GM meetings blog (cont.)
The lowly Washington Nationals are aiming to make a surprise splash this winter and have been connected to talks involving star outfielder Matt Holliday, star first baseman Mark Teixeira and possibly star pitcher A.J. Burnett, SI.com has learned.
"We might surprise some people,'' a Nationals person said.
The Nationals have been linked by baseball people to talks for star free-agent first baseman Teixeira, who also is being pursued by the Yankees, Angels and several other teams. The Nationals, who finished 59-103 in 2008, are also believed to have interest in Burnett, who's very likely to opt out of his Blue Jays contract after meeting with that team Tuesday afternoon.
The Nationals are also said to have keen interest in Holliday, the Rockies outfielder who's on the trading block. It would seem to be an odd fit, though, as Holliday has only one year to go before he can become a free agent.
Star pitcher A.J. Burnett's agent Darek Braunecker will give the Blue Jays a final chance to re-sign Burnett in a meeting Tuesday afternoon, but barring an unexpected and big breakthrough, Burnett is expected to opt out of his contract and put himself into the free agent game by the end of the day.
As a free agent, Burnett is expected to draw major interest from the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and possibly even the Nationals, among others.
Burnett has an option to vacate the remaining two years on his five-year, $55-million Blue Jays contract. He went 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA and 231 strikeouts with Toronto and should command a salary of $15 million or more annually.
Braunecker disputed the notion that Burnett would prefer not to play in New York. "That perception couldn't be further from the truth,'' said the agent.
The quick-striking and creative Angels have put their star first baseman Mark Teixeira plus superstar free-agent CC Sabathia atop their wish list and haven't ruled out an attempt to try to sign both mega-stars, even ahead of their own record-breaking closer Francisco Rodriguez.
The Angels have not hid their love of Teixeira and are expected to make an offer to him before their exclusive negotiating period expires Nov. 14.
Both Teixeira and Sabathia could possibly command close to $150 million. It isn't known how close the Angels can come to those marks, but they have the contracts of Garrett Anderson and possibly Rodriguez coming off their books, aiding their efforts.
The Angels, aggressive yet prudent, don't expect to be able to match the Yankees dollar for dollar on Sabathia but will instead hope that a big (but not quite as big as the Yankees) number combined with his California roots can trump the Yankees' expected mega-offer. The Angels are aiming to avoid a dramatic increase in their $120-million payroll, so they might have to consider cuts in other areas if there's a possibility to sign both big free-agent stars.
The Angels have some interest in bringing back K-Rod but things would "have to line up right'' for that to occur, meaning they'd have to receive rejections from at least one of their two top targets. The Angels could possibly try to replace K-Rod with veteran Scot Shields or emerging talent Jose Arredondo.
Rodriguez saved a record 62 games last year and is expected to draw interest from the Mets and many others at a time that relief pitching is in great demand. Rordriguez's agent, Paul Kinzer, has indicated they believe K-Rod is a $75-million player on a five-year deal, at least. The Angels offered about $33 million over three years this past spring for him, showing the likely gap that exists.
The Angels are a team that has a rep for moving fast. Last year, they signed Torii Hunter for $90 million after a fateful and productive meeting at a Del Taco before anyone even find out they had interest. Their history suggests they are unlikely to wait around for months for answers.
The Yankees are exploring a possible bid for free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson, and are intrigued enough by Hudson's talent and reputation as an excellent clubhouse influence to bat around the possibilities of trading talented young second baseman Robinson Cano or even signing Hudson with the idea of moving him to centerfield.
The Yankees' interest in Hudson could incite a crosstown battle with the Mets, who are weighing the idea of Hudson replacing Luis Castillo at second base for them.
The Yankees are finding the centerfield markets barren, and that even includes the trade market, which has led general manager Brian Cashman to consider some unusual possibilities for the position. There are no free-agent center fielders the Yankees consider viable to start for them, and Cashman is said to be having trouble finding trade possibilities, as well. It's believed the Yankees would have interest in the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, the Royals' David DeJesus or a few others, but no teams appear anxious to trade a young center fielder.
That has caused the Yankees to consider Hudson, who hit .305 with eight home runs for Arizona last season and is considered a great clubhouse guy and "high energy'' player, to play center field. The other possibility, of course, would be to trade Cano, the ultra-talented player whose stock fell last year.
The Yankees' first free-agent target is superstar pitcher CC Sabathia, but they are aiming to sign at least two high-end free-agent starters and will also consider A.J. Burnett (as soon as he opts out and becomes a free agent), Derek Lowe and perhaps Oliver Perez. Among position players, the Yankees are looking at Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez as well as Hudson.
Cano's struggles have led the Yankees to consider hiring as a major-league coach infield instructor Mick Kelleher, who's emerged as the leading candidate to replace fired third base coach Bobby Meacham. Kelleher, who has received high marks for his coaching in the minors, has the distinction of playing 11 seasons in the big leagues without ever hitting a home run.
The Yankees are still weighing how to utilize their coaches, and one possibility would be to make Kelleher the first base coach and move Tony Pena to third base. Kelleher is seen as a "Larry Bowa type.''
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