2004 Winter Meetings: It’s All a Gamble

This article was written by Hawkins DuBois

This article was published in the Baseball’s Business: The Winter Meetings: 1958-2016


Baseball's Business: The Winter Meetings: 1958-2016

Introduction

For many in the baseball world, the 2004 season marked the end of an era. Perhaps it was the Boston Red Sox finally breaking the “Curse of the Bambino” to end their streak of futility, or the Expos playing their final games in Montreal, or Barry Bonds’ career finally beginning to wind down as he won the last of his seven Most Valuable Player Awards. The year 2004 was one that brought about changes, but the offseason would be slow to bring about the same transformations that the regular season had brought.

The 2004 Winter Meetings were held in California, at the Anaheim Marriott, less than a mile from Disneyland. While baseball’s general managers, agents, and writers were unlikely to spend much time at the “happiest place on Earth,” they were hoping to bring joyous news to fans across the country, as they attempted to lure some of the game’s best players to join their teams. A long weekend of baseball rumors and transactions lay ahead for these show runners between December 10 and 13 as they looked to improve their rosters.

After the 2003 Winter Meetings in New Orleans that featured Miguel Tejada’s six-year megadeal, the 2004 iteration of the meetings ended up being relatively quiet in terms of major player movements. While the Marriott was constantly abuzz with rumors, many of the major deals that were discussed never actually materialized beyond the preliminary stages during the meetings. There was no huge signing or trade in Anaheim, but clubs still made a variety of moves looking to contend in 2005. The hope that transformation was coming was a common theme throughout discussions at the meetings, but the transactions rarely brought on the same optimism as the rumors.

Player Movement

Pitchers were at the heart of much of the movement during the convention. Offense was beginning its decline from the heights of the steroid era, and much of that had to do with the rising value of pitching, the hot commodity of the Winter Meetings.

Right out of the gate, the first big move on Friday was the Arizona Diamondbacks making a splash by signing starting pitcher Russ Ortiz for $33 million over four years. The Diamondbacks were coming off an abysmal 51-111 record in 2004, but they had plans to immediately end what many suspected would be a rebuilding phase for the club. Despite a multitude of claims to the media about their lack of financial flexibility, the Diamondbacks found a way to pay significant dollars to the right-handed Ortiz, and also to the recently signed third baseman Troy Glaus, who received $45 million over four years. At the press conference announcing the signing of the pair, Ortiz made it immediately clear that the Diamondbacks’ attempted turnaround into contention was a large part of why he chose to sign with them. “Winning is important. I wanted to be a part of what they’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “They convinced me from day one they were headed in that direction.”1 The Diamondbacks had decided that now was the time to reenter the fray of the competitive National League West, and so they went out and paid top dollar for one of the big-name free agent pitchers on the market.

In the words of Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, “You don’t usually get the kind of agreement on a transaction that I heard about the Russ Ortiz signing. No one I talked to likes it, and a few people were calling it the worst signing of the winter.”2 In the eyes of the media, then, the first signing of the Winter Meetings was perhaps also the worst.

Next came a pair of outfielders relocating to the American League West. The Angels announced that they were bringing aboard 40-year-old Southern Californian Steve Finley via free agency, and the Rangers were finalizing a contract with the enigmatic Richard Hidalgo, who would be joining the team after playing parts of eight seasons with the cross-state Houston Astros.

Finley inked his deal for two years at $7 million per season to be the Angels’ new center fielder. This effectively took them out of the running for the biggest free agent on the market, Carlos Beltran. Just as with Ortiz, Finley cited the team’s ability to win as a large reason for his decision to sign with the Angels, saying, “It’s close to home, it’s a great team, it’s a great organization with a chance to win. You can’t ask for any more than that as a player.”3 At 40 years old, Finley was going to be one of the oldest regular position players in baseball, but he had seen minimal decline in production up to this point. The Angels took his age into consideration and picked up the elderly outfielder anyway.

