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If only they were really free

Published Dec. 4, 2006

Disney World seems to be the appropriate setting for baseball executives to gather for this week's winter meetings, because the ridiculous size of free-agent contracts has been like Fantasyland for the players. The big spenders will be battling each other this week to spend heavily on a pool of pitchers, while the smaller-market teams like the Rays will be forced to be even more creative than usual. One theory is that the high price of free agency will force more teams into considering making trades. Or not. As always, one sure thing is that there will be a lot more talking than action. Marc Topkin can be reached at (727) 893-8801 or

Five teams the Rays could make a deal with



Red Sox



10 free agents the Rays may talk about

1. 1B Darin Erstad

Brings grit, character, attitude and presence - but also a sore foot and a .221 average.

2. LHP Mark Mulder

Trying to sell potential ace on being "the man" to lead young teammates.

3. RHP David Riske

Would add some needed experience and stability to back of bullpen.

4. RHP Russ Springer

Same as Riske.

5. RHP Octavio Dotel

If he doesn't get "closer" money elsewhere, he could be a prime target.

6. LF Barry Bonds

If the price starts to go down given lack of offers, the Rays' interest likley will go up.

7. RHP Russ Ortiz

Rays want to stick with their young starters, but he could be a bargain.

8. RHP Joe Borowski

If cranky shoulder limits his options, could be an incentive-laden bargain.

9. 1B Eduardo Perez If they don't get Erstad, could be another option for a veteran to provide leadership.

10. RHP Brad Radke

Says he's done, but lots of folks stay active after retiring to Pinellas County.

Five Rays to be discussed in trades

1. 2B Jorge Cantu

Bad '06 season, potential addition of Akinori Iwamura could leave him without a position.

2. OF Carl Crawford

Every team seems to want him, but it's unlikely anyone can meet the Rays' properly hefty price.

3. CF Rocco Baldelli

More available than Crawford, but it will still take a lot for anyone (Red Sox? Marlins?) to pry him loose.

4. 3B B.J. Upton

Rays still don't know what they have, so it's kind of hard for them to know what he's worth.

5. INF Ty Wigginton

Rays love what he brings on and off the field, but could move him (Yankees?) at the right price.

10 guys who soon will be rich(er)

1. LHP Barry Zito

Mets , Rangers and others could drive bidding to $100-million over six years.

2. RHP Jason Schmidt

Won't be far behind, especially with Cubs and Dodgers in on the bidding.

3. OF J.D. Drew

Just a matter of procedure until Red Sox finalize a $70-million, five-year deal.

4. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka

As if the $51.1-million the Sox had to pay for his rights wasn't enough.

5. RHP Jeff Suppan

Postseason performance with Cardinals could make him $10-million a year.

6. LHP Ted Lilly

In this inflated market, so-so veteran could get close to $40-million over four years.

7. C/DH Mike Piazza The A's and Rangers both want his big bat in the middle of their lineups.

8. RHP Gil Meche

Career numbers of 55-44 and 4.65 should add up to, oh, $7-million a year.

9. RHP Jeff Weaver

Resurrection of his career will be complete when he ends up getting millions.

10. RHP Greg Maddux

Padres may be interested, or just trying to further drive up price on the Dodgers.

10 guys who've already gotten paid

1. OF Alfonso Soriano, Cubs: $136-million/ 8 years

2. OF Carlos Lee, Astros: $100-million/6 years

3. 3B Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: $75-million/ 5 years

4. OF Gary Matthews, Angels: $50-million/ 5 years

5. OF Juan Pierre, Dodgers: $44-million/ 5 years

6. DH Frank Thomas, Jays: $18.1-million/ 2 years

7. RHP Adam Eaton, Phillies: $24.5-million/ 3 years

8. RHP Danys Baez, Orioles: $19-million/ 3 years

9. OF Dave Roberts, Giants: $18-million/ 3 years

10. RHP Justin Speier, Angels: $18-million/ 4 years

10 big names in trade talks elsewhere

1. LF Manny Ramirez, Boston

Sox are tired of Manny being Manny, but Dodgers appear most willing to put up with him - if he waives no-trade.

2. 3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees

We've heard all about his pride in being a Yankee, but Angels or White Sox could make an interesting offer.

3. INF Chone Figgins, Angels

Has played everywhere for Angels, now could end up at third base for White Sox in much-rumored deal for Joe Crede.

4. RHP Jason Jennings, Rockies

If Rockies can't get him signed, they'll trade him for a lesser starter and outfielder (Mets' Lastings Milledge?).

5. CF Andruw Jones, Braves

Could stick around until the end of next season (when he is a free agent), but GM John Schuerholz is crafty.

6-7. RHP Freddy Garcia or Javier Vazquez, White Sox

Sox have a rare commodity, surplus quality pitching, and seem likely to move one of their veterans for a bat.

8. 3B Scott Rolen, Cardinals

Winning the World Series doesn't mean he and manager Tony La Russa have resolved their October feud.

9. CF Vernon Wells, Blue Jays

Like Jones, he is a free agent after next season. Like Jones, he'd be very hard to replace. And like Jones, he could go.

10. SS Miguel Tejada, Orioles

The O's are spending heavily on their bullpen, but there's still some thought they' d be better to do a total overhaul.

Five ex-Rays to keep track of

1. Julio Lugo, INF

Red Sox are courting him heavily, but so are Cubs and Mets.

2. Aubrey Huff, INF/OF

If Astros don't keep him, O's or Red Sox could be interested.

3. Danys Baez, RHP

Cashed in with $19-million, three-year deal from O's.

4. Toby Hall, C

Looks to be leaving L.A., either traded or nontendered.

5. Travis Lee, 1B

Some chatter agent Scott Boras could get him to Boston.