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MLB's offseason off and running

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."- Rogers Hornsby.

Mr. Hornsby would not have that problem these days, because there is no offseason anymore in baseball. The champagne is barely dry from the New York Yankees 27th World Series celebration, and the general managers' meetings are already nearing their conclusion in Chicago.

MLB does not have much on the NFL, but when it comes to the offseason, there is not another sport that even comes close to generating the kind of excitement that baseball does.

Nothing usually comes out of the GM meetings, as they generally serve as a precursor to the main event - the winter meetings, which will take place this year in Indianapolis from December 7-10.


Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said Felix Hernandez was off limits during the GM meetings.
Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik ended what could have been the talk of this offseason just days into it, when he stated that Felix Hernandez was off limits and would remain the property of the Mariners for the foreseeable future.

Hernandez, though, was not the only name being bandied about, as I am sure a pair of newly hired general managers' phones have been ringing off the hook since arriving at the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport Hotel on Monday.

Both Toronto's Alex Anthopoulos and San Diego's Jed Hoyer embark on their first offseason with the unenviable task of deciding whether or not to deal the best player on their respective teams.

The groundwork for Anthopoulos to deal his ace Roy Halladay was laid by his predecessor J.P. Ricciardi, who wanted an awful lot in return for his Cy Young Award-winning right-hander. Anthopoulos won't get as much as Ricciardi was asking simply because he will be a free agent after the end of the season, but Halladay will still certainly bring back a boatload.

Philadelphia was the strongest suitor at last year's trade deadline, and even with the acquisition of Cliff Lee, it figures to be the main player for Halladay's services this winter. The Phillies likely won't have to give up Kyle Drabek to get a deal done, nor would they have to give up Cole Hamels, which is a ridiculous rumor making the rounds in Philadelphia. Hamels is not going anywhere.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox will also be in the Halladay mix.

As for Hoyer, his mission is simple: figure out what Adrian Gonzalez wants and either get him signed long-term or deal him. The Red Sox wanted him at last year's trade deadline and want him even more now that the New York Yankees won a World Series title.

Hoyer was Theo Epstein's right-hand man, so he knows the Red Sox organization inside-and-out. He is going to get exactly what he wants from the Red Sox in return for Gonzalez. I would be shocked if Gonzalez is not in Boston on Opening Day.

Speaking of the Red Sox, you get the feeling that Boston is going to make a monster splash this winter. Don't be surprised to see them get Halladay, Gonzalez and still re-sign Jason Bay.

Though nothing usually comes from these meetings, one player who could get moved before the week is out is Chicago Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley, who wore out his welcome in the Windy City as quickly as be blew in. The big rumor making the rounds is a three-way deal that would send Bradley to Toronto, Lyle Overbay to the New York Mets and Luis Castillo to Chicago.

The holdup in that potential deal appears to be the $21 million still owed to Bradley over the next two seasons.

Either way, Bradley is not going to be with the Cubs next season. If the three- way does not work out, Bradley could land with Tampa Bay in a swap of malcontents, with Pat Burrell heading to Chicago.

Another hot topic that was thought to be a big issue this offseason was the expansion of instant replay, given how poorly the umpiring was in this past postseason. However, that talk was put to rest, as the GMs decided to pass on even addressing the topic.

We are still well over a week away before we really hit free agency, but if this first week is any indication of what is ahead this offseason, it is going to be very busy until pitchers and catchers report in February.

LET'S HAND OUT SOME HARDWARE

Before we really crank up the Hot Stove, though, the Baseball Writers Association of America will dole out their annual awards starting next Monday. So without further ado, let's take a look at who we think are the most deserving this year:

AL MVP: JOE MAUER, MINNESOTA

No-brainer here. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira had sensational seasons, but with that team it is really hard to determine who was the most valuable. Without one of them, you could probably make the case the Yankees still make the playoffs. On the other hand, where do the Twins finish without Mauer? Mauer led the majors with a career-high .365 batting average despite missing the first month of the season because of back injury. He also established personal- bests with 28 home runs and 96 RBI, all while winning a Gold Glove behind the plate. Minnesota's goal this offseason is to try to get Mauer locked up to a long-term deal this winter, before he can become a free agent next offseason.

AL CY YOUNG: ZACK GREINKE, KANSAS CITY

Greinke was the silver lining in otherwise another disappointing season for the Kansas City Royals, going 16-8 with a 2.16 earned run average for a Kansas City team that lost 97 games on the year. He led the majors in ERA and finished third with 242 strikeouts. His six complete games and three shutouts were second in the majors behind Halladay. Had he played for a contender, Greinke surely would have at least 20 wins. Consider that he allowed three runs or less in eight of his nine no-decisions, giving up one or less in four of those outings, and surrendered just one run in two of his losses. In fact, in his eight losses, the Royals mustered just 15 runs. His run support per start was the lowest in the league, so he shouldn't be penalized for a win total that is lower than the usual Cy Young standard.

AL ROOKIE: GORDON BECKHAM, CHICAGO

Beckham didn't make his 2009 season debut until June 4, but finished the campaign with 14 homers, 63 runs batted in and a .270 batting average in 103 games. He played primarily at third base for the White Sox this season, but his future is at second, where he will play next season from day one.

NL MVP: ALBERT PUJOLS, ST. LOUIS

This is perhaps the most lopsided of all the awards this year, as it would be one of the biggest upsets in the history of sports if El Hombre does not come away with his second straight MVP, and third overall. Pujols had one of his best statistical seasons in 2009, leading the league in homers (47), runs scored (124), on-base percentage (.443), slugging (.658) and total bases (374). In 160 games, the 29-year-old finished with a .327 batting average and 135 runs batted in, and the Cardinals won their fourth NL Central title in six seasons.

NL CY YOUNG: CHRIS CARPENTER, ST. LOUIS

Another big factor in the Cardinals' division title was the return of 2005 Cy Young Award winner Carpenter. Already named the NL's Comeback Player of the Year, Carpenter made just four starts combined in 2007 and 2008, but went 17-4 with an NL-best 2.24 earned run average over 28 starts in 2009 to re- establish himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. The 34-year-old recorded three complete games and one shutout while helping St. Louis capture the NL Central title for the first time since 2006. During the months of July and August, Carpenter went 9-0 with a 2.00 ERA. He dominated divisional opponents in 15 starts, going 11-0 with a 1.58 ERA. His main competition figures to come from teammate Adam Wainwright, who tied for the major league lead with 19 wins. However, my vote goes to Carpenter.

NL ROOKIE: J.A. HAPP, PHILADELPHIA

Happ started the 2009 season in the Phillies' bullpen and joined the starting rotation in late May. He finished the year with a record of 12-4 and a 2.93 earned run average for the National League champions. The 27-year-old lefty struck out 119 batters in 166 innings and posted a pair of shutouts. Happ was probably the Phils' most consistent starter until Cliff Lee came to town, but oddly enough, did not really have a role in the postseason.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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