SI.com's Jon Heyman reports all week long from baseball's general manager meetings in Dana Point, California.
Multitalented free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal is said to be looking for a four-year deal, which is surely more than the Dodgers want to offer. Furcal, 31, has been productive after signing a $40-million, three-year deal after the 2005 season but suffered a back injury early this season that limited him to 36 games. Furcal hit .357 for the year, and he looked healthy when he returned to play in the playoffs, but a source said the Dodgers were concerned after he took longer to return than was originally projected. The Tigers and Orioles seem like logical alternatives for Furcal.
One reason the Dodgers haven't yet made their official offer for superstar free-agent outfielder Manny Ramirez is that his agent, Scott Boras, apparently isn't fielding offers that aren't in the ballpark of the five or six years that Manny wants.
As SI.com reported two weeks ago, the Dodgers intended to offer Ramirez a short-term deal at a high annual salary, perhaps $55-$60 million for two years. (Dodgers GM Ned Colletti confirmed their interest in a shorter deal here the other day and also expressed his belief that they any possible deal would take time.)
But Boras pointed out that he and Colletti negotiated a five-year deal for Barry Bonds back in 2001 when Colletti was the Giants' assistant GM, when Bonds was 37 years old (Ramirez is 36). Ramirez has said publicly that he wants a six-year deal (but probably would take five, or perhaps four) after hitting .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs for the Dodgers. It apepars that if the Dodgers don't change their stance, the Yankees and others (the Phillies and Blue Jays are possibly interested) may battle for Ramirez without them.
The Rangers have fielded interest in one or more of their many catchers from the Marlins, Reds, Astros, Rangers, Royals and Red Sox. Texas has an extreme catching glut, with Gerald Laird, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Max Ramirez and Taylor Teagarden. Texas, which has plenty of offense, is hoping to deal one of them to find some pitching help. It's quite a melange of catching choices. Laird's the most experienced and accomplished, Teagarden is excellent defensively and Saltalamacchia should be a hitting star.
A.J. Burnett's emergence onto the free-agent market following his decision to opt out of the remaining two years on his Blue Jays contract is expected to create another classic Yankees-Boston battle. Burnett is both a Yankee killer and a Red Sox killer. He is 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA vs. Boston lifetime, and 6-3 with a 2.43 ERA vs. the Yankees. If he signs with either team, he will miss one of his favorite pushovers. The Maryland native also will likely draw interest from the Orioles and Nationals, which would be more convenient for him. And the Jays also haven't completely give up, either. Burnett's decision to opt out of the remaining two years and $24 million on his contract isn't a reflection on them. But it may be tough to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox here.
The Nationals' attempts to acquire a slew of superstars apparently is serious. A Nationals person said they have interest in Rockies star outfielder Matt Holliday plus free agents Mark Teixeira, Adam Dunn and A.J. Burnett. "They're trying to become the new Detroit,'' one baseball person said, referring to the Tigers' quick turnaround that was ignited by the signings of catcher Ivan Rodriguez before the 2004 season and Kenny Rogers before 2005 and Magglio Ordonez one year later. Still, there is legitimate skepticism here as to whether big-time free agents would join a 100-loss team, especially Teixeira or Burnett, who will have several other monster offers awaiting them. One person said the team-owning Lerners are about to become more involved to try to remake the team with the puniest broadcast numbers in baseball history.
While the Yankees are expected to make the highest offer for superstar free agent pitcher CC Sabathia, and money normally talks at this time, at least two prominent agents (not his own agents) predicted Sabathia would pick either of the two Los Angeles teams. Sabathia is believed to prefer going home to California (from Vallejo, in Northern California). However, he'd likely have to forego tens of millions of dollars to play in his home state. The Yankees are going to beat Johan Santana's $137.5-million offer, as reported here on Tuesday.
Andy Pettitte told Houston's KRIV-TV that he'd like to come back and pitch for the Yankees. The Yankees, who have several holes in their rotation, appear to have some interest in bringing him back, though they don't seem as enthusiastic as in past years. One Yankees person called Pettitte a "possible No. 5 starter,'' which shows you how far Pettitte has fallen in their eyes. Historically a strong finisher, Pettitte went 4-7 in the second half last year when opposing batters hit .302 against him.
Barry Axelrod, Jake Peavy's agent, said he would be at the GM meetings if he felt there was a strong chance his client was about to be traded. But Axelrod isn't here. And he had no plans to come.
But while there isn't anything imminent, Axelrod suggested Peavy is getting used to the idea of going. "Jake's getting to the point where he's thinking, 'If they have decided they're better off without me, then I don't want to be there.'" Axelrod told SI.com. "It's tough to assert your right to stay if they feel they'd be better off elsewhere.''
