Riding the Pine #1

Welcome to the first of many editions of “Riding the Pine”

First off, I just wanted to give a little background on myself. I am a life-long Cardinals fan. I will try not to be biased, but I’m not guaranteeing anything. I am a huge fan of the game in general. My goal of this column is to keep everyone up to date in the world of baseball and give a little fantasy advice.

Anyway, on to the rumors:

Astros – The Astros did the smart thing by offering arbitration to Beltran. They want to keep him, by offering him a 6-year contract at $13.5 million per year, but they are also covering their bases to make sure they get something in return. If Beltran goes elsewhere, the Astros will get that teams first round draft pick. They have a contingency plan in line also. The Astros have looked at trading for Jose Cruz, Jr. from Tampa Bay, or signing free agent Steve Finley. The other question for Houston will be their pitching. They still haven’t heard from Roger Clemens, but they know he will only play there, if he comes back for one more season. If he does retire, they may look to Woody Williams or David Wells.

Athletics – The only real news coming out of Oakland involves the Big 3: Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. One of these three will be moved; Hudson is a free agent at the end of the season, while the other two have another year. Affording all three will be impossible for the budget-minded team. Hudson is the one that will most likely be dealt, since he has the highest values and has set a deadline to negotiate a contract extension (March 3rd). The A’s may also be looking for a second baseman, depending on how Mark Ellis has progressed from last season’s shoulder injury.

Braves – Atlanta, like most other teams in baseball, are interested in Oakland’s pitchers. The Braves have offered Marcus Giles among other players for Tim Hudson. This would be good for Atlanta; they have depth at the minors to fill in the position. If, come spring, the Braves don’t have much depth at starting pitching, John Smoltz could move back to the rotation.

Cardinals – The Redbirds appear to be the front-runners for Randy Johnson now that the Yankees have backed out. Originally, the D’backs have asked for starters Jeff Suppan, Danny Haren, Rick Ankiel, and catcher Daric Barton. The Cards balked at that idea. If they don’t make a move for Johnson, they will make a move for Tim Hudson. The other priority is Edgar Renteria. They feel that he is important for their future, but they don’t want to give him the $10 million he has asked for. They offered 4 years, $32 million. They will also need a second baseman and a leadoff hitter.

Cubs – The main goal for the Cubbies is to move Sammy Sosa. The man was a distraction at the end of the season and needs to be moved. They have talked to the Mets (Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza) and the Dodgers (Shawn Green). Once Sosa is moved, they will focus on throwing money at Beltran. They also are in need of a closer. They have spoken to the Brewers about Danny Kolb, but Milwaukee does not want to move him.

Devil Rays – The D-Rays are looking to give 1 year deals to a few players. They are looking for infielders and pitchers. Tony Bautista, Joe Randa, and Mark Grudzielanek are some of the infielders they are looking at. Pitching-wise, Tampa Bay is looking at Shawn Estes and Estaban Loiaza. With Rico Baldelli may be out for the year, an outfield replacement may come in handy too.

Diamondbacks – The D’backs have stated they want to move Johnson, but are prepared to keep him if their demands aren’t met. They are also looking to upgrade their young rotation. Since Richie Sexson doesn’t seem to be coming back, they have begun to look at Troy Glaus, moving Shae Hillenbrandt to first. Also, they are talking about bringing back David Dellucci.

Indians – Cleveland is currently the front runner for Clement, offering 3 years for $18 million. Other pitchers they are looking at include Jon Leiber and Wells. There are also rumors that they are shopping Matt Lawton and Ronnie Belliard to make room for some youngsters.

Mariners – The Mariners have made contract offers to Carlos Delgado, to play first, and Sexson, to try in the outfield and DH. They are also meeting with Carl Pavano in the next week, where they are expected to make him an offer.

Mets – The Mets are looking for ways to clear payroll, mainly by moving Floyd and Piazza. They want the money to make their run at Sexson and Pedro Martinez, who they offered 3 years, $37.5 million with a $12.5 million option. To replace Floyd, the have expressed interest in Moises Alou.

Orioles – Baltimore’s big spending should continue this year. They are one of the front runners for Delgado and want to be players for Pavano (who they met with last week), Sexson, and Tim Hudson.

Padres – The Padres are looking to get pitching. Their big goal is to bring back Wells. If they fail in that, they will look at Woody Williams, Jose Lima, and Paul Byrd among others.

Pirates – The Pirates are looking to shore up their hole at catcher, by trying to make a deal for Charles Johnson. They have agreed upon Arthur Rhodes, but money is the only issue now.

Rangers – Texas wants to make some moves this off season, but they are trying to move Alfonso Soriano to do it. He is arbitration eligible this year and will get a significant raise. They have also been working on re-signing Dellucci, but they will only offer 1 year, which is currently the sticking point. He has gotten offers from the Marlins, Rockies, and the Diamondbacks. If he leaves, they will be looking to Jermaine Dye or Richard Hidalgo.

Red Sox – The defending champs have their work cut out for them. They are close to coming to terms with Jason Varitek. They are still about $2 million apart, but it will be for 4 years. Owners are meeting with Pedro in the Dominican this week. They want him to take their offer of 2 years with an option, but the Mets and the Yankees could offer more money. Orlando Cabrera’s day are numbered in Boston. The Sox only want a shortstop for 1 year, until Hanley Ramirez is ready for the everyday job, while Cabera wants at least 4 years. They are going to be looking at Jose Valentin or Placido Polanco.

Tigers – The Tigers are going to continue to try to make more improvements this off season. They have offered Pavano 4 years, $40 million. They are also making runs at Troy Glaus, a close friend of recently signed Troy Percival, and Steve Finley.

Yankees – The Yanks have backed off of Randy Johnson since the D’backs want an arm and a leg, money and prospects. Arizona’s first offer was for Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Tom Gordon, anywhere from 3 to 5 prospects, and up to $19.5 million dollars for Vazquez’s contract. Instead, the Yankees will look to Hudson and try to sign up to 3 pitchers. They are about to come to terms with Eric Milton, and have met with Pavano and Leiber, and would meet with David Wells (again). They are also monitoring the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes, especially now that Lofton is out of the Bronx. Also, if the Yanks can get out of Jason Giambi’s steroid tainted contract, the may make a move for Carlos Delgado.

A few comments on the recent movement:
The Angels signing Kendry Morales was pretty interesting, since very few Cuban players have succeeded in the Majors”…Matt Morris returning to the Cards was surprising, but since it was at a low base, it was a good move”…Nomar may have hurt himself in the long run by not going for a long-term deal, you can never tell what will happen with free agent signings for next year”…It’s good to see a player stay with the only team he has played for (Brad Radke)”…I’m glad the Reds didn’t offer arbitration to Barry Larkin, the guy was put on the All Star team because he was retiring.

Feel free to send questions or comments. Until next week

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