The annual major league winter meetings concluded last weekend at the Disney World Location in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. with several teams appearing to help themselves while others looked like they might have missed the boat.

Our Houston Astros, who are in the rebuilding mode after losing the talent and huge salaries of ace pitcher Roy Oswalt and first baseman Lance Berkman, didn’t really set the world on fire with the few deals they made last week.

The biggest spender last week had to be the Boston Red Sox who swung a deal for franchise first baseman Adrian Gonzalez Dec. 5 before the meeting even opened and then followed it up by landing Houston-grown Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford for a whopping seven-year, $142 million contract.

Ironically, the Los Angeles Angels were supposedly the front-runners in the pursuit of Crawford, but their reported offer of six-years, $108 million fell short of Boston’s.

One of the focal points of the winter meetings—the bidding war for left-hander Cliff Lee—was still on-going at this writing. The New York Yankees desperately want this 32 year-old starter, but so does the defending American League champion Texas Rangers who Lee finished the 2010 season with.

The Yankees want him bad enough that they’re offering a seven-year deal after making an opening proposal of six years for $137.5 million to $140 million. Rangers’ owner Chuck Greenberg went to Lee’s home in Arkansas last Thursday and personally presented him with multiple offers.

According to Sunday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle Rangers’ manager Ron Washington has a “gut feeling” that Lee will accept Greenberg’s offer and remain with the Texas Rangers.
“I think everything that needs to be done has been done,” Washington said Saturday. “They had a good visit and now we’re waiting for some type of decision.” At this writing Lee had not made a commitment to either organization.

The Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks, who all finished dead last in their respective divisions, each made meaningful upgrades last week, according to

The Nationals, who lost Adam Dunn earlier, signed Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Jason Werth to a reported seven-year, $126 million contract. The Pirates decided they wanted to spend some money and landed Kevin Correia, Matt Diaz and Scott Olsen.

And new Arizona general manager Kevin Towers signed relievers J.J. Putz and David Hernandez.

A week earlier the Colorado Rockies started the parade of huge salaries by guaranteeing $120 million to Troy Tulowitzki, despite already having the shortstop locked up through 2014.

The biggest deal the Houston Astros made last week was the agreeing to terms with left-handed pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith on a one-year deal. Smith will be in the mix to fill the No. 5 spot in the 2011 starting pitching rotation.

Rowland-Smith, a 6-3 native of Australia, was non-tendered by the Seattle Mariners after going 1-10 with a 6.75 ERA in 20 starts in 2010. Prior to that he had three seasons, including parts of two as a starter, with ERAs under 4.00 and an overall record of 11-7.

Rowland-Smith and Nelson Figueroa should be the top candidates for the fifth spot in the Astros’ pitching rotation in 2011, with top prospect Jordan Lyles also in the hunt.

The Astros, who are committed to a lower payroll than last season’s opening day figure of $92.36 million, also picked up a pair of starting pitchers from the Rule 5 draft, getting right-hander Aneury Rodriguez from the Tampa Bay Rays and former Kingwood High star Lance Pendleton from the Yankees who was part of Rice’s national championship team in 2003.

Last month the Astros obtained infielder Cliff Barmes from the Colorado Rockies in hopes of improving both offensively and defensively at shortstop. The 31 year-old had a down year in 2010 but had 23 homers and 76 RBI for Colorado in 2009. He also gives the Astros a solid glove man up the middle.

During the second half of the 2010 season veterans Oswalt, Berkman and third baseman Pedro Feliz were replaced by youngsters Brett Wallace, J.A. Happ and Chris Johnson. And under rookie manager Brad Mills the Astros posted a record of 40-33 after the All-Star break, the fourth-best record in the National League over that span.

Some of the losers in the winter meetings include Tampa Bay who lost Crawford, first baseman Carlos Pena and reliever Joaquin Benoit, the Phillies who gained veteran left-handed reliever Danny Reyes, but lost Werth, their everyday right fielder on back-to-back World Series teams.
KWICKIES…Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was featured on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, said at the start of training camp in July that his team looked like championship material on paper. But later that paper turned out to be a roll of Charmin.

Former West Orange-Stark star running back DePauldrick Garrett will be one of the first three players signed by Lamar head coach Ray Woodard Wednesday, the first day of the mid-year signing period for college transfers. The 5-7, 185-pound Garrett starred for national champion Navarro College this season with 925 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Also signing will be kicker Jueventino Sanchez, who booted the game-winning 28-yard field goal in that national championship game. Former Beaumont Central running back Derrick Hall, who last played for Navarro in 2009, is expected to sign Wednesday. The trio will enroll at Lamar in January and participate in the Cardinals’ spring practices.

Sunset Grove golfer Craig Couvillion notched his second eagle in the last two weeks Saturday morning when he reached the green in two on the Par-5, No. 7 hole and drained the putt for an eagle-3. Witnessing (and paying for) the event was yours truly and Jim Rodda. However, in the end, Couvillion reached into his wallet and paid his two opponents for the skins he lost to both of them.
Congrats are in order to Coldspring Head Coach Bryan Barbay for getting his team into the Class 3A Division II state championship game. His Trojans defeated Wimberley 26-14 Friday and will play Carthage for the 3A championship 4 p.m. Friday at Jerry Jones Stadium in Arlington. Coldspring bounced the West Orange-Stark Mustangs from the state playoffs last year while Wimberley did it to the ‘Stangs a few years earlier.

Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown promised there would be some changes made in his coaching staff after his team failed to become bowl-eligible last season, but he hasn’t had to do a thing. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis resigned early last week and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was hired last weekend as the replacement for the ailing Urban Meyer at Florida. Now it’s just a matter of how many of Brown’s staff will go with Muschamp. Running backs coach and former UT quarterback Major Applewhite will probably become Muschamp’s offensive coordinator and a couple of defensive coaches could also go to Florida. Throw in the fact that Longhorn assistants Mac McWhorter and Mike Tolleson retired and the result has Mack Brown begging the rest of his staff to please stay put in Austin.

JUST BETWEEN US…This weekend’s National Football League schedule was marred with a couple of strange events as the New York Giants at Minnesota game was canceled Sunday when the roof of the Metrodome collapsed from the winter storm that hit the Twin Cities and moved the game to the Detroit Silverdome Monday night. That’s the fifth time the roof of the Metrodome has collapsed. Also in Miami’s 10-6 upset win over the Jets in East Rutherford, N.J., Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll was tripped on punt coverage when Jets’ conditioning coach Sal Alosi stuck out his knee on the sidelines and tripped Carroll while he was trying to make a play. The Miami coaching staff was livid and demanded the NFL suspend him or that the Jets fire him for that kind of unnecessary dirty deed. The NFL probably will fine Alosi just as they would a player who committed unnecessary roughness on an opposing player.