While the Finley signing was made with the hope that an older player would be able to maintain his production, the Rangers’ signing of Hidalgo was made with the hope that a young player would return to the flashes of brilliance he had shown in years past. The Rangers picked up Hidalgo for $4.5 million for one year under the belief that he was going to bounce back from a disappointing 2004. Rangers general manager John Hart said, “Richard is a premium young player. With this addition, we have filled one of our needs with an everyday right fielder who can hit in the middle of the order.”4

As discussion of the two new West Coast outfielders was buzzing throughout the hotel, word began to spread that 42-year-old left-hander David Wells was leaving San Diego, despite his hometown Padres pushing hard to retain his services. Wells had spent several years with the New York Yankees, but was now moving across the biggest rivalry in baseball to join the Boston Red Sox.

Wells was intensely pursued by both Boston and San Diego, but he also gave the Yankees every opportunity to bring him back. Wells made multiple calls to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in the days before signing to see if they would be interested in striking a deal, but Cashman declined. The two did, however, remain on good terms, with Cashman saying to Wells on the first day of the Winter Meetings, “When I’m in Boston next year, I’ll stay out late with you and let [Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein] deal with disciplining you.” Wells responded: “I’m game. Perfect.”5

Wells ended up inking his contract with Boston for two years and a guaranteed $8 million, but with the ability to escalate the value of the contract to as much as $18 million if he reached all of the incentives. He was signed to take over a spot at the back of the rotation, but with Boston moving further out of the running for Pedro Martinez due to their unwillingness to add another year to their offer, it looked as if Wells was going to have to play a larger role in Boston’s rotation.

Most of the previous moves on Day One were significant financial commitments by teams to improve their club with a recognizable former star. The forever penny-pinching Marlins, on the other hand, did not spend big but went bargain-bin diving, and came up with a pair of elderly right-handed relievers in Todd Jones and Antonio Alfonseca. Jones and the polydactyly Alfonseca were picked up to compete for the closer’s role with fellow veteran right-hander Guillermo Mota. There were some rumors that the Marlins could still be in on Carl Pavano, but as time passed it became more and more apparent that the Marlins ownership was unwilling to spend the money necessary to bring Pavano back.

With six major-league contracts being agreed to on the first day, the Winter Meetings appeared to have quickly jumped into the full swing of things. The market was changing drastically for the front-line players as teams elected to sign cheaper alternatives in their place. The change created by the number of significant moves on Day One led to the final three days of the meetings being generally uninteresting in comparison.

One of the more quiet, but still intriguing, stories on Day Two was the announcement that 2004 National League Cy Young Award Winner Roger Clemens would accept his arbitration offer from the Houston Astros. Although Clemens and his agent would not reveal whether Clemens had plans to play in 2005, the Astros were appreciative of the sign of commitment to their organization.

The Astros reportedly also met with Scott Boras, the agent for Carlos Beltran and many of the other top free agents on the market. The word around the Marriott was that the Astros had offered Beltran five years and $70 million, well under half of Boras’s asking price of 10 years and $200 million. Boras was known for being one of the most powerful men in the baseball world, and the Winter Meetings were the perfect arena for him to show off his talents. The superstar agent occupied three rooms in the Anaheim Marriott, and he constantly handed out his signature binders filled with statistics, looking to entice a team into signing one of his elite free-agent clients.6 Even with his dedicated efforts during the meetings, none of Boras’s big clients would agree to contracts, but Boras was not concerned. “Talent doesn’t have a wristwatch,” he said. Though nothing was finalized in Anaheim, Boras apparently did his usual excellent work because eventually all of his elite clients received the big contracts they were seeking.

Along with Clemens’s potential return to Houston, Saturday also brought more big news related to one of the best pitchers of the generation. John Smoltz had been working as the Atlanta Braves closer for several years after his prolific career as a starting pitcher was interrupted by Tommy John surgery. From 2001 to 2004 Smoltz worked out of the bullpen, but after the 2004 season Smoltz and the Braves decided that it was now time to bring him back to the rotation. This meant that the Braves would need a new closer to replace him, which resulted in Dan Kolb and the Milwaukee Brewers being brought into the equation.

Kolb was considered to be a proven closer, having amassed 60 saves and made an All-Star Game appearance over the previous two years. With a track record of being one of the most effective relievers in the league, he seemed like a perfect fit to take over the closer’s role in Atlanta. Kolb did not come cheap, however — the Brewers demanded top prospect Jose Capellan (ranked among the top 30 prospects in the game by Baseball America7), a right-handed pitcher, along with an additional prospect from the Braves (who proved to be outfielder-turned-pitcher Alec Zumwalt). Atlanta didn’t like giving up Capellan, but felt Kolb was worth the price, especially since it gave them the ability to move Smoltz back to the rotation.

