Free agency bargains (cont.)
18. Lance Berkman. He has been overpaid the past few years but could be a bargain after a so-so season. Showed strong signs after returning from injury with the Yankees.
19. Bill Hall. Has versatility and power (18 homers last year). Boston seems to want him back after he became a bigger player than they wanted following their injury-riddled year.
20. Jeff Francis. Ultra-smart former ace was still working his way back last year (4-6, 5.00) from shoulder issues.
21. Jose Contreras. Seems to have found a home as a reliever in the National League. Very effective for both the Rockies and Phillies (6-4, 3.34) in relief roles after previously starring for the White Sox.
22. Rick Ankiel. Has the skills to be a star, but poor 2010 numbers (.232 batting average) should keep the price down.
23. Edgar Renteria. His $18.5 million, two-year deal looked like a miracle for agents Barry Meister and Jeff Lane, but Renteria was the biggest surprise World Series MVP ever. Will never get that kind of loot despite his incredible week.
24. Xavier Nady. The solid hitter gained more playing time once Mike Quade came aboard for the Cubs, but was limited by a crowded outfield. He's a year removed from his second elbow surgery, so perhaps he'll show improvement in 2011 after batting an uncharacteristic .256 this past season. He could always hit.
25. Javier Vazquez. He'll get back to business about finding a National League team.
26. Eric Hinske. He seems to be a good-luck charm, making the World Series with Boston, Tampa Bay and the Yankees before only reaching the first round last year with the Braves. He's a clutch hitter and a team player who would have had a big game-winner against the eventual champion Giants if not for poor Brooks Conrad and his fielding foibles.
27. Jeff Weaver. He was all-overpaid for years, but the Dodgers keep getting him on very reasonable deals lately, considering his productivity. Probably has so much money socked away that he's just happy to play at home (he's from Simi Valley, Calif.).
28. Yorvit Torrealba. After turning down a $5 million, two-year deal with the Rockies, he aided the Padres' cause at a much lower rate. Solid player who seems underrated.
29. Gabe Kapler. Solid fifth outfielder keeps coming back for more after previously retiring.
30. Craig Counsell. Has been a contributor to two World Series winners. Good team man and backup somehow finagled $2 million from the Brewers last year, but that seems unlikely again.
Sandy Alderson has been busy hiring, firing and interviewing folks in his first weeks as GM of the Mets, and so far we can draw these conclusions:
It helps to have been associated with Alderson's old A's teams. He has hired J.P. Ricciardi and is reportedly trying to lure Paul DePodesta. Can't really blame him too much as he's charged with putting together a front office on the fly after not being a GM since 1997, so it makes some sense to call upon the old gang. The casualties are friends of Omar Minaya, who are being fired or forced out. Can't imagine Minaya will want to re-join this team now, after Alderson showed so little interest in his guys. Also, what becomes of John Ricco, the well-respected assistant GM who was in on the interview process that identified Alderson (though he had a good head start with the endorsement of both Bud Selig and Fred Wilpon)?
The Mets may be skimping on players this year, but they are spending big on front-office imports. Ricciardi was lured after working one day in the Red Sox front office, and DePodesta is another former GM who was thought to be one of the highest-paid non-GMs in anyone's front office in San Diego.
It appears that Alderson's looking for a manager with some experience, as his outside interviews so far include Clint Hurdle and Don Wakamatsu (he's also interviewing well-regarded Red Sox coach DeMarlo Hale). But he's showing respect for uniformed Mets people by interviewing several, in addition to field coordinator Terry Collins, who has connections to several key figures, including DePodesta and Wilpon's childhood friend Sandy Koufax, and is believed to be at or near the top of Alderson's list, he's interviewing at least Bob Melvin, Chip Hale, Wally Backman and Dave Jauss from in-house.
Collins looks like an early managerial favorite due to his vast upper-level connections, but Melvin, Wakamatsu and Hurdle seem to fit the criteria, as well, and a Collins appointment won't necessarily be well-received, considering he has yet to make the playoffs in six previous seasons managing in the bigs with the Astros and Angels.
The Pirates are thought to be choosing between Hurdle and well-respected organization man Jeff Banister as their new manager. Hurdle was seen as the favorite, and someone close to him thought he would take the Pirates job if he didn't get the Mets' job, as Hurdle is "ever the optimist.''
The Pirates, by the way, seem active in early free-agent calls. They are believed to be showing interest in some surprising free agent prizes, such as Beltre. Whether this is because they are being encouraged to spend more by MLB isn't known.
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio at first wanted to hire Bobby Valentine but was talked out of it be people "outside the organization,'' Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reported. That seems very likely, as Attanasio was telling people that he wanted Valentine, then turned away from him after making calls. Instead, the Brewers hired untested Angels coach Ron Roenicke, who showed some humor in his press conference and was well-liked in Anaheim. Mike Scioscia, in addition to being an excellent Angels manager, is turning out a manager factory there, with Bud Black and Joe Maddon already succeeding in San Diego and Tampa.
The one-year deal in Florida for Edwin Rodriguez makes him quite possibly the longest-running interim in history. Marlins people seem to want to hire Ozzie Guillen, who was the third base coach previously, still lives in Miami and wasn't extended by the White Sox recently after he went to the press with his desire. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is said to still love Guillen, who is currently starring in a long-running South Side soap opera that includes GM Kenny Williams. But Guillen's contract expires after the 2011 season.
The Yankees were intent on putting on an early press release for top target Lee. They also want to keep their own stars Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, but there were early signs that the Jeter talks could take awhile. Jeter's agent, Casey Close, responded to Hal Steinbrenner's early claim that negotiations are all about winning by telling AOL FanHouse that baseball is a business, too. The Yankees can't claim that Jeter's 3,000-hit march (expected to be completed in June) isn't relevant, as they are contracted to pay Alex Rodriguez as much as $30 million based on potential home run milestones. The Jeter talks may not go quickly or easily, but it would be a shocker if they didn't work it out.
The Giants reportedly have told Pablo Sandoval that he risks being sent to the minors if he doesn't get in better shape. He is listed at 245, but that seems a tad generous (to the downside).
The Yankees will consider Gil Patterson for pitching coach after being denied permission to talk to their No. 1 choice, Don Cooper, by the White Sox. Cooper, a New York native, would have been a natural. But Chicago understandably wants to hold on to him.
Someone close to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said he runs "hot and cold'' on Adam Dunn. The Nationals reportedly made Dunn a three-year offer, and he wants to stay in the National League. But the Nats like defense, so it would surprise no one if they signed Carlos Pena instead, and let Dunn go to the Cubs or elsewhere. Dunn has told everyone who'll listen that he abhors the DH role, though, so some AL teams that could have interest, such as the White Sox and A's, are probably out of luck.
Hall-of-Famer-to-be Trevor Hoffman will come back to pitch if he can find a closer's job.
Funny that two straight years -- first Matsui, then Renteria -- the World Series MVP wasn't treated like royalty by the championship team. Matsui was allowed to go elsewhere, and Renteria's option wasn't picked up. Another reminder that baseball is indeed a business.