Winter Meetings Whispers: Day 1
Red Sox slugger Ramirez in high demand this offseason
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Winter Meetings are under way, which means it's time for the annual game of "Where's Manny Going?"
Manny Ramirez, the gifted and extremely well-paid outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, can once again be had, but just like the last two years, the Red Sox thus far haven't been able to find a suitable trade partner.
Ramirez, 34, is a "10-and-5" player, meaning he has the right to veto all trades since he has at least 10 seasons in the Major Leagues, including the last five with his current team. He's also owed $37 million over the next two years with options for 2009 and 2010 for $20 million.
This year, however, one more year of considerable financial obligation has been shaved off the contract, and this time the market for power hitters is so thin that teams are taking a harder look at Ramirez despite the obvious financial hurdles.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, desperately seeking a power upgrade for their lineup, met with the Red Sox on Monday. Dodgers manager Grady Little knows Ramirez well from his days in Boston, and that can't hurt efforts to convince Ramirez to waive his no-trade clause. And the Dodgers can certainly afford Ramirez.
A deal, however, doesn't appear to be imminent, as multiple sources indicated Monday afternoon that the talks on the Ramirez front were stalled.
The money is not the stumbling block. The Red Sox are asking for a package of prospects and starter Brad Penny for Ramirez. Also included in the wish list is highly regarded pitcher Jonathan Broxton, and the Dodgers are unwilling to pay such a high price for Ramirez.
San Diego was interested in Ramirez, and the Padres have since backed off, but there is another possible scenario that could lead to Ramirez moving west.
According to sources, the Red Sox have had discussions with the Giants and Nationals about a trade that would send Ramirez to San Francisco, Nationals closer Chad Cordero to Boston and unspecified players to Washington. The potential three-team swap would give the Giants the slugging outfielder they need and the Red Sox the closer they are looking for to succeed Jonathan Papelbon, who will be moving to the rotation next season.
There are numerous sticking points, including how much of Ramirez's contract the Red Sox would be willing to cover and the players the Nationals would get in return for parting with Cordero.
Which could mean that once again, or at least for now, Manny is staying put.
Other whispers from lobby of the Dolphin Hotel Monday:
The Rockies aren't shopping him, but they are listening to offers for right-hander Jason Jennings. The 28-year-old is signed for 2007 for $5.5 million, but will be a free agent after next season.
A ground-ball pitcher who has worked 200 or more innings in two of the last three seasons, Jennings has drawn the attention of several teams, with the Astros, Cubs, Twins and Rangers among those interested. The Rockies are looking for pitching and a center fielder.
The Cubs and Twins have been unwilling to meet Colorado's price for Jennings, while the Rangers have pitching prospects the Rockies covet. But Houston, with center fielder Willy Taveras, is another possible fit for Jennings, a Dallas native and product of Baylor University, just like Astros owner Drayton McLane.
The Red Sox talked to the Brewers regarding right-handed reliever Derrick Turnbow. Turnbow converted 24 of 32 save opportunities in 2006, and was 4-9 with a 6.87 ERA. Turnbow, who turns 29 in January, has two years remaining on the three-year contract he signed last winter, which will pay him $2.3 million in 2007 and $3.2 million in 2008.
Dan Horwits, the representative for free-agent reliever Keith Foulke, says five teams are interested in his client, and he hasn't ruled out a return to Boston for the right-hander. Foulke went 3-1 with a 4.35 ERA in 44 games for Boston this past season, his third with with the Red Sox, but both sides declined to pursue the mutual option that was included in his last contract.
Horwits was scheduled to meet with Red Sox officials Monday to discuss his client as well as another, right-hander Octavio Dotel. The Indians are also interested in both relievers.
Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski has been getting calls about first baseman Chris Shelton since he arrived at the meetings Sunday.
"I've actually had three clubs call me on him since we've been here, but what I find with a guy like Chris is with us signing [Sean] Casey back, is that normally when they inquire about [Shelton], they're thinking that they're just going to get him for very little because they think that it's a good time to try to get him," Dombrowski said. "And we like him. I'm not saying we wouldn't necessarily trade him or anybody else. But we're not just going to be in a spot where somebody comes by and gets him for an A-ball fringe guy. We like Chris Shelton."
The dearth of power-hitting free agents has some teams turning their focus to lower-profile (and cheaper) options on the trade market, including Milwaukee's Kevin Mench and Geoff Jenkins and Kansas City's Reggie Sanders.
Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin confirmed he had met with two teams, including Baltimore, regarding the Brewers outfielders, and had conversations with several other teams interested in Mench and/or Jenkins.
The Orioles met with the Brewers and Mariners as well as at least three other unidentified teams to talk about pitching. Baltimore's Rodrigo Lopez is thought to be one of the main targets, but Jaret Wright and Kris Benson could also be involved.
"Actually, we've had considerable interest on [Lopez]," said Jim Duquette, Baltimore's vice president of baseball operations. "We got a few accolades on our acquisitions. A couple teams we met with said they were competing for the same relievers. But primarily, most of the teams that we spoke with today were conversations regarding Rodrigo, expressing interest in him. There are several teams -- by design -- that we tried to meet with today that we knew were short on pitching. We'll see if there's a fit there.
"We've felt all along that we're dealing from a position of strength with him. He gives us the versatility to start and relieve. We know it's not his preference to relieve, but if we don't find the right deal for the club, we're not going to trade him."
The Royals are among the teams in pursuit of free-agent pitcher Gil Meche, but are also eyeing Miguel Batista. Mark Redman, who was not offered arbitration by Kansas City, is another possible target.
The Giants are considering free-agent slugger Ryan Klesko.
Oakland appears to be the front-runner for Mike Piazza.
The Cubs will meet with free-agent pitcher Ted Lilly's agent, Larry O'Brien, at some point during the next three days. The Cubs are also considering free-agent right-handers Jason Schmidt and Meche. The club's interest in Barry Zito appears to have cooled. But one thing is certain, the Cubs are determined to add at least one starting pitcher and possibly two.
"We feel confident we'll come up with some pitching," Cubs GM Jim Hendry said. "You always hope you get this guy or that guy first. If you don't get 'A' or 'B,' then you look at things a little differently."
The Pirates are interested in Atlanta's Adam LaRoche, but the Braves haven't given any indications they would be willing to part with the first baseman and would likely demand lefty Mike Gonzalez in return for La Roche.
The Mets may be more inclined to trade rather than pursue a free agent. A starting pitcher is high on the club's list of needs and Javier Vazquez's name has come up repeatedly as an individual high on GM Omar Minaya's list. Minaya has also talked to the White Sox about Mark Buehrle and is believed to have discussed the possibility of trading outfielder Lastings Milledge to Chicago for the left-hander.
The Rangers are closing in on a multi-year deal for free-agent right-hander Vicente Padilla.
The Marlins are interested in Tampa Bay center fielder Rocco Baldelli, possibly for right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.