Along with the trade of Dan Kolb for Jose Capellan, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians also agreed to a trade, with left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes going to the Indians and outfielder Matt Lawton moving to the Pirates. Rhodes, 34, was coming off one of the worst years of his career, and just two weeks earlier had been acquired by Pittsburgh in exchange for the former face of the Pirates franchise, catcher Jason Kendall. Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro still saw something in Rhodes that he liked, though, saying “There were a multitude of things that happened to him to explain why he had a bad year. We’re still hopeful he’s going to be a strong, solid contributor in our bullpen.”8 Lawton was also coming off a year in which he struggled, but the Pirates needed a new leadoff hitter, having dealt Kendall to the A’s. By swapping Rhodes for Lawton, the Pirates were able to save some money for the 2005 season, and they were able to pick up a leadoff hitter, corner outfielder, and potential power bat all in one. It was a trade that was praised on both sides, with each team relinquishing someone they didn’t need and acquiring a piece that they saw as more valuable than the other team did.

Among the numerous rumors that didn’t come to fruition on Day Two of the meetings was the one that had Tim Hudson on the move from Oakland. The frontrunner at the moment was the Los Angeles Dodgers, offering flamethrowing righty Edwin Jackson and infielder Antonio Perez, but the A’s knew they had to take advantage of a huge market for their pitcher. The Dodgers were the consensus favorites to acquire Hudson, but nearly half the league was also rumored to be interested in him, including the Red Sox, Yankees, and Braves, all of whom were having serious talks with the A’s that would bring several coveted young players to Oakland. The high traffic on Hudson created a major market for the A’s, and while talks would be ongoing throughout the meetings, Hudson would still be with Oakland’s green and gold when the meetings came to an end.

The Yankees had been involved with the rumors for Hudson from the beginning, but after a flurry of action on Day Two, it seemed they would be exiting the competition for the Oakland pitcher. After having no team officials attend the Winter Meetings in 2003 in New Orleans, both the Yankees and Brian Cashman were ready to make their presence known in Anaheim. On Saturday, the Yankees signed Carl Pavano, one of the top pitchers of the free-agent class. Just before the Winter Meetings, the Yankees had agreed to sign right-hander Jaret Wright to a three-year, $21 million contract, but earlier on Saturday it appeared as though Wright had failed his physical, leading the Yankees to pounce on Pavano for four years and $39 million.

Pavano, pitching in Florida, was coming off the best season of his career, having given the Marlins his first All-Star Game appearance, and a sixth-place finish in the National League Cy Young Award voting. For signing with the Yankees, he cited the same reason numerous other players at the meetings had used in picking their teams (as spoken through their agents): “Number one, he wants to win.”9

Nobody thought that the Pavano deal was in the same category as the Russ Ortiz signing, but there were certainly some qualms with the amount of money and years being given to an injury-prone pitcher who was coming off a season that looked like an aberration. Wright passed his physical and joined the New York rotation as well.

Day Three was by far the quietest day of the meetings. The Blue Jays made a pair of moves and the Diamondbacks signed another free agent, although this one was on a much smaller scale.

The first move came very early in the morning, as the Corey Koskie signing with the Blue Jays was finalized after reports of the deal had circulated for several days. Koskie got a contract for three years and $17 million from Toronto to take over as the club’s third baseman and help take away some of the sting of the team’s loss of one of the American League’s best offensive players in Carlos Delgado.

As a Canadian, Koskie was incredibly excited to be signing on with Toronto. “I grew up watching the Blue Jays,” he said. “Every Canadian kid’s dream is to play for a team you grew up watching. This is a real happy day for me and my family.”10 Not many were in favor of the Koskie signing, but Toronto felt it needed to reinsert more offense into its lineup.

The other move of significance made by the Blue Jays that day was a trade sending the Devil Rays their future manager in catcher Kevin Cash and bringing Toronto right-handed pitcher Chad Gaudin. It was a minor trade for both sides, but each player still had the potential to make a minor impact on the big-league team in the near future. Cash was a glove-first catcher who could compete for the backup spot on the Devil Rays roster, and Gaudin offered starting pitching depth for a team with tons of young arms in the rotation.

