Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Meeting Rumors
2005-12-06 12:00
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Crazy stuff coming from everywhere on the first night of the winter meetings. I'm going to try and start with the stuff we know for sure and work downwards into the hearsay.

Nobody seems to know for sure, but A.J. Burnett seems to be headed for Toronto. The last I heard was 5 years, $55 million for everyone's favorite career .500 starter. The Cardinals are the other team in the running but I've yet to hear anyone claim that St. Louis is willing to go that high in either years or dollars. Of course, you never know -- I could have sworn that Rafael Furcal was going to the Cubs, and then he reversed course and went to Los Angeles. It's good news for the Rockies, anyway, as the Dysfunctional Dodgers (I think it says that on their uniforms now) will pay cleanup hitter money to a guy with a .757 career OPS.

Oakland has allegedly sent a pair of spare pitchers, Kirk Saarloos and Mario Ramos, to Los Angeles for Milton Bradley. If the A's also add Frank Thomas as is rumored, they're going to be pretty good next year. If they get those two bats without trading Barry Zito, they could keep him, or they could turn the Cy Young lefty into Alfonso Soriano or Hank Blalock. They already have Esteban Loaiza in the fold, who by the way was better than A.J. Burnett last year. In any event the A's are dealing from a position of power while their division rivals in Seattle (who missed out on Burnett), Anaheim (runners-up for Paul Konerko), and Arlington (losers of bidding wars for both free agent Kyle Farnsworth and Florida fire sale chip Josh Beckett) are not.

Another good tidbit from the must-bookmark MLB Trade Rumors: Cincinnati's Austin Kearns (who they should have traded about three years ago) for Cubs Jerome Williams and Ricky Nolasco. After losing out on Furcal Chicago GM Jim Hendry is desperate to make some kind of splash and he certainly doesn't lack for young talent (which Dusty Baker won't play, anyway). Kearns would be an upgrade from Jeromy Burnitz in any event. Although Johnny Damon remains the sleeping giant on the free agent scene thanks to demented agent Scott Boras (who apparently wants 7 years and $84 million for the 32-year-old Damon), I think he'd be a good fit for the Cubs if his price comes down any. Better than Julio Lugo or Joey Gathright, anyway.

And it never ends: Kevin Millwood to Seattle, Paul Byrd to replace him in Cleveland. Trevor Hoffman's name has also been mentioned in connection with the Indians. The Marlins sent Luis Castillo to the Twins and Paul Lo Duca to the Mets and are weighing offers for Juan Pierre. The Florida fire sale is, no way around it, embarrassing for baseball, but the Fish have done a better job than the last time around in securing promising prospects in their salary dumps: Yusmeiro Petit, Travis Bowyer, Gaby Hernandez. The very fact that there was a last time around, though, is pretty awful.

One kind of weird thing that's new on me: in its AL offseason report cards indicates the Mariners are after Jason Jennings and/or Aaron Cook. Jennings, fine. He makes a lot of money for a Colorado pitcher and he's not getting any better. But the Rockies would be completely insane to deal Aaron Cook, the closest thing to an ace they've ever had and a relative bargain as an early arbitration-years player. Also, Seattle doesn't have anybody the Rockies want besides Yorvit Torrealba, who's not worth Cook or Jennings, and Felix Hernandez who I assure you is not for sale. Anyway Dayn Perry turns right around and in his NL report cards claims that Colorado has no interest in trading either of their starters, which begs the question of why exactly he brought it up in the first place.

One team to keep an eye on at the winter meetings is the Devil Rays, who are under new management and have a lot of chips to deal. Hopefully the evil spectre of Chuck LaMar won't haunt them into overplaying their hand and walking away with nothing from one of the hottest sellers' markets in recent memory. Another small-market story is developing in Milwaukee, where the smokescreens are already up regarding the status of Lyle Overbay. He's going somewhere, folks. The weirdest rumor involving Overbay that I've heard has him going to Boston for Matt Clement, which seems odd since Clement's contract is ludicrous and the Red Sox already have Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis to staff the infield corners. If Boston doesn't want to start Youkilis they should really trade him, because he's been ready to be an everyday player in the big leagues for two years now. Milwaukee fans still recovering from the three-headed Russell Branyan-Wes Helms-Jeff Cirillo monster at third would certainly welcome the Greek God of Walks appearing in those sassy retro uniforms, and it would free up TGTBATB fave Bill Hall to go back to his natural super-utility role.

This is but the first day of the meetings! Tomorrow will probably be crazier still. Yikes.

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