Hot Stove League: It’s getting hot in here!

I know that I’ve been clamoring for some action in the MLB Hot Stove League for weeks, even months. But please, I can’t keep up with the floodgates these last few days. Well, here are the highlights (i.e., the bigger names), and you can bet much more will happen in the coming weeks as we get closer to spring training:

First off, two long-time players for a single team will have new addresses in 2009: Trevor Hoffman and John Smoltz. Hoffman, who has been with the Padres since 1993 when he came over as part of a trade with the Marlins for Gary Sheffield, has not only been a great closer for San Diego for 16 seasons—he has become the all-time MLB leader in saves with 554. But when San Diego no longer put the welcome mat out, Hoffman sought to sign elsewhere, and settled on a one year, $6 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers that can also pay him $1.5 million in performance bonuses.

As for Smoltz, he came to the Braves in 1987 from Detroit in the Doyle Alexander trade, and has been with Atlanta, his only major league team, for 21 years. But the Braves, who are trying to inject more youth into their roster, did not offer Smoltz the money he was looking for and so he signed with the Boston Red Sox. Granted, Smoltz still is injured and probably won’t be available to the Sox until a few months into the season, but you’d rather have him in September and beyond anyway.

The Sox also finalized their deal with free agent RHP Brad Penny on Friday, so both he and Smoltz will join a rotation that includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Whoa. I gotta be honest, I think I like their rotation better than the CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett-led Yankees’. Not to sit tight after losing out on the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes to the Yankees, Boston also signed utility outfielder Rocco Baldelli, formerly of the Rays, who grew up in New England.

The Cubs signed outfielder Milton Bradley to a 3-year, $30 million deal, a year after he had one of his most productive seasons with the Texas Rangers (22 homers, .321 batting average). The Rays, who nearly won a title with all that youth in 2008, signed veteran OF Pat Burrell away from Philly, the team that beat them for said title.

Also, Jason Giambi has returned to his roots, signing a one-year. $5.25 million deal with Oakland, the team he began his career with before taking his big bat (and his tubes of stuff, allegedly) for big bucks.

Oh, and as if the Mets and Braves didn’t have enough to battle about on the field (I bet New York is thrilled not to have to face Smoltz anymore), the two teams are reportedly fighting hard over the services of one Derek Lowe. Then, whoever loses out on Lowe can turn their attention to the likes of Ben Sheets, Freddy Garcia or Andy Pettitte.

I know the economy still sucks, but at least we have some signings and movement.

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No big signings, but a few rumbles of thunder

It’s been over a week since the period of free agency officially began, and yet we have no big signings just yet. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been talks, or even money offered. But it does mean that certain players and their agents just aren’t ready to make hasty decisions without weighing multiple options, and perhaps driving prices up into the stratosphere.

Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin was miffed that the Yankees made the kind of offer they knew the Brewers couldn’t match–$130 or $140 million over six years, where the Brewers were hoping for more in the $100 million range. The Dodgers reportedly are getting set to offer CC between $110 to $120 million, plus the comforts of living on the west coast and getting the chance to swing a bat every five days. The Dodgers are also interested in trading for Toronto’s Roy Halladay, who suddenly is being mentioned in trade rumors. If the Dodgers are not able to sign CC or trade for Halladay, word is they will put their resources into re-signing one Manny Ramirez. Oh, and the Giants are also talking about making CC an offer. Imagine CC and NL MVP Tim Lincecum at the top of the rotation, something that could shift the balance of power in the NL West.

There is likely to be a bidding war between the Red Sox, Jays, Yankees, Orioles, Braves and Phillies for righty AJ Burnett, the most coveted pitcher in the free agent pool not named CC.

If you saw the Mets’ bullpen blow about a quarter of their losses last season (okay, maybe more), you know that GM Omar Minaya has made the pen a priority in the off-season. So not only are the Mets looking to sign a free agent stud like Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes, they are also looking to trade for Seattle’s JJ Putz or newly acquired Rockies’ pitcher Huston Street. The terribly ineffective Aaron Heilman is being dangled as trade bait, but for the names they’re looking at, the Mets would probably have to offer up a lot more than that.

Talks seem to keep breaking down about the Padres trading Jake Peavy…first with the Braves, then with the Cubs (after they re-signed Ryan Dempster)….and now the Yankees are being mentioned. Hmmm.

And Mark Teixeira is being mentioned in the same breath as the words “Washington Nationals.” Raise your hand if you saw that coming…..

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