Ask a hard-working agent about the focal point of the offseason, and some say that while the headline signings happen in December, the heart of the player moves happens after the new year. Last January proved no different for many teams.
As the Mets juiced up their offense to challenge Atlanta, the Braves added the necessary power bat for their run to another NL East title. Barry Bonds signed on for another five years of knocking balls out of Pac Bell Park, the new-look Dodgers won the rights to Japanese lefty Kazuhisa Ishii and the Angels took a chance on Toronto's underrated and relatively unwanted DH, Brad Fullmer. Little did anyone know it was a move that would play a key part in a championship.
Away from the hot stove, the Wizard of Oz and the voice of the Phillies gained election to the Baseball Hall of Fame as the debate picked up on where Gary Carter ranks among the game's great catchers. The Red Sox sale finally ended, knocking down the primary hurdle for three team ownership changes that would land Major League Baseball in control of the Montreal Expos.
In the first installment of our month-by-month review of the year in baseball, here's a day-by-day look at all the news that was fit to remember from baseball back in January:
After a season of staying relatively quiet, Dodgers outfielder Gary Sheffield lashed out at his club for offering him up in a deal. He demanded either a trade or an assurance that he wouldn't be dealt before the end of his contract.
With the wheels in motion for a deal to move Sheffield out of town, the Dodgers began their move to bring Japanese left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii into Los Angeles. Bidding began on the Yakult Swallows transplant.
The Twins, with the contraction issue nearly behind them, named the leader for their march to the AL Central title. Ron Gardenhire was hired as manager to replace the legendary Tom Kelly.
Reggie Sanders, fresh off a World Series with the Diamondbacks, followed his heart to the next team he thought would go all the way. He signed a one-year contract with the Giants. On the other coast, Mets owner Fred Wilpon authorized GM Steve Phillips to increase the team budget, allowing the club to add more talent for a run at the NL East.
The D-Backs bolstered their bullpen by acquiring lefty specialist Mike Myers from the Rockies for super-prospect Jack Cust and catcher J.D. Closser.
Ozzie Smith was the lone player voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he talked to MLB Radio about the honor. Gary Carter came agonizingly close.
On the free agent front, Juan Gonzalez rejoined the Rangers.
The Dodgers won the rights to import Kazuhisa Ishii all the way from Japan. Meanwhile, one MLB.com columnist was forecasting a wide-open battle for the AL West. No, Jim Street doesn't read palms.
Left-hander David Wells chose to return to New York rather than head west to Arizona, though the Diamondbacks claimed they had an agreement. Listen to Wells' press conference at Yankee Stadium
Charles Dolan tried to re-enter the bidding war for ownership of the Red Sox by raising his bid to a reported $740 million.
The Mariners bolstered their bullpen again with Shigetoshi Hasegawa.
Dolan's effort came up short when Red Sox limited partners reiterated their support for John Henry's group.
Baseball's new home run king wasn't looking to leave Pac Bell Park as a free agent. Barry Bonds signed a five-year contract to stay with the Giants. MLB.com's John Schlegel called it a feel-good story.
Gary Sheffield's tumultuous tenure with the Dodgers ended with a trade to the Braves. Press conference: Audio | Video Back then, Odalis Perez was seen as a throw-in. While Atlanta beefed up its hitting, the Phillies tried to bolster their pitching staff with free agent Terry Adams.
The much-publicized Red Sox sale finally ended with the league's approval to the John Henry-Larry Lucchino group. Down the coast, the Mets continued their roster overhaul by signing Pedro Astacio to a one-year deal.
The Mets' search for a power-hitting outfielder overshadowed what looked like a minor trade between the Angels and Blue Jays. But Brad Fullmer proved to be anything but a minor part of the Angels' World Series run.
Scott Rolen agreed to the largest contract in Phillies history, but it wasn't the long-term deal everyone was hoping for. That set the stage for his eventual trade to St. Louis.
A long day of negotiations paid off for D-Backs GM Joe Garagiola Jr., who inked Rick Helling to a one-year contract.
With the Red Sox sale all but the complete, the Dan Duquette watch was on. No decision would be made on the Red Sox general manager, however, for several weeks.
The Mets finished the heart of their winter retooling with another headline-grabber -- a three-team, 11-player trade that sent Jeromy Burnitz back to the Big Apple, Todd Zeile and Benny Agbayani to Colorado and Glendon Rusch to Milwaukee, among others. On far more serious matters, Padres reliever Rob Ramsay was scheduled for surgery to remove a brain tumor.
A Minnesota Appeals Court panel upheld a lower court injunction that would require the Twins to play the 2002 season at the Metrodome. In Detroit, the Tigers locked up ace Jeff Weaver under contract through 2005. An early-season collapse and a rebuilding plan sent Weaver packing for New York that summer.
The Twins and Major League Baseball appealed a lower-court injunction to the Minnesota Supreme Court as the contraction saga continued.
The Mets and Rangers lineups were being compared to the all-time standard of the 1927 Yankees, though they would not match the Yankees' success in the standings. Red Sox legend Ted Williams was hospitalized in serious condition with a high fever.
Funny how last winter no team made an offer to free agent David Bell. After accepting arbitration from Seattle, the Mariners dealt him to the Giants for Desi Relaford. The trade set up Bell's breakout year and a much better fate in free agency.
Cubs pitcher Mark Prior picked up the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, putting a bright start on a rookie year that would hurtle him into the heart of the Chicago rotation that summer.
Ted Williams was released from a Florida hospital after a four-day stay for flu-like symptoms. Two of his former teammates, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio, talked about seeing him. Deep in the heart of Texas, John Hart's search for pitching brought him to Ismael Valdes, who turned out to provide one of the American League's lesser-known career turnarounds.
The Astros finalized a three-year, $10.5 million deal for slugger Lance Berkman, who responded with his first-ever 40-homer season and an NL-leading 128 RBIs. On the trade front, the Orioles nabbed Chris Singleton in a trade from the White Sox.
The Pirates were the surprise winner in the Pokey Reese sweepstakes. The Mets, surprisingly, weren't done dealing yet, signing John Valentin to a minor league contract.
What in the name of MICK-ey MOR-an-DI-ni? Phillies play-by-play man Harry Kalas received the Ford C. Frick Award for election into the broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.