December 2007

Who’s on third for Marlins?

The Marlins, after dealing third baseman Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, are looking for a new third baseman and have contacted the Phillies regarding Wes Helms, who played for Florida in 2006, hitting .329 with 10 homers. The Marlins are also considering free agent Jorge Cantu, who spent last season with Cincinnati.

Helms is due to earn $2.15 million next season, and if the Phils move him, they would need to find another third baseman. Detroit’s Brandon Inge is a potential target, but he is owed $19.1 million over the next three seasons, and it is uncertain if the Tigers would agree to cover a portion of that commitment.

Meanwhile, free agents Mike Lamb and Pedro Feliz are still unsigned, and trade targets include Joe Crede of the Chicago White Sox and Scott Rolen of St. Louis.

Rowand up next

One by one the top free-agent center fielders have been plucked from the market. First Torii Hunter, now Andruw Jones. The bulk of the attention now turns to Aaron Rowand, but his chances of returning to Philadelphia do not look any better than they did before the Winter Meetings.

Phillies general manager Pat Gillick called Rowand’s chances of returning to Philadelphia a "long shot" after a 30-minute meeting with the player’s agent, Craig Landis.

Landis agreed.

"We’re definitely at an impasse," he said. "I don’t predict the future, but I’d say that if they don’t change their position, it’s rather a long shot. That’s a fair assessment on [Gillick’s] part."

Padres, Bradley nearing deal

The Padres and free agent Milton Bradley are close to finalizing a one-year deal to bring the outfielder back to San Diego for another season.

Kuroda list at three

Highly sought after right-hander Hiroki Kuroda has scheduled visits to three U.S. cities — Seattle, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

The 32-year-old Kuroda is believed to have received a four-year offer from the Mariners.

Nationals land Boone, re-sign Pena, Langerhans

The Nationals have signed free-agent third baseman Aaron Boone to a one-year, $1 million contract plus incentives.

Washington also signed outfielder Wily Mo Pena to a one-year extension plus an option for 2009. Ryan Langerhans signed a one-year, $500,000 contract if he makes the Major League team. Otherwise, he will receive $300,000.

Dodgers reel in Jones

The Dodgers landed the bat they’ve been seeking, reaching agreement on Wednesday night with free-agent outfielder Andruw Jones on a two-year, $36 million contract, according to a baseball official. The deal is contingent on Jones passing a physical exam.

Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All Star, will take over center field, with Juan Pierre likely moving to left.

Cubs turn focus to Roberts

After they were unsuccessful in their attempts to sign Kazuo Matsui, the Cubs have turned their attention to Baltimore’s All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts.

Roberts hit .290 with 12 homers, 57 RBIs and a .377 on-base percentage during the 2007 season. The switch-hitter would also give the Cubs another left-handed bat they had been seeking. The Orioles are seeking starting pitching and could go after a package that included one or more of the Cubs’ young arms, such as Rich Hill and/or Sean Marshall.

Braves talk to Miller

The Braves have been talking with the agent for free-agent catcher Damian Miller, though GM Frank Wren indicated Atlanta is more likely to find catching help via trade than free agent signing.

Mets eye Marlins utility man

The Mets are interested in Marlins infielder/outfielder Alfredo Amezaga, who hit .263 and scored 46 runs in 133 games during the 2007 season. Amezaga, who turns 30 next month, played all four infield positions and some outfield last season and is eligible for arbitration.

Headley on handGdjzqkjy

San Diego third base prospect Chase Headley was at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday and confirmed he’ll be in San Diego next month to get some time in the outfield. Headley, who makes his offseason home in Knoxville, has put on 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason, and is now up to 230.

Headley, the MVP of the Texas League, has been mentioned several times this week by other teams regarding trades. But the Padres are reluctant to move him in or second baseman Matt Antonelli in a deal.

Headley is blocked at the Major League level by Kevin Kouzmanoff but, if he takes well to the outfield, could make the 25-man Opening Day roster because the Padres feel his bat is Major League ready now.

Quick hits

? The Reds aren’t the only team trying to pry right-hander Mark Prior away from the Cubs. Prior, who made $3.575 million last season and is eligible for arbitration one last time before he can be a free agent after 2008, is also being pursued by the Padres, Phillies and Rangers. Prior, who is coming off shoulder surgery, isn’t expected to be ready to pitch until May at the earliest.

