Willy Taveras signed with Cincinnati, who have a knack for wasting money on players who can't play, and Brian Fuentes is headed for Anaheim. Good deal for the Angels, who get Fuentes for almost $20 million less guaranteed than the Mets gave their former closer, Francisco Rodriguez. Fuentes wasn't all that far away from saves leader Rodriguez in VORP last year -- 18.0 versus 22.8, which amounts to about one win and change. If the Angels are feeling extra peppy and want to work out some sort of rotation system involving matchups between Fuentes, Jose Arredondo, and Scot Shields, they could be even more effective in the ninth inning than they were last year.
News on players coming to Colorado rather than leaving it moves slower, but I am reading that the Rockies are going to finalize a deal sending anachronistic middle reliever Luis Vizcaino to the Cubs for career mediocrity Jason Marquis. Marquis is slightly better than a 250-year-old Livan Hernandez, but not a lot better. Anyway, the same logic as last year applies. The team is going to suck, so why bother spending money and (more importantly) playing time on guys who have had plenty of previous service time in the majors to prove that they aren't any good? The Rockies have a lot of prospect types to sort through still, and they don't have the "excuse" any more that they're a contending club. They also keep locking guys up from the farm into middle relief because they have "proven" starters ahead of them, which isn't helping the young players or the team. The trade for Marquis only makes sense if the Rockies have plans to flip him elsewhere, as they supposedly do for Huston Street.
How about this Andruw Jones story? Hard to believe the guy completely fell apart as a player so quickly. That doesn't happen to non-pitchers that often. Fans of the Tigers should be worried about what Jones' career path might mean for Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera, like Jones, is too fat to want to bend over and chase pitches low and outside. And Cabrera was never exactly in the kind of shape Jones was in when he was one of the most feared defenders in the majors. Say what you will about the Rockies' choice of investments, but the one guy they've (ever) given a long-term deal to, Todd Helton, has maintained at least some of his value for the whole run of the contract (thus far). Is Matt Holliday that kind of guy? Having seen him play so much over the past several seasons, I'm either in the perfect position to judge -- or too biased to give a meaningful opinion. I think that Holliday is definitely the kind of player who would still be playing hard and keeping himself in shape at the end of a seven- or eight-year contract. As for whether his health would allow him to maintain the same standard defensively, and as a baserunner, I am less certain. It's a moot point since the Rockies aren't trying to win.
I may be one of the last vocal defenders of the NBA's regular season but this particular year is becoming a drag. Trouble is, there are three teams that are self-evidently better than everyone else, and they can only match up so many times. Boston and L.A.'s Christmas showdown delivered on the hype, even if the home-cooking officials drained a lot of the drama out of the fourth quarter. But after that trying to watch the Bulls and Cleveland was tough. The Cavaliers are so much better than any of the other Eastern Conference teams besides Boston that they only have to play their starters for three quarters most nights. It's pretty hard getting worked up about Atlanta or Orlando -- neither could make a dent against Boston or Cleveland in a playoff series -- and some of the quality teams from past years in the east have fallen off, like Toronto, Washington, and even Detroit. In the West it will be interesting to see if the suddenly team-oriented Nuggets can finally win a playoff series. The race in the Northwest Division, between up-and-coming Portland, resurgent Denver, and the injury-wracked but still dangerous Jazz, should be of some academic interest. But everybody knows who pushes the meter in the NBA and the chances of a loaded Laker team not making the Finals again this spring are slim to nil.
A few NFL thoughts, since I'm watching the first game of the postseason right now: In the absence of a dominant offensive team in the league this year, you tend to look around for the best defense. That would be Pittsburgh, but their offensive line sure worries me. Baltimore's defense is still good, although not quite at Super Bowl level, and they have a rookie QB. The Giants had a better regular season than they did last season, but it takes something special to repeat as champs in the NFL, and I'm still not sold on their quarterback. His older bro in Indianapolis can't do all it by himself, Arizona, Philly, and Minnesota are just happy to be in the playoffs, San Diego shouldn't even have gotten that far. Atlanta's got another rookie QB. So whom does that leave, Carolina? Carolina and Tennessee. That sounds good. Not to football purists, I suppose, or people who don't like teal, but I see veteran quarterbacks, deep running games, good coaching, and stout defense. There's your Super Bowl.