The sub-zero temperatures from the Dakotas to Vermont this week were nothing compared to the chill in the free-agent market. As of Friday morning, there were still 115 frozen free agents scattered out there, hanging like icicles, awaiting either a thaw or an avalanche.
And if you think it's frigid over in the American League, the National League is like a meat locker, noticeable mostly by the number of clubs that don't have any money to spend this winter.
Where they are in the NL with spring training a month away, and where they're going:
|What's the biggest move in the desert so far? Felipe Lopez. (Getty Images)|
Accomplishments: When signing catcher Chris Snyder to an extension and adding Felipe Lopez to play second base qualifies as the most excitement of the winter, you know you're not in the Randy Johnson-Curt Schilling Era anymore, Toto. To emphasize that, Johnson split when he didn't like the Snakes' one-year offer. Arizona wasted no time in naming Derrick Hall as CEO after Jeff Moorad abruptly resigned to pursue ownership of the Padres.
What's left: Filling the hole in their rotation -- so far Johnson and Jon Garland have turned down Arizona. So the D-backs will keep trolling through the recycle bin, where Jason Jennings, Ben Sheets or even Pedro Martinez could welcome an Arizona offer.
Offseason objectives: Add two starting pitchers. Retain John Smoltz and Mike Hampton. Find a left-fielder. Dig up a center fielder. Regain invincible 1990s stride.
Accomplishments: Surviving a brutal winter, if only barely. The Jake Peavy talks with San Diego blew up in their face, free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal went back on a verbal agreement and A.J. Burnett took the Yankees' money. The Braves rebounded nicely by trading for Javier Vazquez (White Sox) and signing free agent Derek Lowe.
What's left: Andruw Jones, noooooo!
|The Cubs add a little fire with temperamental Milton Bradley. (Getty Images)|
Accomplishments: Bing, bam, boom, GM Jim Hendry was on the move early in getting the Dempster deal done and acquiring Kevin Gregg from Florida to replace Kerry Wood. The Cubs found their lefty bat when they signed on-base machine and board-game magnate Milton Bradley. Dealing Mark DeRosa to make room on the payroll could haunt them; trading pitcher Jason Marquis to make room won't.
What's left: Double back to San Diego and work on acquiring Peavy, who has sent multiple bat signals that he would be amenable to moving to Wrigley Field, as soon as new ownership gives the thumbs-up.
Offseason objectives: Sign right-handed hitting left fielder, catcher, bullpen help and shortstop. Prepare change-of-address cards for final spring in Florida.
Accomplishments: Acquiring catcher Ramon Hernandez from Baltimore will improve the Reds' offense behind the plate, and outfielder Wily Taveras adds speed. Like so many others in the NL, it's tough to do much when the money's dried up. By cutting ties with outfielder Corey Patterson, manager Dusty Baker won't be able to play him.
What's left: The Reds will trade for an outfielder (Xavier Nady? Nick Swisher?) or sign one (Bobby Abreu?) as the prices drop when spring training gets closer. This, though, is a team that can barely afford to purchase new sweatbands and toothpicks for skipper Baker, let alone legitimate, winning players.
|With starter Jason Marquis, the Rockies have a decent bat, too. (Getty Images)|
Accomplishments: They didn't take long to accomplish the Holliday objective, dispatching him to Oakland early in the winter. Adding starter Jason Marquis wouldn't be viewed as much of an accomplishment following Colorado's '07 World Series appearance, but given the club's austerity program now, it counts. Lefty pitcher Greg Smith will be a welcome addition, and so, too, the Rockies hope, closer Huston Street -- though he appeared in decline last year.
What's left: Possibly trading third baseman Garrett Atkins, who is in line for a big raise via arbitration. And making sure shortstop Troy Tulowitzki stays healthy.
Offseason objectives: Look for loose change under the couch. Bid farewell to several arbitration-eligible players. Add bullpen help. Sign a catcher. Tidy up Pro Player Stadium to host World Baseball Classic games in March.
