Hot Stove: Market about to boil over
Hours for teams to re-sign own free agents dwindling fast
With a midnight ET deadline to re-sign their own free agents before they hit the open market just hours away, clubs were working hard Monday to re-sign said free agents while also formulating alternative plans in case they don't.
Counting Minor League free agents, there are more than 200 players who would become eligible to negotiate with any team if they don't re-sign with their 2007 club before the deadline.
Boston was working to re-sign free agent third baseman Mike Lowell, the Yankees were moving towards a new deal with catcher Jorge Posada and Minnesota was trying to secure center fielder Torii Hunter's services. The outcome of these key negotiations will impact the Hot Stove picture beyond Boston, New York and the Twin Cities.
If the Red Sox are unable to bring back Lowell, they could turn their attentions to another free agent third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, who is almost a year younger than Lowell. The Red Sox have also contacted Texas regarding third baseman Hank Blalock, but the Rangers would have to be wowed to move Blalock, and Boston is believed to be unwilling to part with top prospects.
If Lowell doesn't return to Boston, the Dodgers, Angels, Yankees and Phillies are among the teams expected to pursue his services.
If Posada stays with New York, as expected, other clubs seeking a starting catcher will have to look elsewhere, with Paul Lo Duca, Yorvit Torrealba and Jason Kendall moving up in the free-agent picture.
Hunter's status is being monitored by numerous teams as he, along with Andruw Jones, head the list of marquee free-agent center fielders on the market.
That free-agent market gained another outfielder over the weekend as Chunichi Dragons outfielder Kosuke Fukudome declared his eligibility.
Fukudome, 30, was a member of the Japanese team that won the inaugural World Baseball Classic last year. He owns a .305 batting average in nine seasons and has 192 career home runs.
Elsewhere on the Hot Stove front Monday:
Angels: According to the Orange County Register, the Angels' preference is to explore trades for Florida's Miguel Cabrera or Baltimore's Miguel Tejada rather than meeting Alex Rodriguez's free-agent demands in their efforts to acquire a power hitter. The Marlins want second baseman Howard Kendrick, but the Angels are loathe to deal him.
Free-agent right-hander Carlos Silva is also on the Angels' radar, assuming they'll have to include Ervin Santana or Joe Saunders in a deal for a big bat. Silva is a durable strike thrower, but the Angels aren't expected to stay in the hunt for Silva if it reaches $10 million per year.
Another possible acquisition is veteran southpaw Kenny Rogers, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Astros: The Astros, seeking a closer to take Brad Lidge's place, have contacted the agent for free-agent right-hander Troy Percival. Percival is the latest free-agent reliever the Astros have targeted, joining Scott Linebrink, Jeremy Affeldt and Francisco Cordero.
"He is a bullpen piece that would fit into our situation," Astros GM Ed Wade said. "We have made the contact and we'll see where it goes."
Other free agents the Astros have contacted include pitchers Tom Glavine and Jon Lieber and second baseman Kaz Matsui.
Blue Jays: The Blue Jays have reportedly been linked to free-agent catchers Yorvit Torrealba and Jorge Posada, but it's highly unlikely that Toronto will pursue either backstop. Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said last week that Toronto didn't have plans to go after Torrealba, because the club doesn't want to get tied up in a multi-year contract with a catcher. That also likely rules out a potential offer for Posada.
The Jays, who have a handful of catching prospects rising fast through the system, are looking for a one-year solution to back up No. 1 catcher Gregg Zaun.
Contrary to a recent report, the Blue Jays are not shopping right-hander A.J. Burnett. Ricciardi is willing to listen to any trade offers teams might have about any of his players, but Toronto doesn't figure to be a major player in the trade market.
Burnett, who is slated to make $12 million in each of the next three seasons, has an opt-out clause that he can exercise after 2008. Still, he's a big part of Toronto's plans for next season, so it would take a substantial proposal for the Jays to consider moving him. Ricciardi is also very hesitant to trade away any of Toronto's young pitchers.
Braves: While the two parties can't specifically talk dollars until Tuesday, the Braves are certainly optimistic that they'll fill their need for a starting pitcher by signing Tom Glavine. Multiple club sources have said they believe the veteran left-hander will likely wait at least one week before announcing that he'll be pitching in Atlanta next year.
The Braves will likely offer a one-year deal worth $8-9 million that includes a mutual option for the 2009 season. Glavine's agent, Gregg Clifton, said the two parties talked last week and expect to do so again this week.
