LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- They came, they saw, they considered. But after three-and-a-half days of Winter Meetings, baseball's executives departed without having set off any of the anticipated trade fireworks, instead leaving the pyrotechnics in the hands of the Disney World experts. However, plenty of money, but few players, exchanged hands. Seven deals were engineered -- three of them spun off Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft -- without involving any bandied-about marquee names such as Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Miguel Tejada. The biggest player under contract to change teams was Freddy Garcia, who went from the White Sox to the Phillies' rotation for a pair of prospects. The pen was mightier than the swap. Major contracts were signed, or were pending, with J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo (Red Sox), Jason Schmidt (Dodgers), Greg Maddux (Padres), Mike Piazza (A's), Ted Lilly (Cubs), Vicente Padilla (Rangers) and Barry Bonds (Giants).
In all, 18 free agents signed for an aggregate bankroll of $433,200,000 -- excluding the big prize left on the open market: Barry Zito. And several of the headline signings are still in "preliminary purgatory," pending physicals. Those include the two agreements that came down on Thursday. Gil Meche, 55-44 in six seasons with the Mariners, went above the radar with a five-year, $55 million deal from the Kansas City Royals, and former Arizona icon Luis Gonzalez stayed in the NL West with a $7.3 million contract with the Dodgers. Perhaps future Winter Meetings will operate like a military induction center, with players passing through three stations: From negotiating table to physical ward (plenty of doctors, no waiting) to press conference. In the reality of the 2006 Meetings, business wasn't quite as expedient. Bouncing between agents and potential trade partners like pinballs, many general managers went "Tilt!" "It's one of the more miserable Winter Meetings I've ever been to," said Seattle GM Bill Bavasi, alluding to the overall lack of trades. And Bavasi got more than most, certainly on the final morning, when he pulled off two deals. In only one of the Meetings' three deals to involve Major League talent on both sides, the Mariners sent right-handed reliever Rafael Soriano to Atlanta for lefty starter Horacio Ramirez. Bavasi also picked up right-hander Sean White for cash from the Pirates. The Bucs, who earlier in the morning had selected White off Atlanta's Triple-A roster, weren't the only ones to use the Rule 5 Draft as a stepping stone to subsequent deals. The most recognizable name in that shuffle was Josh Hamilton, drafted out of the Tampa Bay organization by the Cubs, who then dealt him to the Reds for cash. Hamilton is the trouble-beset 25-year-old who since the Devil Rays made him the overall No. 1 pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft has appeared in a total of 266 Minor League games -- and fewer than 100 in the past six years.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.