Tag:winter meetings
Posted on: December 9, 2010 3:02 am

Brewers pondering Fielder future

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Brewers have hardly been overwhelmed by what they've been offered for Prince Fielder at the Winter Meetings.

But that doesn't mean Fielder won't be traded this winter.

If anything, the team may be more inclined to trade away the star first baseman, because as the money flows to free agent after free agent, it becomes more and more obvious that the Brewers have little chance of retaining Fielder when he becomes a free agent at the end of 2011.

What the Brewers need to weigh now -- and what they have already spent many hours discussing -- is whether it's better to take what they can get for Fielder this winter (even if it's less than they'd like), or whether to begin the year with Fielder on the roster, hope to contend, and then trade him at midseason (for what likely would be an even lower return) if they don't contend.

The answer could well be tied to the Brewers' pursuit of pitching. Milwaukee has already traded for Shaun Marcum, and the Brewers have also worked to try to sign free agent Carl Pavano. It seems, though, that Pavano is likely to sign elsewhere.

The Fielder decision is a tough one for Brewers management, and it's one they've wrestled with since the middle of last season (if not before that). But it's a decision they continue to talk about.
Posted on: December 9, 2010 2:45 am

With C.C. in Boston, is Magglio back in Detroit?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Carl Crawford deal wasn't good news for the Yankees or the Angels.

It may well have been good news for the Tigers.

The reason is simple. The Tigers badly want to re-sign Magglio Ordonez, and until the Red Sox agreed to terms with Crawford on a seven-year, $142 million deal, they were considered a threat to take Ordonez away.

In fact, as recently as Wednesday afternoon, one baseball official familiar with Boston's plans said the Sox were focused on Ordonez. Obviously, that focus changed by Wednesday night.

While the Tigers want Ordonez back, club officials maintain that they don't want him on anything more than a one-year contract. The Tigers remain concerned about Ordonez's health, and particularly the right ankle he fractured in August.

Ordonez worked out for the Tigers on Wednesday, and agent Scott Boras insisted that the ankle should not be an issue.

"He's 100 percent," Boras said. "He's ready to go."

Boras suggested that there's a large market for Ordonez, and while he didn't name any teams, sources said that the Red Sox, Phillies and Orioles have all been involved, to some extent.

But the Orioles have dropped out, the Red Sox now have Crawford, and multiple club officials familiar with the Phillies said they are not focused on Ordonez and intend instead to spend lightly on a right-handed hitting outfielder who can platoon with the left-handed hitting Domonic Brown.

Some people have suggested that the Rangers could become involved with Ordonez, but officials familiar with their plans say they have little interest, and that they're focused instead on bringing back Vladimir Guerrero to be their designated hitter.
While it's possible other teams could emerge, it all points right now to Ordonez returning to the Tigers, something he probably wouldn't mind and something they definitely would like.

And while the Red Sox are drooling over a batting order that will include Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, the Tigers are dreaming of a middle of the order that includes Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
Posted on: December 9, 2010 2:26 am
Edited on: December 9, 2010 2:16 pm

'It's good to be Cliff Lee'

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Remember Darek Braunecker's words when he arrived at the Winter Meetings?

"It's good to be Cliff Lee," Lee's agent said on Monday afternoon.

Well, it's even better to be Cliff Lee now.

Braunecker left the Winter Meetings Wednesday afternoon, but Lee's position only got better as the day went on.

First, Rangers president Nolan Ryan told a group of Texas writers that the Rangers had basically told Lee to name his price, while also saying that he's softening on the idea of a six-year deal.

Then, the news broke that Carl Crawford had agreed to his stunning seven-year, $142 million contract with the Red Sox, further ratcheting the pressure on the Yankees to sign Lee.

Suddenly, the Yankees' initial offer to Lee, reported to be six years and $140 million, looked like a starting point for negotiations, rather than something that would scare other teams away. Suddenly, Lee looked to be more in the driver's seat than ever, because not only are the Yankees left without a viable backup plan, but their arch-rival now looks like baseball's super-team.

Sure enough, SI.com's Jon Heyman reported early this morning (Thursday) that the Yankees are now offering Lee a seven-year contract. Perhaps because of that news, Rangers people were said by others in baseball to newly pessimistic that they can keep Lee away from the Yankees.

Later in the day, news broke that the Rangers sent a contingent to Arkansas (MLB.com reported that owner Chuck Greenberg and assistant general manager Thad Levine made the trip) in a last-ditch effort to make a deal with Lee. The Rangers will likely increase their earlier offer by adding a sixth year.

It's hard to imagine the Rangers going to seven years. It was hard enough for the Rangers to convince themselves to go to a six-year deal for a 32-year-old pitcher.

The years matter, because it means a huge difference in total dollars. With the Yankees offering something in the neighborhood of $23-25 million per season, Lee would be leaving a gigantic amount of money on the table if he signs a shorter contract.

Players almost never leave gigantic amounts of money on the table.

The Rangers had hoped that their other advantages -- the lack of a state income tax, and the short commute to Lee's Arkansas home, among other things -- would make up for the difference in money. But it's looking again like the difference in money will be too much to overcome.

Before the Yankees went to seven years, Ryan's statements Wednesday night had seemed to give the Rangers a chance.

"It really comes down to whether we're willing to go to six years," he said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . "I'm probably more there today than I have been the last few days about six years, realizing that if you're going to have Cliff Lee pitching for you, that's probably what you're looking at."

Ryan told the writers that the Rangers don't want to get in a bidding war with the Yankees, and that what they preferred instead was a number for Lee that they could say yes or no to.

Unlike the Yankees, the Rangers would seem to have a viable Plan B behind Lee, and perhaps even a Plan C. Rangers officials reiterated Wednesday that if the team can't sign Lee, the Rangers will make a strong effort to acquire Zack Greinke in a trade with the Royals.

The Royals, who came to the Winter Meetings planning to explore the Greinke market, now believe they will be able to trade their young ace.

Greinke isn't as viable second choice for the Yankees, because some club officials believe it would be risky to bring him to New York. It's hard to imagine what the Yankees' backup plan would be now, although part of it would likely be to work to persuade Andy Pettitte to delay retirement.

Until now, one person familiar with the Yankees' plans suggested Wednesday, Pettitte was likely headed into retirement, in part because the Yankees were not planning to offer him as much money as he made this year. One reason for the pay cut, the person suggested, was to save money for the pursuit of Lee.

Now, that pursuit seems harder, even as it has gained more importance.

It's not great to be the Yankees now. But it sure is great to be Cliff Lee.

Posted on: December 8, 2010 7:09 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 8:28 pm

Lee updates still likely to end with NYY deal

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Good news if you're enjoying all the Cliff Lee updates: Agent Darek Braunecker left the Winter Meetings Wednesday, and he indicated it's very likely now that Lee won't choose his new team this week. This thing isn't ending yet.

Bad news if you're one of those hoping that Lee ends up anywhere but with the Yankees: New York's offer to Lee, estimated by SI.com's Jon Heyman to be at six years for $140-150 million, could make it tough for the Rangers or any other team to seriously compete.

Braunecker insisted again on his way out the door that this isn't a two-team race, but it's hard to find anyone in baseball who thinks Lee ends up anywhere but in New York or Texas. Actually, it's increasingly hard to find anyone outside the Ranger organization who thinks he ends up anywhere but with the Yankees.

The lure of Texas is obvious for the Arkansas-bred Lee, who very much enjoyed his time with the Rangers. And Rangers people continued to express confidence that Lee will choose them, with one official saying tonight that in his gut he believes Lee will remain a Ranger.

But the Rangers seem adamant on not going to six years for Lee, and even if they match the average annual value of the Yankee offer ($23-25 million) over five years, that's a huge gap in total dollars.

