12/08/10 2:40 AM EST
Roundup: Mystery, intrigue at Meetings
Unidentified team enters the fray for Cliff Lee
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
And, as often happens at this stage of the Meetings, it was a lot more about the pollen of rumors and discussions floating around than the actual honey of done deals as the annual gathering of general managers, agents and media reached its midpoint.
Sure, there were some sweet rumors going around, such as the Angels reportedly entering the fray for prime pitching free agent Cliff Lee and an unidentified team putting a seventh year on the table -- more than the Yankees, Rangers and the Nationals are said to have discussed. But, like fellow free agent Carl Crawford and other names being bandied about like Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano, there's nothing on paper yet, and nothing imminent.
What did actually occur was a pause to honor four managerial greats, and a finale to a free agency drama involving a Yankees icon.
Indeed, the biggest piece of finished business took place about an hour down the road in Tampa, where the Yankees announced the completion of a three-year, $51 million deal that will keep Derek Jeter in pinstripes presumably for the remainder of his career.
"I never wanted to be a free agent," said Jeter, who at 36 has played in more Yankees victories than any player in franchise history. "I was pretty vocal about where I wanted to be. That never changed. I guess you could say I'm glad it's over."
Other than Jeter's contract being finalized, no official business of major import went down on Day 2. That doesn't mean there wasn't some serious buzz coming out of the hotel lobby and executive suites.
It all starts with the ongoing saga of determining Lee's next stop on what has been a whirlwind tour -- including two memorable stops in October -- through four uniforms the last two years. The incumbent Rangers met with Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, on Tuesday and he expects to continue to meet with them, the Yankees and any other teams interested in Lee before the Winter Meetings end on Thursday.
Which meeting ends in a multimillion-dollar handshake remains to be seen.
What seems established to this point is that Lee could command a five- to seven-year deal worth in excess of $20 million annually. But the Rangers are said to prefer going no more than five years, while the Yankees are said to prefer no more than six. With that in mind, another team reportedly is willing to offer Lee seven years, which would take him through his 39th birthday. That team remains a mystery, as an ESPN.com report late Tuesday night that brought the Angels into the picture but did not specify that they have extended any offer or are the team willing to go long on Lee.
What's not a mystery is that the Lee camp isn't in any hurry.
"It's a methodical process," Braunecker said. "It's very extensive. We're making sure we do all our due diligence to put him in the best possible situation for his family."
Said Yankees GM Brian Cashman: "As a free agent, they dictate the pace."
The Rangers expect the Yankees to be there with them, right up to the finish line in the Lee derby.
"It's like a big offensive threat being on deck. You know he's on deck," Rangers president Nolan Ryan said.
Plan B for the Rangers still would appear to be trading for 2009 Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke of the Royals, whose high demands knocked the Nationals out of the bidding, with the Dodgers, Rangers and Blue Jays said to be still in it.
One trade that seemed on the verge of happening wound up falling apart Tuesday, as the Orioles apparently fell short of acquiring shortstop Jason Bartlett from division rival Tampa Bay, and sources telling MLB.com a deal is "significantly less likely to happen" now than it was at the start of Day 2, with Nolan Reimold reportedly off the table.
With all the buzz, there was still time to pause and reflect on the men who take what the GMs give them and lead them for 162 games, and hopefully more -- managers -- by honoring four who have retired after exemplary careers: Bobby Cox, City Gaston, Lou Piniella and Joe Torre, with Braves GM John Schuerholz standing in for Cox, who had a family emergency.
Torre made it clear that all of them felt not only honored, but fortunate to be dictating their exit terms.
"When they retire, a lot of people really don't have a chance to make that decision," Torre said. "Usually somebody else makes it for them in this game. All four of us had the opportunity to make this decision on our own."
Among the other items buzzing around the lobby at the Winter Meetings:
MLB.com has learned that first baseman Carlos Pena and the Cubs have finalized a one-year, $10 million contract, but a team official said it was too early to say the deal was done.
The Red Sox continue to search for an outfielder, and MLB.com columnist and MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons reported that Boston has spoken to the Mets about switch-hitting center fielder Carlos Beltran. However, Gammons added that the Red Sox would be unlikely to include Daisuke Matsuzaka or Marco Scutaro, two players that might interest the Mets. Meanwhile, Magglio Ordonez is one right-handed hitting free agent the Sox have spoken to agent Scott Boras about, according to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com.
The A's have shown a strong level of interest in acquiring the 36-year-old veteran Hideki Matsui, whose presence would immediately fill Oakland's DH vacancy. Agent Arn Tellem says "several" clubs have expressed interest in Matsui's bat, and he expects to hear from even more.
The Braves continue to look for a club that is willing to acquire 35-year-old Japanese hurler Kenshin Kawakami and assume at least a portion of the $6.67 million still owed to him. "We know who has interest in him," Braves GM Frank Wren said. "There's a healthy interest in him."
The Rays were engaged in numerous conversations and rumors, including their possible interest in Rich Harden, former Rays lefty Mark Hendrickson, the Bartlett deal that fell through and, finally, a rumor that starter Matt Garza could be heading to the Nationals. "We've had conversations on a lot of different fronts, but I wouldn't characterize anything as imminent," said Rays GM Andrew Friedman.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.