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Baseball Notes

This week’s meetings teem with possibilities

By Nick Cafardo
December 6, 2009

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Baseball’s winter meetings get under way in Indianapolis tomorrow, and if things align right, a few interesting players could change uniforms. If they fall wrong, we’ll be left with erroneous reports, maddening agentspeak, and denials of trades gone bad.

Over the next few days, at least these 10 issues will be raised: 1. Will Roy Halladay be dealt? 2. Will the Padres deal Adrian Gonzalez? 3. Where will John Lackey end up? 4. Will the Tigers really deal Miguel Cabrera? 5. How will first-time general managers Alex Anthopoulos and Jed Hoyer do at their first winter meetings? 6. Will Matt Holliday or Jason Bay emerge as the highest-paid free agent? 7. Will the world champion Yankees continue to spend? 8. Will John Henry’s replacement revenue-sharing plan (with a payroll tax) catch on? 9. Will the McCourt divorce affect the offseason moves by the Dodgers? 10. Will the free agent market continue to be slow, igniting more collusion charges?

A look at what each team is trying to get done:

AL EAST

Baltimore
Is this the time to start thinking about being competitive? Or should the Orioles save their shekels for the 2011 season, when their young pitching begins to emerge? Needs are aplenty. Start with first and third base. Josh Bell (third) and Brandon Snyder (first) will be there a year from now, so they’re really looking for temps. They will look for a veteran starting pitcher and could use a closer, though Chris Ray, Jim Johnson, and Koji Uehara will vie for the role if the Orioles elect not to spend. Last year, they made overtures for hometown boy Mark Teixeira, and they have the players to deal for a Gonzalez or a Cabrera.

Boston
With Marco Scutaro in tow, the Red Sox now look for a starting pitcher (Halladay, Lackey, Rich Harden, Erik Bedard) and a set-up type reliever (Fernando Rodney, Rafael Soriano). They will look to tie up Bay or acquire a facsimile (Holliday, Xavier Nady, Josh Willingham) and must figure out whether they can make the big deal for Gonzalez or Cabrera. Casey Kelly and Daniel Bard appear to be the untouchables, along with Ryan Westmoreland. But the Sox could deal Casey Kotchman, Manny Delcarmen, and possibly Clay Buchholz in a big trade.

New York
The Yankees are taking their typical methodical approach to the offseason before they pounce on their prey. If they don’t sign their own free agents, they can take almost $40 million off the books, which would allow them to load up on Lackey and/or Holliday, and Halladay. Nothing should surprise anyone here. They are looking for a left fielder and a starting pitcher. Seems they would deal Jesus Montero and Phil Hughes/Joba Chamberlain if they could get Halladay. There are indications they would bring back Johnny Damon if he considered a two-year deal at around $20 million.

Tampa Bay
Their attention must be on relief pitching, preferably a closer. Of course, we’re hearing the “no money’’ mantra, so they will likely think outside the box. Ben Zobrist is playing either second base or right field, so they need to fill whichever position Zobrist doesn’t. They would obviously love to move DH Pat Burrell and are reportedly still contemplating a Milton Bradley-Burrell swap. Dioner Navarro is available in trade, and there’s a possibility that Dan Wheeler and his $3.5 million price tag could be available. There’s intrigue about what might happen with left fielder Carl Crawford ($10 million option) or even first baseman Carlos Pena. They will likely stay, but would the Rays listen to offers? Probably.

Toronto
If they lower their expectations on a Halladay trade, that could get the Sox and Yankees involved again, and you always want the Sox and Yankees involved. So far, they’ve focused on shortstop, signing both John McDonald and Alex Gonzalez. The Jays will try to get a catcher in any deal for Halladay, unless they bring back Rod Barajas. They are looking for a taker for Lyle Overbay and his $7.95 million deal so they can move Adam Lind to first.

AL CENTRAL

Chicago
The White Sox need a leadoff batter (Coco Crisp? Damon?), a backup catcher, and a lefthanded reliever. While they unloaded good pitching talent for Jake Peavy in August, they still could move pitching prospect Lucas Harrell. The White Sox will likely keep closer Bobby Jenks and hope he takes his conditioning seriously this winter. Utility player Brent Lillibridge and reliever Scott Linebrink could be had.

Cleveland
The Indians are rebuilding, to say the least. They’d like to get a utility infielder, a cheap rehab starting pitcher, and a first baseman (preferable one who hits righthanded). They have begun to retool their farm system with the deals involving Mark DeRosa and Victor Martinez, but they don’t have much to give up unless you want Andy Marte, Jeremy Sowers, or Kerry Wood. Boy, would they love to dump the three years and $40 million remaining on Travis Hafner’s contract.

