|By landing All-Stars Albert Pujols and C. J. Wilson, the Angels have outdone their counterparts. (Getty Images)|
So things didn't work out for Ryan Madson, who never did get that four-year, $44 million deal from the Phillies ... but they sure did for the Reds.
Cincinnati got Madson on the rebound in a surprising -- and smart -- one-year deal that gives manager Dusty Baker a strong closer and Madson an incentive to go back on the market in search of those multi-year millions next winter.
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At least Madson is able to come in from the cold. Prince Fielder is still filling out employment application forms.
Only 40-some shopping days until pitchers and catchers report, and dozens of other free agents remain iced out awaiting the spring thaw. Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee, Orlando Cabrera, Johnny Damon, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Ryan Ludwick, Cody Ross, Juan Pierre, Edwin Jackson ... brother, can you spare a job? One agent describes this slow-moving January as "frustrating." Others employ more colorful terms.
As the negotiating continues, the mid-winter scorecard of who's done well ... and who hasn't:
The best (so far)
1. Angels: I'd say the Angels look great on paper right now, but it's really hard to see because the paper is all cut up into ticker tape-sized pieces. Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, set-up man LaTroy Hawkins, catcher Chris Iannetta ... new general manager Jerry Dipoto is off to a roaring start. Or, as they say in some quarters of Southern California, muy caliente.
2. Marlins: No matter what smoke signals are being sent from Hanley Ramirez's campfire, this winter has been a smashing success. If Marlins fans aren't interested in tickets after the club added Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell, maybe South Florida should exchange baseball for casinos and croquet lawns. And Carlos Zambrano? This is the one place left in the world he has a chance to succeed (well, maybe here or some small fishing village in Ecuador). This, friends, is where Ozzie Guillen earns his money.
3. Diamondbacks: Love the additions of Trevor Cahill to the rotation, Takashi Saito to the bullpen and slugger Jason Kubel to the outfield. So far, GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson have perfect pitch together.
4. Nationals: Just when it was politics as usual in D.C., Nats GM Mike Rizzo broke the gridlock and acquired All-Star starter Gio Gonzalez from Oakland. Great get. Now, if Rizzo completely blows up the debt ceiling and signs Fielder, the Nats might even move to the top of this list.
5. Reds: How good is GM Walt Jocketty? He dots his i's and crosses his t's even when some are missing. Mat -- one t -- Latos will help the rotation, Sean Marshall deepens Cincy's bullpen and Madson means no drop-off from Francisco Cordero, and it saves $2.5 million. Plus Barry Larkin was elected to the Hall of Fame this week. What a winter.
7. Rockies: More aggressive this winter than Ubaldo Jimenez was last summer. Good for them now, bad for them last summer. Upgrades at catcher (Ramon Hernandez) and at the plate (Michael Cuddyer). Added rotation depth (Tyler Chatwood and Kevin Slowey).
8. Rangers: Very interesting re-design, signing closer Joe Nathan so Neftali Feliz can move into the rotation. And you, Yu Darvish? Assuming he signs, Texas could even beat the Angels again. And if the Rangers land Fielder, too, I'll be busy sliding them to the top spot on this list.
9. Blue Jays: After Alex Anthopoulos' superb acquisition of reliever Sergio Santos (White Sox), this ranking might be a little low. Santos and newcomer Darren Oliver are much needed for a bullpen that tied for the AL lead with 25 blown saves last year.
10. Padres: Nice debut work by GM Josh Byrnes, who already has made seven trades this winter (heck, could be up to 10 by now, it's hard to keep up). These Padres will be more edgy than their soft-as-pudding 2011 predecessors with the additions of Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez and Huston Street.
11. Phillies: Nothing fancy here. The Phillies will appreciate Jonathan Papelbon even if their accountants don't (four years, $50 million). The Jim Thome-Charlie Manuel reunion will be touching. And did anybody really think Jimmy Rollins was leaving?
12. Cardinals: Short-term, the Cards will miss Pujols. Long-term? They'll be glad to be rid of that albatross of a contract. Good recovery post-Pujols in adding Carlos Beltran and keeping Rafael Furcal. And Adam Wainwright's healing continues.
13. Cubs: Any doubt of the magic of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer should have dissolved as soon as they made Zambrano disappear. Magic! Nice start to the next era in acquiring pitcher Travis Wood and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm add rotation depth. At this point, Epstein and Hoyer could suggest the Cubs play in Bermuda shorts (cough, cough) and fans would think, brilliant! They still might not win next summer, but the late Ron Santo will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Perfect.
14. Giants: Melky Cabrera's bat will help, and Buster Posey's comeback is progressing.
15. Rays: Fernando Rodney helps the bullpen and the ol' political pundit himself, Luke Scott, is a perfect Rays gamble: Great candidate for a bounce-back year. Now let's see who they get for Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann. ...
The worst (so far)
1. Athletics: Intent on chasing every All-Star out of town, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey were last seen heading east through the mountains like the Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music. The hills are alive ... with the sound of Oakland imploding.
2. Brewers: Already prepared to lose Prince Fielder, now Ryan Braun faces a 50-game suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug rules. What's next, Bernie Brewer sliding into a keg of Dr. Pepper?
3. Astros: Nobody can name more than two Astros -- OK, one -- and now they must pack up for a move to the AL West in 2013. Just as the Rangers and Angels are becoming the Yankees and Red Sox West. Nice.
4. Mariners: Three months into the winter and, still, nobody knows how the Mariners are going to score next year. They really need to convince Fielder that Seattle is for him.
5. Dodgers: Still owned by Frank McCourt, last I checked. But with the auction to be completed by the end of April, there's hope.
6. Mets: Goodbye, Jose Reyes. Hello, Ruben Tejada? Damn you, Bernie Madoff.
7. Red Sox: Maybe Bailey can make people forget Papelbon, maybe not. And Nick Punto? Who are they, the Twins?
8. Twins: Losing Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel is bad enough, but Cuddyer was the heart and soul of that clubhouse. The Twins will miss him in ways people don't even yet realize. Josh Willingham and catcher Ryan Doumit are OK additions. Jason Marquis? Yawn.
9. Orioles: Who's hitting cleanup? It's embarrassing. Am I going to have to broker a deal for Fielder with one of these clubs myself? Sheesh.