Accomplishments: The Marlins traded first baseman Mike Jacobs, pitcher Scott Olsen, outfielder Josh Willingham and reliever Kevin Gregg while hunting for more diamonds-in-the-rough. So welcome, second baseman Emilio Bonifacio and reliever Jose Ceda, among others. The continued hope, as usual, is that the Marlins can win some games while opponents are frantically paging through scouting reports trying to learn who these guys are.
What's left: If his price continues to drop, don't be surprised if they take another run at catcher Pudge Rodriguez.
|The Astros are rolling the dice with the return of oft-injured Mike Hampton. (Getty Images)|
Accomplishments: The Mike Hampton reunion won't be quite as rocking as when the Astros brought Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte back home. Then again, Hampton hopefully won't be touched by grand jury hearings in a few years, either. If it's living on the edge you like, this team is for you. Russ Ortiz, Danny Graves ... the Astros are rolling the dice in several directions at once. Like so many others in the NL, the Astros are claiming poverty. Nothing exciting here, please move along to the next stop.
What's left: While Roger Clemens squirms, the Feds have convened a grand jury to look into whether Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada committed perjury in lying about steroids.
Offseason objectives: Re-sign Manny Ramirez. Defend against mass free agent departures. Possibly rebuild left side of infield. Sign starting pitchers. Add bullpen help. Find a nice feather pillow so GM Ned Colletti can take comfortable nap when the exhausting job of rebuilding this roster is finished. Prepare for grand opening of new spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz. Send "Wish you were here" postcards to folks in Vero Beach.
Accomplishments: While Manny and the Dodgers remain locked in a staredown, Colletti averted potential disaster in the infield by re-signing third baseman Casey Blake and shortstop Rafael Furcal. Biggest accomplishment so far, though, is making Andruw Jones go away. They'll save a ton of dough on the clubhouse food spread alone.
What's left: Filling the void left by the departure of starters Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and Greg Maddux. Jon Garland is a fit here. So is Andy Pettitte, Randy Wolf, Braden Looper or anybody else who can start every fifth day against mostly tame NL hitters.
|Closer Trevor Hoffman should be an upgrade from Eric Gagne. (Getty Images)|
Accomplishments: The odds always were slim that the Brewers would retain Sabathia, but they made a nice run at him and exited stage left with class. Adding closer Trevor Hoffman should work better than last year's $10 million bust, Eric Gagne. Hoffman isn't what he once was, but he did convert 30 of 34 save opportunities last year and his professionalism will benefit everyone in the organization. Reliever Jorge Julio also helps an area of need.
What's left: Showing new manager Ken Macha around town. And preparing a plan (read: trade?) for first baseman Prince Fielder, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter and whose salary is sure to become an albatross for the Brewers sooner, not later.
Offseason objectives: Make a solemn blood-oath with their fan base that the Mets will do everything short of armed-robbery to fix a bullpen that's torpedoed postseason hopes for the past two seasons. Oh, and send flowers to rehabbing closer Billy Wagner, who is out for the year.
Accomplishments: Kudos to general manager Omar Minaya for two big strikes during the winter meetings, signing record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez and acquiring J.J. Putz in trade from Seattle. Obviously, after watching Wagner go down last year, Minaya is on the two-closers-are-better-than-one plan. On paper, the Mets are far stronger in the 'pen than they were last year. But their rotation is still lacking.
What's left: Put the kibosh on any temptation Johan Santana may have to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. Yes, it's a cool event, but the Mets, given the heartbreak they've suffered the past two seasons and given Santana's importance, would be stupid to allow him to play. Meantime, isn't lefty starter Oliver Perez destined to return?
|New Phillie Raul Ibanez will have to suffice for departed Pat Burrell. (Getty Images)|
Accomplishments: The Phillies wasted little time in replacing Burrell with Raul Ibanez, the ageless wonder from Seattle. Truth be told, though, if the Phils would have out-waited Burrell, they may be in better shape. He wound up with a two-year, $16 million deal in Tampa Bay (after earning $14 million last year) and the Phils gave Ibanez three years and $31.5 million. Ibanez is older (36 to 32) and isn't quite the offensive threat that Burrell is, though his defense is better. Getting the Moyer deal done was key.