The final move of the day was the acquisition of Royce Clayton by the Diamondbacks on a one-year, $1.35 million deal. Clayton was expected to take over for Alex Cintron as the Diamondbacks’ shortstop. Manager Bob Melvin praised Clayton for both his defense and his offensive flexibility, and Clayton praised the organization for its people like outfielder Luis Gonzalez and hitting coach Matt Williams. Clayton even went as far as to say, “The knowledge of Matt Williams was vital in me making my decision. Having him on board, I think the organization benefits tremendously from his baseball perspective.”11

Kicking off the final day of the meetings was the signing of first baseman Wil Cordero by the newly anointed Washington Nationals. Cordero was coming off an injury-plagued season in Florida that saw him produce very little either offensively or defensively, but the Nats believed he could provide some pop off the bench and some leadership in the clubhouse, so they brought him aboard for less than a million dollars.

Among the other signings of the day was the finalization of a deal between the San Francisco Giants and defensive-minded catcher Mike Matheny for three years and $10.5 million. Matheny was signed to replace the previous year’s starting catcher, A.J. Pierzynski. Newcomer Pierzynski had problems with much of the pitching staff, and was ill-fitted for the Giants clubhouse. The signing of Matheny allowed the Giants to move on from Pierzynski and get a catcher who was widely considered to be one of the best in the game behind the plate. Giants GM Brian Sabean was very excited about Matheny’s defense, raving, “There’s no telling how many runs he’s going to save because he doesn’t make any mistakes behind the plate.”12 The Giants hoped the change from Pierzynski to Matheny would lead to a huge turnaround for their pitching staff and an improvement in the overall record of their club. (Pierzynski, for his part, would land on his feet, signing in January with the White Sox, where he would be their regular behind the plate for the next eight years, including their World Series championship season of 2005.)

With rumors of a Tim Hudson blockbuster continuing to swirl around the Winter Meetings for each of the first three days, no one would have been surprised to finally hear that a deal had been agreed to on the last day of the meetings, but the closest that reporters got to a headline-grabbing trade was one that brought Carlos Lee to the Milwaukee Brewers. The consistently productive left fielder of the Chicago White Sox was swapped in exchange for center fielder Scott Podsednik and reliever Luis Vizcaino.

Both sides gloated about what they had acquired in their half of the trade. The Brewers were coming off a season in which they had finished dead last in the National League Central, and were in dire need of an offensive upgrade. Brewers GM Doug Melvin said, “A profile like Carlos’s was our biggest need and we felt we accomplished that — but it didn’t come cheaply.”13 The Brewers had to give up their speedy center fielder, Podsednik, just a year after he had finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, and just weeks after leading the league in stolen bases with 70. Podsednik had struggled some in his sophomore season, though (his average dropped 70 points), and it was possible that a change of scenery could turn things around for him. White Sox GM Kenny Williams said of Podsednik, “His swing got a little long and little bigger. He kind of went away from his strengths. We’re looking for something in between last year and the year before. That’s plenty good enough for us.”14 The White Sox were able to save millions of dollars by moving Lee to Milwaukee, which allowed them to reallocate their funds in ways that they saw as more fitting to their new-look club. Having seen the long ball fail them during the 2004 season, the White Sox were now looking to mix up their strategy on offense, as they turned to a player like Podsednik to make themselves into more of a small-ball-oriented team.

On the last day of the Winter Meetings the concluding event is always the Rule 5 Draft. Although the draft hadn’t generated a significant regular since Johan Santana’s selection in 1999, teams continued to rummage through their rivals’ minor-league systems in hopes that they could find a diamond in the rough. The 2004 iteration of the draft led to 12 players being selected in the major-league phase, 51 players in the Triple-A phase, and 12 in the Double-A phase.

