Hot Stove Truth & Rumors: Dec. 29, 2004
Posted: Wednesday December 29, 2004 1:18PM; Updated: Wednesday December 29, 2004 5:18PM
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 Hot Stove Truth and Rumors. check out the other sports, click here.
A deal that would put Randy Johnson in pinstripes appeared to be nearing fruition last night, with the Yankees and Diamondbacks hammering out final details. Although a gag order was in place with both teams, Johnson informed a few of his Arizona teammates that he was going to the Yankees.
The deal would send pitchers Javier Vazquez and Brad Halsey, as well as two prospects, to Arizona for Johnson. The Yankees are basically letting the Diamondbacks decide what prospects they want included. If Arizona picks the two prospects the Yankees proposed giving them earlier in the off-season -- Abel Gomez and Melky Cabrera -- the Yankees will agree to kick in $12 million to offset Vazquez's contract. But if the Diamondbacks want the two higher-level prospects the Yankees were going to send the Dodgers in the three-team trade last week -- Eric Duncan and Dioner Navarro -- they will not assume as much of Vazquez's salary.
Although the Yankees have been rebuffed several times in their attempts to acquire Johnson, they sense a greater urgency in Arizona this time. The Yankees are under the impression that Johnson has told the Diamondbacks that if they do not trade him by Friday, he will stay in Arizona and will not waive his no-trade clause. "I don't think Randy's drawn any lines in the sand or given any kind of ultimatum," said Barry Meister, one of Johnson's agents.
George Steinbrenner loves Johnson. He likes Carlos Beltran. Is there a big enough gulf between that fixation and fondness for the Mets to exploit it and steal Beltran? Will Steinbrenner be in this to win at any cost? If he is, the Mets cannot win; Fred Wilpon is not built for contract roulette with Steinbrenner. But what if Steinbrenner really feels he must cap his payroll and future expenses at some point? What if Steinbrenner actually heeds to his baseball people who do not feel Beltran is appreciably better than Vladimir Guerrero and wonder why Beltran deserves a $100 million-plus deal, when Guerrero settled last year for $70 million over five years?
If the Yankees land Johnson and Beltran, and no one doubts they can, their payroll for 2005, as computed for luxury-tax purposes, will approach $225 million. That would be nearly $100 million more than the luxury tax threshold of $128 million for next season. As three-time violators, the Yankees would have to pay a 40 percent tax on that $100 million. As a result, the Yankees may end up owing nearly $40 million in luxury taxes alone next season, or more than the entire payrolls for several teams.
Barring shocking news that Sammy Sosa will be traded this week, the Cubs can't even enter the bidding for Beltran. Former White Sox All-Star Magglio Ordonez might be their best option for outfield help. Ordonez, who is recovering from two operations on his left knee, has strong interest in signing with the Cubs. With the return this week of left-handed-hitting outfielder Todd Hollandsworth, Ordonez seems like a solid gamble.
Dodger GM Paul DePodesta is pursuing World Series star Derek Lowe, but the Detroit Tigers and perhaps other teams could push his price beyond what DePodesta is willing to pay. Left-hander Odalis Perez, a Dodger the last three seasons and the only other starter with a consistent track record, is being courted by several teams. Next on the list would be left-hander Shawn Estes and right-hander Esteban Loaiza. Beyond them, there are the aged, injured and unproved, a group that includes Darren Oliver, Ismael Valdez, Steve Sparks, Aaron Sele and Miguel Asencio.
As time ticks through the final week of Walt Jocketty's contract, the attention of the Cardinals has been on whom the GM is bringing in and not on the seemingly foregone conclusion that he will return. Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. "It's a matter of sitting down and getting a deal worked out. I expect in two or three weeks it will be completed." Meanwhile, Jocketty continues to comb the market for a suitable second baseman, the last starting position he has to fill for the 2005 lineup.
Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek is a possibility for Tampa, but the Cardinals may trump the Rays if they decide on Grudzielanek from among a list of potential signees that reportedly includes former Rays infielders Rey Sanchez and Miguel Cairo, and Roberto Alomar.
Look for the long-anticipated contract extension for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who has next season remaining on his current deal, to be offered within the next two weeks.
Indians doctors and trainers will study the results of free agent Kevin Millwood's physical to determine if he's healthy enough to sign and pitch for manager Eric Wedge next season. Depending on how the evaluation goes, the Indians might break off negotiations with agent Scott Boras or continue to work toward a reported one-year contract.
Arizona apparently is still trying to deal independently with the Dodgers to obtain Shawn Green, who remains very available with J.D. Drew having signed this week with Los Angeles. The Dodgers highly value Dioner Navarro, a switch-hitting catcher.
The Reds would seem to be in position to make a trade. They could, for instance, package one of their outfielders, say Austin Kearns or Wily Mo Peņa, with one of their young pitchers, maybe Luke Hudson or Brandon Claussen, to get a shortstop or another veteran starting pitcher.
The Orioles still have no interest in any of the remaining free-agent pitchers on the market and aren't pursuing a trade with the Cubs for Sosa despite various reports to the contrary.
Mariners GM Bill Bavasi said that in order to step into the bidding for a highly paid starter, he might have to move payroll. With rookie Jeremy Reed penciled in as an outfield starter, Randy Winn could be expendable and his $4 million salary put toward pitching. Bavasi said last week he won't move Winn "unless there's a heck of a deal."
The Yankees will announce the signing of right-handed pitcher Jaret Wright to his three-year, $21 million contract within the next few days.
For more Truth & Rumors, click here.