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In Anaheim, California, things are heating up quite a bit. The Hot Stove is in full force with players being signed and traded. Here is a complete review of all the doings at baseball’s Winter Meetings. (All ratings are on the: excellent, good, all right, bad, and horrible scale.)

December 10th – Day I

Angel in Outfield

The Anaheim Angels greatly strengthened their outfield with the addition of center fielder Steve Finley into the fold. Finley will give the Angels a very good glove, which allows Garret Anderson to return to his normal position of left field. This also adds a very strong bat into the middle of Anaheim’s order to replace Troy Glaus, as well as another veteran presence in the clubhouse. The deal is worth $14 million over two years with an option for a third year at $6 million. This move was: good.

Hidalgo a Ranger

The Texas Rangers brought in a very complete player in the form of Richard Hidalgo. His offensive prowess and defensive abilities in right field rank very high and at five million for one year is a steal. Hidalgo might be trade bait around the deadline, though, as Layne Nix may be ready for action sometime soon. I believe working with Rudy Jamarillo, the Rangers hitting coach, will allow Hidalgo to hit 30-35 bombs with a .300 batting average. This move was: good.

Marlins Sign Pair

The Florida Marlins brought in six-fingered Antonio Alfonseca and five-fingered Todd Jones to bolster their bullpen. In the 2004 season, Alfonseca was 6-2 with a 2.57 ERA over 73.2 innings with the Atlanta Braves. Last year with the Rockies and Phillies, Todd Jones went 11-5 with a 4.15 ERA over 82.1 innings. This pair of signings gives the Marlins two excellent setup men, but they still need a closer. This move was: good.

D’Backs Bring in Ortiz

Russ Ortiz began the 2004 season as the Braves number one starter, but Jaret Wright soon took that role. He still had a good season, pitching 202 innings with a 4.13 ERA. Many people don’t expect him to be quite as great a pitcher with a sub par Arizona team, as they probably won’t score many runs for him. Ortiz will be getting a little over eight million per year over the next four seasons. He will definitely boost this team and is one of the guys I’ve been pushing to get some money in my section of cyberspace. This move was: good.

December 11th – Day II

Pirates Add Outfielder

The Pittsburgh Pirates pulled off a good trade that allowed them to bring in outfielder Matt Lawton. To get the outfielder, the Bucs had to send relief pitcher Arthur Rhodes, only recently acquired from Oakland. Lawton hit 20 homers and reached base at a .366 clip. His numbers will decline a bit with his joining the Pirates, but it seems he would make a decent number 2 hitter. Rhodes needs to regain the former ability that allowed him to be a dominant set up man in Seattle. Sadly, I do not believe he will regain it. This move was: good (Pirates) / all right (Indians).

Braves Deal Best SP Prospect in System Again

Following the trend they started last year, the Atlanta Braves traded away the best arm in their minor leagues to get a player. (I’m speaking of the JD Drew deal in which they dealt Adam Wainwright, if you have forgotten.) This time it was Jose Capellan who moved away and Danny Kolb who came to Atlanta. This greatly strengthens the Brewers stable of young pitchers (Jorge De La Rosa, et al.) and allows the Atlanta Braves to move Smoltz into the starting rotation, where he has been pining to be. I’m not quite sure Kolb will maintain his newfound abilities and think that Capellan will turn out to be Scott Kazmir: a “why the hell did we do this” deal. But Braves General Manager John Schuerholz always deserves the benefit of doubt. This move was: excellent (Milwaukee) / good (Braves).

AL East Rivals Almost Sign One Each

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were at it once again on Day 2. The Boston Red Sox pulled off an astounding signing by bringing in former Yankees left-hander David “Boomer” Wells. The Yankees managed to respond with pitcher Carl Pavano saying he wants a deal worked out with the New York Yankees and rumor has it that a four year, $40 million deal is being worked out, similar to Javier Vazquez numbers. Of course neither team signed either player, as David Wells must pass a physical, which might take place on Tuesday or Wednesday. (no sure thing), The Pavano signing has not taken place as of yet - he has chosen the spot where he wants to play; he has yet to put ink on paper.

December 12th – Day III

Minor Deal with Major Implications

The Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Devil Rays turned a solid deal. The Devil Rays acquired catcher Kevin Cash while the Blue Jays brought in pitcher Chad Gaudin. This seems like a very minor deal and it is, at least for the time being. Gaudin has been a starter in the Devil Rays farm system, but they recently switched him to the bullpen. Upon his arrival to the ‘pen, Gaudin’s stuff turned absolutely filthy and he should make a solid career as a relief pitcher. This move was: good (Blue Jays) / all right (Devil Rays).

December 13th – Day IV

Brewers, White Sox Acquire Major Pieces

On the final day of the Winter Meetings, perhaps the biggest deal went down. The Brewers sent Scott Podsednik and Jose Vizcaino, and a player to be named later to the White Sox to get Carlos Lee. This is a rather large move, giving the White Sox a seventy steal, leadoff man in Podsednik, while sending the Brewers a formidable middle of the order hitter. The importance of this move upon both teams cannot be over estimated. This move was: excellent (Brewers and White Sox).

Giants Add Matheny

The San Francisco Giants, tired of AJ Pierzynski’s weak throws to second, signed Mike Matheny, a former Cardinal. The deal is worth $9 million over three years, which is a cheap signing for a starting catcher. The Giants are most likely going to deal Pierzynski now that Matheny has been signed, but it remains to be seen who is interested in his services. I think the Giants brought in a solid backstop that will work well with their pitchers, but not one who’ll provide the offense they severely need. This move was: all right.

The main objective of the Winter Meetings is for teams to resort to their Plan Bs and get the base of negotiations done. Most of the time there aren’t many signings, and with only a few this time, the tradition continues. There was a lot of talk going on, though, so we should expect to see some more moves within the next week. The Mariners have reportedly finished a deal with Richie Sexson and have turned their eyes to Carlos Delgado. The Blue Jays supposedly brought in Corey Koskie and the Mets have offered a fourth year to Pedro Martinez. Carl Pavano will most likely to go the Yankees, while Hudson is probably leaving Oakland, most likely to Atlanta or Los Angeles. And the biggest piece of news is that Carlos Beltran talks have begun with the Yankees.