Winter Meetings plans for 10 teams that will be busy in Dallas
San Francisco wants to lock up All-Star pitchers Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum
The Cubs and Marlins aren't looking like serious players for Albert Pujols
Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington could actually be a good match in Boston
Thirty teams are headed to Dallas for the Winter Meetings this weekend, and just exactly that many have work to do, from the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, who have two holes on the infield, all the way down to the start-from-scratch Houston Astros, whose first order of business is to rebuild its front office. Everyone predicts a wild Winter Meetings, and here's what a select 10 teams are trying to do:
1. Giants. The goal all along has been to lock up their two great pitchers, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, which seems to have put a crimp in their other plans. They are perhaps the team that could most use Jose Reyes but they've sent signals many times that they aren't going to make that sort of expenditure on a shortstop. They tried for Willie Bloomquist, but are aiming a bit higher now, with the slick-fielding veteran Alex Gonzalez, --who's also receiving interest from the Cardinals and Brewers -- in their sights. They could look at an outfielder (maybe incumbent Carlos Beltran?) or even a first baseman. But the main thing is to get Lincecum and Cain under contract.
2. Cubs. Their dalliance with Albert Pujols logically can be nothing more than a leverage play, as this is a rebuilding team with a long way to go and a 31-year-old (at least) mega-star makes little sense. Prince Fielder is at least four years younger and has a connection to new manager Dale Sveum (who was Fielder's hitting coach with the Brewers), so he makes a bit more sense. Their biggest upcoming move could be a trade for their best pitcher, Matt Garza. New front office saviors Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are in a tough spot here. One saving grace: They know they can always bring back Cub lover Kerry Wood on an under-market contract.
3. Yankees. Locking up Freddy Garcia on a reasonable one-year deal buys them a bit of patience on the pitching front. They don't like the price tags on C.J. Wilson ($100 million) or Edwin Jackson and are a bit gun-shy when it comes to Japanese pitchers, so even if Yu Darvish posts (a source close to him said it's still more likely than not that he will, but there is growing skepticism in the game about this), they are far from a certainty to win the post. Perhaps more likely, they forge a trade for one of many available pitchers. There isn't necessarily a great match with the Braves, who seek a young outfielder and shortstop (the Yankees do have shortstop Eduardo Nu˝ez) plus more for Jair Jurrjens, so perhaps a deal for the White Sox' John Danks, who New York likes, might wind up making the most sense. The Yankees would also like a lefty reliever (they've looked at Mike Gonzalez) and bench help (Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez would be welcomed back). But they aren't rushing into anything at the moment.
4. Red Sox. They are showing patience when it comes to a replacement for departed closer Jonathan Papelbon. With so many viable closers still available, including Ryan Madson, Francisco Rodriguez, Francisco Cordero and many more, they are taking a wait-and-see approach. They also need starters (Mark Buehrle, who's being pursued by 14 teams, would work), an outfielder (preferably one who bats righthanded, so either Michael Cuddyer or a switch hitter like Beltran would play) and a DH (anyone besides the iconic David Ortiz would be a surprise).
5. Marlins. The Marlins reeled in their first fish, getting closer Heath Bell on a $27 million, three-year deal, but they are trying for more. They have offers out to Jose Reyes, Pujols and Buehrle, and seem to have a good feeling about Reyes, who received an offer from them that's said to be $75-to-90 million, depending upon the source. They do look like the favorite for him at the moment with the market surprisingly slow for the dynamic two-way player. The Marlins have considered bumping the offer to Reyes a bit, then putting a deadline on it in their hopes to cut off any late comers like the Tigers or Brewers. They are hoping to lure either Buehrle or Wilson, which would allow them to trade a starter, possibly Ricky Nolasco. The meeting with Pujols appears to be window dressing.
6. Tigers. They are one of many in on Buehrle, as they work aggressively, as usual. Buehrle would be a nice lefthanded complement to a strong all-righty rotation. But it appears that top-hitting Aramis Ramirez is a long shot. Their baseball people are believed to love Reyes as the answer to their leadoff issue, but they may have to go cheaper to fill that need. Juan Pierre or Coco Crisp could work, too.
