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How to sum up baseball's busy winter

2/17/2015

Well, today’s the day, when the results of my annual survey on the best and worst of the offseason appear on this site. And I’m betting that Max Scherzer, Hanley Ramirez and Michael Cuddyer (among others) won’t believe how this one turned out.

But there’s one category in my survey that didn’t make it into the main piece. I asked the 35 executives who responded to nominate an event or story that they thought summed up the baseball winter. Those results are always highly entertaining. So I thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the responses:

Josh Donaldson
Donaldson

TRANSACTION FEVER -– A half-dozen execs weighed in on the insane, almost exhausting pace of activity this winter, especially all of the major trades involving names as prominent as Josh Donaldson, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Ben Zobrist and Jeff Samardzija, among others. “It appears that the entire industry, with the exception of maybe three to five teams, is in a definitive win-now mode,” said one exec.

THE PADRES –- You might have noticed that the San Diego Padres had a few things on their plate. And it wasn’t just what they did. It was all the stuff they tried to do. One exec’s summation of what most amused him this winter: “The Padres pursuing every player on the planet.”

DAN DUQUETTE -– Last we checked, Duquette was still running the Baltimore Orioles’ baseball-operations department. But for two months this winter, that wasn’t such a sure thing, because the Toronto Blue Jays were openly trying to hire him as their team president (a job that Paul Beeston wasn’t aware was vacant, by the way), and Orioles owner Peter Angelos was openly trying to make that as difficult as possible. Has there ever been a tug-of-war over any executive that went that public and dragged on that long -– between teams in the same division, no less? It’s tough to remember one.

James Shields
Shields

JAMES SHIELDS -- How the heck did it take this guy more than three months to find a team? That still amazes many, many people in the industry. Did agent Page Odle frighten teams away with his steep asking price? Did “something happen,” as several execs have suggested? Maybe a blowup between the agent and an early pursuer that never leaked out? A medical red flag, possibly? Or were Shields and Odle simply waiting around for a specific opportunity that never came? Whatever. When a free agent this attractive goes unsigned for this long -– and he isn’t a Scott Boras client –- it’s a source of endless fascination for one and all.

OTHER STUFF -– And then there was the vast potpourri of other entries that were literally all over the map but just as revealing. Here’s a sampling of those fun nominations:

• The passing of the commissioner's torch from Bud Selig to Rob Manfred –- and everything that entails.

• Joe Maddon’s opt-out escape from Tampa Bay that turned him into the face of the Chicago Cubs.

• Two years after Wil Myers and Shields were traded for one another, they wind up as teammates in San Diego. Amazing how the world spins.

• The Phillies finally getting the memo that it’s time to blow it up and start over. But apparently that’s going to take a while.

• The fascinating offseason approaches by three really bright front offices in Oakland, the L.A. Dodgers and Boston: What was Billy Beane up to this time? What do we make of the dawn of the Andrew Friedman era at Chavez Ravine? And was it a good idea for the Red Sox to introduce Hanley Ramirez to the Green Monster? We’re about to find out.

• The beginning of the ┬íViva Cuba! era, with ramifications stretching from the White House to Yoan Moncada’s house.

• The realization by front offices everywhere that the age of parity is here. Other than the Nationals, wondered one GM, did any team really separate itself in any division? Um, no, actually. There might be 25 teams with legit playoff aspirations. And you can’t beat that.

• And finally, the tweet of the winter, from pitcher Andrew Heaney, who started the offseason as a Marlin, ended it as an Angel and spent a glorious half-hour or so in between as a Dodger before getting traded again. His unforgettable contribution to Twitter lore afterward: