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 email@example.com.
Five teams the Rays could make a deal with
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.