? The Dodgers are interested in free-agent center fielder Andruw Jones, but contrary to earlier reports, Jones was not in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Jones is also being pursued by Kansas City.

Apparently the sticking point is the number of years. Both the Dodgers and Royals are seeking short-term deals, while agent Scott Boras is seeking a longer deal for his client.

Asked if anything was imminent, Royals GM Dayton Moore replied: "Naw, I don’t know. There are some things that could happen, but I’m not holding my breath."

? The Reds have yet to enter into any talks with free-agent right-hander Brett Tomko, but they are interested in Glendon Rusch and Jon Lieber.

? The Rangers are looking at free-agent outfielders Milton Bradley and Corey Patterson, relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Eric Gagne and first baseman Sean Casey.

Nothing close on Santana

It’s looking more and more like Johan Santana will not be traded before the Winter Meetings adjourn Thursday.

The Twins had conversations with the Boston Red Sox again Wednesday, but according to sources, nothing was imminent on that front as the Red Sox have been unwilling to come up with what it will take to get the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner.

The Red Sox have offered Minnesota multiple packages. One consists of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, shortstop Jed Lowrie and right-hander Justin Masterson. The other would consist of lefty Jon Lester, center fielder Coco Crisp, Lowrie and Masterson.

The Twins didn’t blink when the Yankees pulled out of negotiations after their offer of pitcher Phil Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera and a prospect for Santana was not accepted. New York’s exit may have opened the door for other teams, including the Mets and Dodgers, to enter the Santana sweepstakes.

The Mets made an offer for Baltimore lefty Erik Bedard on Tuesday and were turned down. Adding Santana to a rotation that already includes Pedro Martinez, Oliver Perez, Orlando Hernandez, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey would give the Mets a formidable staff, but at this point, it is unlikely they have a suitable package to offer Minnesota for Santana.

Reds considering Prior

Cincinnati’s search for arms has the club taking a hard look at Cubs right-hander Mark Prior.

Prior, coming off right shoulder surgery, won’t be able to pitch before May at the earliest, and perhaps not until August. But he is expected to pitch in 2008, and the Cubs have until Dec. 12 to offer him arbitration. He would be eligible for free agency after the 2008 season, so it is understandable, considering that and his health issues, that the Cubs might entertain offers for him, especially if they can address a need.

The Cubs are looking for a left-handed-hitting outfielder. The Reds have a few players who fit the bill, including Josh Hamilton, a player the Cubs claimed in the Rule 5 Draft before trading him to Cincinnati.

Jones in LA

Andruw Jones was in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The free-agent center fielder flew to the City of Angels on Tuesday, but it is uncertain whether Jones went west on business (like a physical from the Dodgers) or was merely there for an unrelated visit.

The Dodgers met with Jones’ agent, Scott Boras, on Tuesday. The Royals are also among the teams to have made offers to the 10-time Gold Glove Award winner.

Inge drawing interest

Now that Miguel Cabrera is coming to Detroit, the Tigers are listening to offers for third baseman Brandon Inge, with the Dodgers and Phillies among the teams inquiring about Inge. A sticking point might be Inge’s contract and whether the Tigers will pick up part of it, as Inge is owed $19.1 million over the next three seasons.

Blockbuster in the books

Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis are Detroit Tigers, though the trade that brought the two stars to Detroit was not expected to be formally announced until later Wednesday.

The Marlins and Tigers completed the final details Wednesday afternoon on the eight-player trade that will send Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo and Minor Leaguers Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De La Cruz and Burke Badenhop to the Marlins.

Rockies, Cook talk

The Rockies and the agent for right-hander Aaron Cook were expected to meet Wednesday to discuss a contract extension of three years and in the $30 million range.

"He is interested, and certainly it is something we are talking about," said agent Joe Bick as he arrived at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center on Wednesday morning.

Just after the World Series, the Rockies picked up Cook?s $4.5 million option for 2008, after Cook completed a two-year, $4.55 million deal. But both sides had been viewing an extension for Cook long before the Rockies exercised the option.