Detroit
One person in the organization said that while owner Mike Ilitch wants to reduce payroll, he doesn’t want the Tigers winding up in the basement, either. Edwin Jackson is likely the most realistic chip, but they will listen on Curtis Granderson, Cabrera, and Brandon Inge. They’re letting Rodney and Brandon Lyon depart as free agents, so they could use relief help. The decision to allow Magglio Ordonez’s $18 million option to kick in seems even odder now.

Kansas City
Catching help is high atop the Royals’ list, as they’ve soured on the Miguel Olivo-John Buck tandem. With Crisp a free agent, they need a center fielder, a lefty starter, and a reliever. They’re dangling second baseman Alberto Callaspo, who hit .300 last season, as his defense leaves a lot to be desired. The Royals want to find a sucker for Jose Guillen’s $12 million salary and would pay some of it if they get something decent in return. You could pry outfielder David DeJesus away. Also, starting pitchers Brian Bannister and Kyle Davies could be thrown into a deal.

Minnesota
They really need to get Carl Pavano or someone of his ilk signed. They’re considering Harden and Jarrod Washburn as well. They need an upgrade at second base, as Nick Punto simply doesn’t hit enough. At third base, they’re going to look at Joe Crede again if his latest back surgery turns out OK. Don’t rule out DeRosa being a third base candidate. The Twins do have a bunch of fifth-starter types available in deals: Glen Perkins, Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak, Boof Bonser.

AL WEST

Los Angeles
The Angels always say they won’t spend crazy and then they pop a Torii Hunter on you. Which is why they’re back in on Lackey. Brandon Wood is out of options and could be a replacement for Chone Figgins, who signed Friday with Seattle. Wood also could be used as a chip in a Halladay deal if Lackey signs elsewhere. They’d love to move Gary Matthews, likely won’t re-sign Vladimir Guerrero, and could use one of their catchers (Mike Napoli or Jeff Mathis) in a deal for Halladay. Another nice trade chip is Maicer Izturis. The Angels need relief help, perhaps even someone who can close or co-close with Brian “Heart Attack’’ Fuentes.

Oakland
The A’s are looking for hitting. They like their rotation and bullpen, but while Billy Beane obtained Jake Fox from the Cubs, he’s still looking for a third baseman who can replace Eric Chavez once and for all. Brett Wallace, acquired from the Cardinals in the Holliday deal, isn’t quite ready to start at third.

Seattle
“All over the map,’’ is how a National League GM described the Mariners’ plans. GM Jack Zduriencik already has landed Figgins and is thinking big on Bay. Don’t count them out on Gonzalez, and DeRosa is also in the mix. They may move Jose Lopez to first if they don’t re-sign Russell Branyan. They’d like to upgrade at catcher.

Texas
The Rangers are telling teams they won’t deal Kevin Millwood, but most aren’t buying it. Millwood would interest a lot of teams . . . Baltimore, Milwaukee, Seattle, you name it. There are quiet concerns about Josh Hamilton and there’s a void without Marlon Byrd. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is hurt again, so they may need another catcher. There’s talk about Nelson Cruz being dealt for pitching. They could consider Miguel Tejada for a DH/3B/backup SS role.

NL EAST

Atlanta
Stacked with starting pitching, the Braves would love to move Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez for an impact hitter (Cruz?). Otherwise, they might consider guys like Willingham (in trade), Jermaine Dye, and Nick Johnson. They could use second baseman Kelly Johnson as trade bait. The Braves struck quickly in replacing relievers Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez with the Sox tandem of Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner.

Florida
The Marlins could deal second baseman Dan Uggla or third baseman Jorge Cantu; both are in demand. The Giants are very interested in Uggla. Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco are locks for the rotation, and while they have six pitchers vying for the three other spots, they wouldn’t mind adding another veteran to the mix. They also need a young reliever or two and a lefthanded hitter who can come off the bench. The Marlins don’t spend a lot of their revenue-sharing money, so they’re always looking to dump.

New York
The Mets need starting pitching, and while the perfect guy would be Lackey, they have not shown that they’re willing to pay for him. Therefore, think Joel Pineiro, Pavano, Harden, Randy Wolf. The Mets will likely be in the market for a second baseman once they trade Luis Castillo, and Orlando Hudson could be a target. They also need a first baseman, but with Ike Davis not far off, they might need only a temporary solution. The Mets signed a pair of backup catchers in Chris Coste and Henry Blanco but have their eyes on Bengie Molina.