As for their other need, in center field with the departure of Jones, the Braves remain high on internal candidate Brent Lillibridge and have said there is an outside chance they could use him as their center fielder next year if they're not able to find Jones' replacement via the trade market.
Last year, the Braves attempted to land the Rays' Rocco Baldelli. With Baldelli having missed most of the 2007 season and consequently enhancing his status as a health risk, the Braves would likely need the Rays to include one of their other young outfielders in the deal.
Last week, the St. Petersburg Times listed Lillibridge as one of the prospects the Rays may target to fill their need for a shortstop.
Because of the rapid rise of top prospect Jordan Schafer, the Braves aren't looking for a long-term solution in center. They'd like to land an economical player via the trade market who could fill the position for one year --possibly two -- if Schafer should stumble in 2008.
Indians: With only a few needs of their own and some valuable commodities for other teams, the Indians spent the General Managers Meetings exploring the trade market. They made an offer to the Astros for closer Brad Lidge and put in an inquiry to the Marlins for slugger Miguel Cabrera, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Florida never got back to Cleveland on the latter.
Giants: Finding a third baseman will be the Giants' top priority, now that they have re-signed shortstop Omar Vizquel.
They are unlikely to re-sign Pedro Feliz, who wants as much as a three-year deal, so they are likely to tap their surplus of pitching to make a trade to fill the hot corner.
The Giants have been mentioned among the potential suitors for free agent Alex Rodriguez, but general manager Brian Sabean recently indicated that San Francisco is in no rush to open talks with A-Rod's agent, Scott Boras -- largely because Sabean believes that Boras will take his time gauging the market.
Marlins: Cabrera remains one of the trade market's hottest commodities, and the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the Angels would consider dealing second baseman Howie Kendrick in a package for Cabrera. The Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, White Sox, Giants and Indians are also all reportedly interested.
Dontrelle Willis, meanwhile, could follow Cabrera out the door. The Tigers have interest, though there has been widespread speculation that any deal for Willis is more likely to happen during the middle of the season. The Marlins are looking for catching and are interested in free agent Torrealba.
Nationals: According to a source, the team has its sights on Mets outfielder Carlos Gomez and right-hander Mike Pelfrey.
Gomez, 21, made his Major League debut last year for the Mets and hit .232 with two home runs and 12 RBIs. He could be the center fielder that Washington is looking for. Gomez is considered an excellent defensive outfielder with a lot of speed, and the Nationals believe he will develop into a fine hitter.
"We want to get younger [with a player like Gomez]," the source said.
Pelfrey, 23, is a pitcher the Nationals have been coveting since before last season's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, though he has not been impressive in his brief Major League career. Last season with the Mets, he went 3-8 with a 5.57 ERA in 15 games.
Who would the Nationals give up for Gomez and Pelfrey? They have been dangling reliever Chad Cordero, and the Mets need relief help. Cordero was drafted by the Expos in 2003 by then-general manager Omar Minaya, who currently holds the same role with the Mets.
Orioles: The Orioles seem more likely to dump talent than they are to add it, and Miguel Tejada remains a prime candidate to head toward the exit. The New York Daily News reported Friday that the Yankees would be interested, but only if they are unable to acquire Lowell through free agency or Cabrera through trade. Tejada's teammate on the left side of the infield, Melvin Mora, told The Baltimore Sun he'd be open to any trade that would land him with a contender.
Phillies: With Lidge at closer and Brett Myers now back in the rotation, the Phillies would still like to add a starter, even though they appear to have five with Cole Hamels, Myers, Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton. They learned from last season that you can never have too much starting pitching.
Also, the team is prepared for life without Aaron Rowand, should the free agent leave. Shane Victorino would move to center and Jayson Werth would play right, leaving the team to search for a fourth outfielder to fill in. Options include Trot Nixon, Brad Wilkerson, Orlando Palmeiro, Rob Mackowiak and Fukudome.
Pirates: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports the Pirates will comb through the bargain bin and avoid the marquee free agents this winter once the market opens Tuesday.
"We are not going to sign a big-name player," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told the paper.
Pittsburgh needs right-handed relief help and could turn to the likes of David Riske, Doug Brocail, Shawn Camp or Scott Linebrink to shore up its bullpen.
Rangers: Texas is interested in Boston outfielder Coco Crisp, but won't give up Blalock for him. The Rangers are also looking hard for bullpen help and are interested in Kerry Wood and Eric Gagne. Help could come from within the organization, as Akinori Otsuka is throwing in Arizona after missing the last three months of season with elbow inflammation.
