Versatile Figgins drawing plenty of interest, especially from Phillies
The Mets are also eyeing Figgins, while the Angels are trying to keep their 3B
The Rangers and Cubs are engaged in negotiations over troubled OF Bradley
The Mets are extremely interested in Matt Holliday, but there are a few issues
CHICAGO -- Beyond the "Big Three" free agents (Matt Holliday, John Lackey and Jason Bay), there's still some decent action going on here at the GM meetings. And if there's a fourth coveted free agent, it just might be versatile leadoff man Chone Figgins, who is drawing interest from some unexpected sources.
The two-time defending National League champion Phillies are said to be intent on pursuing Figgins hard as a potential replacement for Pedro Feliz, whose $5.5 million option was declined. Agents were jolted that a seemingly reasonable option such as that was rejected ("That's what we've come to? Pedro Feliz is a $4 million player?" asked one incredulously). But the reality is that the Phillies just want to do something different there, and Figgins, who remade himself into a .400 on-base percentage player, would represent an opposite approach.
One AL executive said the Phillies like the idea of putting Figgins at the top of their lineup with Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, in effect giving them three leadoff hitters before their big boppers -- though, they could also move down Victorino, as well.
Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who seems to have his hand in everything here as the Mets try to remake themselves, met late last night in the lobby of the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport with Figgins' agent, Seth Levinson. The Mets are obviously set at third base with David Wright, but Minaya said he envisions Figgins as a player who could fill multiple roles for them (possibly outfield or second base). Though Minaya continually tells people that their main goal is "to find someone to slug" and he also met with agent Scott Boras Tuesday night to discuss Holliday.
Angels GM Tony Reagins said they have been in talks for two months to try to keep Figgins as their third baseman and Reagins is "hopeful'' that something can get done, but the competition appears significant, especially from the Phillies. While Phillies GM Ruben Amaro doesn't absolutely rule out a return for Feliz at a lesser price, and Mark DeRosa, Placido Polanco and Adrian Beltre are among other third-base options, Amaro said, "That was the only spot where we felt we could make a change and do something different. Obviously, Chone is an outstanding athlete and you have to assume he has a lot of suitors. But we're keeping our eyes and ears open."
Should the Phillies sign Figgins -- who shocked folks by leading the AL with 101 walks this past season and is a much better on-base guy now than not only the free-swinging Feliz but longtime leadoff man Rollins, too -- the best lineup in the National League would become that much better.
Rangers and Cubs still talking about malcontent Milton
The Rangers are the one team obviously pursuing Milton Bradley and they've been engaged in a negotiation with the Cubs regarding how much money would have to be sent to Texas to cover the $21 million remaining on malcontent Milton's contract.
The cash-strapped Rangers, whose debt-ridden owner Tom Hicks is being forced to sell the team, could be willing to cover as much as $5 million over the two years left on Bradley's deal (they offered $8 million over one year for him to return last winter). But so far, the Cubs are holding out for more, perhaps shooting to recover as much as half the money left.
If the Cubs are to recover that much money, they shouldn't expect to get it from the Rangers, whose owner is in such financial straits that they need approval on all their moves from baseball's central office. "Before Rangers executives can go out to lunch, they have to check with (Bud) Selig," one league official joked.
The Rays appear to be one other obvious club willing to take Bradley, but they may be the one team even more cash-strapped than the Rangers and would want the Cubs to take back DH Pat Burrell, who'd have to be flipped elsewhere by the Cubs. The Giants, who remain desperate for offense and put up with Barry Bonds for a decade and a half, could be a third, richer alternative for Bradley.
Riggleman looks like leader for Nats managing job
Interim manager Jim Riggleman appears to be the favorite to get the Nationals job. It's somewhat unusual to have conducted a full search complete with several interviews and still return to hire the interim manager, but Nationals people always seemed very comfortable with Riggleman.
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo said they expect to make a managing hire this week. Rizzo declined to say Riggleman was getting the job, but signs are pointing that way. Turnaround expert Bobby Valentine is among others to have interviewed for the job.
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