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December 6, 2009

On the Beat

Pre-Winter Meetings Shopping Lists

by John Perrotto

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INDIANAPOLIS-Since it's the time of year to make a list and check it twice, all 30 major-league general managers are in the spirit. Not the spirit of the holidays, but the spirit of baseball's annual Winter Meetings, which begin here Monday. As GMs begin to converge on Indy today, all of them have wish lists, some longer than others. In order to fill those lists, though, they might have to give something up in return. With that in mind, here is a look at where all 30 teams stand on the eve of the winter meetings:

Diamondbacks: They would like to find a starting pitcher to slot in behind Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and Max Scherzer, along with a veteran for the bullpen and another for the bench. Catcher Chris Snyder, who was nearly traded to the Blue Jays last month, is available along with outfielder Eric Byrnes. Snyder has $10.5 million left on the final two years of his contract. Byrnes will make $11 million in 2009 in the final year of his contract, and the Diamondbacks are willing to take a bad contract back in a trade for him.

Braves: They want a right-handed power hitter who can play first base or the outfield along with a set-up reliever. The Braves are one of the few teams with starting pitching to offer as they would like to unload Derek Lowe, who has three years and $45 million left on his contract, though they would also give up Javier Vazquez in the right deal. Kenshin Kawakami is also very available. Second baseman Kelly Johnson can be had for a song, as he will likely be non-tendered later this week.

Orioles: They have openings on both infield corners and want to fill at least one of them with someone who can hit in the middle of the order. Whatever players they acquire would be short-term fixes until prospects Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder arrive to take over at third and first, likely in 2011. The Orioles would also like to add a veteran innings-eating starter and a reliever with closing experience to aid a very young pitching staff. Designated hitter/outfielder Luke Scott and veteran utilityman Ty Wigginton are players they are willing to trade, along with Felix Pie, the odd man out in a young outfield.

Red Sox: They are seemingly linked to every big name available, whether it's in a trade or on the free-agent market. Among the players they are attempting to trade for are Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay, Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, and Nationals left fielder Josh Willingham. The Red Sox are also trying to re-sign left fielder Jason Bay, and have talked to a plethora of free agents, including right-handers John Lackey and Rich Harden, left-hander Erik Bedard, lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez, and right-hander reliever Rafael Soriano. They would be willing to part with right-hander Clay Buchholz in a trade for Halladay, Gonzalez, or Cabrera. The Red Sox would also deal first baseman Casey Kotchman and right-handers Manny Delcarmen, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The only untouchable in the farm system is pitcher/shortstop Casey Kelly.

Cubs: First and foremost, they want someone to take outfielder Milton Bradley, owed $21 million over the next two seasons, off their hands. Beyond that, they would like to acquire a center fielder, preferably free agent Mike Cameron, who would allow them to move Kosuke Fukudome back to right. The Cubs would also like to add a veteran reliever with closing experience as insurance in the event Carlos Marmol falters. The Cubs don't have a whole lot to trade beyond first baseman/outfielder Micah Hoffpauir and second baseman Mike Fontenot, but they would certainly deal right-hander Carlos Zambrano and left fielder Alfonso Soriano if someone would be willing to take their hefty contracts.

White Sox: A leadoff batter tops their list of wants, followed by a backup catcher and left-handed reliever. Among the players they are willing to trade are utilityman Brent Lillibridge and reliever Scott Linebrink, though it's doubtful there would be a taker for him with two years and $10.5 million left on his contract.

Indians: It figures to be a quiet winter as they can't add payroll, though they would like to find a utility infielder, veteran starting pitcher, and right-handed-hitting first baseman. They don't have much to trade, either, beyond left-hander Jeremy Sowers and corner infielder Andy Marte. It someone wants to take on money, the Indians will gladly part with designated hitter Travis Hafner (three years, $40 million) and closer Kerry Wood (one year, $10.5 million with a club option for $11 million in 2011).

Reds: More than anything, they wish to drop a large salary and are making right-hander Aaron Harang and closer Francisco Cordero available. The Reds have no glaring needs, but would be interested in dealing for a shortstop or left fielder if the price is right.

