There appears to be little to see yet in what promises to be two of the most widely watched player negotiations in recent memory. Talks involving
Word is going around that Mauer and the Twins have not yet engaged in any serious dialogue, though it's expected that they will begin speaking soon. The seemingly slow start isn't because either side is disinterested, though. The opposite, in fact, is the case. The team-oriented Mauer is said by sources to be giving the Twins a chance to put their 2010 team together while he awaits contract talks that are sure to become the landmark case for a superstar player and a (relatively) small-market team, albeit a team leaving its albatross of a dome for a beautiful new baseball-only facility.
Further word is that Mauer plans to be reasonable for a superstar, no surprise for those who have dealt with the down-to-earth catcher, who is a St. Paul native and grew up a Twins fans and whose grandparents attend every game. Mauer is said to be supremely confident in his position, and that's evidenced by his willingness to give the Twins time to get their own house in order. And why shouldn't he be confident? He is coming off an otherworldly MVP season in which he led the American League in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, and knows that if he presses the market, the Red Sox and Yankees are almost sure to come calling at season's end. Mauer doesn't use the words "hometown'' or "discount,'' but the view around the game is that he is expected to play fair with the Twins, who understandably view their hometown star as a must-sign.
Word is that he's thinking about a contract for at least seven years and more than $20 million, though he isn't going to press the $30 million issue that could conceivably come into focus if he goes the free-agent route. To this point that threshold has been reserved for the one superstar who may be en route to breaking the career home run record --
And everyone around the game understands both sides have strong motivation to keep the marriage together. Nobody seriously believes they won't make it work.
There is considerably more intrigue in the case of Pujols, however, especially after the Cardinals awarded their extremely strong second fiddle,
There's little chance that the Cardinals would risk losing Pujols over Holliday, anyway. What is remotely possible is that the Cardinals' initial talk with Pujols early this winter left them concerned about their chances to retain him, increasing their need to keep Holliday and leading to what some saw as an over-market deal with their incumbent left fielder.
It should be pretty obvious where Pujols' position lies, as he's surely seeking a deal for $30 million a year. While A-Rod plays third base and plays in New York, Pujols' numbers have actually been slightly better than Rodriguez's in recent years. Pujols is so good, in fact, and so necessary to St. Louis, that competing teams still have trouble believing that the Cardinals will let him leave. He has basically become a part of their brand.
"They can't let [Pujols] go,'' one competing executive said. "He's the franchise.''
Pujols certainly is theirs for at least two more years, with the Cardinals holding a $16 million option for 2011 on top of his $16 million 2010 salary. Holliday's deal for $17 million shouldn't affect how Pujols feels about things, as A-Rod is really his only comparable.
While on the surface it's hard to imagine the Cardinals, a team that has tried to keep its payroll in the $100 million range, paying $45 million or more to two players, St. Louis' revenues are said by sources to be about the same as the higher-spending Phillies, whose payroll is about $140 million. St. Louis' other big advantage is the great deal its owners got on the team, especially when it is considered that a majority of that money was recovered when they sold off the adjacent garage (yes, the garage.)
The Cardinals' chances to keep Pujols shouldn't be written off as zero. But it's fair to say that their chances to keep Pujols aren't as great as the Twins' chances to keep Mauer.
And it's true that the Reds weren't the only ones who coveted Chapman's great talent, as the Blue Jays, A's, Nationals and Marlins (though their interest was mostly driven by ownership) were among the most interested teams. What's intriguing is that interest in Chapman was confined mostly to small-market teams. Some of those teams probably saw Chapman as their chance to get a superstar as a free agent for less than free-agent superstar prices (Holliday,
The big-market teams saw Chapman as a risk that they didn't need to take. A few of those teams seemed to question his maturity level. He is said by people who've dealt with him to be a very young 21, and a couple interested parties said that they didn't want to invest in a babysitter, too. Coping with big-city life and more media might have been seen as a complicating factor.
The Yankees seemed to lose interest in Chapman after entertaining him at Yankee Stadium in October, while the Red Sox's pursuit lost steam after their initial $15.5 million bid several weeks ago apparently came up short. Although it couldn't be confirmed, a story going around baseball is that, upon finding out he might have to settle for about $20 million, Chapman said, "If I knew that, I would have stayed [in Cuba].''
• The Tigers, looking to make a few additions after clearing some payroll space in a difficult economy there, are considering
• The Braves and Giants are believed to have made offers for Damon, though he hasn't snapped up either one immediately, leading some to wonder whether the Yankees might get involved again. The Yankees have yet to replace
• The Twins have made an offer to
• The Mariners have upgraded their already excellent defense by adding
• There is no evidence that the Mariners are involved yet for
• The A's still have a few dollars to spend and are eyeing infielders. They tried for
• The Rangers did well to get
• The Orioles, who played for Holliday and did well to acquire
• It's disappointing that any writer would hold one out-of-character incident against
• The seventh annual Scouts Foundation dinner will be held at the Hyatt Regency Century City in Los Angeles this coming Saturday at 6 p.m. Tickets for the event, a grand spectacle that features many baseball luminaries (