Baseball's Winter Meetings | Larry Stone's team-by-team analysis
A look at what each team might do at the winter meetings that began today in Nashville.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A look at what each team might do at the winter meetings that began today in Nashville:
The Angels, even after the signing of Torii Hunter, are still looking for a big bat to protect and team with Vlad Guerrero. That puts them on the track of Miguel Cabrera, or, as a fallback, Miguel Tejada. Their trade with the White Sox for Jon Garland gives them six solid starting pitchers, so they have some surplus to deal. The big question is whether new GM Tony Reagins will be more willing to trade the Angels’ impressive array of prospects than his predecessor, Bill Stoneman. Early indication is that the answer is a strong yes.
A’s GM Billy Beane is apparently giving serious consideration to blowing up the A’s roster to hasten a rebuilding program. If so, then virtually everyone is in play, up to and including ace pitcher Dan Haren. Others who could be dealt under such a scenario: Closer Huston Street and righty Joe Blanton, who has 30 wins the past two seasons. The A’s will be seeking lots of prospects in return. Even if the A’s choose to keep their nucleus, they will be trying to trade first baseman Dan Johnson, made expendable by the emergence of Daric Barton.
The Mariners will be after a starting pitcher or two, with Japan’s Hiroki Kuroda the top name on their list. They reportedly have an offer on the table to Kuroda, but are facing stiff competition from the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, in particular. The big question, of course, is how heavily the M’s plan to get involved with the Twins on Johan Santana, a pursuit that would not only require a package of prospects starting with Adam Jones, but also negotiations on a contract extension that will run upwards of $120 million. Meanwhile, the Mariners would no doubt be happy if they left Nashville without Richie Sexson and his $14 million contract.
The Rangers are especially keen on shoring up their outfield, and have already lost out on prime target Hunter. That puts Mike Cameron next on their wish list, with Boston’s Coco Crisp a possibility. They could also look at Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. The Rangers have a surplus of young catching, making Gerald Laird expendable — or, in a possible blockbuster, even Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Don’t be surprised if the Rangers bring back Eric Gagne to close after his disappointing detour to Boston.
Having lost out on Hunter, the White Sox are setting their sights on bringing Aaron Rowand back to Chicago. On the trade front, they are dangling shortstop Juan Uribe, made expendable by the acquisition of Orlando Cabrera from the Angels. Even though they’ve already dealt one starter (Garland), another — Jose Contreras — is available. Cleveland
Andy Marte was once a can’t-miss third-base prospect. Cliff Lee was once an 18-game winner. Now both are on the trade block, as could be outfielder David Dellucci, who has two years and $7.5 million remaining on his contract. That’s expensive for a platoon player. The Indians’ biggest need: a run-producing corner outfield bat. Think Jason Bay.
The Tigers need a reliever to replace setup man Joel Zumaya, out until at least midseason from shoulder surgery, and are in talks with LaTroy Hawkins. After re-signing Kenny Rogers, the Tigers are no longer in the market for a starter, it appears. Having already picked up outfielder Jacque Jones, look for the Tigers to be relatively quiet.
The Royals are focused on ex-Mariner Jose Guillen to fill an outfield spot. If they land him, they would possibly entertain offers for David DeJesus or Joey Gathright. The Royals are also in the mix for Kuroda. Their main selling point is new manager Trey Hillman, who just finished a highly successful stint at the helm of the Nippon Ham Fighters. The Royals are getting calls on Zack Greinke but would have to be overwhelmed to deal him.
New general manager Bill Smith will be the go-to guy in Nashville. He has two of the biggest trade chips in the majors: Santana and closer Joe Nathan. They need a center fielder, third baseman and young pitching. Smith has already showed a willingness to make a bold move, trading top pitching prospect Matt Garza in a deal that netted outfielder Delmon Young.
New team president Andy MacPhail seems keen on re-making the Orioles — and not a second too soon. Apparently, everyone is fair game, up to and including Tejada and left-hander Erik Bedard. They should be an intriguing team to watch in Nashville.
As if they weren’t loaded enough, the Red Sox are making an all-out blitz for Santana. But it would come at a high cost in young talent, starting with Tacoma’s Jon Lester. A deal with the Twins could hinge on whether they include Jacoby Ellsbury with Lester in the package. They’d much prefer to part with Crisp. If Santana falls through, the Sox could make a play for Oakland’s Haren.
The Red Sox are in on Santana; so naturally, the Yankees are, too. They apparently will deal Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera, but are holding Joba Chamberlain as an untouchable. Just like Boston, they’ll pounce on Haren if Santana escapes.
The Rays have already made a blockbuster trade this week, picking up right-hander Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett for Young. They also cut a deal with reliever Troy Percival, filling another need. But with a 6.16 bullpen ERA last year, worst in the majors, the Rays could use more relief help. Rumors persist that Scott Kazmir is on the block, but they’d have to be blown away.
The Jays will explore deals for injury-prone A.J. Burnett, who has three years left on his contract but can opt out after next season. The Jays are trying to move outfielder Reed Johnson, but after he dropped from .319-12-49 to .236-2-14, good luck getting much back. Alex Rios is a major chip the Jays could play in any blockbuster.
