Hot Stove Truth & Rumors: Nov. 17, 2004
Posted: Wednesday November 17, 2004 11:52AM; Updated: Wednesday November 17, 2004 3:48PM
Baseball's Hot Stove is heating up with a flurry of rumors and gossip. To keep you up-to-date, we've created a special edition of Truth & Rumors. To check out the other sports, click here.
Signing shortstop Cristian Guzman and third baseman Vinny Castilla indicate that Washington GM Jim Bowden takes seriously his pledge to aggressively assemble a competitive team. Next up: An announcement to christen the team with a new name, expected to be the Nationals, is likely to come early next week, complete with the unveiling of a team logo and its red, white and blue color scheme. Deposits for season tickets will be received beginning tomorrow.
Bowden signed one guy who plays his hardest in contract years to a four-year deal, and another guy who hits well only in Coors Field to play somewhere else. Absurd.
Pedro Martinez had a surprise meeting with George Steinbrenner and his Tampa posse of executives at Legends Field. "He told George how much he wanted to be a Yankee," said a baseball official with knowledge of the talks. Steinbrenner has famously negotiated deals with star players himself. None of the Yankee baseball people -- from GM Brian Cashman to Joe Torre to Gene Michael -- has favored signing Martinez.
Martinez would not have considered the meeting productive unless Steinbrenner gave some indication he would guarantee him at least a three-year contract, and Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza echoed Steinbrenner's relatively sunny assessment of the session. "I think it's the same way, it was good," Cuza said of the meeting. There was no indication that the meeting in Tampa reflected a breakdown in negotiations between the Sox and Martinez. The sides remain in contact, though the landscape has changed with Steinbrenner in the picture.
Two people close to the situation said that no offers were made and that Cuza was the one who reached out to Steinbrenner and initiated the meeting. That could mean that Cuza is just using the Yankees to get the Red Sox or other interested teams to up their offers to Martinez. But even so, the possibility of Martinez signing with the Yankees can't be ruled out.
Several other teams are expected to court Martinez, including the Angels and Cardinals. Vladimir Guerrero, who won the AL MVP award yesterday and considers Martinez "like a brother," said he would relish enticing Martinez to join him in Anaheim. "If I can try to convince him to play for the Angels, I'll try my best," Guerrero said.
The Red Sox need another left-hander, and Cardinals free agent Steve Kline is an intriguing option. The problem is that the Yankees are believed to want Kline more and are reportedly ready to strike quickly to sign him. Rheal Cormier and Buddy Groom are possibilities, as is Mike Myers.
Jason Varitek gave every indication last night that he is focused on trying to work out a deal to remain with the Sox.
According to agent Bob Garber, who represents free-agent catcher Damian Miller, the Sox yesterday made a two-year offer to the 35-year-old backstop.
The Yankees have contemplated acquiring Alfonso Soriano, their former second baseman, from the Rangers, possibly for pitcher Javier Vazquez, and then shipping Soriano to Arizona in a Randy Johnson deal.
Arizona GM Joe Garagiola Jr. said he planned to speak with the representatives for Johnson today, and although trade parameters may come up, neither side would reveal what is to be discussed.
In addition to the Yankees and Phillies, it is believed that the Cardinals and Dodgers also have expressed interest in Al Leiter, although the left-hander has maintained a desire to not stray too far from the metropolitan area.
The Mets are moving in on closing a deal with Kris Benson, their other primary free-agent pitcher.
Because of all the financial particulars involved in a proposed trade with the Cubs, any Sammy Sosa deal may take a little while. Still, the belief remains that a Sosa-to-the-Mets trade ultimately will get done. Sosa is a risk, particularly because of his increasing age and decreasing production. The Mets could be attracted to the fact that Sosa still possesses good power, could hit milestone homers in a Mets uniform and could be a huge draw to their Dominican population.
The Marlins have expressed interest in Sosa, but only if the Cubs pay much of the $36 million he's owed the next two years.
