It's look-back time. It's the point of the season when general managers gaze in the rear-view mirrors at the ones that got away: The trades that almost happened; decisions that were made and didn't work out.
We always thought there would be more player movement if the winter meetings were staged the day after the World Series when also-rans still were steamed at their just-completed season.
Instead, baseball waits two full months, from the final pitch of the regular season until December, for its trade mart at the annual meetings.
By then, organizational sessions have been held, off-season game plans have been formulated and executives have bought into the lines: "Uh, let's stick with him another year," or "you know if you look at the numbers his final month wasn't really that bad."
While Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi watches the nightly bullpen follies as Toronto heads for possibly its worst season in 24 years, he can be thankful for Jason Frasor's acquisition. Signing Kerry Ligtenberg, Terry Adams, Valerio De Los Santos and dealing for Justin Speier to re-establish Toronto's sagging bullpen didn't work.
Ricciardi isn't the only GM looking back:
New York Mets boss Jim Duquette was fooled the way hitters are fooled by changeups. Except that his decisions, after thinking his team would contend, might hurt the Mets for years. New York dealt three of its top five prospects, Scott Kazmir, Matt Peterson and Justin Huber, for Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson on July 30. The Mets were six games behind Atlanta and needed to sweep the Braves. The Mets were swept.
Seattle's Bill Bavasi traded Carlos Guillen to Detroit, where he blossomed. Then the Mariners made a another doozy, signing Rich Aurilia to a $3.5-million contract. The M's weren't the only team chasing him. Aurilia eventually was released.
Oakland's Billy Beane signed Arthur Rhodes to a three-year, $9-million deal to be the A's closer. Rhodes was so successful, Oakland had to deal for Houston closer Mario Dotel and now pays the pair more than what Boston gave A's free-agent Keith Foulke.
Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin gave third baseman Wes Helms a two-year, $4.5-million contract this winter. Helms slumped, injured a knee and is still slumping. He has four homers and 28 RBIs in his first 82 games. The Brewers now wonder if they need a new third baseman.
Cincinnati GM Dan O'Brien was told he couldn't keep setup man Chris Reitsma and his $950,000 salary. The Reds were unable to replace him and the pitchers acquired -- J.K. Bong and Bubba Nelson -- struggled. Nelson lost 15 times at triple-A and was demoted to double-A. Bong underwent shoulder surgery Sept. 10.
Boston's Theo Epstein signed Byung-Hyun Kim to a two-year, $10-million extension with the Red Sox. Kim was so awful he was sent to triple-A May 10, was bad there and was not even a September callup.
Anaheim boss Bill Stoneman was accused of pulling a fast one on May 30 when he signed Raul Mondesi, whose contract had been voided by the Pittsburgh Pirates. But the Angels' Garrett Anderson returned so quickly from a back injury, Mondesi's presence was irrelevant. Mondesi later tore a quadriceps muscle, was assigned to the bench, didn't attend rehab work and the Angels terminated his contract on July 31.
Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd, when not improving international relations, spent $1.4 million for the veteran presence of Vlad Nunez and Turk Wendell in the Rockies bullpen. Both were released.
Florida GM Larry Beinfest figured a Ramon Castro-Mike Redmond combo would fit as a replacement for catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who left the Marlins as a free agent. Two months in, Castro was batting .135. He sprained a toe June 1 and has been on the disabled list ever since.
A lot of clubs have a lot of work to do.