7. Mets. They are waiting for Reyes to come back to them once he finishes his shopping and are still holding out some hope that a offer for five years and perhaps $80 million could possibly work on the homegrown star. Ultimately, Reyes will probably get $100 million or close to it elsewhere, meaning he'd have to swallow a major discount to return to the only team he has known. In the meantime, they are talking to some versatile infielders, such as Jack Wilson, as possible replacements. They need to restock the bullpen and add one or two relievers with the potential to close, so Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Jason Isringhausen and Brad Lidge could all hold some appeal. A's closer Andrew Bailey, a New York product, could also be of interest. The Mets are also hoping to add a young catch-and-throw guy to split time behind the plate with young holdover Josh Thole, and possibly an outfielder. They checked in with 39-year-old Jason Varitek but prefer someone slightly younger so 40-year-old Jorge Posada is not an option either despite his interest. They've looked into Rick Ankiel and a return of Scott Hairston for their outfield job.
8. White Sox. They could go either way, people who talk to them say, either rebuild or restock. But they do seem to be trying to find trades for some of their marketable veterans, such as Danks, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton. Their minor-league system is only slightly better than that of the crosstown rival Cubs, but a trade of Danks, Floyd and Quentin could replenish their ranks.
9. Orioles. They need to fortify their pitching ranks. They could move Jim Johnson into the rotation, but if they do, they'll need a closer. If not, they'll need veteran starters to go along with Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta. Manager Buck Showalter said he is encouraged by what he's seen this winter from Brian Matusz, who was simply dreadful last year, but solid veteran Jeremy Guthrie could be dangled. Owner Peter Angelos is a wild card. Showalter and Andy MacPhail probably reined him in in recent years since the team wasn't ready to win. It still isn't, but one big expenditure such as Fielder can't be ruled out.
10. Astros. They are off to a nice start on their GM search. It seems pretty clear that Andrew Friedman, the Houston product who's done a magnificent job in Tampa, is the first choice. The Astros will do whatever it takes to sign him but his friends say they think it's a long shot. Thad Levine, the well-regarded Rangers executive, would have made a nice pick, but he decided not to go for an interview. Bill Geivett, a bright under-the radar talent evaluator with the Rockies, is an astute early interview choice. Some other possibilities could include Allard Baird, John Coppolella, Logan White, DeJon Watson and Dan Jennings (though the Marlins have never let Jennings leave in the past).
New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine did a terrific job at his Red Sox press conference, and so did GM Ben Cherington. Valentine needed a push from club president Larry Lucchino, of course, but they got the right man. Cherington may not have realized it at first, but they actually make a great team, Cherington the serious, young GM and Valentine the experienced, passionate manager. The way it played out, it was clear Valentine fell in love with the idea of the job with the storied New England team (he's from Stamford, Conn.) so it's no surprise he only got a two-year guaranteed deal. That is becoming routine, anyway, in managerial hirings, as most people are excited to get one of the 30 coveted jobs.
The Twins are working on trying to bring back the beloved Michael Cuddyer.
There appears to be some progress toward a multiyear deal for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips.
Good job by new Orioles GM Dan Duquette to hire Lee Thomas, the former Phillies GM.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter recently went to dinner with Brian Roberts, who was plagued by concussion issues for all of 2011 and said Roberts is "in a good frame of mind.''
The Astros are shopping starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez and outfielder Carlos Lee.
The Giants, Cardinals and Brewers are in the hunt for slick-fielding shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
The Royals are off to a new start, acquiring Jonathan Sanchez in a trade with the Giants and signing Bruce Chen and Jonathan Broxton. Broxton will set up for closer Joakim Soria but gives the Royals a trade option at mid-year.
The Angels are going for Aramis Ramirez. The Brewers also have taken a look.
Buzzie Bavasi, the general manager for four World Series winners with the Dodgers, two division winners with the Angels and a founding partner with the Padres, deserves to be a slam dunk Hall of Famer when the Veteran Committee convenes later this month.