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It's almost that time of year again: the Rule 5 Draft takes place this Monday during the Winter Meetings in New Orleans. Baseball America gives us a preview of the proceedings and highlights four organizations -- including the Blue Jays -- who could lose multiple players. For myself, I wouldn't consider any of the listed players to be irreplaceable, so if they go, no real harm done.

In terms of acquisitions, the consensus seems to be that this year's crop isn't nearly as talented as last year's, when the Jays had two legitimate keepers in Aquilino Lopez and Jason Dubois (and potentially a third in Gary Majewski) but could only keep one (the right one, as it turned out). Moreover, this year's Toronto roster is stronger than last year's, so the chances that a 25th man could stick around unnoticed all year are fairly minimal anyway. Unless the Jays snag a real keeper -- someone worth either stashing on the roster or working out a deal to acquire full-time -- don't expect to see a whole lot coming out of the Rule 5 this year.
Spencer Fordin (along with Tony LaCava and Dick Scott) looks at Alexis Rios in his newest article on MLB.com.

Thanks to Homsar for the heads-up!
This would not be a good day to cross George Steinbrenner's path. Not only is the handshake deal betwen George and Gary Sheffield in serious jeopardy, making a Yankee run at Vlad Guerrero a sudden possibility, but now comes news that lifetime Yank Andy Pettitte is about to sign with the Astros. If confirmed, this would be a serious hit to the one area that the Yankees have spent the winter trying to upgrade: the pitching staff. And it comes just one day after Bartolo Colon, a possible Pettitte replacement, went off the market. A Jeff Weaver-Kevin Brown deal would seem very likely, and who knows what else the Yankees might do on the eve of the Winter Meetings (Kevin Millwood? Sidney Ponson? Miguel Batista?) Hang tight....
Thanks to several Bauxites who spotted this remarkably candid and detailed interview of JP Ricciardi by Marty York. JP confirms that Miguel Batista is a Jays target; perhaps surprisingly, so is Sidney Ponson. Read on for more.
Matt Welch has a look back at the whole Moneyball saga and throws in a few nice shots at Griffin and Baker.

There are not enough good writers like this writing about baseball, it's always a refreshing change to read something like this. Welch is a long standing Bill James reader and demonstrates a faultless grasp of sabermetrics while giving the Griffins and Morgans of the world a good 'fisking'.

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It looks like the rumoured Colon deal has been finalised.

The CBC reports a four-year, $48 million US deal . Somewhere Roy Halladay's agent is printing the article...

If Colon is worth that much - what price HLH ?

In a twist on its usual prospect ratings, Baseball America has turned its eye to the next wave of potential General Managers in baseball, with this Top Ten list compiled by Josh Boyd. The list includes some familliar names, including the Phillies' Mike Arbuckle, who might well have ended up in Toronto had JP Ricciardi not been available, and former Jays Scouting Director Tim Wilken, touted as a possible successor to Chuck Lamar in suddenly-intriguing Tampa Bay.

Speaking of Josh Boyd, we're very happy to announce that Josh has agreed to speak with Batter's Box about the Blue Jays farm system! We'll be conducting the interview this week, and hope to have one or more articles ready to go by as early as next Monday. Keep watching for more details on another Batter's Box exclusive interview!
At the request of Commissioner Moffatt (aka "Double M-Cup"), this thread is to discuss the BBFL, sepcifically Winter Trading.
Toronto's bullpen just got considerably stronger with the reported signing of reliever Kerry Ligtenberg , recently non-tendered by Baltimore. More details to come as they arrive, but assuming the price is right, it's a terrific move. Now that compensation issues are settled, we can probably expect more quick strikes by JP and Co. in the next little while.
Breaking News ... Da Box has learned that the illegitimate love child of George Steinbrenner and Georgia Frontiere (named Georgie, of course) has been granted a new major league franchise that will be located in Alexandria, Va., and play part of its home schedule in Portland, Ore.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; and of course, San Juan, P.R.

To stock the roster of the new team, the blank-check-driven Georgie will sign the following roster of 25 non-tendered players. "I could've built an entire second team of 25 that'd win the freaking A.L. Central," said Frontbrenner. "But I'll leave that to the wise contributors to various baseball blogs around the Internet."

Here's the starting lineup ...
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It'll be Hideki against Kazuo in New York next spring, as the Mets have signed Japanese shortstop Kazuo Matsui to a three-year, $20 million contract. To make room for Matsui, the Mets are going to move 20-year-old sensation Jose Reyes to second base. Is this a good idea? Well, ask yourself if you would've moved Tony Fernandez to second base after his rookie season, because that's essentially what the Mets are doing here. Shortstop was one of the few areas the Mets didn't need help at. But this isn't about baseball sense nearly so much as it's about keeping up with the Steinbrenners in the New York dailies.

Will this Matsui showdown turn into New York's very own Most Extreme Elimination Challenge? Right you are, Kenny.
We're well past our de-facto limit of 116 comments on Hijack Central IV, so it's time for a new thread. Feel free to discuss any late-breaking news here. Possible discussion-starters include the Twins inking Shannon Stewart, local hero and MVP candidate, to a three-year, $18 million contract.
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Sure, sure, you meant to vote already. And you meant to call mom on her birthday, and to take the dog for a walk before that ugly incident on the hallway carpet. Well, mom's birthday may be long gone (and that carpet is out on the curb for trash day) ... but you can still be a part of the greatness of Batter's Box Democracy. It's time to Joaq the Vote in the first annual Batter's Box Andujar Award balloting, the coveted youneverknows.

If you're new here, go back and read the original announcement and rules, then pop over to meet the 12 finalists (and one significant write-in suggestion) ... nine men (that's a nice baseball number, isn't it?) have already received votes and despite a heavy assumption by ... certain voters ... that former Jay Esteban Loiaza will Cruz, er cruise to victory and receive the '03 Andujar, the results are far from certain.

You just pick your favorites any time before the Dec. 23 deadline ... vote for up to 5 ... and wait for the Dec. 26 ("Boxing" Day) announcement of the winner. It's easier than Manny Ramirez's pace to first base after popping up to shortstop! Just Joaq the Vote, baby!
Love him or hate him, Peter Gammons' column is a must read. I know, he could use a better editor; on a site with the budget of ESPN.com, there's no excuse for so many typos and "unusual" sentences. Yes, it's easy to make fun of his style, or the number of rumours he floats that never come to pass, but I don't know where else you're going to get so much juicy gossip on one page.

Today, the well-connected one starts with a potentially gigantic deal -- A-Rod to Boston. It's way over the heads of the GMs, we are told; the owners are negotiating directly with Rodriguez and his agent, Scott Boras.

"If Alex doesn't take some of the money back, this thing is dead," says one person close to the deal. "If he wants this to happen, he is going to have to make it happen."
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Spencer Fordin of MLB.com confirms what most of us already assumed -- Cory Lidle and Tanyon Sturtze won't be offered arbitration by Sunday's deadline. Kelvim Escobar will, in a mere formality to ensure the Jays receive their draft pick compensation. So far this offseason, the Jays have been proactive, and Fordin expects that to continue.

Ricciardi will have his eyes open this weekend, watching to see which potential free agents have compensation claims attached to them. Toronto doesn't want to sacrifice draft picks to add players, so Ricciardi may act quickly to nab the players who aren't offered arbitration.

The list could include "big" names like Kevin Millwood, Freddy Garcia, Byung-Hyun Kim and many more; J.P. speculated earlier that as many as a hundred players would be cut loose.