Chicago's ESPN Radio 1000 and WGN Radio's Sports Central with David Kaplan each reported the Cubs were close to reaching a one-year deal with free agent shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. WMVP reported Wednesday the deal was for $8 million.
Randy Johnson is seeking a trade to a proven winner provided the Diamondbacks don't amass enough talent this offseason to make a serious run at the playoffs, and the Cardinals figure to make a major push as front-runners to acquire him. Jocketty said the Cardinals are plenty interested and acknowledged the club would have to sign Johnson, 41, beyond next season to make any deal work. Johnson has one year remaining on his contract with Arizona, worth $16 million, but the Diamondbacks aren't in any particular rush to move the 6-foot-10 lefty.
Marlon Anderson was released by the Cardinals. Anderson, who had a good year as a pinch hitter, batting .333 (17 for 51), but hit only .237 overall with a .269 on-base percentage.
Jason Simontacchi, who won 20 games for them in 2002-03 but spent much of this year at Class AAA Memphis, was released by the Cardinals. Simontacchi, who thought he was home for the winter, was brought back to the big-league roster in the last week of the season after the Cardinals ran short of pitchers but was used just once.
Tony Womack might be a free-agent target of the Cubs. Womack briefly played with the Cubs in 2003 and injured his shoulder sliding into home plate. The Cubs did not re-sign him for 2004.
Dan Kolb was the target of a trade inquiry from the Cubs, but the Brewers are apparently not interested in letting him go. The Cubs are seeking a closer because Joe Borowski suffered a shoulder injury and LaTroy Hawkins blew nine save opportunities. Both figure to be setup men in 2005.
Jeff Kent, who is mulling over a contract offer to re-sign with the Astros, is drawing interest from the Cubs, Tigers, Red Sox and Rangers. The all-time leader in home runs by a second baseman, Kent is weighing whether he would play first base, designated hitter or second for the teams showing interest. He began his career at third base and feels comfortable at first, where he played some games while with the Giants.
Orlando Cabrera's agent said that the Sox had yet to contact him this offseason. "He's disappointed. But he's a big boy; he understands the business side of it," Dan Lozano, agent for the shortstop, told the Boston Globe. "At this point, we're dealing with the teams that definitely have shown interest."
Ugueth Urbina might not be finished with the Detroit Tigers yet, for a couple of reasons. First, the Tigers exercised the $4 million option on Urbina's contract for 2005. He's on their roster. Second, even though the Tigers guaranteed Percival $12 million for the next two seasons, they can't be as unaware of the closer's age and frailties as some writers and opposing clubs seem to be. Percival spent time on the disabled list last year. And at age 35, he's probable for revisits even if monitored closely.
Carlos Beltran is getting plenty of interest from the Mets, raising his value because both New York teams want him as well as the Cubs and Houston Astros. The Dodgers and Anaheim Angels are still possibilities.
Richie Sexson received what might have been the Arizona Diamondbacks' final contract proposal to him when they offered the free-agent first baseman two separate deals. One was a three-year package, the other a 4-5 year offer, and both included some injury provisions should Sexson re-injure his left shoulder. The Diamondbacks were still awaiting a response from Sexson's agent, Casey Close, although it is widely expected Sexson will continue to shop the market and wait to get multiple offers from other clubs before making any decisions about the Diamondbacks. Sexson is also drawing interest from the New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners.
Carlos Delgado is being hotly pursued by the Mariners. He has told the club he would be willing to move from cleanup, his position in the Toronto batting order since the late 1990s, to the No. 3 slot if it meant the Mariners would be able to add another slugger.
Troy Glaus was seen recently taking a tour of Bank One Ballpark, but the Diamondbacks officials would not confirm or deny reports that the club either has or was on the verge of making a contract offer to the free agent. It is thought Arizona would only make a serious offer to Glaus if the club can't re-sign Sexson.