Rockies: They have interest in signing second baseman Orlando Hudson as a free agent and making Clint Barmes a super-utility player who would see action at all four infield and three outfield spots while appearing in the lineup on a near-daily basis. They also want some bench help, notably a right-handed hitter who can play the infield corners and a catcher. The Rockies will make a big pitch for free-agent reliever LaTroy Hawkins if free agent Rafael Betancourt does not accept arbitration Monday. Third baseman Garrett Atkins is readily available as he will be non-tendered and they would also part with outfielder Ryan Spilborghs. The Rockies will only trade right fielder Brad Hawpe if they get a return similar to the one they received for Matt Holliday last winter.

Tigers: They would prefer to add young, low-salaried players as their payroll is maxed out and they would really love for someone take the contracts of left-handers Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson, even if it means having an all right-handed rotation next year. The Tigers would deal right-hander Edwin Jackson and center fielder Curtis Granderson, but only if they got a lot back.

Marlins: They want to add organizational pitching depth, as the starting rotation is open beyond Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco. Second baseman Dan Uggla is very available, as the Marlins don't want to risk losing to him in arbitration for a second straight year. Left-handed reliever Renyel Pinto and former closer Matt Lindstrom can also be had.

Astros: They need everything but a first baseman and outfielders. The trouble is they are cutting payroll and don't have anything to offer in trade unless somebody wants to take on over-priced players like second baseman Kaz Matusi and left fielder Carlos Lee.

Royals: A catcher tops a want list that also includes a speedy center fielder, left-handed starter, and lefty reliever. Second baseman Alberto Callapso is the Royals' primary trade chip, along with high-priced, cantakerous outfielder Jose Guillen, while they will also listen on left fielder David DeJesus and right-handers Brian Bannister and Kyle Davies.

Angels: Their primary focus is trying to re-sign right-hander John Lackey after seemingly losing third baseman Chone Figgins to the Mariners as a free agent. The Angels are on hold until seeing if they can retain Lackey and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, but there are indications they would consider trading catcher Mike Napoli or second baseman Howie Kendrick.

Dodgers: They are basically paralyzed by owner Frank McCourt's divorce, not knowing what effect it might have on their 2010 payroll. The Dodgers would like a more potent third baseman than Casey Blake, and a mid-rotation starter, but the don't have anyone they can afford to give up beyond outfielder Juan Pierre, who is drawing minimal interest.

Brewers: Pitching, pitching, and more pitching tops their wish list. If the Brewers can't satisfy that need on the free-agent market, they may trade right fielder Corey Hart, left-hander Manny Parra, or third baseman Mat Gamel to get it.

Twins: They want a veteran starting pitcher and are trying to re-sign right-hander Carl Pavano, while also showing interest in free-agent lefty Jarrod Washburn as well as Harden. If they can it on a tight budget, the Twins would also like to add an infielder, and are eyeing Hudson and Mark DeRosa as free agents. They also would like to sign free-agent utilityman Robb Quinlan to aid the bench. The Twins have made no secret of their desire to rid themselves of left-hander Glen Perkins, so he is available.

Mets: All they need is a second starter, a first baseman, a better second baseman, and a left fielder. They are trying to trade Luis Castillo so that they can sign Hudson to play second. The Mets would love to land Lackey to fill the big rotation hole behind Johan Santana, but are more likely to sign either Jason Marquis or Joel Pineiro as a free agent. Though they have signed free agent catchers Henry Blanco and Chris Coste, the Mets continue to pursue Bengie Molina to be the starter. The expendable players the Mets have, no one wants.

Yankees: The defending World Series champions say they are going to be quiet this winter, but their biggest needs are a left fielder and starting pitcher, and they have the resources to sign Holliday and Lackey if they really want. Lackey seems a more likely signing with the Yankees bringing back left fielder Johnny Damon on a two-year, $20-million contract.

Athletics: General manager Billy Beane says he is inclined to eschew trades and free agency, and give opportunities to younger players. He would gladly trade utilityman Aaron Miles after taking on $1.7 million of his $2.7 million salary from the Cubs this past week in order to acquire cornerman Jake Fox.

