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I'm delighted to announce that six new authors have been added to the Batter's Box roster. Please join me in welcoming (in alphabetical order, trust me) Pistol, Scott Lucas, Gerry McDonald, Mike Moffatt, Jonny German and Spicol. To our regular readers, they need no introduction.

As we prepare for our second season, with plans for expanded minor-league coverage, a bigger, better BBFL and many new features, it's the right time to make changes. Expect an improved site design soon, and there might even be one more free agent signing. We're counting on this influx of talent and rookie enthusiasm to complement the veteran leadership, not to cut into our playing time. Just ignore those rumours about Burley being non-tendered if the trade talks break down.

Pistol, Scott, Gerry, Mike, Jonny, Spicol: all of us have enjoyed your comments and pinch-hits over the past year, and we look forward to hearing more from you. Thanks for joining our team.
It's another key milestone in Hot Stove Season. Today is Non-Tender Saturday, also known as the quiet cousin of the July 31st trade deadline.

Teams have until midnight tonight to offer contracts to unsigned players on their respective 40-man rosters. Any player not offered a contract by his old team is granted free-agency. Some big names have been axed already. A few, like Jay Payton and Shawn Wooten, were expected. Others, like Mark Redman, are the kind of surprise that makes one cock an eyebrow.
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Alexis Rios hasn't had time to concern himself with trifles this year. After being briefly sidelined with injuries at the beginning of the season, he reported to New Haven and hit .449/.481/.653 in April. He started the Futures Game, finished the year with a .352/.402/.521 batting line, and was the batting champion and MVP of the Eastern League. Since the end of October, he's been laying waste to the Puerto Rican League. Through games of December 18, Rios was hitting .345/.371/.739 in 119 AB; he was second in the league in batting average and first in slugging percentage (minimum 80 AB), home runs (12) and RBI (32).

But how impressive is this performance, anyway? As Coach astutely pointed out in an earlier thread:

I'm not trying to diminish what Rios is accomplishing in Puerto Rico, just giving it some context. His teammate, aging (and as far as I know, MLB-unemployed) utility infielder John Valentin, has 8 HR in 91 AB (297/407/648) and our own LF/1B/3B/DH Simon Pond, yet to sip SkyDome coffee, is tied for the league lead with 10 HR in 112 AB (286/355/607). It makes a guy wonder if all the estadios are as hitter-friendly as Hiram Bithorn, and question the depth of the pitching staffs.

I decided to investigate the question:

What is the significance of Rios's performance in the PRL this fall?
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The Winter Meetings are over, most of the dealing is done, and many of us are wrapping up our jobs and getting ready for next week's Christmas break. In the meantime, here's a fresh Hijack Central to catalogue any late-breaking pre-holiday news.
"The proposed trade between the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers is dead," says Red Sox President Larry Lucchino, and although there are still rumblings of making something happen later on, so it appears to be. Had it gone though, the mega-trade and its aftershocks would have seen HOF-calibre players like Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra, along with major figures like Magglio Ordonez and as many as two top-rated Dodgers pitching prospects change teams. It would have shifted the balance of power in the American League for at least a decade (especially the Eastern Division) and likely would have reduced George Steinbrenner to finding a strand of Babe Ruth's DNA in order to get the last word. And it would have had a serious, long-term impact on the competitive fortunes of your Toronto Blue Jays. But when a deal is this big, even a failed attempt is going to have ramifications.

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It was almost two years ago when Kent Williams, Craig Burley and I ran into each other online at Baseball Primer, the Grand Central Station of baseball blogs. Because we'd never likely have met otherwise, Batter's Box owes at least some of its existence to Primer, which is just one reason why you should visit and sign the guest book today for the 10,000th Clutch Hit celebration at Baseball Primer. There've been highs and lows, triumphs and Petco threads, but in the end, if Primer didn't exist, someone would have to invent it. Sincere congratulations to Primer from Batter's Box!
Few ballplayers earn a nickname from their new team's fans before they even touch down in the city, but the Blue Jays' newest starting pitcher, Miguel Batista, is already firmly entrenched in the local lexicon as "El Artista." I forget who came up with the rhyming moniker -- step forward, forgotten Bauxite! -- but it's as good a description of his passion for poetry, literature and "a great chat" as it is of his crackling fastball and excellent strike-zone command. Thanks to Jason Robar for catching this profile of Batista in the latest Star. "Not everyone in Toronto will like me," predicts Batista -- personally, I can't understand why he won't become one of this city's most popular and sought-after athletes in short order. Bienvenido, Miguel!
Josh Boyd has, very simply, a great job. He writes about minor-league baseball for a living, and as a National Writer with Baseball America, he does it for the Bible of the minor-league baseball world. Heís young (31), recently married (to Michelle, last fall), and filled with tremendous enthusiasm for the game of baseball. How can you beat that?

So when we went looking for an expert to comment on the Blue Jaysí farm system, we didnít have to look very far. And when Josh responded to our cold-call e-mail asking for his time and insight, he didnít hesitate in agreeing. Pleasant in conversation, deeply knowledgeable about his subject matter and unafraid to offer strong opinions, Josh was great to correspond with, and weíre delighted that he agreed to become the latest person to sit down for a Batterís Box Interview.
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With writers everywhere talking about their Hall of Fame ballots, it's time we at Batter's Box polled the faithful (and ourselves) on what our votes would be if we had a vote.
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There's one thing I don't understand about the offseason rumours surrounding the Jays. According to reports, the Jays have attempted to trade Orlando Hudson for just about everybody on the planet.
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After 129 messages on our previous hijack central, the time is right to move to a new thread. We can begin discussion with the A's latest deal, Mark Redman for. last year's Rule 5er Mike Neu and a player to be named. Is this the best the Marlins could get for a guy who won 14 games for the World Champs? As Thomas noted in the last hijack central, Redman may not stick with the A's; hopefully, he can be swapped for an ace relief pitcher or a hitter, two things the A's need. And badly.
Impartial national columnist and Twins fan Aaron Gleeman offers an "outsider's" perspective of the AL East power struggle and says the division could boast four of the league's best "five or six" teams if the Orioles add two more superstars.

If my team, the Minnesota Twins, were in the AL East, I think the prospect of dealing with those four teams over the next several seasons would be even more depressing than the weather here in Minnesota. There's a very real chance that either Toronto or Baltimore could win over 90 games next season and not even come particularly close to the playoffs, let alone first-place.

Aaron feels bad about our local nine being resigned to a third-place battle. Some impatient Jays fans feel the same way, but I am grateful every day just to have a contending team. I suggest that everyone save their sympathy for the Devil Rays.
Okay, former catcher Steve Christmas (Reds, White Sox, Cubs, 1983-1986) is too easy. Besides, with a career OPS+ of 27, he won't play much.

We could nickname White Sox hurler Dave Frost "Jack," one supposes. Minnesota pitcher Jeff Holly, up for a late '70's, early '80's cuppajoe is there. We could even team him with once-top-phenom Mike Ivie for a "Holly and Ivie" battery.

Who else makes this team? Read on for the inspiration behind this question -- thanks, Toledo Mud Hens! -- and to give your suggestions.

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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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