Buckle up: The winter meetings move back to Dallas on Monday for the first time since 2000.
|Still on the market is Johnny Damon, whose agent (Scott Boras) orchestrated the A-Rod deal. (Getty Images)|
Ah, yes, all together now -- memories, of the way we were ...
It was at the very same Wyndham Anatole hotel that agent/snake charmer Scott Boras wrangled the infamous $252 million contract out of Texas owner Tom Hicks. That Colorado thought it would be a swell idea to bestow $121 million on pitcher Mike Hampton. That Boston and Manny Ramirez continued the talks that resulted in an eight-year, $160 million deal.
They were throwing money around back then like Imelda Marcos in a shoe boutique.
"That seems like a long time ago," Oakland GM Billy Beane says, and not exactly wistfully either. "The first guy I bumped into was (former Texas GM) Doug Melvin when I was in the registration line. That was the first I heard about it possibly happening."
Apparently not wanting to incriminate Melvin -- who was fired after A-Rod's first season in Texas and has gone on to do a remarkable job as Milwaukee's GM -- Beane stopped short of describing any look of stunned disbelief that might have creased Melvin's face.
"It's a different world for us in Oakland," Beane says. "It just seems like a long time ago.
"I believe the guy has won two MVPs since then, so it seems like somebody's getting their money's worth."
True enough. But if you like sharp turns in your novels, how delicious is this: Boston will spend the lion's share of its time next week attempting to trade Ramirez following at least two occasions when the Red Sox placed him on waivers. The hope was that another team would claim the gargantuan contract and allow the Red Sox more flexibility.
This time, after he agreed of his own free will to take Boston's money and run five years ago as the meetings were raging on in Dallas (though the deal wasn't struck in Texas), Ramirez is demanding a trade. His shadow again is expected to dominate a good part of the meetings -- which could get off to a slow start given Wednesday's arbitration deadline. That could delay free-agent signings until the latter part of the week while some clubs signing free agents try to avoid compensating clubs losing free agents with draft picks (if the losing clubs haven't offered arbitration to their free agents)
"I think that will slow down the pace to some extent," Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro says. "There could be a flurry of activity the last couple of days, and then another flurry in the couple of days right after the meetings."
While prizes such as A.J. Burnett, Johnny Damon and Trevor Hoffman remain available, the worst free-agent class in years is causing a more active trade market. Already, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Carlos Delgado, Jim Thome, Aaron Rowand, Luis Castillo and Paul Lo Duca have been dealt, and there's plenty more to come.