Posted: Friday December 2, 2005 12:47PM; Updated: Friday December 2, 2005 2:41PM
Baseball's annual winter meetings, a kind of eBay free-for-all with Sotheby's prices, are never easy to figure. Sometimes these things are all bluster and no action. Sometimes -- as was the case in 2000, a get-together in Dallas that was punctuated by Alex Rodriguez's signing of a $252 million contract -- the financial foundation of the game is shaken.
Whatever happens this year, we can at least count on this unassailable truth: Whenever general managers, other front-office types, scouts, agents, the occasional player and several dozen so-called journalists mingle, the talk will be plenty cheap.
Here's a look at some of the names that will be tossed around in the lobby of the Wyndham Anatole early next week when the winter meetings return to Dallas ...
The race is on to acquire superstar slugger Manny Ramirez.
If Ramirez, the goofy Red Sox left fielder, is to be traded this winter, this is where a lot of the work will be done.
The Boston string-pullers -- whoever they may be -- will sit down with GM Omar Minaya of the Mets, and GM Bill Stoneman of the Angels, and maybe with new Phillies GM Pat Gillick, to see what it will take to consummate a trade for the RBI machine that is Manny. (He's averaged 40 homers and 122 RBIs in his five years in Boston.) Those three teams certainly have at least some interest. The Red Sox, if only to shed salary or rid themselves of a Manny-sized headache, seem willing.
Now if they can just work out that $57 million that Ramirez has coming to him over the next three seasons ...
Burnett may be the most talented sub-.500 pitcher to hit the free-agent market in years -- at least in his mind and his agent's. But he's still not signed.
The Jays seem willing to give five years to Burnett, maybe at as much as $10 million per year. The Cardinals reportedly have a four-year offer out for him at $10 million a year. That's a ton of money for a pitcher who has a 49-50 career record.
Still, Burnett and agent Darek Braunecker may be holding out for even more cash. The only free-agent starter to sign so far this winter, Esteban Loaiza, pulled down more than $7 million per in a surprising three-year deal with the A's. And Loaiza is about six years older than Burnett.
Oakland GM Billy Beane says he's not automatically trading Zito, but what else is he going to say? Zito, the lefty ace with the tantalizing curveball, is in the last year of his contract, so for the A's, it's trade him now, trade him at midseason or watch him leave for a flurry of dollars.
If Beane decides to move him, Zito should bring some good players in return. The former Cy Young winner is better than any of the free-agent pitchers available. He's still young and last year had an excellent season despite his 14-13 record and 3.86 ERA. (Opponents hit just .221 off him, second only to Johan Santana in the American League, he had 21 quality starts and he ranked in the top 10 in runners per inning, at 1.20.)