The Pedro Martinez Sweepstakes kicks off in earnest today when he throws for at least four teams: the Cubs, Rays, Angels and Yankees. The workout will take place down in the Dominican, where he's been working out and waiting for the appropriate deal.
As we know by now, he had been hoping to get a pro-rated portion of a $5-million annual salary (the original request was for between "Brad Penny" and "Randy Johnson," meaning between $5 million and $8 million), and while that might be tough, Martinez appears to have a decent chance to get a job. Though no team publicly appeared anxious to sign him, and none of the apparent contenders seem to have an overwhelming need for a starter, folks familiar with the situation say they expect something to happen soon.
Here's my take on which teams are most likely to sign Martinez now:
1. Cubs. Pedro, himself, mentioned the Cubs and Rays as the ones pursuing him, and that jibes with what I'd heard last week, as well. The Cubs' real issue has been a lack of hitting, but perhaps Pedro could provide some sort of spark for one of baseball's most underachieving teams. The ownership situation remains in limbo (more on that below) but GM Jim Hendry has said he didn't think that would be a hindrance in doing deals, and it didn't hinder them through the winter. The National League is probably the better league for Pedro at this point in his career.
2. Angels. They're a late entry in the derby, but they can't be counted out. There may be more concern over Ervin Santana and John Lackey than what's been stated publicly. Pedro's people called over there awhile back, but the interest appeared to be minimal at first. Their presence at the tryout is intriguing. Plus, the Angels definitely fit the bill as contenders -- something Martinez seeks.
3. Dodgers. I always liked the idea of Martinez and the Dodgers reuniting a decade and a half after the Dodgers goofed by trading the skinny reliever for Delino DeShields, who became almost as much of an underachiever as Martinez was an achiever. The Dodgers currently have the best ERA in baseball and don't appear to have a glaring need in their rotation for Martinez. But L.A. did show early interest, and I'd have to think he'd like the idea of going to a team that has a playoff spot already wrapped up. While they aren't big in-season spenders, the Dodgers did save $2.7 million with Manny Ramirez's suspension.
4. Rays. Rays people continue to say their chances to sign Martinez are "slight," but they also don't rule it out entirely. They have been scouting him, and perhaps Pedro would like to stay in Florida (he has a home in South Beach). However, the Rays have no overwhelming need, and, as usual, have very little money to spend. The AL East would be a tough spot for Pedro at this stage of his career.
5. Mets. One Mets executive characterized their chances to sign Martinez as "not likely." While GM Omar Minaya loves Pedro, there isn't even word that they'll be attending today's session.
6. Yankees. They will be in attendance. But there's been little evidence of interest on their part throughout the courting of Martinez. So it appears they are mostly covering their bases.
7. Rest of the field. The Indians, Pirates and Diamondbacks showed varying degrees of interest over the winter
Just when folks were starting to draw comparisons between the 1962 Mets and the current Washington Nationals, the Nationals jumped up and put on an excellent three-day display in the Bronx, limiting the Yankees to three runs and taking two of three from the storied $200-million team.
While the Nationals are unquestionably baseball's worst team, the comparisons with the Amazins were a bit premature. They aren't that bad. Yankees announcer Michael Kay said on air at the end of the series that the Yankees "inexplicably and inexcusably'' lost two out of three. But the Nationals did show a few things. Or, at least, more than the '62 Mets.
Cristian Guzman is a decent two-way, big-league shortstop. AndersonHernandez is excellent defensively at second. The bullpen is better with veterans such as Ron Villone, Julian Tavarez and Mike MacDougal. And, more important, the Nationals will not threaten the '62 Mets' record 120 defeats. There, I said it.
Meanwhile, they are a team that's threatening to stay in the news, and here are some things going on:
1. Nearly everyone's available in trade, meaning everyone except Zimmerman and Zimmermann (Ryan and Jordan). One issue other teams have expressed is that the Nationals are said to be seeking to hit a grand slam with trades. "They want a dollar and a quarter for a dollar," one competing GM complained. To be fair, this is a common complaint of all contending teams, and there have been few trades thus far (Nate McLouth was dealt to Atlanta; Jake Peavy rejected a trade to the White Sox). In any case, that complaining GM excused the Nationals' interim GM, Mike Rizzo, and said Rizzo has practically no choice but to proceed this way since he is in an unusual tryout situation. In response, Nationals president Stan Kasten said by phone that all the proposals and counterproposals run through him, and he hasn't noticed anything that would lead him to believe Rizzo's suggestions are generally unrealistic or out of the ordinary.
2. A full-time, full-fledged GM will be named sometime this season. Kasten wouldn't say who, but I have to think Rizzo has an excellent chance to be the guy. My impression is the Nationals-owning Lerners like Rizzo and they'll do the right thing by giving him the job.
3. Manny Acta's still not secure for the season, but he may be safe for a little while. His Nationals bosses wanted to see more fight, and they certainly saw it from Acta's team over the past few days. I am not sure if the Yankees series saved him, but that's the way it seems today. Kasten wouldn't comment on anything related to the manager, including whether the New York series might be his last "Acta." (Sorry for the bad pun.)
