Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter Meetings (MLB)

On one side of the coin is good news, on the other, bad. The problem is, today's news out of the Major League Baseball manager's talks in Vegas might be both.

The American League will lose a record-breaking closer in Frankie Rodriguez, while they gain closer Kerry Wood. For the Angels this could mean a season of less dominance, though their strengths were more or less in the lineup. For the Cubs, they've found plenty of pitching magic since Kerry Wood moved to the closer's spot. The Indians have been grappling for pitchers since C.C. Sabathia left, though Cliff Lee was more than competent in the starting role. And then there are the Mets.

What can be said about the Mets that hasn't already been said? After the historic collapse in 2007, they came roaring back in 2008 with every post season hope. Then they canned Willie Randolph. Despite adding Johan Santana as a starter and with the help of Jerry Manuel, the Mets blew every chance at post season play.

Can K-Rod save the Mets? Not on his own as they expected Santana to. Can a new stadium breathe life into a team that has been riding along on hot air? Not at the cost of bailing out Citibank. With a powerhouse lineup starring David Wright, Jose Reyes, Santana, and now, potentially K-Rod, the Mets have every reason to win, but then again, they had every reason to win with Billy Wagner closing, too. Casey Stengel has got to be rolling in his grave right now.

Beyond K-Rods impact on the Mets organization, the acquisition says something about the future of the division. The Phillies and Braves are going to have to make strides at keeping and attaining big name pitchers. With Lidge closing, the Phillies can compete, but their starting rotation will need a new member with Moyer's age and ineffectiveness under close watch. The Braves are going to have to make a decision regarding John Smoltz. If he returns, in what capacity. His track record certainly speaks volumes to his flexibility, but his age and health may prove difficult for the organization. There are of course other questions within the division--what do the Marlins bring to the table after contending this year in at least a spoiler role and what are the Nationals going to do to bring themselves out of a several season slide?

In all the pitching news, K-Rod in New York seems to be the story that could mean the most for the 2009 season. There is Sabathia, where he will land and at what cost. There is Peavy, a talent desperately needing out of San Diego. And, there is A.J. Burnett, a prospect for so many, but potentially, like Sabathia, only a reality for teams like the Yankees who have an unlimited payroll. But none of these pitching possibilities really are going to push a team over the line into the playoffs.

The teams playing the market at the meetings in Vegas right now in no way resemble the Brewers of 2008. These aren't teams that Sabathia is going to carry on his back.

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