Winter meetings morning report: Of Fame and Bartlett
The big news of the morning is coming at 10 a.m. when the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee voting is announced, with former Yankees boss George Steinbrenner and former players union chief Marvin Miller are considered most likely to get in.
Meanwhile, ESPN's Jayson Stark came out with his always informative and entertaining look ahead to the meetings, and one of his conclusions is that the player most likely to be traded this week is Rays SS Jason Bartlett.
This is another question we throw out there in our winter meetings poll every year. Invariably, the name that floats to the top of the Most Likely to Get Traded pool isn't a name people outside the game would expect.
Well, this year was no different. Ladies and gentlemen, the trade candidate voted most likely to call North American Van Lines by the end of the week is …
The Rays' shortstop may not possess as juicy a name as, say, "Prince." And not very long ago, Bartlett wouldn't even have been looked at as the most likely guy on his own team to get traded. (Matt Garza and B.J. Upton are among the Rays who have spent much more time bouncing around Rumor Central over the past six months.)
But the Rays have reached a point where their payroll is plunging, Reid Brignac is ready to play shortstop every day, just about every reliever on their postseason roster is a free agent and Bartlett is a year away from free agency. So …
He's about as eminently available as any front-line, winning player in baseball.
But is he actually going to get traded next week? We're not as sure of that as the people we polled.
The Giants (Miguel Tejada) and Cardinals (Ryan Theriot) have filled their shortstop vacancies. The Twins decided against non-tendering a comparable player, in J.J. Hardy. So that leaves only the Padres, Orioles, Pirates and Indians looking for shortstops -- with Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria and Cesar Izturis still available on the free-agent market.
Teams that have spoken with the Rays say they'd like to get a late-innings bullpen arm in return. But the Orioles don't have a closer themselves and balked at a David Hernandez-for-Bartlett swap last month. A Heath Bell-for-Bartlett deal is a long shot in San Diego. The Indians wouldn't want a $5 million rental at shortstop. And the Pirates wouldn't seem likely to give up someone like Joel Hanrahan for a player they could control for only a year. So while it's possible one of these deals comes together this week, it's also possible this could take a while.