Bick would not say if he thought negotiations would be completed Wednesday, but both sides are optimistic about talks. The Rockies are also looking to offer star outfielder Matt Holliday a multiyear deal.

Quick hits

? Rocky Hall, the agent for free-agent infielder Tadahito Iguchi, was scheduled to meet with the Brewers on Wednesday. The Phillies are also interested in Iguchi.
? Contrary to persistent reports, the Indians insisted again Wednesday that they aren’t talking with the Pirates about acquiring left fielder Jason Bay.
? The Yankees are believed to be the front-runners for free-agent lefty Ron Mahay’s services, with Tampa Bay and Kansas City also in the hunt.

Early Wednesday whispers

While everyone waited for the official announcement of the trade that would send Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo and Minor Leaguers Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De La Cruz and Burke Badenhop, general managers were busy Wednesday morning focusing on what the deal might mean for other scenarios.

With Cabrera no longer in play, other teams that had been after him, especially the Angels and Dodgers, were considering other third-base options. San Francisco and Milwaukee are also looking for help at third base.

"I think you’ll see more interest in [Baltimore’s Miguel] Tejada and maybe [Scott] Rolen [of St. Louis]," one National League official said. "There’s not much out there on the free-agent market, and those guys wouldn’t cost as much in terms of what you’d probably have to give up."

Tejada is a shortstop but may be moved to third base. Rolen, a multiple Gold Glove winner, is coming off an injury-shortened 2007 season and is owed $36 million over the next three years.

As far as the remaining free-agent third basemen, Mike Lamb and Pedro Feliz appear to be drawing the most interest from the 10 or so still on the market.

Several observers said they wouldn’t be surprised if some of the teams looking for third-base help look for a short-term answer and try to upgrade at other positions where there are more choices.

"At this point, if you’re not going to go after a Rolen or Tejada, you’re probably better off getting that offense [at another position]," the official said.

Mets make a pitch for Bedard

The Mets sent the Orioles a trade proposal of right-handers Aaron Heilman and Philip Humber and outfielder Carlos Gomez for left-handed starter Erik Bedard. That offer was politely declined by the Orioles, who are believed to be seeking a package approaching what Minnesota is requiring for left-hander Johan Santana.

Though two-time Cy Young Award Santana has a better career resume than Bedard, both are 28 years old and coming off similar seasons.

Santana was 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA, 235 strikeouts, 52 walks and 33 home runs allowed in 219.0 innings. Bedard finished the 2007 season 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA with 221 strikeouts, 57 walks and 19 home runs allowed in 182.0 innings.

Santana will be a free agent after the 2008 season, while Bedard is two years away from his first shot at free agency.Tjmpg54m

"I think we’ve said it in every way we can," said Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, summarizing his intent regarding Bedard.

"It’s not a question of really shopping him or trying to move him. But at the same time, our record is what our record’s been. We have a responsibility to our fans to try to make it better and take whatever we think we have to take to make it better."

The Dodgers are among the other teams interested in Bedard.

Brewers quit pursuit of Rolen

Milwaukee’s pursuit of St. Louis third baseman Scott Rolen has ended, largely because Rolen’s health history, coupled with the $36 million he’s owed, was more risk than the Brewers were willing to take on at this point. The two sides didn’t even get far enough along to discuss what players the Brewers would have given up for Rolen.

"It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen," Brewers general managefr Doug Melvin said. "It doesn’t have much momentum."

The acquisition of Rolen would have meant that National League Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun would move to left field.

Said Cardinals GM John Mozeliak: "Not getting into specifics, I would just say that we’re not having a meeting of the minds there."

Mozeliak said that Rolen’s status is unchanged.

"I wouldn’t say there’s any more momentum in any direction," Mozeliak said. "It’s just become a little more clear who’s real serious in this, in terms of like if we’re trying to move our third baseman. But, we’re nowhere close to where we feel we’re getting what we need to get to make a deal like that happen."

Williams: Andruw Jones not on Sox list

Although White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen hinted that free agent center fielder Andruw Jones was being considered by the White Sox, Chicago GM Kenny Williams quickly ended that speculation Tuesday evening.

Guillen, in his session with reports was asked about Jones.