Competing GMs say Mets GM Omar Minaya is out looking for offense now. But it's not an easy chore.
While the Mets' biggest issues may be their defense and baserunning, those issues can't be fixed through trades. We'll see if the offensive issue can be. Their production at the corners has been close to the worst in baseball. So that's what Minaya's looking into.
With Carlos Delgado expected back by the end of August, they'd optimally like to find an offensive player who can play both first base and the outfield so they could use him at either spot now, then switch him to the outfield once Delgado returns. These four come to mind: Brad Hawpe, Adam Dunn, AubreyHuff and Mark DeRosa.
They could all fit the Mets, but there are problems for each. Hawpe's Rockies, far from out of it, are the hottest team in baseball. While Dunn and Huff have played the outfield and first base, they are less than stellar at both spots. And in the case of DeRosa, the Indians, who haven't given up yet, are said to be asking a premium.
The Rangers are looking at starting and relief options. They have looked into Brad Penny, though one person familiar with their thinking calls a deal for Brad Penny "unlikely.'' Huston Street and other relievers are among the targets.
Although, Texas' quest for pitching help may be hindered by its inability to take any extra salary. For them to take a high-salaried veteran, they will have to get the trading team to pay the salary or take back a big salary.
The way to accomplish that would be to give up a top prospect or prospects. The Dodgers managed to do that last year, acquiring Casey Blake and Manny Ramirez without adding to their payroll. In the case of Blake, they surrendered top catching prospect Carlos Santana. Texas does have excellent prospects, so this isn't impossible.
The reason Texas can't increase its payroll is related to owner Tom Hicks' current financial travails. He took on a lot of debt, according to people familiar with the situation, and also took a bath on his purchase of the Liverpool soccer team. These are the reasons Hicks has the team up for sale.
• Arizona ace Brandon Webb felt pain in his shoulder while trying to throw Thursday and his comeback has been derailed, dealing another blow to the Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes was on his way to Kansas City to monitor the team as he decides whether to sell some pieces. The D-Backs seem to have a more realistic view than some teams on where things stand. Trade candidates include pitchers Doug Davis and Jon Garland, reliever Chad Qualls and second baseman Felipe Lopez. Qualls might take more than the others as he is under contract until 2010.
• The Yankees will consider Jose Valverde and Huston Street if either is available to fill the eighth inning. Joba Chamberlain isn't being talked about yet as the eighth-inning pitcher, but it can't be ruled out.
• Closer Heath Bell would bring a haul if the Padres would consider moving him.
• The Red Sox are a rare contending team willing to trade one of its relievers (though not closer Jonathan Papelbon, of course). Almost every other contender believes it needs to fortify its pen.
• Benching Magglio Ordonez seems like a drastic measure by the Tigers. He's up to .271. But he does have only two home runs. His contract calls for him to have an option year kick in at $15 million if he makes it to 400 plate appearances. At this rate, though, he might not make it.
• The Tigers, though, had no choice but to put Dontrelle Willis on the disabled list with anxiety disorder again after he declined their request of a demotion to the minors. They couldn't pitch him again after his eight-walk performance against Pittsburgh. But to release Willis, who is still only 27 and who they are into for $29 million, still seems drastic. Agent Matt Sosnick praised the way the Tigers have handled the touchy situation.
• Frustrated by the increasingly weak starting pitching market, the Phillies were said to be considering looking at relief help now.
• Cincinnati, Atlanta and perhaps St. Louis are interested in a right-handed hitting corner outfielder.
• Though Boston has talked to a few teams about shortstops while Jed Lowrie's been out, Nick Green (3, 23, .293) has done a nice job in his absence.
• With Roy Halladay, Erik Bedard and Chris Young all joining Jake Peavy on the disabled list within 24 hours, the starting market is getting worse by the day.
• That last series was Toronto's season in a nutshell. Three more players went on the D.L. (Halladay, Scott Downs and Casey Janssen) and three more victories. There have been a lot of injuries in baseball. But if there's one team to have sympathy for, it's got to be the Jays.
• Word is the Cubs sale is being held up in part by the banks' more stringent cash requirements in these rough economic times. There is a thought the banks would prefer new owner Tom Ricketts to put up 50 percent of the $800-million sale price. There is also the issue of the current Cubs owner, SamZell, who is viewed as difficult in any circumstance.
• Nice quote by Orlando Cabrera regarding his defense: "I suck." I always liked Cabrera, though he hasn't always gotten along with teammates in past stops. That admission should endear him to someone, though.
• Tom Glavine told radio station WAGA via text, "I don't plan to pitch or do anything in baseball until at least next year." I hope the "anything in baseball" means he won't file a grievance, either. While he may have a case, I think Glavine is smart enough to know that it wouldn't look good, considering he's made nearly $130 million in baseball.
• Congrats to Joe Torre for passing Sparky Anderson with his 2,195th victory and moving into fifth place on the all-time managerial win list. I don't see Torre stopping anytime soon, either.
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