the WINNERS column is Gregg Clifton, who got David Wells a two-year contract at age 41 and Kris Benson 22.5 million bucks despite a 47-53 lifetime record. And Boras makes the LOSERS list.

But luckily for him -- and everyone in that losers column -- this baseball offseason has a long ways to go.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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