For some reason, I get crazy about baseball in the off-season. Perhaps it is because in baseball, an active off-season can transform a franchise. There is always that hope that perhaps the Royals might make an interesting, intelligent signing or trade that could put the post-season within reach. Or maybe it’s the drama of how the rich teams will divide up all the free agent talent, wondering who will find the right mix of performance for dollars and actually benefit from all their spending. And the non-baseball fan will probably say it’s because baseball is boring and the only time it’s really interesting is when rosters are changing.

Whatever. When it gets cold, I miss baseball. I read all the free agent and trade rumors ravenously. I daydream about summer nights listening to a game on the radio (or, um, my iPhone I guess). I contemplate finally, after nearly 40 years, buying Strat-o-Matic and spending my winter nights recreating games.

This is the rare off-season when the Royals are players, although, unfortunately as sellers rather than buyers. As I wrote a few weeks ago, if they can get the right return, I think you have to trade Zack Greinke. I don’t like it, but at this point his value is as much about what he can bring in a trade as what he brings on the mound. I’ve been constantly checking the various rumors sites to see what the latest on Greinke is. It seems like nothing will happen until Cliff Lee signs, if Dayton Moore is smart. But this is Dayton Moore we’re talking about, so he’s liable to pull the trigger two days too early.

I was disappointed by the Jeff Francoeur signing. Mr. Newman in Brookside pointed out that at the dollars involved, it’s not a terrible move. Truth is I can’t get too worked up about it. Francoeur is not a good player. There’s little reason to believe that he will recapture whatever mojo he had when he first came up with the Braves. But his contract doesn’t wreck the Royals’ payroll or keep a more deserving prospect off the field. I’ve been conditioned so long to expect a horrible signing or trade for Francoeur, that it’s tough to see any good in his arrival.

And then Dayton went out and got Melky Cabrera. OK…not sure how to react to that at all. Another former Brave (although he didn’t come up with the Braves like Francoeur did) who has limited skills and value. Another mediocre outfielder for a team that has plenty of those already. I’m not seeing the need for Cabrera. Some have pointed out this could mean the end of Alex Gordon’s time in KC, but why sign Cabrera now if you’re thinking of moving Alex? No one else was going to snatch Melky up. Let him sit, make the Gordon trade, and then sign him. Some of whatever value Gordon has just withered up since the Royals have to move someone now.

Oh well, it’s not like the Royals were going to win anything in 2011 anyway. It would just be nice if the moves that Moore made were more than thoroughly predictable stop-gaps that involved guys who have rolled through Atlanta.

Getting away from the Royals, I went to bed about 20 minutes too early last night. When I woke this morning and refreshed Twitter, I saw that the Red Sox had locked up Carl Crawford. I miss the days when Boston was a reasonable alternative for all of us Yankee-haters. I liked them a lot better when they had Manny and Pedro and then a bunch of normal contracts. While they still spent a lot of money, they were clearly not in the stratosphere with the Yankees. Now, it’s those two in a level clearly above the other big market teams. If Bud Selig wants to expand the playoffs, how about putting the Red Sox and Yankees in their own division, with only one getting to the playoffs each year? They can play each other 60 or so times a year, which will make ESPN and Fox happy. And then there’s no chance that Tampa wins the East and some West team sneaks into the Wild Card and we’re forced to somehow deal with a post-season that lacks the Big Two.

Oh, and expanding the playoffs is dumb. Very dumb. On every level dumb, from what it does to the post-season to the refusal to shift/shorten the regular season to accommodate it. As a child of the expansion era, I’m a big fan of the league championship series concept. But the way things are going, I’m beginning to fall into line with those who say to scrap the modern system, get rid of all the divisions, and go back to two leagues playing for a single playoff spot in the World Series.

Yes, I am becoming a grumpy old man.