As is often the case, the popular choice in the Rule 5 Draft was pitching, especially coming from the left side. To go along with the rest of the draft selections, the consensus number-one player available to be picked up in the draft was left-hander Andy Sisco, who ended up going second overall to the Kansas City Royals. The 6-foot-9 Sisco showed immense promise while pitching in the Chicago Cubs system, ranking as high as their fourth-best prospect entering 2004 according to Baseball America, but Sisco failed to follow his offseason conditioning, and his season suffered greatly because of this lack of preparedness.15 Even armed with the knowledge of his makeup issues, numerous teams were still enamored by his potential, and it was clear he was the best player available in the draft, leading to his early selection by the Royals.

The rest of the major-league draft consisted of 11 players: seven pitchers, three outfielders, and a first baseman. The first overall pick in the draft was right-handed pitcher Angel Garcia, by the Devil Rays. Five of the next seven picks were left-handed pitchers. Outfielder Adam Stern was the 11th pick, going to the Boston Red Sox, which gave them the distinction of having the most Jewish players on a major-league roster since the start of the expansion era (they also employed Kevin Youkilis and Gabe Kapler at that time). The last player of note was outfielder Shane Victorino, who ended up being the most successful player to be drafted. Victorino was being selected in the Rule 5 Draft for the second time in his career, having gone 19th in the 2002 draft to the San Diego Padres, but was more likely to stick this time with the Phillies as he was now generating more power in his swing, leading to double-digit home runs for the first time in his career. Victorino wasn’t expected to be anything more than a fifth outfielder and pinch-runner according to Baseball America, but would end up being much more than that — a key component on the back-to-back National League championship teams and 2008 World Series winner, he had also won three Gold gloves and been selected for two All-Star teams.

The conclusion of the draft ended the Winter Meetings, but this was not the end of player movement during the 2004 offseason.

Business and Politics

The business-oriented news surrounding the 2004 Winter Meetings was primarily focused on potential landing zones for current and future franchises. The big move coming up was the movement of the Montreal Expos to the United States, where they would become the Washington Nationals. While there was not a great deal of talk about Washington, there was some talk stemming from the idea of moving another franchise, or expanding the league to one of the cities that had failed to acquire the Expos. At the center of much of these talks was the flamboyant mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman.

Arguably the most memorable moment in recent Winter Meetings history was the arrival of the Las Vegas mayor at the Anaheim Marriott, where the meetings were taking place. Goodman slowly emerged from his dark stretch limousine, adjusted the bright “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on his lapel, and waltzed into the lobby with a beautiful Vegas showgirl on each arm, and one of Las Vegas’s iconic Elvis impersonators following his every step. Goodman had arrived to sell his city, and he was willing to talk to anyone and everyone who would listen to him, insisting that “someone will have to show interest in Vegas, and then we’ll make them an offer they can’t refuse.” Goodman’s flashy entrance caught the attention of all those who could see him, and led one onlooker to fittingly quip, “That’s Vegas”16 as the mayor passed by, but Goodman was hoping to lure the attention of Major League Baseball just as much as he was looking to capture the gaze of the hotel guests.

The big meeting on Goodman’s agenda was a get-together with the Florida Marlins leadership. The Marlins were currently in talks to get a new ballpark in the Miami area, following the revelation that Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga would no longer be willing to share Pro Player Stadium after the 2010 season. This news prompted Marlins President David Samson to tell reporters, “The owner is free to do what he chooses. … What this does is make it very clear the need for the Marlins to have a new place to play is no longer just about economics. It’s about survival.”17 The Marlins needed a new ballpark, and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and his associates were not making negotiations easy, having been dragging their feet since talks began. With Samson and owner Jeffrey Loria feeling that Diaz was not taking the situation seriously enough, Samson decided to have a chat with Goodman to shake things up.

Goodman and the Marlins officials met privately in a hotel room for 90 minutes, but when the chat came to an end, both sides insisted that relocation was not a specific topic that had come up during their conversation. Goodman called the chat a “cordial” one, and told reporters, “I’m not going to allow Las Vegas to be used as a bargaining chip.” While Goodman seemed to take the whole meeting very lightly, Diaz felt insulted by the situation, stating, “I’m disgusted because I think it’s a showing of bad faith.”18 The meeting was clearly a political move being employed by the Marlins to get the new facility they so badly wanted, but it was unclear what impact it would actually have on their stadium problem. A spokesperson for Jeffrey Loria told the press, “Jeffrey is committed to Miami. At the same time, it’s appropriate for Jeffrey and [Marlins’ Vice Chairman] Joel Mael to examine all of their options in light of something that’s taking so much, much longer than anybody anticipated.”19 Loria was known for being a shrewd businessman, and nobody doubted that he would take his business elsewhere if Miami did not give him what he wanted.