Philadelphia
The Phillies could always make a splash with a Halladay, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has done a lot already, signing Placido Polanco for third base, backup catcher Brian Schneider, and backup infielder Eric Bruntlett. They have some interest in John Smoltz for the No. 5 spot or the bullpen. Outfield prospect Michael Taylor could be part of a Halladay package, but they won’t trade righthanded pitching prospect Kyle Drabek or outfield prospect Dominic Brown. They also are looking to deepen their bullpen with at least two relievers.

Washington
The Nationals have some money, and they’d love to spend it on two veteran starting pitchers. Don’t be shocked to see them in on Lackey or even inquire about Halladay. They seem to have an inside track on Smoltz, who could help their young pitchers. They could use a second baseman, a couple of relievers, and a veteran catcher. Willingham’s name is most mentioned as trade bait, and they’d like to rid themselves of Cristian Guzman’s $8 million contract.

NL CENTRAL

Chicago
Can I interest you in Milton Bradley? Slam! Good luck trying to move him, unless the Rays swap Burrell for him. The Cubs could use a center fielder (Crisp?) so they can move Kosuke Fukudome to right. They need a couple of bullpen arms alongside Carlos Marmol and Angel Guzman. They could deal one of their shortstop prospects (Starlin Castro and Hak-Ju Lee) and would like to relocate second baseman Mike Fontenot. They relish the thought of moving Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Zambrano.

Cincinnati
GM Walt Jocketty has told the media he’ll likely return with the same roster, so don’t expect much. There’s a possibility he would entertain offers for Bronson Arroyo, who had a fabulous second half, and Aaron Harang. He’d try to get an inexpensive hitter, but don’t expect a blockbuster here.

Houston
New manager Brad Mills needs an infield, a catcher, starting pitchers, and a bullpen. Other than that, congratulations on your new job. Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman love Houston so much they would never waive their no-trade clauses. So good luck, Brad, while your payroll is cut from $105 million to $92 million.

Milwaukee
The Brewers acquired Gregg Zaun to be their primary catcher, but they obviously need two starting pitchers, at least. The rehabbing Mark Mulder is on their radar, along with Pavano, Doug Davis, Harden, and Wolf. They could use right fielder Corey Hart as trade bait for a pitcher and switch third baseman Mat Gamel to right field. Teams will ask about Prince Fielder, but the Brewers won’t listen.

Pittsburgh
The Pirates, entering Year 18 of being under .500, are looking to obtain a lefthanded-hitting first baseman (Nick Johnson?) or an outfielder with power, a long-term shortstop, bullpen help in general and a lefty reliever in particular. If you have any of those, they might make closer Matt Capps available to you, or you could even pry away lefthanders Zach Duke and Paul Maholm and catcher Ryan Doumit.

St. Louis
The Cardinals would like to re-sign Holliday and DeRosa. They may also go after a significant starter like Halladay if they don’t spend all their money trying to sign Holliday. They could use a good bat off the bench. Ryan Ludwick would be available in a deal for pitching.

NL WEST

Arizona
The Diamondbacks will be searching for a No. 4 starter, a veteran middle reliever, and a utilityman. They would trade catcher Chris Snyder and would certainly love to be rid of outfielder Eric Byrnes, who makes $11 million. They turned down a Snyder-for-Overbay deal in November.

Colorado
The Rockies are looking for a righthanded hitter who can be a backup at first and third and play the outfield. Hudson remains on their wish list; they could sign him and move Clint Barmes into a super backup role. They will pursue a backup catcher and could reconsider Yorvit Torrealba. LaTroy Hawkins is on their radar if Rafael Betancourt doesn’t accept arbitration. Ryan Spilborghs’s name has come up in trade talks.

Los Angeles
The priorities are a third baseman and an end-of-the-rotation starter to replace Wolf. With nine arbitration-eligible players, the Dodgers may not do much, but Juan Pierre is trade bait.

San Diego
Will Gonzalez be traded? Hoyer could wait, though right now he has the Red Sox and Mets, two big-market teams, who would pull the trigger. Hoyer needs a righthanded-hitting outfielder (Reed Johnson, maybe Crisp), a starting pitcher, lots of bullpen help, a backup catcher, and a backup infielder (hello, Nick Green). Besides Gonzalez, Hoyer holds another big chip in closer Heath Bell, who would be in demand. He could deal righty Chris Young or third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.

San Francisco
Bats. At least two big ones for the middle of the order. Anyone and anything is possible. With Molina likely to depart, the Giants want a veteran to nurture rookie Buster Posey (Pudge Rodriguez?), one back-end starter, and some bullpen help. Pitching prospect Jonathan Sanchez could be dangled for the right bat.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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