GM meetings preview (cont.)
1. Red Sox. Beltre and V-Mart are free agents with no suggestion Boston is the favorite for either. The Tigers and Orioles are thought willing to go well above what the Red Sox offered during the season (about $20 million for two years) for Martinez, and Beltre is said to be getting a lot of early outside play, no surprise considering his excellent year (.321, 28 HRs, 102 RBIs) and a general lack of viable available third basemen.
2. Rays. Crawford and Soriano are certain to go as they have priced themselves out of attendance-challenged Tampa Bay's range. The Rays have hoped that Peņa, coming off a sub-.200 season with an affinity for the team and area (he has a home in Orlando), could decide to return. Benoit could be a candidate to close for them coming off his ridiculously good season (1.34 ERA, 0.68 WHIP), but he could easily leave, too. Choate and Balfour, two more key members of the bullpen, are also free agents, as are Gabe Kapler and Brad Hawpe.
3. Twins. They are no longer a winter weakling and finally have financial might. But they also have a bullpen full of free agents (Rauch, Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, Jesse Crain and Randy Flores) plus key players Pavano, Hudson and Thome who will be on the market.
4. White Sox. They seem to want to retain Konerko, a favorite of owner Jerry Reinsdorf. But they have to be considering Pierzynski, too, in that catching prospect Tyler Flowers has been inconsistent. J.J. Putz, Andruw Jones, Freddy Garcia, Mark Kotsay and Omar Vizquel are other free agents.
5. Yankees. All available for now are Jeter, Rivera and Pettitte, three of the Core Four. But it would be shocking if Jeter or Rivera left. Pettitte has suggested he'd probably retire if he had to make the decision now. But he's thought the same early in a few recent offseasons, and always eventually decided to come back. So don't count him out. Free agent Marcus Thames quietly had a nice year for them, but with Jorge Posada likely to take over the DH duties, there's probably no room for Berkman or the oft-injured Johnson.
1. De La Rosa. The talented lefty is only 29. While he's been inconsistent in his career, some team is bound to bend and give him three years, or even four or five, in the weakest starting pitcher market possibly ever.
2. Beltre. The early market is said to be hot for this two-way player, as his gamble to take a one-year deal last offseason paid off handsomely. The Angels and Red Sox look like early favorites, but what's to prevent, say, the Orioles, from making a big offer?
3. Garland. Maybe one of these days some executive is going to recognize his consistency and reward him with a three-year deal. If any year is going to be the year, this should be it. A safer bet than Pavano, for instance.
4. Benoit. He looks like a potential closer after his monster season in Tampa.
5. Dunn. Teams pay for power. While the Nationals seem to prefer defense at first, there will be plenty of teams lining up for Dunn, who has hit 354 home runs in his 10-year career, especially if he'll consent to DH. The White Sox, A's, Tigers and Cubs look like possibilities.
1. Bill Hall. He emerged as a valuable supersub in Boston's pressurized environment last year.
2. Matt Treanor. This solid catcher will be a manager someday, say the Texas execs.
3. Melvin Mora. From overpaid starter back to versatile utilityman, he can play a lot of positions.
4. Choate. Everyone needs a lefty specialist.
5. Feliciano. Everyone needs a lefty specialist with a rubber arm (he's led the National League in appearances three straight seasons).
The Pirates did well by getting Clint Hurdle to manage them, a hiring that will officially be announced Monday. They surely waited a long time to find their manager, but they seem to have found the perfect one for a longtime rebuilding team (18 straight losing seasons). The perennially positive Hurdle would have been a good choice for the Mets, too, who now appear almost certain to hire either Terry Collins or Bob Melvin. Hurdle was the one the Pirates wanted for a long time, while the Mets weren't willing to expedite their process for him despite what was said to be an excellent interview with them (there may have been concern that he only had one winning season in Colorado). Collins seems to have an edge with the Mets as the one with a longterm relationship with new Mets exec Paul DePodesta, who appears to wield a lot of power from his home in San Diego. Collins was a candidate nowhere else and hasn't managed in the majors since leaving the Angels in 1999 (though DePodesta was about to hire him when DePodesta was Dodgers GM before he himself was ousted), while Melvin has interviewed in several other places.
Chip Hale was said to have had an excellent interview with the Mets, but GM Sandy Alderson isn't seen as someone who'll hire a man with no major-league experience for New York. Hale is likely to return as the Mets' third base coach. Wally Backman, the people's choice to manage the Mets, also is said to have impressed Alderson. But Backman appears more likely to receive a minor-league promotion to manager at Class-A Port St. Lucie or possibly Double-A Binghamton if Tim Teufel, the former Met, is promoted to the major-league staff. Pitching coach Dan Warthen did a nice job and was promised a job in the organization, so he may well be back in the same role, with ex-Mets hero Howard Johnson more likely to be moved from major league hitting coach.
The Marlins have been looking at possible trades for Uggla after he failed to accept their $48-million, four-year offer. Outside execs said they considered it a reasonable offer. But Uggla is coming off his fourth straight 30-homer season, and no other second baseman has ever had four such seasons, never mind consecutively.
Among those up for the Hall of Fame, I would consider voting for Steve Garvey, Dave Concepcion, Ron Guidry, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin and Marvin Miller. Miller didn't exactly charm Veterans Committee member Jim Palmer by calling him an "anti-union sonuvabitch" on MurrayChass.com. But Miller's time is long overdue.