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Baseball winter meetings much ado about next to nothing

Published: Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 9:55 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The room for press conferences at baseball’s winter meetings was actually two ballrooms turned into one.

Spacious, yes. And wasted.

The microphone at the podium was used for only two baseball-related news conferences — and neither to announce a blockbuster trade or major free agent signing.

They could write a good country song about aching, breaking hearts of general managers as they left Nashville empty-handed. In essence, nothing happened at what is usually the highlight of the Hot Stove League.

“I thought there would at least be an announcement or two (Thursday morning),” one general manager said before leaving town.

Last year, there were two on the final morning — Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, both with the Angels. Combined total: $317.5 million.

Not much was spent on this Thursday, except for minor leaguers in the Rule 5 draft, making the White Sox signing of Jeff Keppinger the day before (three years $12 million) one of the biggest deals of this four-day winter confab.

“Different than it used to be,” said one general manager. “I only talked face-to-face with one general manager while I was here. Talked to some others on the phone, but it just seemed like not much was getting done.”

While the 2011 winter meetings were waiting on Pujols and Wilson to break the logjam, this year’s version waited on free agents Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton.

The Rangers are the key to breaking up the jam because they are bidding against the Dodgers for Greinke. If they win that war, they may not re-sign Hamilton (who could wind up with the Mariners) and instead be part of a complicated trade with the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton.

All of that will have to wait for later. And so will the signings of the second tier of free agents, such as former Cub Ryan Dempster, and any trades that have been talked about.

So the workers dismantled the podium at the sprawling Opryland Hotel Thursday, probably taking the cobwebs with the pieces.

The major “announcements” involved Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman announcing Alex Rodriguez’s left hip surgery and Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson announcing a contract extension for David Wright.

Cashman was left explaining to New York media outside the press conference room why his team did nothing while it was here. But, then, no other GM did either.

Cubs’ GM Jed Hoyer made one significant move — the signing of outfielder Nate Schierholtz — which he couldn’t announce officially pending a physical exam. Like his cohorts, he had wanted to do more. Later Thursday it was announced the club had re-signed third baseman Ian Stewart.

Hoyer left Nashville like the others, hopeful that the days ahead would allow him to spread around his owners’ cash reserves.

“There’s a long way to go until we get to (spring training in) Mesa,” he said. “We have to remind ourselves there are still a lot of players out there and still a lot of time (before spring training).

“When you’re leaving here, sometimes you feel like this is closer to the end of the offseason than the beginning, but it’s actually a lot closer to the beginning. There’s a lot of time left, we still have resources left and we’ll continue to work all winter.”

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