Signing off from Lake Buena Vista

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Lake Buena Vista, FL (Sports Network) - Well the Sports Network contingent is heading home from the Swan and Dolphin Resort this afternoon, as Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings come to a close.

Some questions were answered, but a lot of the same questions people had coming into the week were still left unresolved. Left-hander Barry Zito is no closer to a new home now than he was at the beginning of the week, Barry Bonds, despite a surprise appearance at the Dolphin, is still without a job and Andy Pettitte has yet to decide between the Yankees and Astros.

After a slow start, though, things did finally start to pick up during the day on Wednesday. And for the first time at the meetings there was a genuine buzz in the media room when it was announced that the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox were set to make an announcement.

Most people felt that Freddy Garcia was definitely on his way to Philly, but just about everyone in the room thought centerfielder Aaron Rowand was going the other way. Instead it was right-hander Gavin Floyd and prospect Gio Gonzalez, who Chicago had shipped to the Phillies as part of the Jim Thome deal last offseason, which ironically also included Rowand.

A great trade for the Phillies, who now have one of the best rotations in all of baseball. I just hope their starters can go nine innings, because that bullpen is horrendous. Eric Gagne anyone?

As far as the White Sox I know everyone knew they were going to deal a starter, but are you telling me that is the best they could do for a proven winner like Garcia?

Now comes word that the White Sox are on the verge of another deal that would ship another starter out of town in Jon Garland. Supposedly the White Sox are mulling an offer from Houston that would bring speedy leadoff man Willie Taveras and, depending on who you believe, either starter Taylor Buchholz or prospect Jason Hirsh or both in return.

There is talk that that deal, though, is falling apart.

Other than those deals, it has been a whole lot of talk and not a whole lot of action.

Jason Schmidt signing with the Dodgers came as a bit of a surprise. I thought he would wind up in Seattle or with Chicago. Now he will face his former team probably five times in the next season.

The Dodgers, by the way, are the clear-cut favorites in the NL West as of right now. They added Randy Wolf and Schmidt to a rotation that already includes Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley and young Hong-Chih Kuo. Brett Tomko and Mark Hendrickson are also on the roster, fueling speculation that Penny could be dealt for a power hitter like Richie Sexson, who Seattle is offering to anyone that will listen.

To nobody's surprise Zito remains unsigned. Despite all the reports to the contrary, I think the Mets are still going to find a way to get him. The San Francisco Giants, now that Schmidt has jumped ship to the rival Dodgers, are reportedly now in the mix. How intriguing would a Schmidt-Zito matchup be on Opening Day?

Texas has said that they will not go over $100 million to get him. I hope that is true. I almost choked on my mashed potatoes when I read they were prepared to offer him a seven-year deal in the $102-105 range.

Either way Zito is not signing until Daisuke Matsuzaka puts his name on Boston's contract. And now there comes word that that is not such a sure bet anymore..

How about the Kansas City Royals? They have been more active at these meetings than the Yankees. The Royals have locked Gil Meche into a five-year deal that rivals the richest in club history and also have an offer on the table for free agent righty Miguel Batista. Kansas City is also in talks with reliever Octavio Dotel, who would be used as the team's closer.

Meche and Ted Lilly got a combined $100 million. Are you kidding me? I am definitely in the wrong business.

Then of course there is the on-going Bonds saga. Supposedly there is a "mystery" team in the mix and the St. Louis Cardinals were believed to be that club. Cards' GM Walt Jocketty quickly dismissed that rumor, which leads me to believe that good old Barry is just trying to drum up some interest.

Like I have said all week though the only place Bonds is going to wind up is in San Francisco. Why bail out now when they have invested so much time in this home run chase.

All in all it was a productive week for some GM's, but there is still an awful lot of loose ends left to tie. Should make for an interesting next couple of weeks.

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