Expect Fast-Paced Swap Meet in Indy
They may zip past next week in Indianapolis like cars in the Indy 500.
Baseball teams can use the economy as cover to slow the free-agent market, so the action at the annual Winter Meetings, which run Monday through Thursday in Indianapolis, could be mainly of the swapping variety.
How about a team built around ace Roy Halladay and slugger Adrian Gonzalez? Well, they both seem likely to be moved this offseason.
Both players want to play for contenders and to get their wish they need to leave Toronto and San Diego, respectively. Both will fetch a nice haul of prospects.
Will Detroit be an active dealer? When reports came out at last month's general managers' meetings that Tigers right-hander Edwin Jackson and center fielder Curtis Granderson were available, it looked like the Michigan economy was forcing a fire sale.
But that's not the case, sources said. Jackson is drawing lots of interest, so the Tigers are willing to listen -- but they'll need a major league-ready pitcher back (there was some discussion about Arizona's Max Scherzer). Granderson would go only for a huge package of talent.
Seattle made a run at a deal for both but didn't offer enough. The Angels love Granderson, but Brandon Wood and/or Reggie Willits won't get it done.
Kansas City has let it be known that right-hander Gil Meche, who has two years and $24 million left on his contract. Milwaukee has gotten inquiries about Corey Hart, who could be moved for a left-handed bat to balance the Brewers lineup.
The Red Sox would like to move Mike Lowell and might be willing to absorb some of the $12 million he has coming. One possible fit: the Mets, who could play Lowell at first base.
Boston could also trade for a left fielder, if it finds a deal to its liking, rather than wait out the musical chairs game with Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, the top two position-player free agents. (Next year's group could have a huge headliner; Albert Pujols does not intend to sign a contract extension this winter, meaning the Cardinals have to re-sign him during the 2010 season to keep him off the market.)
Both Bay and Holliday have a fairly large group of suitors, but some believe Holliday prefers the National League -- he flourished in Colorado and St. Louis, but not Oakland -- and perhaps that he's like to stay with the Cardinals, period. Bay has been consistent and durable and has proven himself in the AL and when he's had to be the centerpiece of a team (Pittsburgh).
But the free-agent market, as it did last year, is moving slow enough that agents wonder if there's some sort of collusion. Teams like to point to the "non-tender" deadline of Dec. 12 as a reason to wait, since there could be a new batch of free agents when teams effectively release arbitration-eligible players whom they don't want to pay.