|Pitching prize: Santana the hot topic as winter meetings approach|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 01 December 2007 11:13|
Trade talks involving the Minnesota Twins ace - and several other stars - figure to heat up when the annual swap meet begins Monday in Nashville, Tenn. Miguel Cabrera, Andruw Jones and Miguel Tejada also might be on the move as teams try to land the coveted offseason acquisitions that could key a future playoff run.
Want to play ``The Price Is Right'' or maybe ``Deal or No Deal''? Forget about funnymen Drew Carey and Howie Mandel, bring on Billy Beane, Omar Minaya and the rest of baseball's freewheeling general managers.
``Part of the winter meetings is to draw interest to the sport in the offseason,'' said Beane, Oakland's thrifty GM. ``The activity sometimes disappoints, but the scuttlebutt never fails.''
For major league executives, it's a chance to meet face-to-face with agents, and each other, instead of running up the phone bill even more.
For fans all over the country, it's a time to click compulsively around the Internet while tracking the latest rumors, proposals and contract offers. A scratch-that-itch baseball fix in early December.
This year's Music City bazaar will be held at the cavernous Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. With all the trade talk already this fall, San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean figures it could turn into an old-time winter meeting, with GMs discussing deals into the wee hours of the morning.
``I hope so, if everybody can find their way back and forth in the lobby,'' he said. ``There's more conversation than I've experienced in a long while on the trade front.''
The Giants are looking for a big bat to replace Barry Bonds. Minaya's New York Mets need a proven starting pitcher. Both teams in Los Angeles, the Dodgers and Angels, want to find a steady third baseman.
Meanwhile, the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and their biggest rivals, the New York Yankees, appear to be jockeying for Santana's services. A blockbuster deal could shift the balance of power in the American League for years to come.
The Twins are fielding trade offers for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who can become a free agent after next season. The Dodgers, Angels and Mets also are thought to be interested.
``Our first choice is to sign him,'' new Twins GM Bill Smith said recently, though that could be a long shot.
The sides reportedly are far apart in negotiations and Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, has been tight-lipped about the situation.
It would probably take an enticing package of major league-ready prospects to win Santana, who has a no-trade clause. Then, the new team would likely want to sign him to a multiyear deal, which could cost more than $100 million.
``It would probably be a complicated deal. There would be a lot of names involved,'' Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said.
Boston's trade bait includes young left-hander Jon Lester, right-hander Clay Buchholz and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankees have center fielder Melky Cabrera and three prized pitching prospects: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. The Dodgers and Angels also boast plenty of young talent.
The Mets would love to grab Santana, but Minaya insists he won't deal All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes. That could leave New York pursuing Dan Haren, Joe Blanton or Rich Harden from Oakland.
``It's also an issue of, some of these guys, I mean are you going to be able to sign them long term?'' Minaya said Thursday. ``There's only a few teams that have the ability.''
Minnesota already lost Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter to the Angels in free agency and traded promising pitcher Matt Garza to Tampa Bay as part of a six-player deal that sent outfielder Delmon Young to the Twins.
Orlando Cabrera, Jon Garland, Brad Lidge and Edgar Renteria are other established players who have already been traded this offseason.
``I'm sensing there's a lot of teams that are talking,'' Minaya said. ``Especially being a weak field in free agency, I think you're seeing a lot of conversations going on that would lead to some trades at the winter meetings.''
Other notable free agents include Jones, All-Star center fielder Aaron Rowand, oft-injured pitcher Bartolo Colon, third baseman Pedro Feliz, and right-handers Livan Hernandez and Carlos Silva.
As for Miguel Cabrera, he's been on the trading block since the GM meetings in early November. Angels owner Arte Moreno told MLB.com that twice he thought his team had reached a deal with Florida for the power-hitting third baseman, who is only 24. Moreno said the Marlins are looking for four big league players in return, including at least one pitcher.
Plus, he said, Cabrera figures to command $12 million or more in arbitration.
``You wonder if they really want to trade the player if you absolutely have to win the player in such a lopsided fashion,'' Sabean said. ``Maybe the deal isn't going to get done.''
The Hall of Fame could welcome at least one new member during the winter meetings, too. Voting results for managers, umpires and executives by the revamped Veterans Committee will be announced Monday in Nashville.
Marvin Miller, the 90-year-old former union head who led players to free-agent riches, and longtime NL umpire Doug Harvey came close to induction in recent elections.
Details about the next World Baseball Classic were expected to be announced as well. There could be a few changes in the participating countries, but probably not many.
AP Sports Writers Gregg Bell in Seattle, Dave Campbell in Minneapolis and Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.