But Axelrod emphasized that that doesn't mean Peavy, who has full no-trade powers for two years, will be a pushover. "He still has a very strong preference for the National League," Axelrod said. "That doesn't totally negate the possibility of the American League. If all else fails, and the Padres are really going South on payroll, there will be careful consideration given (to some AL teams."
Padres GM Kevin Towers suggested he thought Peavy would accept the Angels and Yankees in the AL in addition to the preferred Braves, Astros, Cardinals, Dodgers and Cubs in the NL. But Axelrod emphasized that the NL teams are still atop Peavy's list, and while the Angels and Yankees could be acceptable under some circumstances, a trade -- especially with the Yankees -- might lead to more demands to financially enhance his current contract, which called for a $53-million, three-year extension. "He's already sacrificed by taking an under-market deal to stay in San Diego, and I don't know why he should have to sacrifice again,'' Axelrod said. 'He shouldn't have to sacrifice again. He should be made whole.''
So besides all the other difficulties in dealing a superstar -- Towers wants someone young for the rotation and a middle infielder and doesn't sugarcoat his insistence on a haul -- a trade to the Yankees probably would have to come with a renegotiation of terms, another major hurdle to a difficult deal.
False Alarm on Holliday Appearance
Looks like a false alarm on Matt Holliday and his appearance here at the GM meetings. He lives and trains in the area now, and apparently he just wanted to check out agent Scott Boras' set-up here at the GM meetings. Still, he created quite a stir in the lobby.
Odd Move by the Champs
One reason Charlie Manuel came all this way out with new Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was to be there when they fired third-base coach Steve Smith. Amaro didn't say why the unusual call was made to fire a coach on a World Series champ. The one thing known about Smith is that he was among the leaders in fines for a variety of in-game disputes.
ChiSox Dealing Vazquez?
A White Sox source declined to characterize Javier Vazquez as being on the trading block. But the team does appear to be taking offers on Vazquez, who came up small in big games late last year. One possibility could be the Mets. GM Omar Minaya had Vazquez in Montreal and remains a fan. The Mets may need to replace free agent starter Oliver Perez, as the Mets would like to keep Perez to a three-year deal, which seems like a long shot.
Angels GM: "We'll Act Responsibly"
Angels GM Tony Reagins agreed to what was written here, that they would not rule out the idea of signing two "high end free agents," which means CC Sabatahia and their own Mark Teixeira. But, Reagins also stressed, "We're going to act responsibly and reasonably."
Record-breaking closer Francisco Rodriguez looks more and more like a back burner issue for the Angels, who have multiple options to replace him (Scot Shields and Jose Arredondo, among others).
Reagins said he felt it was an advantage that Teixeira's agent -- Boras -- is at most every Angels game, allowing both sides to get a feel for where they stand: in this case, they appear to love each other. However, Angels sources suggest they won't necessarily adhere to Boras' timetable if it takes too long for their taste.
The Rockies' Matt Holliday made a surprise appearance at the GM meetings, raising curiosity among onlookers. An appearance by any major leaguer at these meetings is very rare, and Holliday's appearance is sure to raise speculation about possible deals. The Rockies have Holliday on the trading block, but little is known about possible suitors. The Yankees and Nationals are two known interested teams.
Controversial outfielder Milton Bradley will be headed for the free-agent market after he and the Rangers failed to work out a deal for him to stay. Bradley put together his best season, posting a .436 on-base percentage and .563 slugging percentage for a .999 OPS.
The Rangers were interested in bringing him back on a short-term deal. But Bradley will shoot to take advantage of his big "platform" season. He is expected to seek a four-year deal now more than $10 million a year, a big number for someone with his history of troubles.
Bradley thrived in Texas under manager Ron Washington and may be taking a chance to leaving Washington and a quiet market behind. Considering his injury history, he'd also be wise to stay in the American League.
The Yankees announced they were declining options on the contracts of Jason Giambi and Carl Pavano. No surprise there. Giambi's option was for $21 million, and Pavano did nothing but embarrass himself and the organization as a Yankee.
While the Nats are involved with several big players, some believe they have little chance to land any of the big ship -- with, one exception. "I could see them getting Adam Dunn, but only if they overpay,'' one competing GM said.
The Nats are in the mix for Rockies star outfielder Matt Holliday plus free agents Mark Teixeira and Dunn and potential free agent A.J. Burnett, who has opted out of his Blue Jays contract.
According to the competing GM, their pursuit of Holliday is a particular pipedream. "They don't have the players. Who are they going to trade? Many of their guys are broken down."
The lowly Washington Nationals are aiming to make a surprise splash this winter and have been connected to talks involving star outfielder Matt Holliday, star first baseman Mark Teixeira and possibly star pitcher A.J. Burnett, SI.com has learned.
"We might surprise some people,'' a Nationals person said.