What's left: Making sure to order the correct ring sizes for the presentation later this year. Every key member of last year's championship team, aside from Burrell, is back.
Offseason objectives: Find veteran pitching help. Stock up on tissues to wipe the tears from the statues of Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner and Roberto Clemente outside PNC Park.
Accomplishments: Not laughing publicly when bad-contract-from-the-past Derek Bell was arrested on drug-related charges last month? Forging bravely ahead after a record-tying 16th consecutive sub-.500 season? I'm still looking high and low for accomplishments from one of the quietest clubs in the majors. Signing outfielder Craig Monroe to a minor-league contract doesn't count.
What's left: About all that's left is praying that president Frank Coonelly can handle crash landings as heroically as Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the US Airways pilot who landed his crippled aircraft so phenomenally well that all 155 people aboard were pulled to safety.
|Trever Miller brings W.S. experience. (Getty Images)|
Accomplishments: LaRussa will love Khalil Greene's defense, but he might not be so keen on the streaky shortstop's bat. The Cards added lefty relievers Trever Miller and Royce Ring, and have a new catcher in Jason LaRue. To hear GM John Mozeliak tell it, though, the Cards' biggest accomplishment may be finding the money to pay five key players whose salaries will jump via arbitration: Outfielders Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel and Chris Duncan and pitchers Brad Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer.
What's left: Signing a starting pitcher. The Cards' patience paid off a year ago when they signed Kyle Lohse a couple of weeks into spring camp. They'd like to not wait so long this winter, but if that's what it takes ... Andy Pettitte, Braden Looper, Jon Garland, take your pick.
Offseason objectives: Cut payroll. Keep all employees out of the crossfire of owner John and Becky Moores' contentious divorce. Sell club.
Accomplishments: David Eckstein, so far it's up to you to provide credibility. Good luck with that. Closer Trevor Hoffman and shortstop Khalil Greene are casualties of the salary purge, and ace Jake Peavy could be before opening day. The Padres did re-sign outfielder Brian Giles, and as Exhibit A as to how their winter is going, not long after, a former girlfriend sued him for contract damages and domestic abuse. Then Eckstein, who signed Friday, has a chance to be the Padres' best second baseman in several years.
What's left: Picking up the pieces. Rebuilding trust with local fan base.
|Big Unit is serviceable though he'll likely be at the bottom of the rotation. (Getty Images)|
Accomplishments: That was a hefty contract awarded to shortstop Edgar Renteria (two years, $18.5 million), especially if you listen to enough scouts who swear his range has diminished significantly in the field. The Giants struck early to help Bruce Bochy's bullpen, acquiring Bobby Howry and Jeremy Affeldt. And it may sound funny because of his marquee name, but Randy Johnson could be a very underrated bottom-of-the-rotation starter.
What's left: Manny Ramirez would be the perfect fit into a lineup that finished last in the majors in homers last year. With him, the Giants may be favorites to win a tepid division that features a scattered Dodgers team and three clubs counting their pennies (Rockies, Padres, D-backs).
Offseason objectives: Improve lineup. Improve rotation. Get to know new coaching staff under manager Manny Acta. Keep outfielder Elijah Dukes out of jail.
Accomplishments: As usual, GM Jim Bowden has been wheeling and dealing. Starters Daniel Cabrera and Scott Olsen address one particularly embarrassing area of the club. Outfielders Josh Willingham and Corey Patterson add depth. The Nationals, who struggled to score runs last year the way cars struggle on ice-covered roads, still need to do more. They made a nice run at Mark Teixeira but failed to get him.
What's left: The Nats have talked trade regarding Nick Swisher with the Yankees. They're interested in free-agent outfielder Adam Dunn and second baseman Orlando Hudson if the price falls. Nomar Garciaparra is another option.