Yankees top list of contenders in race for coveted free agent Holliday
Holliday is said by a friend to love the idea of going to the Yankees
Holliday also likes the Dodgers, Angels and Mets, perhaps in that order
How Torre's young Dodgers differ from his Yankees teams; and more notes
Outfielder Matt Holliday, probably the biggest free agent about to be on the market -- John Lackey and Jason Bay are the only other in-their-prime stars -- is said by a friend to love the idea of going to the Yankees.
After the Yankees, whom Holliday supposedly loves for their mystique -- and realistically, we'd have to assume their money -- he is believed to like the Dodgers, Angels and Mets, perhaps in that order.
"He just loves the idea of going to the Yankees. He loves the whole aura," the friend said.
Curiously, all of the thought-to-be preferred choices are in major markets on both coasts, which would be a switch for the Oklahoma product who's thrived in Denver and St. Louis (except for three days, anyway). Holliday batted .353 in St. Louis after struggling at .286 in Oakland this year, and he rebuilt his value by hitting .357 after the All-Star break and posting a 1.047 OPS, which was second best in baseball to the Cubs' Derrek Lee. Interestingly though, the Cardinals, who say they will make an all-out effort to re-sign him, are said by the friend not to be at the top of his preferred list. Holliday very much enjoyed playing in St. Louis, though, and appreciates the Cardinals' keen interest. So they are still likely to be in the mix.
Here is a look at the potential contenders for Holliday and their chances to take the big plunge. (In the L.A. Times, agent Scott Boras compared Holliday to Mark Teixeira, who got $180 million as a free agent last year.)
1. Yankees: They have a trio of corner outfield free agents -- Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady and Hideki Matsui (though he's only DHing this year). They could just try to keep Damon, who wants to return, for maybe $7 million to $9 million a year for two years, and sign a big pitcher instead (though Lackey's the only No. 1-type pitcher available, and some believe he may prefer Texas). "I'm not absolutely positive we're going to go for [Holliday]," a Yankees official said. Although, it's hard to remember too many years when the Yankees didn't go for the biggest free agent. (Carlos Beltran was a rare one they passed on.)
2. Dodgers: But if Manny Ramirez opts to pick up his $20 million player option -- and one Dodgers person said, "he has to pick it up now" as a make-good for what transpired this spring -- there wouldn't appear to be room for Holliday.
3. Angels: They tried to keep Bobby Abreu for $16 million over two years, and while he didn't accept, he said he'd like to return. But left fielder Juan Rivera is only an average bat in left field and they may let Vladimir Guerrero leave. The Angels are a great organization, but they seem to refrain from outbidding others for the biggest stars -- while they got Torii Hunter for $90 million before the '08 campaign, they failed to sign Teixeira and CC Sabathia before this season. They were outbid by a combined $81 million by the Yankees on Teixeira and CC (and missing out on CC has particularly come back to haunt them, as he has logged two wins against the Halos in the ALCS).
4. Mets: The last time the Mets were a backup plan to the Yankees for an outfielder was when they got Beltran, who so wanted to go to the Bronx he offered to do so for $98 million -- which was $21 million less than the Mets offered him. Holliday is said to be preferred by Mets people to Bay as a gung-ho clubhouse presence and a little better bat.
5. Red Sox: Their biggest mistake last winter was letting Teixeira go to the Yankees, and now with Bay a free agent, they are going to need to sign at least one big bat (and two if they want to match the Yankees' lineup). They could also chase Adrian Gonzalez or even take a peek at Abreu, who fits their hitting profile.
6. Cardinals: Holliday absolutely tore it up in St. Louis, and manager Tony La Russa is a major supporter. They say they are going to go hard for Holliday, but they also understand they won't be the high bidder. Looks like a long shot today.
7. Giants: GM Brian Sabean's summer pickups of Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko barely made a ripple. They knew they needed a big bat, but understood they wouldn't be able to pry away Holliday from the rival cross-Bay A's. A perfect fit, except that their park is a neutralizer for right-handed power.
8. Braves: Word is, they seek power from a corner spot, and they know Holliday's done his best work as a National Leaguer. The Braves rebuilt their rotation last winter. Now it's time to work on the offense.
9. Mariners: They have the money and could use the power. They once gave big contracts to Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre. But they may be in over their heads here. What's more, they need to save their shekels for King Felix.
10. Field: Orioles and Nats tried for Teixeira. Cubs could take a run if they can unload Alfonso Soriano (good luck with that).
Manny: Not worried, and apparently very clean
Manny Ramirez was lying back on his chair, his feet up on an adjacent chair, his head back and a look of total relaxation on his face. If anyone was a picture of peace, he was it.
Yet, the writers from Los Angeles were worried.
"Do you sense any desperation?" one asked.
"It's just baseball, you know," Manny said.
"No, life is good," Manny said.
Why even ask?
When it comes to pressure, it's pretty obvious Ramirez ranks somewhere between impervious and oblivious. Ramirez doesn't even necessarily give the impression he knows what's happening in the series, and it should have shocked no one when he revealed that he was showering when Jimmy Rollins hit the game-winning double in Game 4. "When I came out, everyone was turning the TVs off," he said.
The only surprise was that he definitely sensed he revealed too much about his whereabouts when a follow-up questioner sounded stunned while asking him to repeat that.
"I don't want to talk about that," Manny said. "Next question."
Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who always seems to have the perfect answer scripted in his head before the question comes, explained later that "Manny has so much confidence" in the team, and is "such a cool customer." That's surely part of it, anyway.
Torre also said Manny's frequently in street clothes for the congratulatory handshakes. "It's nothing different than he's done before," said Torre, before allowing, "The way it turned out, it probably doesn't look too good."
No it doesn't. But in the end, it's fair to say the relaxation mode works for him.
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