12/3/2013 5:45 P.M. ET
Hot Stove completely ablaze before Meetings
Teams aren't waiting until arriving in Florida before making acquisitions
By Richard Justice / MLB.com
Slow it down, fellas. Take a deep breath, count to nine and give us a chance to get our minds around these past 24 hours. Players were changing teams so quickly it has been impossible to keep it all straight. Save something for the Winter Meetings next week.
On the other hand, this is why we love the Hot Stove. It's not just tallying up winners and losers. It's watching the various general managers construct their rosters. It's both an art and a science.
So let's go to our handy little tote board and check out who has had a good week even if it's only Tuesday.
Nationals: General manager Mike Rizzo may have won the offseason with his acquisition of reliable right-hander Doug Fister from the Tigers. If the Nats aren't baseball's best team, they're certainly in the conversation.
Red Sox: If you don't like the idea of inserting A.J. Pierzynski into the middle of the Red Sox-Yankees series, you have no sense of adventure. His signing is proof that Boston general manager Ben Cherington is comfortable changing his clubhouse mix even after winning the World Series.
Athletics: In one busy day, general manager Billy Beane replaced two free agents, closer Grant Balfour and starter Bartolo Colon, with Jim Johnson and Scott Kazmir. Beane then added one of baseball's best defensive outfielders by getting Craig Gentry from the Rangers. Well done, Billy. Kazmir's arrival gives Beane the freedom to at least consider trading a starting pitcher for some of the offensive help he needs. Beane may not have made his club the favorite for a third consecutive American League West championship, but he took a significant step in the right direction.
Tigers: General manager Dave Dombrowski had promised to acquire a proven closer. He did a little more than that in getting Joe Nathan, the best guy available in free agency. Now he can shift his focus to adding a hitter.
Astros: Acquiring Dexter Fowler from the Rockies is a start for the Astros. He's a high-end, athletic outfielder who is still only 27 years old. Now, Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow turns his attention to upgrading his bullpen.
Rays: Yeah, catcher Ryan Hanigan hit just .198 in 75 games for the Reds last season. But he has a .262 career batting average and is one of the game's best defensive receivers, especially in allowing pitchers to get comfortable and trust his approach to pitch sequencing. He's one of those low-key moves that could look pretty smart.
Rockies: In getting Jordan Lyles from the Astros, the Rockies are getting a 23-year-old right-hander with nice potential. He has a 5.25 ERA in 65 career starts, and maybe a change of scenery will help. The Rockies are also getting Brandon Barnes, a 27-year-old right-handed hitter who could compete for a roster spot.
Rangers: General manager Jon Daniels has upgraded his team at first base by getting Prince Fielder and added a potential power hitter in Michael Choice. Daniels still needs another bat, either to play the outfield or be the designated hitter.
Now for some of the remaining unanswered questions.
Orioles: Johnson's departure creates a significant void in the clubhouse and on the mound. He led the big leagues with nine blown saves last season and seemed to lose confidence in his stuff at times. That said, Johnson's still on the short list of baseball's best closers with 101 saves the past two seasons.
Johnson's leadership in the clubhouse also should not be discounted. But with Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis approaching free agency, the Orioles had some tough decisions to move. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will find someone else to take the ball in the ninth inning, but for O's fans and players, it's going to take some time to get over losing one of their favorites.
Mariners: They're busy here, there and everywhere. Jacoby Ellsbury remains on their radar. Nelson Cruz could be there, too. General manager Jack Zduriencik has money to spend and an aggressive attitude about upgrading his club. So far, he hasn't found anything that works for both sides.
Yankees: Like the Rangers, the Yanks have made one solid move (Brian McCann ). Like Texas, New York has plenty of other needs -- specifically in the outfield and the rotation. Carlos Beltran seems to be the most logical fit, but there seems to be a nice market for him.
Mets: General manager Sandy Alderson still hopes to be a significant player in free agency, but as with the Mariners, he has yet to find a match in terms of both salary and a player's desire to be in Queens. Stay tuned.
And next week, we'll be in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the Winter Meetings. That's when things really get busy.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.