Winter Meetings Notebook

Assorted late-afternoon notes from Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings: <ul> <LI> <B>Braves-Brewers swap:</B> The Atlanta Braves have agreed on a deal that will net them closer Dan Kolb from the Milwaukee Brewers.

  • The price on this one is a tad steep, as it'll cost the Braves talented prospect Jose Capellan and a minor leaguer.

    Capellan's September callup to the majors was highly anticipated after he steamed through three levels of Atlanta's farm system in 2004, posting a 2.32 ERA along the way.

    But the 23-year-old righthander, who has recovered from Tommy John surgery and was clocked as high as 100 MPH, got rapped around in The Show. He went 0-1 with an 11.25 ERA in three games (two starts).

    The Braves do acquire a quality closer in Kolb, who automatically upgrades a bullpen that could use the help. Kolb converted 39 of his 44 save opportunities in 2004, en route to a 2.98 ERA.

    However, the problem with Atlanta's bullpen was never the closer's role – John Smoltz still ranks among the best in the game there. It now appears that Smoltz will be granted his wish and could return to Atlanta's starting rotation for 2005.

    "I like structure and I like being able to pitch every five days and knowing my workout plan," Smoltz told in September. "Everything else stays intact. I worked very hard in my career to be that kind of person, and I like the fact that in the postseason, you know you're going to pitch. I don't know I'm going to pitch as a closer."

  • Sweet Lou's chagrin: Poor Lou Piniella. Wandering the halls of the hotel and hearing other clubs whisper – and in some cases, shout from the rooftops – about their big-money plans must be pure torture for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager.

    But don't expect to hear 'Sweet Lou' whine too much about this. Piniella knows the situation he's in, and the fact that his Devil Rays had the lowest payroll in all of baseball last year – even lower than the MLB-financed Montreal Expos.

    The Devil Rays can't swim with the big fish, like teams that are pursuing centerfielder Carlos Beltran. But Tampa Bay still has needs to fill – a third baseman, a centerfielder to replace the injured Rocco Baldelli and perhaps a relief pitcher – and Piniella is hopeful that GM Chuck LaMar can pick up a moderately successful veteran player this weekend.

    "The players are out there," Piniella said. "We're trying. Our GM and scouts did a nice job preparing for this. We talked about a lot of scenarios. Let's hope something comes through for us."

  • If we were betting men… We'd say that Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman's quasi-uninvited appearance at the Anaheim Marriott will go down as the most interesting moment of the weekend.

    Accompanied by two Vegas showgirls and an Elvis impersonator, Goodman crashed the lobby of the hotel on Saturday afternoon. Despite the glitz, this was business, as Goodman took the mass media's presence as an opportunity to hawk his city's staggering tourism and tax incentives as a home for Major League Baseball.

    Whether or not any of Las Vegas' regular clientele would actually want to sit through a baseball game with so much action on The Strip is debatable, but perhaps the most likely team to consider a move to Vegas would be the Florida Marlins. The team was informed this week that they will be evicted from Pro Player Stadium in 2010 by Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga.

    "Flanked by his attractive and flamboyant sales partners – and we don't mean Tommy Lasorda, who checked in to give the mayor a hug - Goodman bravely predicted that Las Vegas will have the answer to its baseball desires within three years.

    "I'll bet that I throw out the first pitch in 2008," Goodman said. "We'll make them an offer they can't refuse."

    Bryan Hoch is in Anaheim covering the Winter Meetings for

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