Phil Rogers

Winter Meetings in San Diego among the wildest in history

Winter Meetings in San Diego among the wildest in history

There's never been a time like this in Major League Baseball. Maybe it shouldn't have been so surprising that the Winter Meetings were the wildest we've seen since Bill Veeck set up his famous table in the hotel lobby in 1975, trading 22 players in three days.

No owner or general manager was quite that overt in San Diego, but the activity in suites and on cellphones was positively Veeckian.

On his way out the door, one seasoned general manager said he'd never seen a crazier few days, including the final flurry of deals on Thursday, which he compared to the grand finale of a fireworks show. Another weary executive laughed at how his team had begun the week being criticized for not doing enough and ended it criticized by doing too much.

Nothing happens in a vacuum, and that's the case here.

MLB revenues jumped from about $8 billion in 2013 to $9 billion in '14, and the majority of that came in the form of national money, shared evenly between clubs. That created the climate that led to Giancarlo Stanton's $325 million contract extension with the Marlins and the wild activity at the Winter Meetings, with ambitious challengers using their financial flexibility to improve and become next year's Royals.

Seventy-nine players changed teams through trades, free agency, waiver claims and the Rule 5 Draft. A whopping 15 of those have had All-Star seasons, including Jon Lester, Yoenis Cespedes, Jeff Samardzija and five others who are coming off All-Star seasons.

If there was a common thread to the activity at the Winter Meetings, it was how the balance of powers became even more pronounced.

The World Series teams, the Giants and the Royals, were reeling from subtractions while teams like the White Sox, Cubs, Padres, Marlins and Indians got better.

Chicago hasn't sent one of its teams to the postseason since 2008, when both the Cubs and White Sox won divisions, but were knocked out in the Division Series. The six seasons since then saw attendance at both ballparks drop, but that trend is certain to be reversed in 2015 and beyond.

Maddon ready to lead Cubs

Theo Epstein and his front office spent the last three seasons patiently stocking their farm system with talent through the Draft, international signings and trades. But the hiring of manager Joe Maddon in October has signaled a split focus, with the Cubs seeking to contend in 2015 while building a powerhouse capable of consistent trips to the postseason in coming seasons.

Epstein and Lester worked alongside each other when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2007, and that relationship allowed the Cubs to win a free-agent sweepstakes against Boston and the Giants (and possibly the Dodgers, although their interest in Lester may have been overstated). In addition to the six-year, $155 million Lester deal, Epstein also traded for catcher Miguel Montero and signed right-hander Jason Hammel to a two-year, $20 million contract.

You'd think that would have been enough to grab the spotlight. But the White Sox were even more active in San Diego.

Rick Hahn engineered one of the biggest trades of the meetings, getting Samardzija from the A's in a six-player deal that did not include any of his top prospects, and signed closer David Robertson away from the Yankees with a four-year, $46 million agreement. Hahn also worked toward a three-year deal with Melky Cabrera, which was finalized after he had returned to Chicago.

All-Access: Sox newcomers

The Dodgers were arguably the busiest team in San Diego, but new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was making moves across the spectrum after inheriting a roster that earned a record $257,283,410. His biggest move was breaking his outfield logjam by dealing Matt Kemp to the Padres, but the most surprising one might be a trade that sent All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon to the Marlins in a seven-player deal with left-hander Andrew Heaney going to Los Angeles.

Before the Winter Meetings, the Dodgers had made only three trades in 38 years with their two closest neighbors, the Angels and Padres. But after the deal with the Marlins, they sent Heaney to the Angels for second baseman Howie Kendrick.

Along the way, Friedman also traded for shortstop Jimmy Rollins. So for the Dodgers, that's a new double-play combination in Rollins and Kendrick, and a new center fielder in Joc Pederson, as the Kemp deal seems to have cleared a path for Yasiel Puig to move back to right field.

It all happened in San Diego, where fish tacos were plentiful and sleep was for the weak.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.