It was clear that the folks around the Winter Meetings had a real interest in Las Vegas as a potential home for a major-league team. Las Vegas had missed out on a chance to acquire the Expos, and the recently concluded meeting with the Marlins was unlikely to actually draw them away from Miami, but Las Vegas was doing everything it could to make itself look like an attractive market for a major-league baseball team. Las Vegas had housed a Triple-A Pacific Coast League franchise since 1983, and was ready to move up to the big leagues. Moments after Goodman arrived at his hotel in Anaheim, he ran into Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker, who was emphatic in telling Goodman, “I would love to manage in Las Vegas.”20 Las Vegas was not getting a franchise at the moment, but the glitz and glamour that Goodman put on display clearly had appeal to many people at the meetings, and Las Vegas looked ripe for the picking if a franchise needed a new location in the near future.

Dusty Baker’s support of a team in Las Vegas wasn’t the only reason he got his quotes into the news while in Anaheim. He also came to the defense of Barry Bonds, making his thoughts on his former player and the BALCO scandal known to the public. Baker believed that it was unfair to defame Bonds, and put an asterisk next to all of his records, until he was confidently and completely proven guilty of the crime for which he was being accused.

Bonds went up in front of a grand jury and told them that he had not used steroids, and for Baker, that was more than enough proof for him to say that Bonds had not used steroids. Baker charismatically defended Bonds’ character, and told everyone that if Bonds said he hadn’t done it, then Baker believed him. Baker told reporters, “I feel bad for Barry. I’ve known him and I feel badly because this guy works. I mean, I haven’t seen anybody work as hard as Barry.”21 Despite Baker’s defense of his former star player, and as the BALCO scandal grew, Bonds’ name was constantly met with resentment as word of his involvement spread.

While most of the baseball media wrote negatively about Bonds, Baseball America continued to acknowledge his greatness. Among the minor league-sponsored events of the Winter Meetings was the Baseball America Awards Gala, and for the third time in four years Bonds took home the Player of the Year Award. Other major-league award winners included Khalil Greene (Rookie of the Year), the Minnesota Twins (Organization of the Year), Terry Ryan (Executive of the Year), and Bobby Cox (Manager of the Year), while the minor-leagues winners consisted of Jeff Francis (MiLB Player of the Year), Chris Kemple (MiLB Executive of the Year), Marty Brown (MiLB Manager of the Year), and the Lancaster Jethawks (MiLB Organization of the Year). The Freitas Awards for the best minor-league franchises were given to the Sacramento Rivercats (AAA), the Round Rock Express (AA), the Dayton Dragons (A), and the Burlington Bees (Short Season).22

Aside from the Awards Gala and a large baseball-related trade show, the minor leagues traditionally sponsor a job fair at the Winter Meetings. Job seekers are especially notorious for their constantly nervous demeanor as they wander the hotel lobby, looking to get just a few moments of face-to-face interaction with a prospective employer. One attendee noted “one [job-seeker] looping by a half-dozen times during a 15-minute conversation [he] was having. Grab a beer and give it a rest, kid” he said.23 The job fair provides tons of new jobs every year, and despite the anxiety displayed by job-seekers as they meander throughout the lobby, many of them would leave Anaheim with employment.

While many other folks would walk away from the business and political discussions at the Winter Meetings unhappy, Oscar Goodman seemed to leave with the same joy that the successful job-seekers had attained. Goodman did exactly what someone from Las Vegas would be expected to do, when he stole the spotlight at the Winter Meetings. He demanded attention with his flashy appearance, and he showcased business prowess and suavity in his numerous meetings with people in the baseball industry. As Goodman left town, he had to be feeling good about the moves he had made at the Winter Meetings, but only time would tell if it had the impact he wanted.

Conclusion

The 2004 Winter Meetings were dominated by an overall feeling of stubbornness. The headlining acts were an extravagant Las Vegas mayor, the signings of middling free agents, and a general unwillingness for teams and players to back off their high asking prices.