"I don’t see anyone play better than him," Guillen said. "With all my respect to Torii Hunter, I don’t see anyone better than that kid when I was playing with him. He’s in the mix, I guess. It’s all about cash, years, something. I don’t get involved. And when you have good players, you have the power to do whatever you want to do. And between Andruw Jones and Scott Boras, if we need Andruw Jones, if we think we need him that bad, he is what he is."

Williams said Jones’ representation is not a factor, but made it clear the Sox aren’t pursuing Jones.

"Because of his representation he’s not automatically off the list," Williams said. "He would be a lot lower, but he?s not on the list. I know that Ozzie didn’t say that. Andruw Jones is not on our list.

"I think Andruw Jones is a great player. For our particular situation, to deliver some of the things that I told you I wanted to get us to, that is reducing the strikeouts and getting our guys on base more, fighting through at-bats and driving up pitch counts and getting to the underbelly of the opposing pitching staffs, in this particular case, [Jones] doesn’t help us."

Jays talk to Lo Duca

Toronto reportedly met with the agent for free-agent catcher Paul Lo Duca on Tuesday, but Toronto’s interest is limited. The Jays are hesitant about signing a catcher to a multi-year contract with catching prospects Robinzon Diaz and Curtis Thigpen rising fast in the system.

Quick hits

? The Brewers met with Rocky Hall, the agent for free agent infielder Tadahito Iguchi.
? Mozeliak on whether he has had substantive talks with the Giants: "No, not really. Understand that when you ask a question like that, we have a roomful of scouts that are out meeting with other teams’ representatives. But nothing has been serious with that team at all."
? Arizona spoke Monday night with the A’s about Dan Haren and touched base with one of the agents for Japanese free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.
? Officials from both the Braves and Royals shot down a report that the two teams were discussing a Chuck James for David DeJesus trade.
? Sammy Sosa contacted Kansas City, but the Royals apparently aren’t interested in the free agent designated hitter.
? The Padres have made an offer to free agent outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.

Tigers set to acquire Cabrera, Willis from Marlins

Detroit and Florida are hammering out the final details on an eight-player trade that would send third baseman Miguel Cabrera and left-handed starter Dontrelle Willis to Detroit for pitcher Andrew Miller, outfielder Cameron Maybin and four other prospects.

The deal is not expected to be completed until Wednesday, as Willis is vacationing in Mexico.

A source familiar with the negotiations has told that the Tigers are parting with outfielder Maybin and lefty starter Miller for the final two players from the Marlins 2003 World Series championship squad.

Cabrera is a four-time All-Star who comes off a season where he batted .320 with 34 home runs and 119 RBIs. The 24-year-old made $7.4 million this past season and he is in line to earn more than $10 million in 2008.

Willis is coming off a 10-15 season with a 5.17 ERA. While the D-Train, who made $6.45 million in 2007, is coming off his worst season, he compiled 205 1/3 innings, marking his third straight 200-plus season.

Cabrera would play third on a Detroit infield that would also include Carlos Guillen, Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria, though it is uncertain where incumbent third baseman Brandon Inge fits in the scenario. Willis would slide into a rotation with Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers and Justin Verlander.

White Sox eyeing Andruw Jones

The Chicago White Sox are interested in free agent center fielder Andruw Jones.

The addition of Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, would further strengthen the White Sox (who added 2007 American League Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera last month) defensively and give the team five players — Jones, Cabrera, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko — who averaged 89 RBIs and 250 total bases apiece in 2007.

Kansas City is also considering Jones and the Los Angeles Dodgers are a potential destination for the outfielder.

Santana still in play

The Yankees are reportedly out. The Angels say they aren’t in. Then again, the Yankees were also out on Alex Rodriguez before re-signing him and the Angels are believed to be interested in Santana according to multiple sources.

Perhaps the only certainty regarding Santana as of 6 p.m. CT Tuesday evening was that he was still a Minnesota Twin.

The Yankees, before allegedly bowing out of the pursuit of Santana, had improved their offer to include both right-hander Phil Hughes and outfielder Melky Cabrera, while prepared to supplement that proposal with a mid-level prospect to acquire Santana, a left-hander who will be 29 by Opening Day and is seeking a sizable contract extension. The Twins are engaged in discussions with Boston regarding Santana.

