With the news of the capture of Saddam Hussein and one of the final weeks of the NFL season going on in the front pages, the MLB off season continues to percolate along. It's been a busy week and many moves occurred that will move money and talent around.
The Yankees finalized their deal basically swapping the Dodger's Kevin Brown for Jeff Weaver. Brown is a battler who knows how to pitch. But he's also 39 years old. Weaver was never going to make it in New York where he admitted to being overwhelmed. A fresh start in Los Angeles could help return him to the road to success that he seemed so certain to be on when he first came to the Yankees.
With the Dodgers' home park favoring pitchers, and with every ninth batter being the pitcher, Weaver has the chance still to be a big winner. He is still fairly young and the Dodgers certainly see something in him. New York always did too, but there was always one stupid hanging slider that followed three brilliant pitches.
The Marlins leaked a little more talent over the weekend when they traded Juan Encarnacion to the Dodgers for basically nothing. Encarnacion drove in 94 runs last year, his first full-time season. But he was a free swinger with only a .313 on base percentage. With Cabrera available for the outfield, Encarnacion should not be that big a loss to the team. Certainly, the trade is less of a loss than Ivan Rodriguez.
One of the biggest stories of the weekend was the free agent signing of Miguel Tejada by the Baltimore Orioles. The signing is a great one for the Orioles as Tejada is one of the top four shortstops in the American League. He can field, hit for power and he's driven in over a hundred runs for the last four seasons. The Orioles are going to be an impressive team this coming year. For the first half of the season last year, the Orioles were among the leaders in all offensive categories. Injuries ended that, but Tejada can't help but make them better. He is a superstar.
The Red Sox continued to strengthen themselves by signing Keith Foulke to be their closer. Acquiring Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke in one off season has to feel good for the Red Sox fans. Foulke give the Sox a real closer who saved 43 games last year and also sported a 9-1 record. That means he had a hand in 52, or half, of the team's wins. His WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched, ERA and batting average against were outstanding the last three seasons and his strikeouts per innings pitched last year was the best of his career. Now if only the Red Sox don't do something stupid like losing Garciaparra.
Two management decisions also happened this weekend--one that was good and one that was bad. George Steinbrenner signed General Manager, Brian Cashman, for another two years. Cashman is one of the best there is and has spent the Steinbrenner's money wisely.
The other was the exercising of Larry Bowa's contract by the Philidelphia Phillies. That is a terrible decision and the Fan can't understand just what the Phillies brass sees in Bowa that the rest of MLB fandom cannot. The man is a bad Billy Martin and is poison to that team. What's going to happen this year if the Phillies don't win despite having a very successful off-season.
And the surprise team of the weekend? The Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The 'Rays have been busy! In separate trades, the Devil Rays acquired Jose Cruz, Jr., Geoff Blum, Rey Sanchez and Mark Hendrickson. Hendrickson could be the most exciting addition as the pitcher had a fair rookie season after leaving the NBA. The Devil Rays have finally learned from history and are filling their roster with very useful, but not expensive players.
And finally, the Mets finished a successful off season week by signing Seattle's Mike Cameron. Cameron is only thirty and now that he is out of Seattle, might revive a career of great defense and great offensive potential.