The Marlins have contacted and expressed interest in re-signing David Weathers and Rudy Seanez but haven't extended contract offers. Seanez has heard from the Phillies and Padres. The Braves and Dodgers may also have interest. Seanez lives about 90 minutes from San Diego, so an offer from the Padres may prove too enticing to pass up. The Marlins have also initiated contact with Braves free agent and former Marlin Antonio Alfonseca.
Just the fact that Armando Benitez is the best closer available speaks volumes of what is out there.
Troy Percival's agent said, "We have two solid offers on the table and another team has started to [make an offer]. He wants to sign right before or right after Thanksgiving." The Cubs, Indians, Tigers and Giants are among the six teams in the hunt for the closer.
With the Giants spending much of their postseason budget on shortstop Omar Vizquel, they are likely to bow out of the Percival/Benitez sweepstakes and go with their intriguing late-season closer, Dustin Hermanson.
The Giants want another big bat to accompany Barry Bonds, and their No. 1 target is Steve Finley. Carlos Beltran would be even better. "Doubtful," GM Brian Sabean said.
Troy Glaus, who prefers third base, would give the Orioles, who want Melvin Mora at third, a much-desired right-handed hitter at first base, and a proven run producer whose 2004 season was wrecked by a shoulder injury that required surgery. Free-agent Richie Sexson presents another right-handed option at first, but the Orioles have made only preliminary contact with his agent.
Although the agent for Carl Pavano has engaged in more detailed discussions with several other teams to date, the Angels might be a good fit considering they possess many of the qualities sought by the free-agent pitcher. Pavano is looking for an organization committed to winning that featured a top-notch pitching coach, veteran teammates and first-rate facilities.
The Phillies are pursuing one more starter, with possibilities including free agents Eric Milton, Pavano, David Wells, Leiter and Brad Radke. The Yankees' Kevin Brown could also be available through a trade.
Executives with two teams previously said to be interested in Milton indicated that they believed he would end up with the Yankees, and that their teams were no longer negotiating with him.
The Phillies spoke with Milton's agent this week, and GM Ed Wade characterized those talks as an "open issue." Recent reports that Milton was close to a contract with the New York Yankees were false.
Neither side is saying what the next step might be, or even if there will be one, but the first discussion involving the Tigers and free-agent second baseman Jeff Kent went just fine.
The White Sox have an interest in acquiring Rockies reliever Shawn Chacon.
White Sox GM Ken Williams said he won't seek Carlos Beltran or any other player represented by Scott Boras. The Sox don't like the contract prices established by Boras for his clients, which is another way of saying chairman Jerry Reinsdorf once again is prioritizing his cost-conscious ways and grudge against the superagent over the fact his ballclub hasn't won a postseason series since 1917.
Agent Tony Cabral said that Tampa Bay has "legitimate interest" in two of his firm's clients, right-handed pitchers Russ Ortiz and Esteban Loaiza.
Brad Radke said Guzman's departure should not affect his decision to re-sign with the Twins or play elsewhere. Corey Koskie is as good as gone, because, as Koskie observed, other teams value him more than the Twins. Luis Rivas is as good as gone, unless he is willing to sign a low-budget deal instead of taking the Twins to arbitration.
Jason Bartlett is the Twins' shortstop of the future, but that future might become the present with a strong spring training. Nick Punto could be the guy, or they could sign a cheap veteran like Craig Counsell, Pokey Reese or Jose Valentin, who has told at least one Twins official he wants to play here.
The Twins won't say whether they received trade offers for outfielder Jacque Jones.
If the Pirates do make a Jason Kendall trade, they'll seek more than Ryan Klesko in return, and I doubt that any Kendall trade will be a simple one-for-one transaction. There's been talk of Kendall going to the Dodgers -- in the media -- and it does seem the Dodgers need a catcher.
Trolling for players, the Padres again are looking to their past. The team has invited speedy utility man Damian Jackson to spring camp and has begun talks with free agent Mark Sweeney.