Assume the Rangers offered five years and $125 million (and there's no certainty that they have offered or will offer even that). That's still $15-25 million behind what the Yankees would likely pay, and while it's for one year less, Lee would be 37 years old at the end of a five-year deal and couldn't expect to command anything close to that in his next contract (if there even is a next contract).

Is it possible another team could trump both the Yankees and the Rangers? Sure, but it seems very unlikely. Even if a team went past the Yankees and offered Lee seven years, would they really go for $23-25 million per year? Remember, a seven-year offer at even $20 million a year is only $140 million, which is thought to be at the low end of what the Yankees would pay for six years.

It's a huge amount of money, and while the Yankees aren't blowing everyone out of the water the way they did a couple of years back with CC Sabathia, they are making it tough for anyone else to compete with them.

As general manager Brian Cashman told a group of New York writers: "I know my title is general manager, but I consider myself the director of spending for the New York Yankees."

That spending isn't unlimited. One baseball official familiar with the Yankees insisted that there's not enough room in owner Hal Steinbrenner's budget for both Lee and Carl Crawford, and also suggested that the Yankees might offer Andy Pettitte a pay cut that would lead Pettitte to choose retirement.

Rangers people have suggested that Lee's preference is to stay with them, but there are also reasons to believe he'd like to sign with the Yankees.

One is that he and Sabathia became good friends when they were both with the Indians. Another is that Lee, who won both the first regular-season game and the first World Series game at the new Yankee Stadium, has an affinity for the ballpark.

"He loves to pitch in New York," said one baseball person who knows Lee.

That same person said that before Lee went to the Rangers, he sometimes talked about not liking to pitch in Texas.

"He's not real fond of the hot weather," the person said. "Although, he also said it was tougher as a visitor than if it's your home park."

Lee, for the first time in his career, has a chance to choose his home park this winter.

If he needs a few more days to choose, it's hard to blame him. So watch out for more updates.

Posted on: December 8, 2010 3:04 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 3:16 pm

The Lee saga moves on . . . away from Disney

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Cliff Lee free-agent chase will continue.

But not here.

Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, just left the Winter Meetings. Braunecker told CBSSports.com that he may or may not return, but that it's now very unlikely that Lee will sign a new contract before the Winter Meetings end Thursday.

Braunecker wouldn't say where he was heading.

"We're going somewhere," he said with a smile.

Regardless of how long the Lee drama drags on, the basics of the situation don't seem to have changed much. The Yankees are still considered the strong favorite to sign him, and SI.com's Jon Heyman reported today that they're prepared to offer Lee a six-year deal for between $23 and 25 million a year.

The Rangers are the second pick, but sources said that they are adamantly opposed to going past five years on a pitcher who would be 37 years old at the end of that five-year deal.

The Angels have also talked to Lee, but sources said that outfielder Carl Crawford remains their top priority.

The Nationals showed some interest in Lee early, but sources said they have bowed out of the negotiations.

Braunecker wouldn't discuss any individual teams, but he said that the field has been narrowed somewhat in the last day.

It's believed that if the Rangers don't get Lee, they'll turn their attention to trying to trade for Zack Greinke, with a trade for Matt Garza also a possible fallback position. The Rangers met with Crawford's agent during the Winter Meetings, but club officials have said that getting a top starting pitcher would be their first preference.
Posted on: December 8, 2010 2:33 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 7:15 pm

Red Sox focused on Ordonez

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Red Sox appear to be focusing on Magglio Ordonez in their search for another outfielder.

The Tigers are also interested in keeping Ordonez, and the interest in the free agent is significant enough that there is some chance he could get a multi-year contract. Agent Scott Boras has suggested to some teams that Ordonez could get $18 million for two years, according to sources. Tigers officials insist that they won't give Ordonez any more than one year, and the Red Sox may feel the same way.

