One pitcher primed to take advantage of this pitcher-friendly market is NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan, whose agent, Scott Leventhal, has strong interest from Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and others. And Suppan's market may get even stronger.
As Leventhal put it, "I think the market will only expand once Barry Zito is signed.'' Depending on who gets Zito, the runnerup (either the Mets or Giants) could very well enter the Suppan Sweepstakes.
Leventhal, who already scored a huge contract for Gary Matthews Jr., calls Suppan the best of the next-tier of pitchers behind Zito and Jason Schmidt, who signed a three-year, $47 million deal with the Dodgers. Considering what Gil Meche got from Kansas City (five years, $55 million), Suppan, who is well thought of by previous employers like the Pirates and Royals, should blow away the Cardinals' low-octane offer of $18 million for three years.
Asked whether Meche's deal plays into their negotiations, Leventhal said, "I think they all affect us.''
Unsorting the Astros' two big deals
The Astros were disappointed the White Sox called a halt to their almost-agreed-upon Jon Garland deal. But Houston GM Tim Purpura was understanding. "My attitude is that until there's an announcement, you can have second thoughts,'' Purpura said. "It's part of the deal. The medical piece is the last piece.''
The Sox were said by one insider to have been concerned about young pitcher Taylor Buchholz because of tendonitis on the middle finger of his throwing hand, and Purpura said the Sox also asked whether Buchholz experienced tingling or numbness in his throwing hand, symptoms associated with an issue with the ulnar ligament in a pitcher's elbow. But Purpura told them that wasn't the case and tried to reassure Chicago. "I explained that he never had that issue,'' Purpura said.
But when the Sox decided against the trade, Purpura, who's obviously unafraid to pull the trigger on a bold trade, quickly moved to Plan B, taking Jason Jennings to fill their main goal of adding a No, 2 starter. It turned out to be a great trade for Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd, who went to school on a deal gone south and snagged the very same package of Willy Taveras, Jason Hirsh and Buchholz for Jennings (plus, in this case, throw-in Miguel Asencio) that Houston was prepared to send to Chicago for Garland.
As for Houston, while Garland is under contract for two more years compared to only one for Jennings, folks around the game believe that Jennings, a Baylor product from Dallas, will sign an extension with Houston. Purpura said nothing is in the works yet. But Jennings is said by others to be a "good kid," which is management speak for someone who might take less to stay home.
There are two hurdles to the potential three-team scenario in which Adam LaRoche goes to Pittsburgh, Mike Gonzalez goes to the Yankees and Melky Cabrera goes to Atlanta. One is that the Braves are asking the Pirates to send another player along with Gonzalez (who'd be sent to the Yankees) for LaRoche. The second hurdle appears to be smaller: The Yankees want to give Gonzalez, who missed the last month and a half of 2006, a thorough exam before agreeing to the deal.
Pirates GM Dave Littlefield is wisely listening to offers for Gonzalez, whose value is sky-high after going 24-for-24 in saves, and would be dealing from strength in that Pittsburgh has a very strong relief corps for a second-division club. "I'm not looking to trade [Gonzalez] but I also realize we could use more offense,'' Littlefield said. He also said they were being cautious with Gonzalez late last year, that Gonzalez feels fine and there are "no issues" with his arm.
If the deal can be executed, it means Bernie Williams would likely be back in the Bronx. Otherwise "it might be tough" to find room for Williams, said someone familiar with the Yankees' thinking.