The days of "I'll give you Smith for Johnson" are long over and things take time to ripen into an actual trade, as do free agent signings. For the most part, rumors have taken over the spotlight, with enough fuel to keep the Hot Stove League toasty until December at least.
Agent Steve Boras is front and center in a number of the whispered deals. He has 16 clients who are free agents this winter, a cast that includes outfielder Manny Ramirez and pitcher Derek Lowe. "We're going to do $300-$400 million in contracts like we did three or four years ago," Boras said as the meetings opened.
And, as in his style, the wheeling and dealing will take a long time, until it becomes apparent that the last dollar has been wrung out of the signing. Think December.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has meetings set with Boras but again made it clear that other free-agent signings could preclude the Dodgers from inking Ramirez if it drags on later into the offseason.
Reading between the lines, it would seem the Dodgers are interested in signing free-agent left-hander CC Sabathia, who pitched the Brewers into the postseason after being acquired from the Indians in July. And, excepting the Yankees, no one has deep enough pockets to nail down both CC and Manny.
Colletti admitted as much. "I think it would be difficult to sign both of them. I don't have an unlimited budget." Sabathia received an offer from Milwaukee that is believed to be worth about $100 million, according to multiple reports. He is expected to fetch more on the open market.
The Dodgers are also talking to a pair of their own free agents, Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal. And they must decide today if they will pick up Brad Penny's $9.25-million option for 2009 or let him go with a $2-million buyout.
"We have to go about our business," Colletti told the L.A. Times. "Any time you have more than one player you feel the need to add, you have to take them as the time line dictates, as circumstances dictate. Timing is an important piece of it. You can't dictate it. We've called our free agents and told them of our interest. They've expressed interest in coming back and also finding out what's out there. There's risk with everybody -- maybe some added risk with some players."
Boras said he He expects Manny to be recognized with the same length of contract and a similar rate of pay as Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.
"I did Barry Bonds' contract with Ned Colletti [then with San Francisco in 2001] when he was a year older than Manny. Back then there really wasn't a benchmark. But last year, when we did Alex Rodriguez, the key negotiating point was that he be paid to the same age that Barry Bonds was paid. And so we have two extraordinary hitters in Bonds and A-Rod that were paid to the age of 42.
"Bonds was a franchise player who literally paid for himself with the people he put in the seats and his historic home run performance. Those players are like Manny Ramirez."
Asked if he would recommend Ramirez accepting a shorter contract for more money, as the Dodgers have been rumored to prefer, he said, "Let's see, would you rather have desert and coffee? No, I think Manny realizes he wants to go to a place where he'll be there a long time and being part of an organization."
Colletti reported that Rafael Furcal's agent Paul Kinzer gave him the impression that Raffy would be explore the free-agent market. Kinzer said that Furcal's value shouldn't be affected by his surgically repaired back because he has been medically cleared by the doctor who performed the midseason operation.
Kinzer admitted the Dodgers remain Furcal's top choice and that Colletti told him he wants the shortstop back. Kinzer said some time ago that Furcal would be open to re-signing with the Dodgers without fielding other offers, but after seven teams expressed interest, including the Cubs, Giants and Blue Jays, that's no longer is the case.
Furcal, 31, is believed to be looking for at least a four-year contract, as Kinzer said he wants a deal that would run to the end of his career.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer says this about Blake: "If Casey Blake isn't the most convenient third baseman available, he's the most familiar. He played 5 1/2 seasons with the Indians until they traded him to the Dodgers on July 26 for right-hander John Meloan and catcher Carlos Santana.
"We know and appreciate Casey. We know what he does as a teammate and athlete. That doesn't mean he's at the top of our list, but he's a guy we have definite interest in." Blake finished the year hitting .274 with 36 doubles, 21 homers and 81 RBI. He hit .289 with the Indians and .251 with the Dodgers.
Dodgers right-hander Greg Maddux intends to retire from Major League Baseball. Boras said, "I talked to Greg at the end of the season, and he said at this point, his intentions are not to play next year," Boras told a group of writers. Asked if Maddux could change his mind before Spring Training opens, Boras said "I don't know. I think he was rather definitive about his statement, and my belief from his point of view is that he will retire."
