Bodley: Big trade what Meetings are about

Bodley: Big trade what Meetings are about

INDIANAPOLIS -- Trader Jack McKeon stood outside the main entrance to the Marriott on Tuesday puffing on a cigar, sending smoke and a strong aroma swirling above in the misty morning air.

I paused for a moment after a warm greeting from McKeon before going inside because the smell alone reminded me of what Winter Baseball Meetings used to be like -- lots of cigar smoke, plenty of Jack Daniels and just as many blockbuster trades.

It was good to start my day at that point because, inside, executives for the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks were hammering out the details of, yes, a blockbuster trade.

By the time the sun went down and nasty weather was moving in to Indianapolis, the deal was all but done, awaiting each of the teams signing off on physical exams the involved players were undergoing. The deal was officially finished Wednesday afternoon.

I love this because for once the Yankees aren't merely opening their checkbook to get the player or players they covet.

"In the old days the general managers would go up to a suite, light up, have a drink or two and say, 'I'll give you so-and-so for so-and-so,'" remembered former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden. "It was a done deal, but that doesn't happen any more because there are so many details involved with contracts, agents -- you name it."

But when it became obvious Tuesday that the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks were about to swing a biggie, it was an encouraging sign.

A year ago, the wealthy Yankees were spending about $421 million on just three free-agent players.

Days before these sessions opened, trades, rather than expensive signings, were expected to dominate.

Smoking is banned now in hotels and what drinking there is usually takes place after dark.

McKeon got his nickname for his wheeling and dealing as a general manager. He was even more successful as a manager, guiding the Florida Marlins to an unexpected World Series championship in 2003.

Trader Jack is now a special advisor for the Marlins and although he tolerates this new era, he longs for the days I refer to.

"I love those big deals," he said. "What are you hearing about this three-team swap?"

Start with this:

The Yankees are getting coveted Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson.

To make the deal work, the Diamondbacks will receive right-handed pitchers Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy from the Tigers and Yankees, respectively.

The Tigers, who're slicing payroll, will get pitchers Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from Arizona and prized outfield prospect Austin Jackson and left-handed pitcher Phil Coke from the Yankees.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman learned during last month's meetings in Chicago that 29-year-old Granderson was available. From that moment on, discussions took place, but being able to concoct the combinations that would make the trade happen took a month.

Originally, the Tigers' talked about the likes of pitchers Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes and even hard-throwing reliever Michael Dunn.

Dunn was the last of the three pitchers removed from the deal, but the Yankees did have to part with Austin Jackson, one of their top prospects who's projected to hit 20-25 home runs once he lands in the Major Leagues.

Had he remained with the Yankees, he would have competed for the center-field job but probably opened the season at Triple-A, where he batted .300 in 132 games last season.

Granderson, vulnerable to left-handed pitching, hit 30 homers last season for the Tigers. With the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium, he can possibly add 10 to that number.

Not only that, but he gives the Yankees a defensive improvement over Melky Cabrera in center field.

Granderson batted .249 with the 30 homers, drove in 71 runs and stole 20 bases.

The negative is that he hit all but two of his homers off right-handers and batted just .183 vs. lefties. He struck out 141 times.

Plus, by obtaining Granderson, the Yankees are in a much better position to negotiate with free-agents Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

Because they have Granderson, the worse-case scenario is moving Cabrera to Damon's spot in left field which isn't all that bad.

Now, they can make Damon a more reasonable offer, less than he and agent Scott Boras are demanding.

Granderson will hit at the top of the batting order behind Derek Jeter -- a perfect fit.

The bottom line is the Yankees are getting a player that helps Cashman tweak the World Series champions, which makes the trade so compelling.

The Tigers are getting a hard thrower in Scherzer, a blue-chip prospect and are able to adjust their payroll after attendance fell at Comerica Park because of the economic meltdown in Detroit.

And the Diamondbacks have improved their pitching with Edwin Jackson and Kennedy.

This is what blockbuster trades and the Winter Meetings should be all about.

Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.