GMs Ready to Wheel, Deal for Free Agents
Friday, November 12th 2004, 8:10 pm
By: News On 6
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) _ After five days of discussion, debate and a final South Beach birthday bash, the baseball general managers meetings broke up. Now the real business begins _ starting Friday, teams could talk money with any free agent.
There's also a better chance clubs can complete the trades they talked about this week. The Mets huddled with the Chicago Cubs for two straight days, raising speculation that Sammy Sosa might be headed to New York.
The New York Yankees plan to be prime players in the winter markets. They missed out on getting Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson last summer, and may take another run at him this winter.
Johnson and the Diamondbacks aren't exactly a great match anymore. The 2001 World Series co-MVP with Curt Schilling, the Big Unit spent this year with a team that lost 111 games. He's due $16 million next year, and a trade could help Arizona cut its payroll.
``If this process were to begin, it would end with Randy,'' Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. ``He is a 10-and-5 player, he has a no-trade clause. No one is in more control of his situation than Randy.''
Garagiola hopes to meet with the 41-year-old Johnson next week to reach some sort of understanding.
Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Carlos Delgado, Nomar Garciaparra and Troy Percival were some of the available free agents, with Roger Clemens one of the last to file.
``I heard some very serious things today that made me think there are going to be some clubs that are going to be very aggressive in the free-agent process,'' said agent Scott Boras, who represents Beltran and Beltre.
Still, many players will wait until mid-December or later to sign.
``They want to hear from all parties sometimes before they make a decision,'' Boras said.
Reliever Doug Brocail became the first of the 207 to sign, returning to the Texas Rangers for a $1 million, one-year deal Friday. And among players eligible for arbitration, Cincinnati catcher Jason LaRue agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.
Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe were among 16 members of the World Series champion Red Sox to file for free agency. Boston GM Theo Epstein did not seem too concerned about so many unsigned players.
``It's part of the natural process,'' he said.
Besides, do not look for the stats-oriented Epstein to be overly sentimental when deciding who to bring back to Boston.
Such a coolly efficient approach has done well for a couple of GMs who have achieved long-term success: John Schuerholz let Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux leave Atlanta, and Brian Cashman parted ways with popular Yankees Andy Pettitte and Tino Martinez.
That could mean Martinez is playing somewhere else next season, with Carl Pavano taking his place in the Red Sox rotation. Born and raised in Connecticut, Pavano was drafted by Boston in 1994, then traded in a package to Montreal for Martinez after the 1997 season.
At 28, Pavano went 18-8 for Florida and may now be beyond the Marlins' financial means. Pavano's agent, Scott Shapiro, met with a bunch of teams this week at the oceanfront hotel where the GMs stayed, including Boston, the Yankees, Seattle, Baltimore and Detroit.
``I think it's 18 teams that have shown interest,'' Shapiro said.
New York also is looking at Eric Milton and left-hander reliever Ron Villone, among others.
While they figure to spend another offseason fighting for players, Cashman and Epstein were on the same side Thursday night. They were among several general managers celebrating with a rollicking party on San Diego GM Kevin Towers' 43rd birthday.
A day after the GMs split 15-15 on a vote to further consider the use of instant replay, the meetings ended with a briefing from MLB security head Kevin Hallinan on a disturbing topic: issues relating to kidnapping in foreign countries.
``Sad to say, but it's something you have to be aware of,'' Hallinan said.
Detroit pitcher Ugueth Urbina's mother was kidnapped in Venezuela on Sept. 1 by armed men and has not been released.