The Phillies are also among the teams most interested in Ordonez. Earlier today, a source had suggested that the Orioles were involved, but one official said later that they had pulled out of the bidding, and general manager Andy MacPhail then told MLB.com that they weren't interested.

Ordonez missed time last year with a broken ankle, and some teams have expressed concern that he won't be able to play a full season in the outfield. If he returns to the Tigers, he would play every day but would likely be used as a designated hitter a couple of days a week, on the days when Victor Martinez catches. The Red Sox have a full-time DH in David Ortiz, but they also have a large group of outfielders who could give Ordonez some days off.

Ordonez worked out for the Tigers today. Boras said the workout was designed "to show he's 100 percent. He's ready to go."

The Red Sox talked to the Mets about a possible trade for Carlos Beltran, but sources said that Beltran is farther down their list right now because of injury concerns.

Posted on: December 7, 2010 7:10 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 7:24 pm

Ryan expresses optimism on Lee

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Much of the buzz around the lobby at the Winter Meetings still has Cliff Lee likely headed to the Yankees.

Rangers president Nolan Ryan doesn't agree.

Ryan said Tuesday that he's increasingly optimistic that Lee will re-sign with the Rangers.

"I'd like to think that the longer the process goes, and the less news you hear about it, the more encouraged I am," Ryan said. "There's not any earthshaking news that has come out that concerns me. We don't have anything definitive by any means, but I think they have targeted one or two places, and I think they have a feel of where it's going."

The Nationals met with Lee's agent on Tuesday, and SI.com's Jon Heyman reported Tuesday night that Lee has two seven-year offers (with the suggestion that neither was from the Yankees or Rangers). But Ryan said he doubts Lee would go to a non-contending team, which probably leaves the Yankees and Rangers as the two possible destinations.

"He wants to be on a winner," Ryan said. "He wants to play with someone who is going to be competitive year-in, year-out. Obviously, that eliminates some organizations."

Despite his optimism, Ryan admitted that the Rangers have worked on backup plans, and he suggested that they would still prioritize starting pitching, probably in a trade (with Zack Greinke almost certainly the Plan B, and Matt Garza possibly the Plan C). Ryan basically ruled out any chance the Rangers would try to sign Carl Crawford, and came close to ruling out a run at Adrian Beltre, as well.

Ryan did admit that the Rangers have listened to trade offers for third baseman Michael Young, but it seems unlikely that Texas will move Young.

"People have asked," Ryan said.

Other people in the Rangers organization have expressed confidence this week that all things being equal, Lee prefers the Rangers over any other team.

Posted on: December 7, 2010 4:40 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 4:46 pm

Dodgers spent before the court ruled

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- According to a ruling Tuesday by a California judge, the Dodgers may no longer belong to Frank McCourt alone. It seems his ex-wife Jamie may have claim to them as well, further muddling the ownership situation.

Good thing the Dodgers have already finished most of their offseason shopping.

Or maybe that was the idea.

According to sources who have spoken to the team, some part of the motivation for shopping early was to avoid the possibility that a legal ruling could cause the money to dry up. General manager Ned Colletti was told at the end of the season that the payroll could rise from where it was on opening day 2010 (about $102 million).

Colletti quickly re-signed left-handed starter Ted Lilly, then also signed right-handers Jon Garland and Hiroki Kuroda, shortstop Juan Uribe and catcher Rod Barajas. This week, he was finalizing a deal with pitcher Vicente Padilla, and was still looking to add an outfielder. They'd like to re-sign Scott Podsednik, but think he has been asking for too much money.

According to the Los Angeles Times , Tuesday's ruling by Judge Scott Gordon could keep the team in legal limbo for several more years. Gordon ruled that a 2004 marital agreement signed by the McCourts was invalid, but the Times suggested that Frank McCourt could either appeal the ruling or use a different legal strategy to prove his sole ownership of the team.

Many people in baseball have hoped that an impasse in the case would force the McCourts to sell the team.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com