Hot Stove League: Manny to Yankees?

Since the Yankees signed CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett last week, things have been pretty quiet in the Hot Stove League of Major League Baseball. The economy, despite what Scott Boras might tell you, is definitely a huge factor as Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira, and to a lesser extent, Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn remain team-less. But since rumors continue to circulate, you know that phone calls are being made, albeit a bit less with Christmas approaching.

The latest rumor has the Yanks talking to Ramirez and sticking him in front of A-Rod in what would be a pretty ridiculous lineup for a few years. You have to wonder how deep the Steinbrenners’ pockets really are, but let’s face it…doing that would make New York AL East favorites even if the Red Sox land Teixeira (which is either becoming doubtful or Theo Epstein is playing the media) and the Rays field basically the same team that went to the World Series in 2007. And it would piss off Sox fans to no end, giving them more reason to despise Manny Being Manny.

And Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry has reported that the Jake Peavy trade may be re-visited. He didn’t want to part with as much salary as San Diego wanted him to, and he didn’t want to include Mark DeRosa in the deal, but apparently Hendry is still very interested in pursuing the powerful right-hander.

Oh, and Rafael Furcal shunned his former team, the Braves, for his more current former team, the Dodgers, this past week. If you are yawning, I don’t blame you. And if you’re a bitter Braves fan, I don’t blame you either.

So what will happen between now and January 1? I don’t think much. And if you are a marginal free agent (see list above), the unemployment line beckons a bit louder. And that can’t be good for anyone, especially those pesky player agents.

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Hot Stove League: New York, New York (Burnett Officially Signs With Yankees)

I know this was Vegas, which comes with its own set of distractions, but come on. We all expected a lot more to happen at the MLB Winter Meetings this past week than the Yankees giving CC Sabathia the equivalent of a small planet and AJ Burnett significant real estate on said planet (the Yanks made the latter official Friday afternoon with a 5-year, $82.5 million deal), as well as the Mets signing the best closer out there (K-Rod) and trading for a second one (JJ Putz) to be their set-up guy. Unless the Orioles and Reds swapping Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Freel, or the Rays and Tigers trading Edwin Jackson for Matt Joyce gets your blood flowing, it was kind of a disappointing week, especially if you live 40 miles or more outside of the New York metro area.

We still have Manny Ramirez without a team, and the very real possibility that he could just stay with the Dodgers. Really, doesn’t that make the most sense for this guy’s, um, easygoing, personality and playing style? Meanwhile, the stakes for Mark Teixeira have been upped by none other than the Washington Nationals, who are believed to be offering the free agent slugger eight years at $20 million per. That sounds to me like agent Scott Boras trying to just be Scott Boras. We all know Tex is going to wind up in Boston, Baltimore, or back with the Angels.

And as if Cubs’ fans haven’t suffered through enough misery lately, GM Jim Hendry decided to pull the plug on the Jake Peavy trade. He just didn’t want to inherit as much salary as the Padres wanted him to, and he surely didn’t want to throw Mark DeRosa on a plane to San Diego as part of the deal. Now, the Angels have been mentioned as a team that might pursue Peavy, and you definitely can’t count the Yankees out either. Oh, and by the way, the Yankees have turned their attention to in-house “old reliable” Andy Pettitte now, and have not ruled Ben Sheets or Derek Lowe out yet. Wow.

Meanwhile, the Mets spent so much on closers that they literally had nothing left to go after Lowe. Instead, GM Omar Minaya is talking to the Cubs about a trade for Jason Marquis, and/or re-signing Oliver Perez or Pedro Martinez.

There could be a lot more moves on the horizon, but in a week expected to have a lot of fireworks, the hot stove fired up in New York and nowhere else. Stay tuned though, because deals are known to happen into January, and some, like Ramirez and Teixeira signing, could lead a domino effect for more moves.

Free Agency Officially Begins

Folks, your head could spin if you read all of the news and rumors about players possibly changing teams or getting big free agent money from their current or new team. So for today, we’ll focus on the big names that has everyone excited about….

CC Sabathia—The Yankees are expected to make a huge offer to the best pitcher on the market, and, well, would you expect anything less from the Steinbrenners? CC had made his desire clear that he wants to pitch in the National League and preferably on the west coast (ahem, Dodgers), but you can bet he will have a hard time turning down the $140 million offer from the Yanks. Yes, you just read that correctly. Oh, but don’t count the Angels or Mets out of the mix yet.

