Notes from the GM meetings (cont.)
The Red Sox are known for being among the most aggressive procurers of talent, especially young talent. But Epstein said on Monday that they weren't necessarily motivated to try to match the Yankees' vaunted lineup, and pointed out that they still finished third in runs (behind the Yankees and Angels). Some see Halladay as a logical target for them instead.
The Red Sox are also thought to have made the best offer for Halladay last summer -- one Red Sox exec suggested they believe now that they may have actually offered "too much'' -- but many people here at the GM meetings point out that the price tag should be lower with Halladay a half year closer to free agency. Boston is believed to have offered Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, Nick Hagadone and a position player, but Masterson and Hagadone went to the Indians for Victor Martinez, which executives say could complicate things further.
It's no surprise that the Mets could join the Red Sox as teams looking at both Halladay and Gonzalez. Either would fill a major need. While they have considered finding a right-handed hitter to platoon with Daniel Murphy at first base, there aren't too many good right-handed platoon options. "We have to find a way to slug,'' Mets GM Omar Minaya said.
They could also use Halladay, as their pitching is "in shambles,'' one competing exec said. However, yet another exec said, "the price will be higher on Halladay than it was on [Johan] Santana,'' suggesting that the Mets would have to gut their system to have any chance. Similarly, a Padres person didn't rule out the Mets based on their thin farm system but conceded "it wouldn't be easy'' to make a deal with them for Gonzalez.
The Dodgers and Mariners were among other teams to take a look at Gonzalez in the summer. Meanwhile, the Phillies, Dodgers, Rangers, Brewers and Angels are among teams that could be candidates for Halladay, though the Dodgers and Rangers currently have ownership issues and it can't be known how they may impact their winter pursuits.
The National League champion Phillies will definitely take another look at Halladay, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, but of course will try to avoid the troubles they encountered in those talks last summer before they gave up and instead acquired Cliff Lee, who made a major impact. Last summer the Jays wanted top young pitchers J.A. Happ and Kyle Drabek, plus prospects Dominic Brown and Anthony Goss, according to the Inquirer. But if Philly believed that was too steep last summer, they aren't expected to consider such a deal this time, not with Halladay now only a year from free agency.
One superstar who isn't going anywhere soon is pitcher Felix Hernandez. Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said, "Felix is our property for two years, and we're looking forward to having him beyond that."
Yankees won't lack for Lackey
The Yankees are expected to make a play for top free-agent pitcher John Lackey, as was reported here on Monday, and there are indications that they are considering something in "the range of A.J. Burnett,'' which means $82.5 million over five years. Lackey is better than Burnett in many ways. But, considering a diminishing appetite for big contracts among other teams, one competing GM opined, "If the Yankees do that, they'll get him.''
Beyond Lackey plus outfielders Matt Holliday and Bay, the market is one of the weaker ones in years. Some very needy teams (i.e. the Mets) are generally unenthused about the market, especially from a starting pitching standpoint. "Some years are better than others,'' is the diplomatic way Mets GM Omar Minaya put it.
The starting pitching drop-off is steep after the 31-year-old Lackey. Some executives see a continuation of last year's market -- only worse. After some very good contracts to top players, some players were deeply disappointed by a lack of interest, especially late.
While baseball is thriving, most teams don't seem anxious to spend big bucks on non-superstar players.
"It's going to be a very, very, very bad market,'' one GM said. "The top guys will get paid -- Lackey will get paid, Bay will get paid, Holliday will get paid. The other guys will take a hit.''
Several more free agents in the "second tier'' will do fine, too, said another executive, as the teams that lose out for the big three free agents, will look to compensate. But beyond that next group, it could be a tight market for the bulk of the free agents.
Mets hesitant on Lackey, others
The Mets, who are in dire need of at least one more starting pitcher, really don't seem to like the free-agent pitching list. One competing exec said, "They should go for Lackey.'' But Mets people are suggesting that they are leery of Lackey's alleged arm issues (though this doesn't seem to be a major issue to others).
The Mets do seem like Joel Pineiro -- a little, anyway. They have to be impressed by his recent performance, although they don't seem anxious to invest $30 million for three years on a pitcher who was released two years ago.
But, as one competing exec said of Pineiro, 31, "He's a completely different pitcher than he used to be. If you look at him and Oliver Perez, he's a much better investment than Perez.''
They also like Randy Wolf. They made a mistake to give Perez $36 million over three years rather than sign Wolf last winter, and they know that. So Wolf, 33, seems to be a possibility. But one Mets person wondered whether they missed their chance to get Wolf at a price "by a year or two.''
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