Winter Meetings: Padres Edition

The 2003 Winter Meetings began Friday and general manager Kevin Towers was hard at work on trying to improve the 2004 San Diego Padres. <br><br> Strange rumors and rumblings have come out of New Orleans concerning the Friars and sorting through them is almost as fun as Christmas morning.

First some pitcher news:

The Padres are closing in on a deal for Sterling Hitchcock. The former Friar was reportedly offered $750K to join the team and compete for the fifth spot in the rotation.

The 32 year old left-hander would be a welcome addition to the club, devoid of lefties in the starting rotation at present time.

The hot topic is Mike Cameron who is contemplating offers from two teams and interested in a third.

Mets GM Jim Duquette confirmed Friday that Cameron is in town and that the club is extremely interested in bringing him to the Big Apple. Cameron hit .253 with 18 HR and 76 RBI in 2003 and swiped 17 stolen bases.

"In the next couple of days, he should be making a decision," Duquette said.

Cameron will talk shop with the Padres and A's more on Saturday, as the Pares constituents did not arrive in New Orleans until 6 PM. They did talk with Cameron Friday night and even John Moores got in on the recruiting action. Cameron is expected to make a decision by the end of the weekend. The Padres were the last team among the three to make a formal contract offer for the centerfielder, four years at $20-22 million. That deal is similar to the A's deal in length and salary. The Mets are believed to have a deal worth as much as $18 million spanning three years. They will not add a fourth.

Cameron earned $7.4 million in his final year with the Seattle Mariners and the team didn't offer him salary arbitration. His previous contract with the Mariners was constructed so he would receive exponential raises. In his four years with the M's, he earned $2.25 million in 2000, $3.4 million in 2001 and $4.7 in 2002. He received a three-year extension in January 2001.

He is expected to command a contract in the $6-$7 million range.

That choice could spurn activity between the Mets and Padres. If Cameron goes to the Friars, the Terrence Long for Roger Cedeno trade will be back on and gain a ton of steam.

Another interesting development out of Pittsburgh has the Padres trading Long and newly acquired catcher Ramon Hernandez for Jason Kendall. The likelihood of such a deal appears slim and no one was available to confirm or deny the report.

Maddux' future has been a hot topic of discussion this off-season. (Photo/Getty)
After spending over a decade with the Atlanta Braves, could Greg Maddux is looking for a new home

According to published reports from several sources including the Associated Press, Maddux could have a new home by the time the meetings conclude on Monday. Among the teams most interested in Maddux, the San Francisco Giants, Padres and Chicago Cubs are at the front of the line.

Our friends over at CubsTalk tell us that a mystery team could be in the works for Maddux, as well. That could include the St. Louis Cardinals, who recently parted ways with LHP Sterling Hitchcock. The Cardinals are also reported to be in contract talks with free agent Jeff Suppan.

At 37, Maddux suffered his highest regular season ERA (3.96) since leaving Chicago after 1992.

The Toronto Blue Jays have signed right-hander Miguel Batista to a three-year contract worth $13.1 million. Batista pitched in 36 games for Arizona last season, going 10-9 with a 3.54 ERA. This will be Batista's first return home to the American League since his 2000 season, which he spent with the Kansas City Royals.

The Padres has made cursory calls regarding Batista but never pursued the righty with any gusto.

The rest of day one for the Padres centered around building blocks for potential trades. Kevin Towers spoke with Montreal Expos GM Omar Minaya regarding a trade, but at this stage little can be gathered from such a conversation. Towers reportedly spoke to seven teams regarding possible moves to better the ballclub.

Elsewhere around baseball, a major shake-up has been rumored in Houston, where a local radio station reported Friday that Roger Clemens was taking the weekend off to decide whether or not he would come out of retirement to pitch for the hometown Astros.

While it could be mere speculation, Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker didn't deny that he and Clemens' agents had spoken.

"We've let his representatives know that if Roger changes his mind about retiring, we'd be interested in talking to him," Hunsicker said Friday.

Clemens' Yankee teammate, Andy Pettitte, signed with the Astros on Thursday to the tune of $31.5 million over three years. Pettitte also told reporters Friday that if he feels there is a chance Clemens could return, he'd be willing to persuade him.

Finally, the Philadelphia Phillies exercised their 2005 option on manager Larry Bowa. The club also added 2006 and '07 team options for Bowa.

Note: Twenty managers will meet with the media for sit-down sessions regarding offseason moves and a look ahead to 2004. Another eight managers will speak Sunday afternoon.

Steve Holley contributed to this report

MadFriars Top Stories