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Spencer Fordin of 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.

It appears to be confirmed: The Montreal Expos have agreed to trade Javier Vazquez to the New York Yankees in exchange for Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and potentially a third player. The deal will, as is usual these days, be conditional on the Yankees and Vazquez agreeing on what will surely be a rich contract extension. Let the gnashing of teeth begin.
By my count, we had 30 entries in the poll, which was more than double what we had in the mid-season poll. We have so many well-informed readers that there's little doubt in my mind that this list is at least as good as any of the others you'll see published over the next few months.

Once again, Bauxites selected Alex Rios over Guillermo Quiroz as the top prospect in the organisation. The point system remained the same: 13 points for a 1st place vote, 10 for 2nd, 8 for 3rd, decreasing by 1 thereafter to 1 point for a 10th place vote.

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Steve Z has brought us a troika of interesting columns this morning, all dealing with how the Blue Jays are coping with Hurricane George (and, to a lesser extent, Typhoon Theo) in this tumultuous off-season. From the Hijack Central 3 thread:

John Donovan of wrote this column, while there are two surprisingly good local columns today: one from Dave Perkins of the Star, and the other from Ken Fidlin of the Sun.

I'll add this one, in a similar vein, from ESPN's Buster Olney. All these columns have one thing in common: a hopeful confidence that the Yankees and Red Sox are spending their way to short-term gain and long-term oblivion.
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Looks like 116 comments is the de facto expiry point for Hijack Central threads, so here's another one. The Eric Milton deal has its own thread, but feel free to discuss any other late-breaking news here, such as the Yankees' signing of Craig Lefferts to a two-year, $6.8M contract.
I didn't see this one coming at all -- the Phillies acquired Eric Milton from the Twins for two spare parts, reliever Carlos Silva and infielder Nick Punto. At first glance, you'd think that Philly made out on this deal -- but Milton hasn't proved he's all the way back from his injury, and he's slotted to make $9 million next year before hitting free agency. This is not nearly as good a trade as picking up another $9M pitcher, Kevin Millwood, was last year. In fact, I'd say the Twins did very well just to clear Milton off their roster. Eric was never as good as people thought -- his best full-season ERA was 4.33, and he was too prone to giving up the longball.

It's been a remarkably active trade market this off-season, and the Winter Meetings are less than two weeks away. I think we're just seeing the opening volleys of what could be a remarkably busy Hot Stove League.
It's a slow news day, so here's some Blue Jays trivia provided by BB reader Gerry McDonald:

The Toronto Blue Jays selected Vernon Wells with the fifth pick in the 1997 entry draft. But the Blue Jays organization in 2003 included three other players also selected in the first round of the '97 draft, each taken after Vernon. Who are they?

The person who submits the first correct answer receives a copy of The Wit and Wisdom of Doyle Alexander, just as soon as it's published. Feel free to chime in with other Jays trivia in this space.
Time for a Caption Contest! In this case, a very silly Caption Contest. Come up with a caption for this 1909 photo of Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie.
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Those fun-loving New Hampshireites are close to choosing a new name for their new Double-A baseball club (the former Ravens of New Haven). The voting has closed (unfortunately, only U.S. residents could cast ballots), and the new name and logo will be announced tomorrow in Manchester. Will the winning entry be the Fisher Cats, the Mountain Men, the Granite, the Millers or rejected first-choice the Primaries? "The voting results were unbelievably close!" says the Website, which doesn't bode well.
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Mr. Steinbrenner, that is. Ticked off that the hated Red Sox acquired Curt Schilling, a player who would have fit right in to Joe Torre's Bronx, George is apparently very close to signing outfielder Gary Sheffield (who one might think would not be a Torre kind of guy), while also closing in on reliever Tom Gordon and, improbably, outfielder Kenny Lofton. Sheffield would undoubtedly make the Yankees even more fearsome offensively, but although he's matured since his bad old days, Sheff is still very much a clubhouse iconoclast. Gordon supposely was looking for a one-year deal as a closer in order to bag 40 saves and generate big bucks after 2004, so it would seem strange for him to come to New York as a setup man for two years. And Lofton? While it may be sensible to realize that Bernie Williams' days as a legit centrefielder are over, I'm not sure KL is the answer. A couple of years ago, the Yankees got the pitcher the Red Sox wanted in Mike Mussina; frustrated and overcompensating, the Sox signed Manny Ramirez to a deal they already regret. Will George make the same mistakes this year? The answer to that may depend on whether Bartolo Colon and/or Javier Vazquez end up in pinstripes when the dust settles.
You know you're getting old when players whose rookie seasons you followed show up on the Hall of Fame ballot. This year, as you may have heard, Toronto World Series heroes Joe Carter and Paul Molitor are eligible for Cooperstown, though Carter's chances are very slight and Molitor, while a favourite for first-ballot admission, will almost certainly enter the Hall as a Twin or a Brewer. Chime in with your thoughts on whether these two should or will become Hall of Famers, and on whether former Jays such as Roberto Alomar, Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez belong in the Hall as well.
It's December. It's time. Time to cast your ballot for the recipient of the first Batter's Box Andujar Award. Remember, it's all about the greatest single word ever uttered to describe The Grand Game: YouNeverKnow!

The What Award?
Original Announcement & Rules
Preseason Nominations
Midseason Update

We've selected the 12 finalists. Now it's up to you to vote. The 2003 Andujar Winner will be announced -- natch -- on Dec. 26 ... Boxing Day.

The 12 finalists are listed below alphabetically ...
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The Brewers have traded 1B Richie Sexson, P Shane Nance and a player to be named later to the Diamondbacks for 1B Lyle Overbay, 2B Junior Spivey, 2B Craig Counsell, C Chad Moeller and Ps Chris Capanuano and Jorge De La Rosa, the latter of whom was recently acquired as part of the Curt Schilling trade.

This seems large enough of a trade to warrant its own thread. I'd like to start by noting that the first names Richie, Shane, Lyle, Junior and Chad are SO post-Watergate chic. Discuss.
The Curt Schilling deal will no doubt be a topic of conversation among George Steinbrenner and his inner circle. The Yankees will hasten to sign Gary Sheffield, Bartolo Colon, LaTroy Hawkins and anyone else they think will restore the AL balance of power to New York.

Today, Boston is the clear favourite in the division. The difference between a healthy Schilling and John Burkett has to be more than six games, and Curt's DL stints last year had nothing to do with age or mechanical unsoundness: he had appendicitis, then some combination of getting hit by a pitch and punching out a Questec camera broke his hand. The Red Sox lineup that smashed even the '27 Yankees hitting records will return more or less intact.

Peter Gammons raves (again) about GM Theo Epstein, and makes several other points about the trade, dropping a line of particular interest to Jays fans.

Toronto's future, meanwhile, is looking better all the time.
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John Sickels certainly ain't no fool, but his latest Down on the Farm mailbag column has a large discussion of the Jays' 2003 first-rounder. Sickels gives Hill an ETA of late 2004 or 2005, and describes him as " the solid, consistent type, someone who could hit .280 with a lot of doubles, on-base ability, and occasional home runs." However, he thinks that Hill will eventually end up at second base.

Sickels also discusses Hanley Ramirez of the Red Sox, Victor Diaz of the Dodgers, and Habelito Hernandez of the Reds; it's always instructive to see how prospects from other systems stack up.