Friday, December 03, 2010

Plenty of action expected at Winter Meetings

By Chris Ruddick

Get ready for a ton of baseball rumors, wild trade scenarios and free agent signings, because the giant schmoozefest known as Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings gets underway next week at the Swan and Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Unlike the snoozefest the meetings have been the last couple of years, this latest edition of the get together figures to be action packed as all but a couple of the major A-list free agents are still on the market.

Of course the biggest fish out there, Cliff Lee, is still available and his agent has stated that he would like to get a deal done by the time the meetings conclude. That may be a bit ambitious, but he did meet with the Rangers this week and they are apparently ready to give him a fifth year.

I have thought all along that Lee would re-sign with Texas, but you can never count the Yankees out on anything, especially when it comes to someone they want. And by all accounts they want Lee bad.

Once Lee finds a home all the other dominoes should fall, likely in quick order: Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Carl Pavano, Rafael Soriano and Adrian Beltre are among countless others are still searching for homes. Derek Jeter is too, but like I have said in the past, he isn't leaving the Bronx.

All of the big free agents won't sign next week, but I expect at least two will come off the board.

If I had to predict right now I would say the Angels get one of the outfielders, with the Red Sox snatching the other. Then again if the Yankees miss out on Lee, expect them to jump into the Crawford-Werth mix. Then again there are teams out there that you are not thinking of that will jump into the fray, like say, perhaps St. Louis gets involved with Werth.

Either way the bulk of the action this offseason has yet to happen. In addition to the free agents, Boston may look to shop Jonathan Papelbon at these meetings and you have started to hear Kansas City ace Zack Greinke's name being kicked around as well. Then of course you still have Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez out there and Tampa is looking to deal shortstop Jason Bartlett.

The early winners this offseason have been a pair of teams from the American League Central, the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox.

Detroit came out swinging, locking up catcher Victor Martinez and reliever Joaquin Benoit early, while the White Sox made a ton of news on Thursday, signing slugger Adam Dunn and cutting closer Bobby Jenks free. Chicago is also on the verge of re-signing catcher A.J. Pierzynski and is still very much in the mix on Paul Konerko.

Another hot topic next week will be the expansion of the postseason. Both the owners and MLBPA seem to agree that some sort of expanded playoff system is in order, but the logistics still need to be worked out. The current labor agreement has one year remaining, so a vote on this topic is probably still a bit away, but the MLBPA's executive board is currently meeting and you know the topic is being addressed.

Commissioner Bud Selig's 14-man committee is also expected to meet next week to discuss the playoff situation, as well as an expanded role of instant replay.

The meetings kick off on Monday with the Veterans Committee Hall of Fame selections. This year, George Steinbrenner is on the ballot and could get in along with longtime MLBPA leader Marvin Miller. It would be fitting for Billy Martin to go into the Hall alongside Steinbrenner, but he will likely fall short.

After the Hall of Fame announcement on Monday morning comes a lot of walking and waiting inside the lovely Swan and Dolphin before the meetings conclude on Thursday with the Rule 5 Draft.

The in-between, though, should be crazy.

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