Scott Boras held the fate of many of the top free agents in his hands, and he refused to back off his massive demands; as a result, Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, and Adrian Beltre remained unsigned when he left Anaheim. Billy Beane held onto Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, two of the biggest trade chips in the game, because nobody was meeting his rising asking prices. Neither the Florida Marlins nor the mayor of Miami were willing at this point to compromise in putting together a deal for a new stadium for the Marlins. Nobody was willing to budge in their negotiations, and the excitement of the meetings suffered because of it.

Despite the belief that everyone in California is laid back and relaxed, Anaheim was unable to do enough to loosen up the general managers of the 30 major-league clubs. Writers and reporters from across the country left the Marriott disappointed, and many teams came away without the players they coveted most. The 2004 Winter Meetings did not bring about the sprawling change that the 2004 season had brought. Fortunately for both fans and teams, though, the major league clubs would adjust from their relative inactivity and make the necessary moves over what remained of the offseason to prepare for what would prove to be another campaign involving the end of a long championship drought.

 

Notes

1 “Diamondbacks Sign Ortiz,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 11, 2004.

2 Joe Sheehan. “Prospectus Today: The Meetings, Day One,” Baseball Prospectus, baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=3669, accessed May 20, 2015.

3 “Newest Angel in OF: Finley Joins Anaheim,” ESPN, sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1943279, accessed May 20, 2015.

4 United Press International, “Hidalgo Signs With Rangers,” upi.com/Sports_News/2004/12/11/Hidalgo-signs-with-Rangers/58641102778565/, accessed May 20, 2015.

5 Jack Curry, “Wells Joins Other Side With Deal for 2 Years,” New York Times, December 12, 2004.

6 Jack Curry, “Ultimate Salesman, Pitching the Biggest Stars in Baseball,” New York Times, December 13, 2004.

7 Jim Callis and Will Lingo, Baseball America 2005 Prospect Handbook (Durham: Baseball America, 2005), 10-13.

8 “Rhodes Will Set Up for Wickman,” ESPN, sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1944134, accessed June 1, 2015.

9 “Pavano Chooses a Yankee Future,” Los Angeles Times, December 12, 2004.

10 “Deal Is Worth $17 Million,” ESPN, sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1945093, accessed June 9, 2015.

11 “Arizona Signs Veteran Infielders Clayton, Counsell,” USA Today, usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/diamondbacks/2004-12-15-clayton-counsell_x.htm, accessed June 9, 2015.

12 Jorge L. Ortiz, “Giants Like Mike / Signing of Matheny to Three-Year Deal Improves Defense,” SFGate, sfgate.com/sports/article/Giants-like-Mike-Signing-of-Matheny-to-2663963.php, accessed June 9, 2015.

13 “White Sox Trade Carlos Lee to Milwaukee for Podsednik, Vizcaino,” ESPN, sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=mlb&id=1945634, accessed June 4, 2015.

14 Ibid.

15 Callis and Lingo, 231.

16 “Oscar’s Dash for Home,” Las Vegas Sun, December 13, 2004.

17 Ryan Wilkins, “The Week in Quotes: November 22-December 13,” Baseball Prospectus, baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=3671, accessed June 6, 2015.

18 Sarah Talalay. “Marlins Up Stakes With Talks in Vegas,” Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), December 10, 2004.

19 Ibid.

20 “Oscar’s Dash for Home”

21 John Shea. “Baseball Winter Meetings / Dusty Defends Bonds,” SFGate, sfgate.com/sports/shea/article/BASEBALL-WINTER-MEETINGS-Dusty-defends-Bonds-2629740.php, accessed June 9, 2015.

22 “Baseball America Awards,” Baseball America, baseballamerica.com/news/baseball-america-awards/, accessed December 30, 2015.

23 “Las Vegas to Host Baseball Winter Meetings for the First Time From Dec. 8-11,” MiLB.com, milb.com/gen/articles/printer_friendly/clubs/t400/y2008/m12/d05/c485556.jsp, accessed December 30, 2015.

24 Jay Jaffe, “The Winter Meetings: The Lobbyists,” The Futility Infielder, futilityinfielder.com/wordpress/2004/12/the-winter-meetings-the-lobbyists.shtml, accessed December 30, 2015.

© SABR. All Rights Reserved