Trades may be where action is (Cont.)
Beyond the big three (Holliday, Bay and Lackey), there's a lot going on this winter, and some of it may begin to happen here at the GM meetings, which run Monday-Wednesday at the Hilton O'Hare Airport. While the remainder of the free-agent market lacks panache -- the next-best players are over 35, including World Series heroes Johnny Damon, Andy Pettitte and Hideki Matsui -- a potentially sterling trade market may more than make up for it.
In fact, the trade market may be the most star-studded in years. Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Rays outfielder Carl Crawford, White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, Marlins power-hitting second baseman Dan Uggla and the Cubs' talented malcontent Milton Bradley all appear to be realistic candidates for trade. (Bradley is more than a candidate; with all that has gone on in Chicago with him, he's a trade necessity.)
Halladay, 31, would seem to be a likely bet to go somewhere, considering he's told the Blue Jays that he won't be staying once his contract expires after 2010, he's probably somewhat annoyed not to have been traded last summer, and the deposed GM J.P. Ricciardi appears to have lost his job partly for botching the fire sale of one of baseball's best pitchers. However, one GM opined that Halladay's value, while down from last summer because only one year remains on his contract, may not fall further from now to the summer trading season. If Halladay goes, the Red Sox, who are probably annoyed to have let the Yankees beat them for Teixeira and seen the Yankees match them with two titles this decade, look like a prime candidate. Last summer they offered Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, Nick Hagadone and a positional prospect, and while they no longer have Masterson and presumably wouldn't surrender as much now with Halladay a half-year closer to free agency, one way to close the gap on the Yankees would be to acquire Halladay, who's 18-6 lifetime vs. New York.
The Red Sox also look like a candidate to pursue the 27-year-old Gonzalez, whom they coveted last summer before settling on Victor Martinez. Speculation has run high that Boston's chances might have improved with the hiring of new GM Jed Hoyer in San Diego, and while the Padres have steep financial issues, Gonzalez's bargain $4.75 million average salary through 2011 won't break them. The Dodgers are yet another candidate for Gonzalez, and they could start a package with first baseman James Loney, although they know it's going to take a lot more than that.
The Rays got the ball rolling with last week's trade of defensively gifted second baseman Akinori Iwamura (the trade market is moving already, with J.J. Hardy moving from the Brewers to the Twins for Carlos Gomez, and Mark Teahen going from the Royals to the White Sox for Josh Fields and Chris Getz), and they have a potential outfield replacement ready for Crawford in Desmond Jennings. The White Sox will consider dealing Jenks, whose salary is about to increase through arbitration, while the budget-conscious Marlins seem likely to move Uggla, who's probably not worth the $7.5 million he'll get through arbitration, at least not to Florida.
The Mariners are sure to get calls on superstar pitcher Felix Hernandez -- or, as one GM put it, they'll get "hits'' -- since they at least listened to interested teams this summer. But Seattle is telling teams that they intend to spend the winter trying to lock up Hernandez. The Mariners failed in the past to hold on to former superstars Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson -- but they seem serious about doing what they can to keep the 23-year-old right-hander.
Around the majors
The Yankees have started to think about idea of re-signing both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Matsui's MVP performance in the World Series put him back into the picture after the Yankees spent the year assuming that they would keep the DH spot open next year to rotate in Jorge Posada and other older stars. Both players prefer to return, if possible.
The Brewers and Mariners have interest in Jarrod Washburn, a Wisconsin native who thrived in Seattle under pitching coach Rick Adair before going to Detroit at midseason. Washburn, 35, was hampered by knee trouble in Detroit, which won't re-sign him.
The Angels might re-sign Chone Figgins for third base. But if they don't, they are expected to consider Adrian Beltre.
Teahen will play third base for the White Sox, with Gordon Beckham, who looks like a future star, moving to second.
The Pirates are among the teams looking at Rick Ankiel, who won't return to St. Louis.
The Rangers will let Hank Blalock leave via free agency and plan to promote top slugging prospect Justin Smoak next year.
Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson showed that he's a team player by not complaining as Ronnie Belliard started ahead of him in the playoffs. But expect Hudson to leave Los Angeles.
Executives won't be shocked if the Red Sox look into trading aging stars David Ortiz and Mike Lowell. Although it's going to be difficult to move broken-down, mid-30s sluggers in this market, where free agents include Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Griffey, Troy Glaus, Carlos Delgado, Sheffield, Matt Stairs and Matsui.
The Mets have interest in a do-over in their decision to go for Oliver Perez over Randy Wolf on the free-agent market last winter and are expected to make a play for Wolf (though they are stuck with Perez).
The contract situations of Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd and manager Jim Tracy -- who may be the Executive of the Year and Manager of the Year, respectively -- still aren't settled at the start of the GM meetings. But O'Dowd is expected to be here as Rockies GM, which is probably a good sign.
Former major league pitcher Victor Zambrano is praying for the safe return of his mother, Elizabeth Mendez Zambrano, after she was kidnapped on Sunday morning at his farm a half hour from the central Venezuela city of Maracay. Venezuela has become a hotbed for kidnapping of relatives of famous ballplayers. Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba's son, Yorvit Jr., was kidnapped this summer, along with his uncle. Young Yorvit was return unharmed after a couple days.
MLB Truth & Rumors