The Nationals have been linked by baseball people to talks for star free-agent first baseman Teixeira, who also is being pursued by the Yankees, Angels and several other teams. The Nationals, who finished 59-103 in 2008, are also believed to have interest in Burnett, who's very likely to opt out of his Blue Jays contract after meeting with that team Tuesday afternoon.
The Nationals are also said to have keen interest in Holliday, the Rockies outfielder who's on the trading block. It would seem to be an odd fit, though, as Holliday has only one year to go before he can become a free agent.
Star pitcher A.J. Burnett's agent Darek Braunecker will give the Blue Jays a final chance to re-sign Burnett in a meeting Tuesday afternoon, but barring an unexpected and big breakthrough, Burnett is expected to opt out of his contract and put himself into the free agent game by the end of the day.
As a free agent, Burnett is expected to draw major interest from the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and possibly even the Nationals, among others.
Burnett has an option to vacate the remaining two years on his five-year, $55-million Blue Jays contract. He went 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA and 231 strikeouts with Toronto and should command a salary of $15 million or more annually.
Braunecker disputed the notion that Burnett would prefer not to play in New York. "That perception couldn't be further from the truth,'' said the agent.
The quick-striking and creative Angels have put their star first baseman Mark Teixeira plus superstar free-agent CC Sabathia atop their wish list and haven't ruled out an attempt to try to sign both mega-stars, even ahead of their own record-breaking closer Francisco Rodriguez.
The Angels have not hid their love of Teixeira and are expected to make an offer to him before their exclusive negotiating period expires Nov. 14.
Both Teixeira and Sabathia could possibly command close to $150 million. It isn't known how close the Angels can come to those marks, but they have the contracts of Garrett Anderson and possibly Rodriguez coming off their books, aiding their efforts.
The Angels, aggressive yet prudent, don't expect to be able to match the Yankees dollar for dollar on Sabathia but will instead hope that a big (but not quite as big as the Yankees) number combined with his California roots can trump the Yankees' expected mega-offer. The Angels are aiming to avoid a dramatic increase in their $120-million payroll, so they might have to consider cuts in other areas if there's a possibility to sign both big free-agent stars.
The Angels have some interest in bringing back K-Rod but things would "have to line up right'' for that to occur, meaning they'd have to receive rejections from at least one of their two top targets. The Angels could possibly try to replace K-Rod with veteran Scot Shields or emerging talent Jose Arredondo.
Rodriguez saved a record 62 games last year and is expected to draw interest from the Mets and many others at a time that relief pitching is in great demand. Rordriguez's agent, Paul Kinzer, has indicated they believe K-Rod is a $75-million player on a five-year deal, at least. The Angels offered about $33 million over three years this past spring for him, showing the likely gap that exists.
The Angels are a team that has a rep for moving fast. Last year, they signed Torii Hunter for $90 million after a fateful and productive meeting at a Del Taco before anyone even find out they had interest. Their history suggests they are unlikely to wait around for months for answers.
The Yankees are exploring a possible bid for free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson, and are intrigued enough by Hudson's talent and reputation as an excellent clubhouse influence to bat around the possibilities of trading talented young second baseman Robinson Cano or even signing Hudson with the idea of moving him to centerfield.
The Yankees' interest in Hudson could incite a crosstown battle with the Mets, who are weighing the idea of Hudson replacing Luis Castillo at second base for them.
The Yankees are finding the centerfield markets barren, and that even includes the trade market, which has led general manager Brian Cashman to consider some unusual possibilities for the position. There are no free-agent center fielders the Yankees consider viable to start for them, and Cashman is said to be having trouble finding trade possibilities, as well. It's believed the Yankees would have interest in the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, the Royals' David DeJesus or a few others, but no teams appear anxious to trade a young center fielder.
That has caused the Yankees to consider Hudson, who hit .305 with eight home runs for Arizona last season and is considered a great clubhouse guy and "high energy'' player, to play center field. The other possibility, of course, would be to trade Cano, the ultra-talented player whose stock fell last year.
The Yankees' first free-agent target is superstar pitcher CC Sabathia, but they are aiming to sign at least two high-end free-agent starters and will also consider A.J. Burnett (as soon as he opts out and becomes a free agent), Derek Lowe and perhaps Oliver Perez. Among position players, the Yankees are looking at Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez as well as Hudson.
Cano's struggles have led the Yankees to consider hiring as a major-league coach infield instructor Mick Kelleher, who's emerged as the leading candidate to replace fired third base coach Bobby Meacham. Kelleher, who has received high marks for his coaching in the minors, has the distinction of playing 11 seasons in the big leagues without ever hitting a home run.
The Yankees are still weighing how to utilize their coaches, and one possibility would be to make Kelleher the first base coach and move Tony Pena to third base. Kelleher is seen as a "Larry Bowa type.''