Glaus' agent, Mike Nicotera, would not say if the Los Angeles Dodgers are in the running for Glaus' services but did say a handful of teams have been "pretty specific" in their interest. The Mariners and Detroit Tigers are believed to be in that group, and Nicotera said Glaus is in the "information-gathering" phase where he is checking out the lifestyle in potential home cities. "I won't say whether we're involved with them (the Dodgers) or not," Nicotera said. "But I will say that (Los Angeles) is one area he wouldn't have to visit. Troy's pretty familiar with (Southern California)."
Russ Ortiz was also seen recently taking a tour of Bank One Ballpark, but the Diamondbacks officials would not confirm or deny reports that the club either has or was on the verge of making a contract offer to the free agent. Ortiz would give the starting rotation some immediate credibility, especially if the Diamondbacks decide to deal the "Big Unit."
Pedro Martinez reportedly received a sweetened contract offer after his back-to-back meetings with George Steinbrenner and Red Sox officials in mid-November. The Sox, who initially offered a guaranteed two-year, $25.5 million contract, upped the ante with a proposal believed to be for three years and $38 million. While some reports in New York suggested that the Yankees were maneuvering to counter with a four-year, $50 million proposal, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino suggested that such reports should be greeted with a measure of salt. "At this time of year, no matter who the free agent is, you've got to be a little careful about relying on newspaper and media data and information," Lucchino said.
Gabe Kapler became the first Sox free agent to move to greener pastures, signing a one-year deal for $2 million with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. As reported to the Boston Herald by Kapler's agent, Paul Cohen, Kapler "spent the better part of a week really agonizing over the decision" to become an everyday player in Japan rather than returning to his bench role with the Sox.
Woody Williams, a Houston native who pitched for the Cardinals the last three years, had his representatives contact the Astros regarding the possibility of signing with them.
Robb Nen, who missed last year with shoulder surgery, is talking to the Rockies, who would like a veteran to help develop a young bullpen. The Rockies also talked to Bob Wickman, but he re-signed with Cleveland.
Austin Kearns is on the trade block, according to reports, and while Reds GM Dan O'Brien didn't outwardly deny it, he said several teams have inquired about the team's surplus of outfielders. The Reds are trying to convert Kearns into a third baseman. While O'Brien fields the calls and listens, he isn't inclined to make a trade involving one of his outfielders, Kearns included. "We view our outfield as a strength, and if Kearns can make the switch to third base we have no interest in trading outfielders," he said. With Kearns at third, that would leave Adam Dunn in left, Ken Griffey in center and Wily Mo Pena in right.
Mike Redmond was offered a $500,000 contract by the Florida Marlins -- a sizable pay cut from the $840,000 he made in 2004. But Redmond rejected the offer and signed with Minnesota. Redmond signed with the Marlins as a minor league free agent in 1992 and has played his career in Florida since his rookie year (1998). He had eight other offers.
Jose Valentin has not even been contacted by the Chicago White Sox for a return in 2005, and the veteran free agent is now hinting that he would like to join the Minnesota Twins. While he would add some power to the Twins lineup, playing on the fast turf of the Metrodome would make his already shaky glove a concern, as well as the fact that the Twins want high on-base percentage guys. Valentin had just a .287 on-base percentage last year.
Damaso Marte will be closely watched this offseason after finishing with a disappointing 6-5 record and a 3.42 ERA in 2004. Marte claimed to be healthy all season, but the Sox want to see what he looks like in winter ball. "Damaso will be the first to tell you that he didn't have a Damaso-type year," GM Ken Williams said of Marte. "But if you look at the numbers of all the lefties around the league, I'll take him over most that are out there."
LHP John Franco is done as a Met. The Mets have no interest in signing him for next season and passed up on hiring him for the coaching staff.
OF Juan Gonzalez, who's been injury prone the last few years, is an intriguing candidate for the Oakland Athletics to fill an outfield/DH role. Gonzalez would only fit with the A's if he's willing to accept a cheap one-year contract, probably less than $2 million, to prove he's healthy.
Vernon Wells was named the Most Valuable Player of Japan All-Star Series 2004 after batting .407 (11 for 27) with two home runs and seven RBI. Wells and the MLB All-Stars won five of the eight games in the five-city exhibition tour. For his efforts as the MVP, Wells won a new car and $20,000.