Notes from Around the Major Leagues

Notes while nervously waiting for the Dodgers and Phillies to get underway in the National League Championship Season:

Fifteen days after the end of the World Series, the free-agent market opens and the CC Sabathia sweepstakes begin. The Dodgers Nation is divided between re-signing Manny Ramirez and signing Sabathia.

The New York Post says the Yanks will doggedly pursue CC Sabathia and several rival executives say the Dodgers are worried enough about Manny Ramirez that they might not re-sign him, but will appease angry fans by making a substantial push for Sabathia. All things being equal, Sabathia wants to return home to California and stay in the NL where he can hit. Ken Rosenthal, the senior baseball writer for since Aug. 2005, has determined an early line and the odds on landing the superstar:

Yankees, 5-2: Will not be outbid. Their problem will be convincing Sabathia to return to the American League and play in the Bronx when he could get his $150 million to $200 million elsewhere.

Angels, 4-1: Lots of ways the Angels can go this offseason, but one way or another, they need to sign at least one starting pitcher. John Lackey is a free agent after next season.

Mets, 6-1: Sabathia and Johan Santana might cost a combined $50 million per season, and the Mets still would need a closer. So? The Mets, like the Yankees, are opening a new ballpark, and signing Sabathia would help reduce the stench around their team.

Dodgers, 8-1: Forfeited the inside track by failing to trade for Sabathia in July. No chance owner Frank McCourt signs both Sabathia and Manny Ramirez. He might not sign either.

Red Sox, 4-1: The Sox control Josh Beckett only through 2010. Some rival executives think they ultimately might go for A.J. Burnett, who is 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA against them in eight career starts.

Astros, 10-1: In desperate need of a top-of-the-rotation starter to complement Roy Oswalt. Difficult to imagine Drayton McLane being the high bidder, but he did give Carlos Lee $100 million.

Giants, 20-1: Sabathia and Barry Zito at a combined cost of over $300 million? Not likely when the Giants' biggest need is offense.

Cubs, 30-1: Their sale is unlikely to be completed by the time Sabathia hits the market in November.

Braves, 50-1: Upgrading the rotation is a priority, but the Braves are more likely to pursue Burnett or Derek Lowe than spend big on Sabathia.

Brewers, 100-1: While both sides are saying all the right things, there's just no way the Brewers will prevail in such a heated market.

The field, 40-1: Some wacky surprise team is certain to emerge. Maybe the Nationals. Not the Marlins. News Services reported that Japan's 12 pro baseball teams are trying to make it so the country's amateur players don't leave the country to play.

Japan's 12 teams have voted on a conditional ban on any amateur player who signs with an overseas professional team, the Mainichi Daily News reported.

The move comes after Junichi Tazawa, a 22-year-old star pitcher, announced his intentions to play in Major League Baseball instead of Japan. Japanese amateurs who sign with an overseas pro team out of high school will be banned from playing in Japan for three years, while amateurs who sign with an overseas pro team from a university or company team would be banned for two years.

The ban will be in effect for Japan's professional draft on Oct. 30 and should apply to Tazawa. The ban will apply to players who choose to play with an overseas pro team despite being drafted by a Japanese team or players who refuse to be nominated for the Japanese draft.

Tazawa led the Nippon Oil Corp. team to the title in Japan's intercity baseball tournament and was named MVP. He announced his intentions to the play in the majors on Sept. 11 and wrote a letter to Japan's pro teams requesting not to be drafted.

Home Base Network to Host Parties
The Dodgers' Home Base Network will host viewing parties while the team plays against the Philadelphia Phillies on the road for Game 1 (Thursday at 5:22 p.m. PST) and Game 2 (Friday at 1:35 p.m. PST) of the NLCS. Fans attending the Home Base Network NLCS viewing parties will enjoy meet and greet sessions and autograph signings with Dodger greats Kenny Landreaux, Bobby Castillo, and Rudy Law, Dodger dogs and giveaways including NL West Division Championship locker room merchandise and tickets to Game 4 of the NLCS.

Newsday reported that if Jerry Manuel does not return as manager of the Mets. The job is one of the few that might prompt him to leave Japan. Having him return to open Citi Field next April would be like the franchise welcoming home a prodigal son.

The Rocky Mountain News says that although manager Clint Hurdle will be in the final year of his contract in 2009, it isn't a concern of Hurdle, who shrugs off the suggestion that life can be more challenging if a manager is perceived to be in a lame-duck position. Hurdle isn't the only manager who will go into 2009 in the final year of his contract. The paper also said the rumor that San Diego might deal right-hander Jake Peavy, 27, is just that, a rumor. Peavy, who is guaranteed $11 million in 2009, $15 million in 2010 and $16 million in 2011, has a complete no-trade through 2010.

The New York Times says that the Mets are thinking of signing free agent Orlando Hudson, who played second for Arizona this season and would bring an outstanding glove to Citi Field and perhaps provide some of the assertiveness that Minaya and Wilpon seem to be seeking.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Braves GM Frank Wren is approaching 2009 with the mindset of acquiring a couple of pitching aces from elsewhere to anchor the Braves' starting rotation. Still, he is keeping John Smoltz (recovering from shoulder surgery at 41), Tom Glavine (a free agent recovering from elbow and shoulder surgeries at 42), Mike Hampton (always recovering from something) in the mix until their arms show signs of snapping from their bodies.

The LA Times pointed out that the Cubs had consulted a sleep doctor about the best time to fly west after Game 2 of the NLDS. He told them they should stay overnight -- instead of travel after the ballgame and leave the next day -- so that everybody can get their full balance of sleep, as opposed to sleeping all day and not being able to sleep the night after. Manager Lou Piniella said "We'll see if he's right or not after the third game in Los Angeles."

Rumors Have it that the Rockies, after a disappointing 74-88 record and third-place finish in the NL West, are contemplating a major shakeup on the team's coaching staff. None of the staff have been assured of his return, and hitting coach Alan Cockrell and pitching coach Bob Apodaca appear particularly vulnerable.

One or more of the other coaches — Jamie Quirk (bench), Mike Gallego (third base), Glenallen Hill (first base) and Rick Mathews (bullpen) — also could be dismissed.

Many also feel the team will entertain trade offers for left fielder Matt Holliday, third baseman Garrett Atkins and center fielder Willy Taveras, and could move all three.

The Pirates Looking for Bats are thinking of adding Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and trading both shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez. They would not deal center fielder Nate McLouth for Cano, and they will not move McLouth at all unless it was for "a dramatic overpay," according to a baseball executive with knowledge of the team's plans.

First baseman Adam LaRoche batted .304-.361-.613 after the All-Star break, but the Pirates could trade him and acquire another player at the position; LaRoche's salary could jump to $7 million-plus in his final year of arbitration, after which he will become a free agent.

The Marlins could trade Brian Roberts, a switch-hitting leadoff man, and large number of teams could seek to upgrade at second, including the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Padres, Dodgers, Mets, Cardinals, Indians and White Sox. Several of those clubs have long coveted Roberts.

The Orioles plan to explore an extension with Roberts, who is a free agent after the 2009 season. If those talks fail, the O's might finally concede and part with Roberts.

Brian Fuentes, Colorado closer will seek Brad Lidge money — three years, $37.5 million — as a free agent. Fuentes, 32, is left-handed, only a year older than Lidge and coming off a second half in which he went 16-for-16 in save chances with a 1.75 ERA.

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