Hot Stove roundup: Infielders fill market
Multiple teams looking for upgrades around the diamond
Front-line starters and relievers have captured their share of free-agent headlines, but the market for infielders is equally fluid.
And it's markedly so in the middle of the infield, where a number of teams are looking to improve, or at least add depth, for the 2009 season.
Included on the list are multiple Gold Glove Award winners Orlando Cabrera and Edgar Renteria at shortstop and Orlando Hudson at second base. Former Rookie of the Year Rafael Furcal is getting considerable attention and former All-Star Cesar Izturis is on the radar.
Not a free agent but a former Rookie of the Year is Bobby Crosby, whose time appears to be running out in Oakland and is likely to have some value on the trade market. Add veterans Julio Lugo and Ramon Vazquez to the list of names that are piquing the interest of clubs and it's likely there will be some new double-play combos to work out come Spring Training.
Suddenly active are the Giants, who largely employed Ray Durham and Omar Vizquel at second and short, respectively, over the last few seasons but have holes to fill at both positions this winter.
The Giants revealed their interest in Hudson for second base Thursday and on Friday indicated they're in the hunt for Renteria. They're also in the chase for Furcal but it's a sizable pack.
The teams reportedly making a run -- A's, Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Orioles -- have interest in both Renteria and Furcal while the Cardinals are the possible mystery team that has expressed interest in Furcal.
What has pushed the Giants into the market for a shortstop is the recent uncertainty over Emmanuel Burriss, who may not provide the offensive production the club is seeking from the shortstop position but could slide over to second base if the Giants sign a veteran to play short.
Club brass would not confirm which free agents are on their list but Renteria's agent Jeff Lane went on record to at least say their talking.
"We're actively negotiating, no doubt about it," Lane said.
The situation across the Bay is not so much about filling a void but moving on.
With the A's dramatically changing the complexion of the team over the last year, Crosby, one of the last familiar faces, could be moving soon with the club looking to upgrade in the free-agent market at shortstop.
Oakland has already reviewed Furcal's medical records and appears satisfied his surgically repaired lower back does not pose a problem.
Crosby's numbers have slipped since winning the American League Rookie of the Year in 2004. Injuries have contributed, but Crosby had a full year in 2008 and hit .237, his highest average in three years, while posting an on-base percentage under .300 for the third straight year.
The market is apparently there for Crosby, who will be a free agent after next season, when he will be making $5.25 million. Two teams that might be interested are the Orioles and Cardinals but if the A's are unable to move Crosby, he could be a solution in a utility role.
"If it's Oakland, great. I love playing in Oakland, and I love the organization," Crosby told MLB.com. "But not many guys get to play their whole career in the same place."
Hudson's free agency has opened a hole at second base for the Diamondbacks and they could be looking to Ramon Vazquez for help.
The Diamondbacks made a contract offer to Vazquez, according to a report in the Arizona Republic. The versatile 32-year-old has experience at third base and shortstop as well, and has also played first, which could help the D-backs fill a utility role.
"We're talking," Vazquez's agent, Melvin Roman, said in the Republic while declining further comment.
With Renteria a free agent, the Tigers are in the market for a cost-effective veteran to play short until they can open the job to one of their prospects in 2010, Cale Iorg or Danny Worth.
Lugo fits the description, and a deal with the Red Sox is possible but not imminent at this point. Team president Dave Dombrowski said this week his team has had talks with two clubs, one is believed to be Boston. The other is San Diego and a possible acquisition of shortstop Khalil Greene.
A deal that appeared ready to move earlier in the week has not transpired as the Cardinals and Trever Miller have been unable to come to terms, but a club spokesman has said negotiations continue.
Word leaked Wednesday that the Cardinals were prepared to offer the left-handed reliever a contract pending a physical. Miller had the physical Thursday but a contract has yet to be signed. The club wants a lefty in the bullpen and Miller is reportedly seeking a two-year deal
Another left-hander reliever that is available is Joe Beimel. The Dodgers apparently do not have interest in re-signing Beimel, who is seeking a raise from his $2.045 million salary in 2008 and a multi-year deal.
Hong-Chih Kuo supplanted Beimel as the primary lefty in the bullpen last season for the Dodgers, who are looking to install rookie Scott Elbert as the second left-handed reliever.
As for closers, none is higher on this season's list of free agents than Francisco Rodriguez, who is seeking a five-year deal with speculation setting the figure as high as $75 million.
The Mets have been reviewing Rodriguez's medical records and agent Paul Kinzer said in the New York Daily News he expects to get some face time with the Mets possibly as early as next week.
Five years could be a tough sell for Kinzer and Rodriguez, though, as the Mets apparently are not interested in extending a contract that far in a market awash in closers.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.