© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is huge. But apparently the site of the 2007 Winter Meetings is not too big to be fitted with a bottleneck.
The flashing alert on baseball's transaction highway is Johan Santana, who even in absentia cast his shadow over the Gaylord, 2,181 rooms, five lobbies and all.
Day 1 of the Winter Meetings did not live up to the sign outside the Ryman Exhibit Hall -- "Baseball Trade Show" -- primarily because the premier left-hander remained in Minnesota purgatory.
The most significant movement concerning Santana may have been by the hands of the clock, because when they crossed midnight, it marked the deadline for a deal imposed by Hank Steinbrenner, the son of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
A source with knowledge of the Yankees situation said Monday night that the team had planned to move forward without Santana.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com reported early Tuesday morning that the Red Sox have emerged as the "favorite" to land Santana.
There were a couple of minor, and Minor League, transactions, as well as notable off-field developments. Those included the presentation of the 2007 Robert O. Fishel Award for Public Relations Excellence to Rich Levin, MLB's senior vice president of public relations, and the announcement of a White Sox-Mets pairing in the 2008 Civil Rights Game.
But the big dominoes remained upright behind Santana, whom the Twins remain determined to move -- but on their own, carefully calculated terms.
It is very sensible to assess why Santana's limbo would hold up other action:
Teams on his trail: While the Mariners officially left the posse, it still includes the Angels and Dodgers in addition to the two AL East warlords, and those teams aren't going to explore other options until his status is determined. So Erik Bedard, Carlos Silva, et al, remain out of play.
Trade-minded teams also prioritize pitching over even the best offensive options, so the Marlins' attempts to move Miguel Cabrera also are hung up by the Los Angeles teams' dance with Santana. This keeps the market for other third basemen (Joe Crede, Scott Rolen, Miguel Tejada) on ice.
As is the case every offseason, agents wait for the top talent to set a market price. So until Santana has a deal, free agents or those looking to negotiate extensions will stay put.
Santana gets a new team and a new deal, that is. But, even in the absence of firm movement, that seems a growing certainty.
A veteran American League executive likened the situation to the Twins' experiences nearly 20 years ago with another left-hander, Frank Viola. Minnesota won a World Series title in 1987 with Viola, then dealt him to the Mets in the middle of the 1989 season for a four-player package.
"They got Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani, and they helped them win another Series [in 1991]," the executive said. "Is Santana going to win a World Series all by himself? No. But getting the right players can get the job done."
That clearly is the Twins' goal, refined even further by a Minnesota source who conceded it will take two players to effectively replace Torii Hunter, the center fielder who has signed as a free agent with the Angels.
"With [Delmon] Young, [who was acquired in a four-player deal with Tampa Bay on Wednesday], we took care of the offense," the source said. "But we don't think he can play center, so we now have to look for the defense.
"Is Melky Cabrera the answer? I don't think so. But Boston ... they have the guy who could be it."
The reference to Jacoby Ellsbury, the 24-year-old outfielder who made such a dramatic impression in September and October, leaves the clear impression of the direction in which the Twins are leaning.
The Red Sox and Yankees both "added" a pitcher to their 2008 staffs, if not the big one each seeks.
According to the grapevine, and more reliably to agent Randy Hendricks, Andy Pettitte has decided to continue his career in the Yankees' rotation. The left-hander, who on Nov. 5 declined his $16 million player's option while contemplating retirement, presumably now will have to be signed to a new contract.
The Yankees also reached a two-year agreement with Jose Molina, the defensively superior catcher who will back up Jorge Posada.
The Red Sox, two days after having offered Mike Timlin arbitration, reached a tentative $3 million agreement with the 42-year-old setup reliever.
Timlin's deal is pending a physical. His 2007 season got off to a slow start as left oblique and right shoulder problems landed him twice on the disabled list and limited him to nine appearances through mid-June. Thereafter, Timlin posted a 2.89 ERA in 41 games, allowing only 35 hits in 46 2/3 innings.
It caused nary a ripple in Opryland's teeming hallways, but the Rays' trade of Elijah Dukes to the Nationals could grow into a big deal. The 23-year-old outfielder's promising career was derailed by off-field issues -- he last played on June 19, after which he went on the temporary inactive list -- and needed the resuscitative effect of new scenery.
Washington first baseman Dmitri Young had campaigned for the acquisition of Dukes, offering to provide needed mentoring. The Nats made it happen, sending Minor League left-hander Glenn Gibson to Tampa Bay.
Gibson is the son of former Major League pitcher Paul Gibson, who went 22-24 in a nine-year career through 1996 with the Tigers, Mets and Yankees.
In acknowledging Dukes' history, Tampa Bay senior vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said, "We have been committed to providing Elijah the support needed to get his personal and professional life back on track. He has made progress, and a logical next step is a change of cities and a fresh start for him and his family."
The Meetings' opening deal actually involved a pair of Minor League outfielders. Carlos Quentin, whose scintillating 2006 debut spiraled into a mid-2007 return to the Minors, was dealt by Arizona to the Chicago White Sox for Chris Carter.
Carter, a 20-year-old who last season batted .291 with 25 home runs and 93 RBIs in 126 games for Class A Kannapolis, currently is most distinguished by who he isn't.
He is neither the first baseman-outfielder Chris Carter who batted .316 while splitting last season between Triple-A outposts of the Red Sox and the D-backs, nor the Chris Carter who spent 2003-04 in the Orioles' system, nor the Chris Carter who played one season (1993) in the Brewers' system, nor the right-hander Chris Carter who won two games for the Rays' Rookie League team in 1997.
And he definitely isn't the Cris Carter who hauled in 1,101 receptions during a 16-season All-Pro NFL career that ended in 2002.
This Chris Carter is his own man. And for one day at least, he also was the most recognizable name moving at the Winter Meetings.
Taking behind-the-scenes bows were the regional honorees of the annual Scout of the Year Program:
East Coast Scout of the Year Tom Giordano, who as a Baltimore scout recommended the draft of Cal Ripken Jr. 29 years ago, now serves the Rangers as a special assignment scout.
Midwest Scout of the Year Jim Walton is a 33-year veteran of the Major League Scouting Bureau.
West Coast Scout of the Year Ed Sukla also is of the Major League Scouting Bureau.
Additionally, Sandy Johnson, the Mets' vice president of scouting, was awarded the program's 2007 Directors Award for his contributions to the industry of scouting and baseball.