The D-Backs need pitching, but they don’t have much money to spend and will stay away from the big-ticket items. Their prime commodity is young talent, including a surplus of outfielders — namely, Carlos Quentin, Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra, any of whom could be dealt for pitching. Corner infielder Chad Tracy was on the trade block but his future is in doubt after developing a blood clot in his right leg.
The defending NL champions don’t figure to be too active, but Brian Fuentes, who lost his job as closer, is probably available. They also figure to shop Jeff Baker and Cory Sullivan.
The Dodgers have a tremendous amount of young talent. How they deal with it is one of the great mysteries of this offseason. They have the chips to make strong plays for either Santana or Miguel Cabrera, including pitcher Chad Billingsley, first baseman James Loney, third baseman Andy LaRoche, outfielder Matt Kemp and pitching prospects Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald. The Dodgers are also eyeing Baltimore’s Bedard.
The Padres are looking for a center fielder, which could result in Cameron returning to the Padres. Considering Kevin Towers’ affinity for making deals with Seattle, it wouldn’t be surprising if Jeremy Reed headed south. The Padres also need a corner outfielder but filled a need in the rotation by signing left-hander Randy Wolf. Possible trade chips include third base prospect Chase Headley or third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.
With Barry Bonds gone, the Giants need a big run producer at third base, first base or in the outfield. Rest assured that the Mariners, in their efforts to dump Sexson and his $14 million contract, will make one of their first calls to Giants GM Brian Sabean. Sabean is aiming higher, however, with Miguel Cabrera his top target. There has been speculation that the Giants would be willing to deal one of their young pitching studs, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, in the right deal (namely, Cabrera), but Sabean would have to be blown away to do that.
The Cubs are intent on signing Japanese center fielder Kosuke Fukudome and are considered the favorite to do so. Having re-signed Kerry Wood, they could well trade closer Ryan Dempster. One player to watch closely is Mark Prior, once considered the future of the organization. Now he is coming off shoulder surgery and is one year away from free agency. The Cubs will probably try to trade him. They might not even not tender him a contract, which would make Prior a free agent.
The Reds have a surplus of outfielders, with former No. 1 draft pick Jay Bruce ready to take over in center field. That makes Josh Hamilton, Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper available for trades. Perhaps Ken Griffey Jr., too, but he’s seven homers shy of 600, and the Reds would like to see him reach that milestone for them. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion might be available in the right deal (ie., one that brings in pitching, their top need).
The Astros need a quality No. 2 starter behind Roy Oswalt, and might need a closer to replace Brad Lidge, if they decide their in-house options aren’t satisfactory. They signed Kazuo Matsui to play second base.
The Brewers could offer up some starting pitching (mediocre though it is), from a group that includes Chris Capuano, Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas. There have been rumblings about ace Ben Sheets being available, but GM Doug Melvin would have to be blown over. The Brewers’ bullpen has taken a hit this winter, losing Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink to free agency. They’re looking for help, and are on the verge of landing David Riske, and have inquired about Octavio Dotel and Eric Gagne.
New general manager Neal Huntington will be trying to fix the bungling of fired GM David Littlefield, starting with the inexplicable acquisition of Matt Morris at the trade deadline. Morris is very available, as are useful relievers such as Damaso Marte, John Grabow and Salomon Torres. One name to watch is Bay, who had a down season in 2007 but is still a formidable offensive player. The Pirates would have to be overwhelmed to trade Bay, but many executives believe he’ll be in play in Nashville.
The Cardinals are trying to trade third baseman Scott Rolen, who has a long-standing feud with manager Tony La Russa. But he is owed $36 million for the next three years and is coming off left shoulder surgery, so teams aren’t flocking to new GM John Mozeliak.
With Andruw Jones leaving via free agency, and prime prospect Jordan Schafer probably a year or two away, the Braves are in the market for a veteran center fielder, as well as a left-handed reliever. After bringing back Tom Glavine, the Braves have considerable starting pitching depth and might be able to dangle one of them as trade fodder. It would help if Mike Hampton made it through the winter without an injury (oops, too late).
The Marlins’ winter will be predicated by potential deals for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. It appears that they are more motivated to trade Cabrera, probably because Willis’ poor showing the past two seasons has greatly reduced his trade value. Look for them to load up on young, cheap talent, as usual.
The Mets need a staff ace, and are going hard after Santana. But they already traded away outfielder Lastings Milledge to Washington, and the rest of the young talent they are offering the Twins — young outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitching prospects Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey — aren’t bringing much excitement. GM Omar Minaya so far is unwilling to include “untouchable” outfield prospect Fernando Martinez or All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes.
The Phillies have already made a big splash in acquiring closer Lidge, and might not make any more major moves. But they’ve reportedly had preliminary trade talks with Baltimore about third baseman Melvin Mora, and have expressed interest in Kuroda.
Jim Bowden didn’t wait until the winter meetings to make a major trade, acquiring outfielder Milledge from the Mets on Friday. One trade chip at his disposal is closer Chad Cordero, but his market value is down after a so-so season. Another reliever who could be dealt is workhorse Jon Rauch, who has 85-plus appearances and 85-plus innings in each of the past two seasons. Bowden can be counted on to make aggressive, outside-the-box moves.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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