On Monday in Orlando, baseball’s high rollers will begin the four days of rabid negotiations that largely decide rosters. Free agents will be signed, and some major trades could go down, possibly not the ones you are expecting. Here is a preview of the excitement.
There are two teams that could be the biggest wheelers and dealers at the meetings. Boston and the Chicago Cubs are particularly busy this offseason. The Cubs have already added Alfonso Soriano and Mark DeRosa, but now they have made offers to Jason Schmidt and Ted Lilly. Those deals will likely be decided on in Orlando.
The Red Sox have spoken of trading Manny Ramirez, but a previous talk with the Dodgers that would give the Sox 4 top prospects in return seems to have fizzled out. Now Theo Epstein has thrown his focus towards signing JD Drew and Julio Lugo. Drew is all but in uniform, Lugo is still in the air, looking at the Cubs as well.
There are also players who are in major demand and have shown no decision yet. Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt will cash in due to a shallow pitching market. Zito is being pursued by the Mets and Rangers, while Schmidt is receiving offers from the Cubs and Mariners.
Here are my 10 bold predictions for Baseball’s Winter Meetings 2006.
1. The Mets will sign Barry Zito- Apparently this team will stop at nothing to get Zito to come to Queens. After the extravagant price they unnecessarily threw at Moises Alou, Omar Minaya and company will likely give Zito an offer he cannot refuse.
2. Jeff Weaver will be tremendously over paid- This playoff hero has been the most inconsistent pitcher in the league for quite some time. After getting traded to St. Louis by the Yankees, he was no more than mediocre until the playoffs rolled around. Now his stock is high in a bad pitching market, and some team could be wasting a lot of money on Jeff Weaver.
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka will get his way- Scott Boras will undoubtedly drive the price up on the Red Sox, but Theo Epstein will pay up, because he knows what havoc would be wreaked in Boston if he lets Matsuzaka get away due to Boras’ uncompromising style. Matsuzaka appears willing to come to Boston, along with his newly signed Japanese counterpart, Hideki Okajima, but Boras is driving a hard bargain.
4. The Cubs will throw money around- While Schmidt will be very difficult for them to reel in, they are close to bringing Ted Lilly in at 10 million dollars per year. If they do this deal, it will drive Schmidt’s price up even more, something that may make it easier to bring him to Chicago.
5. Roger Clemens will not make a decision- He will undoubtedly wait until at least Spring Training to decide where and if he will play. I’m not sure the Astros will have the money to wait on him this season. I think it will be a battle between the Yankees and Red Sox to get the Rocket.
6. No top prospects will move- With the success of Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano and Jonathan Papelbon, teams have made it more and more expensive to get highly rated prospects. While the Dodgers and Angels have been attempting to bring in big name bats, they have pulled back at mention of top prospects in negotiations.
7. Outfielders will cash in- A nearly 35 year old Dave Roberts just got the biggest contract of his career at 6 million dollars a year. The Mariners pulled off a steal in signing Jose Guillen for just 8 million dollars a year for one year. Preston Wilson, Shannon Stewart, Cliff Floyd and Steve Finley will be the benefactors of this predicament.
8. San Francisco will sign Barry Bonds- Filling a team with veterans and falling out of the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes are just two signs that Barry Bonds will be back. Seemingly just delaying the future for two years, the Giants’ main initiative is to get the business from Bonds’ run at the record, and then worry about winning.
9. The World Champion Cardinals will not look the same- They let Ronnie Belliard walk, and signed Adam Kennedy. Jason Marquis will almost certainly be pitching elsewhere due to his elevated salary value, and the same for the previously mentioned Jeff Weaver. Jeff Suppan and Mark Mulder have been offered arbitration, but Mulder seems to be looking elsewhere. Baltimore is a possibility. Preston Wilson will hit it big on this year’s market, and the Cardinals will not be the ones paying. Kip Wells has already been signed as one rotation replacement, look for there to be more.
10. There will be no Manny Ramirez blockbuster- The Padres will not trade Jake Peavy or Adrian Gonzalez. The Dodgers are not willing to part with the amount of top prospects it would take to land Ramirez. The Angels have their outfield. There are no suitors for Manny Ramirez, and for once, he is not the one looking for a trade. Look for Manny to keep being Manny in Fenway Park this season. The Red Sox will likely sign JD Drew and then use either Coco Crisp or Wily Mo Pena as a bargaining chip for a closer.