Phillies: They are pretty much done from a position-player standpoint after signing infielder Placido Polanco, backup catcher Brian Schneider, and utility infielder Juan Castro as free agents. However, the Phillies would still like to add a starting pitcher and two relievers. They are much more likely to do so through free agency, though they could land Halladay if the Blue Jays would accept a trade offer that does not include the Phillies' top two prospects, right-hander Kyle Drabek and outfielder Domonic Brown.

Pirates: Per usual, they will sift through the bins of the bargain basement in an effort to find a left-handed-hitting first baseman or an outfielder with power, a young shortstop who could be a long-term solution, and a reliable left-handed reliever. The Pirates traded away almost all their veterans last season, but left-hander Zach Duke and closer Matt Capps are available this winter, and left-hander Paul Maholm and catcher Ryan Doumit could also be had, though at a higher price.

Cardinals: They won't know exactly what they need until they find out if Holliday and DeRosa can be re-signed. They will need a big bat if Holliday leaves. If he stays, they would have a surplus of outfielders and look to trade Ryan Ludwick for pitching.

Padres: They want a right-handed hitting center fielder who bats leadoff, and are targeting free agent Reed Johnson. The other priorities are pitching of all kinds, a backup catcher and a utility infielder. Adrian Gonzalez can be had, but apparently only for the justifiably hefty price of two quality major league-ready players and two top prospects. Closer Heath Bell and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff are also available.

Giants: A power hitter who can play either of the corner infield spots or in the outfield is the top priority, followed by a catcher to serve as a bridge and mentor to prospect Buster Posey, and a fourth or fifth starter. Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez is the Giants' primary trade bait, and they are trying to get teams interested in outfielder Fred Lewis. They would gladly offload center fielder Aaron Rowand, who has three years and $36 million left on his contract.

Mariners: Adding Figgins might just be the beginning, because they are in serious pursuit of Bay, who has reciprocal interest since he lives in Seattle, and Lackey. The Mariners also have hopes of re-signing first baseman Russell Branyan, though he turned down their initial one-year offer in hopes of landing a multi-year deal. If the Mariners need to trade for a first baseman or left fielder, they have some interesting chips in second baseman Jose Lopez, right-hander Brandon Morrow, and reliever Mark Lowe

Rays: They would like to add at least two relievers, preferable someone who could close, though they don't want to spend closer money. The Rays also continue to look for catching help even after trading with the Indians for Kelly Shoppach. Left fielder Pat Burrell can be had for a song, and catcher Dioner Navarro is very much available, while the Rays would listen to offers for reliever Dan Wheeler and young shortstop Reid Brignac, too.

Rangers: They are in somewhat of a holding pattern while waiting for the sale of the club to get resolved but are looking for some bullpen help, a right-handed hitter who can play first base, and possibly a catcher since Jarrod Saltalamacchia is again experiencing shoulder problems. The Rangers could be tempted to trade right-hander Kevin Millwood, but are more likely to move right-hander Brandon McCarthy.

Blue Jays: Their story begins and ends with Halladay, who former general manager J.P. Ricciardi was unable to trade at July 31 non-waiver deadline. New GM Alex Anthopoulos knows he can kick-start a rebuilding phase if he gets the right haul for Halladay. First baseman Lyle Overbay is also being heavily marketed. Finding a catcher is the Blue Jays' top priority but they are looking for young talent at all positions.

Nationals: They would like to add at least one veteran and possibly two to a young starting rotation. The Nationals also need a second baseman, bullpen help, and a catcher to help Jesus Flores, their promising but often injured backstop, with the workload behind the plate. The Nationals aren't willing to part with many players beyond shortstop Cristian Guzman, who is generating no interest, and are likely to fill their needs via free agency.

---

There is no more sensitive subject between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association right now than revenue sharing. Agent Scott Boras, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, and the New York Daily News' Bill Madden have all questioned if small-market clubs, particularly the Marlins and Pirates, are using their revenue-sharing money to improve their organization, or are simply stuffing it in their pockets.

