Things Moving Slow at the Winter Meetings

Free agents are jammed up like logs in a frozen river at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. There is much speculation about mythical trades but in the long run, everyone seems to be waiting for the two big names, Sabathia and Ramirez, to break free of the ice and free the rest. Typically, it seems, L.A> has signed 36 year old Casey Blake and 37 year old Mark Loretta. So much for the youth movement.

We all were told that Sabathia told Dodgers GM Ned Colletti that he wanted to play for the Dodgers. Colletti said the club was interested and that they "might rethink their opposition to a long term contract.

Well folks, it apparently was all just a prank.

It seems apparent now that the Dodgers were never serious about signing Sabathia. Manager Joe Torre downplayed the pitcher's reported interest in the Dodgers, saying it was a "tease" and the club wasn't counting on it.

Now the big left-hander is seemingly poised to sign with the Yankees for some $140 million, which must send a shock through all the people in the country who have lost both their job and their home.

So the Dodgers still need to add a starter or two but they probably won't be first line players, maybe a couple of 40-somethings, Randy Johnson and Trevor Hoffman.

If spend big money, it will be for Manny Ramirez, but it won't be as big or as long as Ramirez would have liked. The Dodgers have no offer on the table. If the Dodgers don't get a hitter in the winter, they maybe hope that another hall of famer will drop in their laps as Ramirez did last year with his former club paying all his salary.

Yea, right.

At a news conference with Ned Colletti, Joe Torre, White Sox GM Ken Williams and Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen discussed the upcoming first spring training in Glendale, Arizona.

It was announced that the Dodgers will be using it not only as a spring-training site, but as a year-round staging ground for much of their baseball operation.

"This will be practically a 12-month endeavor," Colletti was quoted as saying. "Our player-development department will move its headquarters there. Our Instructional League team will play there, and we may be able to double up on the Instructional League. We may double up on some specific clinics for players in the fall months.

"A few of our players reside in Arizona all year long, and they will have the opportunity to work out any day of the offseason. We will have extensive video, we will have extensive hitting oppotunities, pitching, fielding, and a lot of former Dodgers will be invited back to partake in it to be there both as instructors and as people who can teach a little bit about what the game is all about."

Las Vegas Illusion
Of all the strange and wondrous thing that were rumored to be happening, maybe this is most unexpected. Word on the street, or in the hotel probably, is that the Mets are showing interest in obtaining Juan Pierre and other clubs have asked about the availability of Andruw Jones.

Try to get your head around that.

Of course, the Dodgers would have to cough up a goodly share of the salaries each of the outfielders are receiving but it is something to ponder.

Los Angeles officials say they cannot cut Pierre loose until they find another outfielder, Ramirez or otherwise. Pierre is still owed $10 million in 2009, $10 million in 2010 and $8.5 million in '11.

Perhaps they should think about using Jason Repko if they can swap Pierre for, well, anything. He's a better fielder, can run as fast and probably steal bases as well as the older player and -- drum roll please -- he's much cheeper.

With Jones, there is that faint voice the the back of your head that says, "maybe, just maybe, the big guy has got his swing straightened out and can do us some good." And were that the case, you would hate to be paying the majority of the $21 million plus he is still owed — $17.1 million next season with a $5 million deferred payment in 2010.

The Dodgers have set up a workout regimen in Atlanta for Jones and have had a representative on hand to see that he takes advantage of it.

Now they report that Andruw Jones is flying to the Dominican Republic to prove he's a winter ball-quality player. What would be more surprising, Jones regaining his form in the near future or this.

Then there is Tony Abreu, once the heir-apparent to Jeff Kent's second base job, is progressing well from hip surgery, and was about to start playing with Aguilas. Now he is at the Dodgers' Dominican complex working to stay in shape.

The Dodgers filed suit against the company that insured Schmidt's contract, alleging failure to pay $9.27 million in claims. The Los Angeles Times reports that in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the Dodgers argue the torn labrum that required surgery and limited Schmidt to six games over two years was unrelated to the rotator cuff injury and thus covered by insurance.

But the insurer, ACE American Insurance Company, issued the policy Feb. 24, 2007, two months after the Dodgers signed Schmidt and said, "At the time the Dodgers entered into the policy with ACE," the suit reads, "both the Dodgers and ACE were aware that Mr. Schmidt had for some time during his career with the San Francisco Giants been suffering from a partial tear of the rotator cuff in his right [pitching] shoulder."

"Before we sign anybody, they're run through a pretty strong physical," Dodgers General Manager Colletti said then. "If there was a red flag on any player, we wouldn't pursue him."

The Times believes the Schmidt physical included an MRI examination that confirmed the rotator cuff injury. In the suit, the Dodgers claim such injuries are not uncommon and said they awarded him the contract based on his success with the Giants.

"Major league pitchers often experience such partial rotator cuff tears but nevertheless remain competitive and effective," the suit reads, "as Mr. Schmidt had demonstrated himself to be during the 2006 season immediately prior to joining the Dodgers. The Dodgers therefore did not find Mr. Schmidt's preexisting rotator cuff condition to exclude him from consideration as a team member."

Schmidt has not pitched since June 16, 2007 and Colletti said Tuesday he was not expecting Schmidt to pitch in 2009, the final year of the contract. "We're not counting on it," Colletti said. "If it happens, it's great."

Dodger Blue Notes-- The Dodgers are considering shortstop Omar Vizquel (41) if they cannot land Rafael Furcal. ...Blake's finalized salary is $17.5-million contract that will pay him $5 million in 2009, $6 million in 2010 and $5.25 million in 2011. The deal includes a $6-million club option for 2012, with a $1.25-million buyout, plus $1.5 million in incentive bonuses. He will be 40 years old then. ...Utility infielder Mark Loretta passed his physical. ...Colletti said shortstop Rafael Furcal has been offered a contract from the Dodgers. He wouldn't detail the terms but made clear the Dodgers would not offer the requested four years. Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer, told that the Dodgers, Oakland, Kansas City and Toronto are the finalists.