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By virtually any measure, it was a very good Winter Meetings for the Blue Jays. In the week leading up to the event and the weekend itself, the Jays grabbed the starter they wanted in Miguel Batista at a more than reasonable price, and added a solid reliever and possible closer in Justin Speier at little organizational cost. They also picked up an interesting arm in the Rule 5 Draft, while losing no one in return. The PTBNL count stands so far at Sandy Nin (confirmed), Dave Gassner (highly likely) and one more -- useful players with upside, but nobody critical to the team's future so far. Tim Worrell and Tony Graffanino would ahve made it a just about pefect session, but you can't always get what you want. So it's been a very good off-season -- but according to the local scribes, at least, it's not over yet.
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A thread for conversing on the general subject of the Montreal Expos.

BREAKING NEWS: the Expos signed Crazy Carl Everett to a two-year deal today worth $7 million.
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This has been a moderate success the first couple of times we've run it, let's see what happens now.

I'll start off. HOW ABOUT THEM LEAFS!? I am not a Toronto fan, but I am mightily impressed by how they are playing. Now that they've stopped trying to goon up on every team they meet, and have cut the dirty play and the whining, it looks like they are focusing instead on playing tight team-oriented hockey. An amazing transformation.
Scheduled to start at 10:00 am EST this morning, the annual Rule 5 Draft might contain more risk than reward for the Blue Jays this year. With a stronger 40-man Jays roster in place and a relatively weak field expected to come available, there will probably be no Aquilino Lopezes or even Jason Duboises out there to be acquired. At the same time, the Jays have left a number of intriguing players unprotected for other teams to feast on. And when it's all over, Toronto will also pay the piper for their earlier deals: Minnesota (Bobby Kielty), Oakland (Ted Lilly) and Colorado (Justin Speier) will be selecting their Players To Be Named Later afterwards. The Jays' family will be a little smaller by later this afternoon; stay tuned to this thread to get all the details on who's arriving and who's leaving.
Having passed 116 comments in our previous Hijack Central, it's time to open a new thread. Big things are a-brewin'; feel free to post about anything and everything going down in the Big Easy.

Breaking News: Blue Jays acquire RHP Justin Speier in a three-team trade that sends LHP Mark Hendrickson to Tampa Bay and LHP Joe Kennedy to Colorado. Join the discussion below!
Bauxites made quick work of the previous Hijack Central; feast your gently smiling jaws on a new thread.
A very charitable Richard Griffin calls the Jays the best team in the East, dollar for dollar, and talks with J.P. about the game's changing fiscal landscape.

"I flew down with all the Red Sox guys," Ricciardi said of his flight from the family homestead in Boston. "They all looked miserable, to be honest with you. All these guys being talked about as being dealt are all the big-money guys. Teams are finding out that outside of the Red Sox and Yankees, who can handle those contracts? They strap you so much financially. Maybe they'd rather have the flexibility more than one player. You can ask (Yankees GM Brian) Cashman and Theo (Bosox counterpart Epstein)."
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Recently, mlb.com began offering a waycool new feature: for $3.95 (US), you can download a complete baseball game and watch it on your own computer. Most of the games are recent, but there's a few blasts from the past on there, including the now-legendary Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Recently, I watched the entire game, and took a few notes.
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The Lou Marsh Award, named for a former sports editor of the Toronto Star, is the highest honour for Canadian athletes. A committee will deliberate on Tuesday among the deepest field of candidates in memory. Some of our amateur athletes had remarkable accomplishments; Marlene Streit winning the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur golf tournament at the age of 69 was amazing, while Perdita Felicien excelled on the track, Charmaine Hooper on the pitch, and Melanie Turgeon on the slopes. Hayley Wickenheiser playing pro hockey against men would be enough to warrant the award some years. The NFL's best placekicker, Mike Vanderjagt, is a mere afterthought in this field.

In almost any other vote, Paul Tracy would be honoured for his CART championship, but he figures to finish a distant third in 2003. It's a foregone conclusion that Masters champion Mike Weir, the first Canuck ever to win a golf major, will relegate NL Cy Young winner Eric Gagne to second place. Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette may be expressing both a regional bias and a passion for baseball when he complains that golf "barely qualifies as a sport." In the Star, Dave Feschuk makes an impassioned plea for Gagne, while Doug Smith argues the case for Weir.

Gagne was tremendous, but his Cy came in a season when no NL starter was an obvious choice. Now, if Eric had pitched 250 innings, gone 25-3, struck out 300 and led the Dodgers to a championship, it would really be close. Even then, Weir's unique individual accomplishment would stand out as the greatest single sports memory of the year for this Canadian. What do other Bauxites think? I'm especially interested in the perspective of our friends from other nations. Who was "our" best athlete this year?
by Leigh Sprague

We have a Pinch Hit today from Leigh Sprague, who will be familiar to you all from his posts on Batter's Box. Welcome Leigh! He writes "suffering a horid case of BWS (Baseball Withdrawal Syndrome), I decided to dive headlong into the Manager Stats on Baseball-Reference.com..."

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Well we've hit the mystical 116 comments in the old HC thread, so I'm opening another for discussion of today's events from the Louisiana swamps.
USA Today reports that Dan Plesac has decided to retire. He went out on top: the Phillies wanted him back, and were about to offer him salary arbitration.

Something I didn't know: he was the last pitcher to record an out at Veterans Stadium (the Phils are moving to a new park in 2004).

Plesac goes out of the game the way he did everything else - with class. I, for one, wish the two-time Blue Jay the best of luck in everything he does after baseball.
According to reports first broken on The Score and ESPN, now confirmed by The FAN 590, the Jays got their man. Miguel Batista becomes the nominal #2 starter in a vastly improved Toronto rotation.

The former Diamondback righty, a capable replacement for the departed Kelvim Escobar, brings a very different presence to the clubhouse. Financial details haven't been announced yet, but it's supposedly a three year deal, and you can be sure that it's for a few million less than Escobar received from the Angels.

In a series of clever moves that began last summer, J.P. and company have also bolstered the bullpen, brought a popular former Cy Young winner home, added a promising lefthanded starter and scored a couple of high draft picks. The net cost? Shannon Stewart, who wasn't going to return anyway, considering the wealth of outfield talent in the system. Just two more minor moves are expected; another reliever and a backup infielder will be signed with the remaining $2-3 million in the budget.

Despite a payroll that may be less than 25% of what the Yankees will spend, the 2004 Jays could make their AL East rivals very nervous. I can't wait for spring training.
This just in -- Mike Wilner will be joining Bill Hayes to take baseball calls on The FAN 590 for an hour, starting in just a few minutes at 8:00. It's 416-870-0590 or 1-888-666-0590 to call in with your questions, and according to R Billie, there's a breaking report on The Score that the Jays have signed Miguel Batista! Let's hope Mike has the details.

If you can't get the station, you can listen live on the Internet by clicking the above link.

Geoff Baker confirms some of the rumours that have been floating around in a few threads here : The Jays are trying to sign Miguel Batista before this weekend's baseball winter meetings.

Apparently J.P phoned Batista's agent just before his appearance on The Fan yesterday and has "has offered the Batista camp deals ranging from two to three years in length and varying in annual salary", Batista is looking for 3 years and $12m +.
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