For the most part, large-market owners have stayed quiet on the subject publicly, preferring to stew in private. However, the Red Sox's John Henry broke ranks this past week when he told the Boston Globe that the entire luxury-tax and revenue-sharing system needs overhauled. "Baseball needs slotting for amateurs, a worldwide amateur draft, and most importantly, an effective competitive-balance tax that directly addresses disparity once and for all for baseball," Henry said. "If the Yankees and the Mets spend a billion dollars-plus of their investment dollars to build new ballparks, they should be allowed to keep their revenues form that, but if they want to spend $200 million annually on payroll,, they should be heavily taxed directly on that, and if they want to spend more than that, they should be even more heavily taxed. So should all clubs who spend heavily on payroll, to the extent necessary, to bring the system into balance."

Henry believes in a plan in which payroll tax dollars replace revenue dollars. That money would be distributed to needy clubs, who in turn, would have to maintain a minimum payroll. Players would be protected in this plan by being guaranteed a certain minimum percentage of overall revenues. "This would be a very simple and effective method in reducing top payrolls and increasing bottom payrolls with no tax on revenues," Henry said. "The World Series should be determined by fully competitive teams on the field, not by how much particular clubs can afford to spend. A better solution is to address competition directly, so that clubs can generate revenue more equally as teams become competitive across baseball."

MLB does not disclose who receives revenue-sharing money or the total amount of dollars being transferred. However, Henry claims over a billion dollars have gone to seven teams and five have had baseball's highest operating profits in recent years. "Who, except these teams, can think this is a good idea?" Henry said.

---

The Cardinals are starting to sound like they are to concede on the idea of re-signing Holliday, who reportedly is looking for an eight-figure contract. Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said during a speech at Webster University in St. Louis this past week that the franchise may not have the wherewithal to sign Holliday and also re-sign first baseman Albert Pujols when he becomes eligible for free agency following the 2011 season.

In fact, DeWitt wondered if the Cardinals would even be able to re-sign just Pujols. "We can pay Albert $95 million per year and give $5 million to the rest of the guys, but how good would we be? We'd have minor leaguers out there and Albert," DeWitt said. "We can make it work. It's just at what point does it become counterproductive at a competitive standpoint in terms of one player? That's the balancing act. That's not a set number but we do know at a certain kind of range on an annual basis it gets beyond a rational decision. I'm hopeful. I think he understands."

General manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Joe Strauss that it will be difficult to fit two superstar hitters into one payroll, particularly since the Cardinals owe right-hander Chris Carpenter $44.5 million through 2012, and right-hander Adam Wainwright potentially $32.15 million through 2013 if options are exercised on his contract. "To me, it's about putting together the most competitive club," Mozeliak said. ""You can't just look at it in the vacuum of 2010. It has to be in a broad sense. Whatever contract Matt ends up signing, it's going to be a long-term deal. From where we sit, we have to understand with Albert coming up, such a deal's ramifications for long-term planning."

DeWitt said during the presentation that the Cardinals will keep their payroll at right around $100 million next season and pointed out that the 2007 Rockies are the only team ever to reach the World Series with one player making as much as 20 percent of the payroll. First baseman Todd Helton had a $16.6 million salary on a club with a total payroll of $54 million. It would seem Pujols and Holliday would exceed or come close to exceeding that 20-percent threshold. "Historically, that's not proven to be a successful model," Mozeliak said. "That doesn't mean there can't be an anomaly or an outlier about how this looks. There is a way to make it work where you may not be that far above 40 percent but keeping it below that would be impossible."

---

Everyone knows Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter owns five World Series rings, recently became the first person in the storied franchise's history to win the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award and can leap tall building in a single bound. But who knew he was also a special adviser to Yankees GM Brian Cashman?

Jeter admitted during the red-carpet affair to accept the SI award this past week that Cashman consults him on certain player moves. "It doesn't mean they always listen to me but they'll ask questions," Jeter said. "Cash has done a great job."

While Cashman has put prospective free agents in touch with Jeter over the years, the captain has never felt the need to put an all-out sales pitch on anybody. "I think New York speaks for itself in terms of coming here to play," Jeter said. "If someone has any questions, they can feel free to call me."

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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