Rays: The Rays need bullpen help and might trade some of their young pitching prospects to fill the need or go the free-agent route. The club might pursue catching help, which could make a veteran like Michael Barrett a potential target.
Shortstop is another weakness the Rays would like to address, and a veteran free agent is probably the answer with prospect Reid Brignac close to Major League ready. Veterans Royce Clayton and David Eckstein could fill the void.
Red Sox: The Red Sox continued trying to strike a deal with free-agent third baseman Lowell throughout the weekend. If they can't get something done by midnight, Boston will lose exclusive negotiating rights to the World Series MVP. It is believed the Red Sox have offered Lowell a three-year deal. However, he might be able to get four years on the open market.
Royals: The Kansas City Star speculated Monday that the Royals will be among the serious bidders for center fielder Hunter.
Even though general manager Dayton Moore declined to confirm interest in Hunter, the newspaper said "multiple sources confirmed" the Royals held talks with Hunter's advisers and were assured the club was in the mix.
The Royals are seeking a right-handed power hitter for the middle of the lineup. They also were believed to be interested in outfielder Jose Guillen, even though he's been allegedly been linked to the purchase of performance-enhancing drugs. If the Royals were to sign to Hunter, center fielder David DeJesus likely would switch to left field.
Tigers: The Detroit Free Press reports that Tigers officials contacted the Florida Marlins to inquire about Willis and what it would take for them to give him up in a trade. However, the newspaper admits, it would be difficult for the Tigers to turn a deal, in no small part because Detroit's supply of highly-regarded prospects thinned out with the Edgar Renteria trade. Regardless, it's one of the first signs the Tigers are looking at options if they can't re-sign free agent Kenny Rogers.
The Tigers' other big pitching free agent, closer Todd Jones, is expected to pick up talks with the club this week. With the Braves now on record stating they're not looking for a closer, Detroit is believed to be the primary option for Jones, who had been looking to pitch closer to his Alabama home. The Free Press argues a deal could be struck as soon as next weekend.
Count the Tigers out on any bidding contest for former closer Troy Percival. His agent, Paul Cohen, told MLB.com last week that at least eight teams had called in to express interest in his client, half of them looking at him as a potential closer. Detroit, however, hadn't called. Coincidentally, six of the eight teams now interested in Percival were also interested in him when he began his comeback last summer, with the Tigers one of the few exceptions.
Twins: Hunter met with White Sox GM Kenny Williams on Sunday night. The two could not discuss specific contract details, but Hunter is trying to get a feel for whether the teams pursuing him can indeed compete for a championship over the coming years.
The White Sox are just one team showing interest in Hunter. Others include the Rangers, Nationals, Royals, Braves and Dodgers. Houston's interest disappeared after it acquired outfielder Michael Bourn from Philadelphia.
White Sox: The White Sox might be a longshot to acquire Cabrera from the Marlins, but according to a weekend report from FoxSports.com, they not only remain in the running, but would use Cabrera in left field if the trade was executed. The White Sox have top young talent such as third baseman Josh Fields and left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez, who could interest the Marlins as part of a more extensive package.
Manager Ozzie Guillen considers Cabrera a member of his family, speaking for close to 20 minutes before a June Interleague contest with Florida reporters concerning the 24-year-old's immense talent and problems that could arise from the change in his size.
Yankees: Posada may have tipped his hand Sunday night during an interview at Madison Square Garden, where he was attending a New York Knicks-Miami Heat game. The 36-year-old free agent catcher said that he is likely to return to the Yankees next season, stating that he and the club are "really close" on the terms of a new contract.
Posada and his wife, Laura, met with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in New York on Friday along with Posada's agents, the Brooklyn-based Sam and Seth Levinson. It is believed Posada may lean toward testing the open market nevertheless; in a recent interview, Posada listed the Mets, Blue Jays and Marlins as clubs that have already expressed interest. The Yankees have reportedly offered three years but may need to push their offer to four.
Mariano Rivera has one day remaining before he can field offers from other clubs, though a reported three-year, $40 million proposal is resting on the table from the Yankees. According to the New York Daily News, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will consider making a second offer with club brass Monday, with those discussions taking place via conference call. Rivera has said that he will treat negotiations like a "business," although he expressed interest in re-signing with the Yankees in Spring Training.
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.