Maddux, 42, would finish his 23-year career with a 355-227 record and a 3.16 ERA. Maddux was 11-14 in 35 postseason games, including 30 starts, for the Braves, Cubs and Dodgers.
--Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, says Tony Abreu hasn't been healthy for the last two years and the club isn't counting on him for next year, but there are encouraging signs. He recently played games in the instructional league. A stint in the Dominican Winter League is under consideration. Since his last Major League appearance, he's had surgery for a sports hernia, and when that didn't work, had one for a torn hip labrum. Abreu's loss last year was key, because he could have stepped in when infielders Andy LaRoche and Nomar Garciaparra went down. On the other hand, because he wasn't healthy, it forced the club to take a look at Blake DeWitt, and he played so well that he replaced LaRoche on the depth chart.
--Gurnick also writes, Andrew Jones is concentrating on his conditioning and losing weight. In addition to the knee that required surgery, one of many theories on Jones' horrible season was just being out of shape. Teammates and scouts have suggested that his downward spiral became mental, one comparing his clueless approach at the plate to a golfer with the yips. If that's true, all the coaching and batting practice in the world wouldn't necessarily make any difference. A change of scenery might, and he's told teammates he'd rather not return, but there's $21 million remaining on his contract, so a trade is virtually inconceivable.
--Reports stating that the Dodgers are looking to trade catcher Russell Martin or move him to third base are untrue, Colletti said, and the 2009 option for backup catcher Gary Bennett was declined by the Dodgers, who bought out the second year of his two-year contract for $50,000. The option was for $900,000.
--The Dodgers traded minor leaguer Travis Denker to the Giants early in the 2008 season. The Giants put him on waivers when the year ended and San Diego picked him up. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco came out of the deal with nothing to show for it.
--The Rangers hired former Dodger infielder Dave Anderson at their third base coach. Washington signed former Dodger outfielder Marquis Grissom as their first base coach. Texas signed Mike Maddux, former Dodger pitcher and brother of Greg Maddux, as their pitching coach. The Phillies released RHP Tom Gordon, father of the Dodgers #4 draft pick Devaris Gordon. San Diego signed former Dodger infielder Jim Lefebvre as their hitting coach. The NY Mets released their bullpen coach and former Dodger minor league pitching coordinator Guy Conti.
Rumor War Room
Having warned you about rumors in an earlier article, we herewith submit some of the most recent for your examination.
--The Los Angeles Times writes that owner Frank McCourt has become increasingly distrustful of agent Scott Boras after signing his client, Andruw Jones, according to multiple baseball sources.
--Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the Dodgers have confirmed what that they are discussing a deal for Padres ace Jake Peavy.
--The Boston Globe says Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein will meet with agent Scott Boras over the next couple of days to discuss where the team stands in re-signing team captain Jason Varotek. There is a Boston connection in owner Frank McCourt, and the they could play Russell Martin at third some of the time.
--The Chicago Tribune says Manny Ramirez is seeking a reported $27 million a year in a soft economy--and he is very likely to get it.
--Jake Pevey, who is rumored to be coveted by the Dodgers, said San Diego general manager Kevin Towers confirmed that pitcher Jake Peavy would not approve a trade to the Red Sox. He did, apparently, put the NY Yankees on his OK trade list. And the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Braves officials met with Towers Sunday and again Monday, and the two sides discussed several proposals.
--The Yankee GM Brian Cashman is focusing on starting pitching, including both CC Sabathia and Derek Lowe. "We don't need one, we need multiple starters," he said. The New York Daily News has also put Lowe at the top of their list according to the New York Post. With both of them opening new parks in 2009, Mr. Lowe is going to be a rich, rich man. The Mets have also put out feelers about former Dodger Edwin Jackson (14-11, 4.42) According to ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney
--And if you believe this one, we have some ocean-side property here in Nebraska we could let you have a very reasonably. The Boston Globe says that Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo is owed $18 million over the next two seasons, and to trade him, the Sox likely would need to accept a bad contract in return. One thought: Lugo for Dodgers center fielder Andruw Jones, who is signed only through 2009 but owed $22.1 million through 2010. The Dodgers traded for Lugo in 2006 and almost certainly would not want him back and if they take him they will pay the same $18 million that they owe Jones next year.
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