Proving this week’s Winter Meetings were not without an element of surprise, Kansas City has actually signed a player that was coveted by another team.  From the Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton.

The Royals provided a blockbuster conclusion to the winter meetings Thursday by reaching agreement with free-agent pitcher Gil Meche on a five-year deal.

œGil Meche is a guy who we feel fits into what we™re trying to do here for the long term, general manager Dayton Moore said. œWe felt he has the best raw stuff among all of the free agents out there.

Specific financial details were not known, but the package is believed to approach $55 million to $60 million. The richest contract in club history is Mike Sweeney™s current five-year deal for $55 million, which expires after next season.

œThere™s a risk, Moore admitted. œIt would be nice if we could all predict the future, but we can™t. Anytime you sign a player, you expect him to do well.

œIn Gil Meche, we got a guy with stuff who is the youngest guy in the group (of free-agent pitchers). We feel great about this.

Meche, 28, also attracted strong interest from the Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays after going 11-8 with a 4.48 ERA last season in 32 starts for the Seattle Mariners.

The Denver Post’s Troy Renck writes that as the status of pitches like Meche, Lilly and Padilla is resolved, the value of Colorado starter Jason Jennings is easier to define.

The Rockies continued to engage in discussions regarding Jennings, with Houston emerging Wednesday as the best fit. The Rockies are eyeing 24-year-old starter Jason Hirsch, reliever Dan Wheeler and center fielder Willy Tavares. If the Yankees sign Andy Pettitte, as predicted by several GMs, the Astros’ pursuit of Jennings would become more focused.

One rival National League executive begged for the Rockies to make a move, believing the domino effect would reach his club, which is seeking a young pitcher. The Blue Jays and Mets could soon become players for Jennings as well.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic, there’s lingering resentment after a proposed trade that would’ve sent Pirates reliever Mike Gonzalez to Atlanta in exchange for 1B Adam LaRoche fell through.

Early in the evening, according to sources on both sides, Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz pulled the LaRoche offer off the table. The reason was not Gonzalez’s health, a high-ranking Braves official told reporters later, but rather that Pittsburgh’s Dave Littlefield took too long to make a decision.

Then, less than two hours later, Schuerholz reached agreement with the Seattle Mariners on a trade to acquire reliever Rafael Soriano for starter Horacio Ramirez, thus filling the Braves’ wish for a setup man.

Littlefield was unavailable for comment last night, but one Pirates employee close to the negotiations called Atlanta’s accusation about Littlefield “a pure fabrication.”