Halladay talk likely to top winter meetings bill; more notes (cont.)
Around the majors
The Red Sox remain interested in Marco Scutaro at shortstop. Scutaro told his hometown Venezuelan paper Diario Panorama that the Red Sox, Rangers, Mariners and Dodgers all have shown interest -- although some of those teams might be looking at him for another position (and you have to wonder whether L.A. can afford it, based on what's happening with them so far this winter.) Dustin Pedroia's comments to Peter Gammons showing strong interest in switching to shortstop were interesting, and it can't be ruled out as a possibility. But it still seems much more likely that Boston acquires a shortstop (Scutaro or Adam Everett are possibilities).
The Red Sox were wise to insist on retaining the right to offer arbitration to Billy Wagner, as they will now receive a draft choice with Wagner immediately agreeing to a one-year, $7 million deal with the Braves, who quickly solved their closer issue.
The most shocking call on the day teams had to decide whether to offer their free agents arbitration had to be the Dodgers not offering it to steady starter Randy Wolf (11-7, 1.10 WHIP). That could be an indication where L.A. finances stand. Anyone who thought they'd get into the Halladay talks must have been dreaming. This could enhance Wolf's value, though. The Mets, Brewers and Phillies are among teams believed to have some interest.
The system for free-agent compensation still isn't fair to non-closing relievers, who are deemed not valuable enough by most teams to consider losing a draft choice over. At least this time many of the solid middle relievers who are Type A free agents weren't offered arbitration, such as Darren Oliver and Octavio Dotel. But Rafael Betancourt is one middle reliever who was offered arbitration and could suffer the consequences.
Jermaine Dye has drawn interest from the Rangers, Giants, Cardinals, Braves and Yankees -- though the Yankees' interest is dependent on other options falling through. The Red Sox, Angels and Cubs are seen as other, somewhat-less-likely possibilities for Dye. Dye's 164 home runs are the most by an AL outfielder over the last five years (and the third-most by any AL player, behind only Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz).
It makes sense for Texas to have offered Ivan Rodriguez salary arbitration. They'd take him back, but they also know there's a good chance he won't accept. His base salary was $1.5 million last year. The Giants, Mets (though Bengie Molina's their top choice) and Royals have interest in him.
The Yankees are still hoping to re-sign Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon and perhaps Hideki Matsui after declining arbitration.
The Yankees deny they are shopping Nick Swisher. But Yankees people also say only a few remain untouchable -- A-Rod, SI Sportsman of the Year Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, etc.
Brian Schneider (.218) was more popular as a free agent than one might imagine. The Royals were trying hard for him before the Phillies swooped in with a two-year deal.
Joe Crede is drawing interest from at least the Orioles and Astros.
One GM said he thinks Rich Harden, who's about as talented as they come, should have to settle for "a series of one-year deals," considering his injury history.
Dennis Gilbert, who has emerged as the front-runner to buy the Texas Rangers, would become the second former agent to run a franchise, following Jeff Moorad, who's the Padres owner after breaking in as the Diamondbacks' managing partner. Gilbert is known throughout baseball circles for his Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for scouts in need. (Scouts generally don't make as much as successful agents.)
The Tim Lincecum arbitration case should be fascinating. While the record for a first-year arbitration-eligible starting pitcher is $4.35 million for Dontrelle Willis (coming off 22 wins) and any pitcher is $6.25 million for Jonathan Papelbon, Lincecum could argue under the "special accomplishments" clause that he can compare himself to any player, regardless of service time, meaning he could use the $23 million of Sabathia and Santana as the comp (word is, it's being considered). A safer bet for Lincecum, who made $650,000 this year in winning his second straight Cy Young Award, might be to hitch himself to four-year pitchers Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez, who will get sizable raises to maybe $9 million apiece for excellent, yet "inferior" seasons. This is a similar approach Ryan Howard used to win his case for $10 million: he focused on Matt Holliday at $9.5M and Miguel Cabrera at $11.4M, and placed himself smack-dab in the middle of the two players one class ahead. However, by trotting out $23 million, Lincecum could at least put a major scare into the Giants and force them into compromise. Because you never know how an arbitrator will rule, the rules do say he can compare himself to anyone, and he's been better than anyone else the last two years.
MLB Truth & Rumors