While denying media reports that the Angels had joined the Red Sox and Yankees in the Santana sweepstakes, Angels GM Tony Reagins clearly owns the option of reconsidering and taking a run at a man that many baseball people consider the game?s premier pitcher.

"There are a lot of things out there being reported," Reagins said when asked about Minnesota’s superstar pitcher, "but I don’t see anything on the horizon. We haven’t had any discussions with regard to adding starting pitching."

Reagins did speak with new Twins GM Bill Smith on Monday, but he claimed Santana’s name did not surface in the conversation.

Ricciardi shoots down Rios rumor

Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi said there was absolutely nothing to the rumor that had Cliff Lee and Franklin Gutierrez going to the Jays for Alex Rios: "I don’t know where that came from. We’ve never had a talk with Cleveland about Rios at all."

Giants looking for hot corner help

The buzz linking San Francisco to St. Louis third baseman Scott Rolen continued to increase Tuesday.

Rolen, 32, has a no-trade clause and a history of shoulder and back injuries. An ailing left shoulder limited Rolen to 112 games last season, when he batted .265 with eight homers and 58 RBIs before he underwent season-ending surgery on Sept. 11. He is owed $36 million over the next three years.

The Giants discussed trade possibilities Monday with the Baltimore Orioles about shortstop Miguel Tejada, creating the possibility of follow-up talks. Tejada, a shortstop, would move to third base if he joined San Francisco.

Iguchi, Phillies talking

Phillies GM Pat Gillick told reporters at the Opryland Hotel on Tuesday that the Phillies have re-engaged Tadahito Iguchi about him playing third base in 2008 and beyond.

Iguchi, a free agent, was acquired in last July and batted .301 in 26 games starting for Chase Utley. He had hoped to find a team that was looking for a second baseman.

Tigers, Marlins trade talks accelerating

There were indications on Tuesday afternoon that talks between the Marlins and Tigers regarding a trade that would send third baseman Miguel Cabrera or pitcher Dontrelle Willis, or both, to Detroit for a package of players that would likely include left-hander Andrew Miller and other young players were accelerating.

Cabrera is very close friends with fellow Venezuelan and Detroit right fielder Magglio Ordonez. He is also close with Tigers catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, as the two were teammates in 2003, when the Marlins won the World Series during Cabrera’s rookie year.

The Marlins have been talking with the Angels and Dodgers about Cabrera but have been unable to reach an agreement with either team.

The Chicago White Sox are also interested in Cabrera, but Detroit, which has a deeper farm system, may be able to put together a more attractive package for Florida.

Cabrera would play third on a Detroit infield that would also include Carlos Guillen, Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria, though it is uncertain where incumbent third baseman Brandon Inge fits in the scenario. Willis would slide into a rotation with Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers and Justin Verlander.

Latest Bedard rumor

Rumors about Baltimore pitcher Erik Bedard continue to make the rounds at the Winter Meetings, with the latest having Bedard heading to Los Angeles, for right fielder Matt Kemp and right-hander Jonathan Broxton.

Though the Dodgers are interested in Bedard, it is unlikely they would create holes at two important slots — starting right fielder and setup man — to get him.

Quick hits

• The Mariners have been talking with Milwaukee about ace right-hander Ben Sheets.

• No fewer than 10 teams have expressed interest in right-hander Carlos Silva, who was 13-14 with a 4.19 ERA for the Twins in 2007.

• The Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Mariners have three-year offers on the table to free-agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.

• Toronto has shown interest in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, though San Francisco is reluctant to deal either young pitcher.

Angels ready a pitch for Santana

The Angels are after Minnesota left-hander Johan Santana.

According to sources, the Angels were set to have conversations with Twins officials later on Tuesday regarding a possible trade for the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner. It is uncertain at this point what the Angels would offer for Santana. The Twins are looking for a package of near Major League-ready talent and a third baseman.

Santana has been at the center of several trade proposals, with the Red Sox and Yankees believed to be in the forefront of the talks until Tuesday.

The Angels’ re-entry into the picture could cause a ripple in the American League landscape in that it could either force the Red Sox and Yankees to up the ante or cause those two teams to look elsewhere for starting pitching.