A rundown of key free agents
Sabathia has promised not drag out his negotiations
The Angels badly want to hold onto Mark Teixeira
Manny could spurn the Dodgers' offer and play the field
DANA POINT, Calif. -- With a trio of megastars, and several more very good players, who are free agents this winter, plus at least two more huge stars on the trading block, the Major League Baseball GM meetings will have a lot of discussion about millionaires and near-billionaires at the St. Regis Monarch Beach, the very resort and spa made famous by the gluttonous vacationers at failed insurer AIG.
The recession won't be in evidence here, where self parking goes for 25 bucks, a cappuccino is five bucks and three free-agent players will field offers that could hit nine figures. Even in this period closely following the World Series, where a free agent's incumbent team is the only one that's allowed to talk dollars, first baseman Mark Teixeira and starting pitcher CC Sabathia are expected to hear offers from the Angels and Brewers that hit that nine-figure number.
Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez should soon expect to receive a shorter offer at close to a record annual salary from the incumbent Dodgers, perhaps a two-year deal for near the $27.5-million Yankees salary of Alex Rodriguez, as SI.com reported several days ago.
If times are tough, it will be hard to tell here in this especially ritzy enclave of Orange County.
Sabathia has promised not to take a tour of teams or drag out his negotiations for many months. But unless he's willing to give a major hometown discount to the Brewers (it's believed they're willing to hit the $100-million number, though the favored Yankees will easily beat that), or Teixeira is willing to forego the free-agent courting process he's looked forward to practically since he left Georgia Tech, no monster deals actually will be struck here. (The chances of Manny taking a quick, two-year deal from the incumbent Dodgers, for even a record annual salary, are only slightly greater than a return to Boston for the Man-child himself.)
Adding intrigue to the meetings are yet a couple more big stars on the trading block, Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday and Padres pitcher Jake Peavy. Reports of Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder possibly joining them spices things up further still. So while no big deals may be consummated here, there will be a lot of big talk, at the very least.
Here is a rundown of all the big players...
The Mega Stars
1. Sabathia. Good for the Brewers and their go-for-the-gusto owner Mark Attanasio to make a serious try at around $100 mil. And while the Dodgers, Angels and others might also make a play, realistically the Yankees can blow everyone away. My call: Yankees, seven years, $160 million.
2. Teixeira. The Angels love Teixeira and badly want to keep him. Other teams expected to be in the hunt include the Orioles, Yankees and Mariners. The Red Sox look like a long shot from here, unless they can unload 2007 World Series MVP Mike Lowell (not likely after recent hip surgery). My call: Angels, eight years, $150 million.
3. Ramirez. He's not going to like the Dodgers' short-term bid and will play the field. The Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays and Phillies are among those expected to check in. My call: Dodgers, three years, $75 million.
Best of the Rest
4. A.J. Burnett, starting pitcher. Once he exercises the opt-out clause in his Blue Jays contract, the money should roll in. Timed his best year well. My call: Yankees, five years, $80 million.
5. Francisco Rodriguez, closer. Record-setting reliever lost a few mph but still figures out how to get batters out. My call: Rangers, five years, $75 million.
6. Derek Lowe, starting pitcher. Proved to be clutch again this postseason. Seems to want to go East. My call: Mets, four years, $56 million (but the Yankees will be pitching, too, and Lowe's hometown Tigers could be a dark horse).
7. Ryan Dempster, starting pitcher. He should stay in Chicago, which helped turn him into a successful starter. My Call: Cubs, four years, $56 million.
8. Brian Fuentes, closer. An excellent but cheaper alternative to K-Rod. My call: Mets, $39 million, three years.
9. Ben Sheets, starting pitcher. Health is a question. (If he were surely sound, he'd be close to a $100-million pitcher himself.) As one GM said, "How can anyone give him a long-term deal?'') But they love him in Houston. My call: Astros, $28 million, two years.
More Big Stars and Good Names
10. Bobby Abreu, outfielder. Patient hitter fits into any lineup. The Cubs look like a possibility for the outfielder, who is seeking a three-year contract.
11. Casey Blake, third baseman/first baseman/outfielder. Versatile player came through big for the Dodgers. A possibility for Yankees if Teixeira goes elsewhere.
12. Pat Burrell, outfielder. Streaky and sullen, he still can still hit 30 home runs (at least in Citizens Bank Joke Yard). Not my type, but someone will probably give him a three-year deal.
13. Orlando Cabrera, shortstop. The Tigers, Orioles and a few others are looking for a shortstop. Productive, feisty player didn't fit into White Sox clubhouse. Edgar Renteria, also a free agent, is Cabrera Lite after his worst season.
14. Adam Dunn, outfielder. One-dimensional banger won't hit the $100-million mark that ex-teammate Brandon Phillips said he would be shooting for. But a $60-million, four-year deal isn't out of the question.
15. Orlando Hudson, second baseman. Supposedly "yearns'' to be a Met. Which sounds like that's where he thinks he'd get paid. It may happen, but they have other needs that are even more pressing.
16. Raul Ibanez, outfielder. Had a quiet and excellent year in forgotten Seattle, hitting .321 after the break to finish with 23 home runs, 110 RBIs and a .293 batting average. Could go to Cubs if they don't take Abreu.
17. Mike Mussina, starting pitcher. Threatening retirement. If he comes back, he'll be a Yankee.
18. Oliver Perez, starting pitcher. Mets are stymied by the knowledge that a much lesser pitcher, Carlos Silva, got $48 million over four years, last year. They like him for three years.
19. Jason Varitek, catcher. Red Sox are willing to give their spiritual leader two years but he's looking around to see who might go three or four.
20. Kerry Wood, closer. He's emerged as a fine closer but has never shown a willingness to leave Chicago.