Manny Ramirez—It’s hard to figure if the Dodgers will make their pitch for Manny or CC first, but they if they decide Manny and Scott Boras want too many years in the deal, the team may just offer that money to Sabathia instead, who would love to pitch at Dodger Stadium in 2009 and beyond. Manny may not have to change residency though, as the Angels are reportedly interested, especially if they lose Mark Teixeira as expected.
The Mets may also make a play, but they need to shore up their pitching before adding another bat.

Francisco Rodriguez—The Angels are crazy for letting this guy walk, but maybe they just don’t think he’s worth mega-bucks at this point. Plus, the one time the guy decided to blow a save was in the postseason. The Mets seem like a likely fit, but they are not likely to pay K-Rod and his agent what they want either, and are rumored to be pursuing Brian Fuentes instead.

Mark Teixeira—The latest rumor has the Red Sox signing Teixeira as well as former Sox pitcher Derek Lowe. Would that make the Sox instant favorites in the AL? Well, the way the Rays played last season, you can’t really say that. Money doesn’t buy pennants anymore. But it would make the Sox significantly better, and that’s really saying something.

Kerry Wood—The Cubs did not pick up Wood’s option, making him a free agent. Again, the Mets have to be interested, don’t they? Yes, but the Mets are concerned about Wood’s injury history, so they are weighing all of their options, including a possible trade for the White Sox’ Bobby Jenks. Meanwhile, the Cubs picked up Kevin Gregg from the Marlins in a trade on Thursday and Gregg could possibly be Chicago’s closer in 2009.

Here are some other free agents likely to be signed quickly…..AJ Burnett, Randy Johnson, Trevor Hoffman, Ryan Dempster, Rafael Furcal. We’re just getting started folks!

Hot Stove: Shaking Things Up

This is when the baseball season is really interesting—while no games are happening and speculation flies around about who will be changing uniforms and shifting the balance of the sport’s power. It sure beats watching a nine-inning game that goes on for four hours or more.

So the two big names that are free agents and will be courted heavily are CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez. Forget the fact that commissioner Bud Selig cautioned teams about forking over too much money in a slow economy. Those two guys are going to rake in the cabbage either way, because teams will bid for them at ridiculous numbers. So far, the Brewers, Yankees and Angels seem to be the first in line to make a run at CC, and Manny’s agent, Scott Boras, had a 90 minute conversation with Dodgers’ GM Ned Colletti on Tuesday, but that pretty much means nothing. Still, the Dodgers owe their fans an offer to Ramirez, even if Boras is looking for a 5-6 year offer.

On the trading block, would you believe Tigers’ slugger Magglio Ordonez? The Tigers reportedly have enough holes to fill that they are willing to part with one of the game’s premier hitters to do so. That kind of deal has Yankees written all over it.

Two players whose team option was not picked up were the Yankees’ Jason Giambi and Dodgers’ Brad Penny. For all the talk about Giambi and steroids, the guy did hit 32 homers in 2008 and still has some pop as well as the penchant for bad mustaches.

Though the Mets need bullpen help more than anything, they are talking trade with Tampa Bay for starter Andy Sonnenstine. The Mets are also talking like they will not be bringing back Aaron Heilman, which is about as good a move as any trade to acquire a player.

Finally, free agent Ken Griffey may be heading back to Seattle, and pitcher Derek Lowe may be headed back to Boston. Stay tuned…..

Boras: Dodgers’ offer for Manny not long enough

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a $45 million offer on the table for Manny Ramirez, but apparently the contract it isn’t long enough for agent Scott Boras’s liking. The Dodgers are offering a 2-year deal, but Ramirez and Boras are seeking a 6-year contract.

One of the two sources said the Dodgers presented agent Scott Boras with a back-loaded deal that would pay Ramirez $15 million in 2009, down from the $20 million he earned this year. Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said Wednesday that the contract included an option year.

Boras wouldn’t confirm the details of the proposed contract but wondered aloud why it didn’t include more years. He has said that Ramirez deserves a six-year deal.

“There is evidence of major league teams giving a player that’s older a contract for five years,” Boras said.

The reference was to the five-year deal the San Francisco Giants awarded Barry Bonds in 2002, when he was 37. Boras noted that he negotiated that contract with Colletti, who was the Giants’ assistant general manager at the time.

Six years seems ridiculous given Manny’s age, but then again, it’s not like his production is declining. Nobody knows if he’ll continue to play at a high level in his late 30s, but he seems like a decent risk worth taking.

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