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Major League Baseball free agent rumors

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Thursday, November 16

8:10 p.m. ET

Two of the biggest names on the free-agent market received offers from the Houston Astros Thursday. According to the Houston Chronicle, both Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano received multi-year offers, but club officials aren't confirming the report.

Houston ranked last in the National League with a .255 average in 2006 and finished near the bottom in runs scored. Lance Berkman drove in 136 runs for the club, but no other Astros players topped 62 RBIs in 2006.

Houston is reportedly also in advanced talks with free-agent pitcher Woody Williams. More


4:30 p.m. ET

The bullpen was a big problem for the Baltimore Orioles this past season, and it's obvious they are determined to do something about it.

The O's, acccording to two club sources, have agreed in principle to a three-year deal with Detroit Tigers left-handed reliever Jamie Walker.

Though terms of the deal were not disclosed, the Orioles will pay Walker, arguably the best left-handed reliever on the free-agent market, approximately $11.5 million over three seasons. The O's posted the second-worst bullpen ERA (5.25) in the majors in 2006.

The team has also made offers to San Francisco Giants left-hander Mike Stanton, Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Justin Speier and Atlanta Braves right-hander Danys Baez, according to sources. More


The Boston Red Sox appear to be the clear front-runners for shortstop Julio Lugo.

Meanwhile, the Sox are said to be interested in reliever Scott Schoeneweis, and possibly Ron Villone and Mike Stanton.

The Sox are kicking the tires on several other relievers, including Justin Speier and Danys Baez and will monitor Eric Gagne's rehab progress. More


Frank Thomas is close to signing a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, espn.com first reported, contingent on Thomas passing a physical.

A reliable baseball source told MediaNews the contract was three years and $31 million.

The A's made a two-year offer to Thomas, and the Texas Rangers also strongly pursued the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer. The A's did not comment Wednesday night. More


Now that it appears the Oakland Athletics have lost designated hitter Frank Thomas to the Toronto Blue Jays, there's a possibility that they might pursue free agent Barry Bonds – and the A's may not be alone. According to a Foxsports.com report, the San Diego Padres have discussed signing Bonds. "I can't comment on any specific team, but I'll confirm there's been substantial interest in Barry from the first day he elected free agency,'' Bonds' agent Jeff Borris said. "It's a possibility he'll sign with the Giants, but it's just as great a possibility he'll end up some other place." More


The word is that free agent Alfonso Soriano's price could reach $20 million annually, and that J.D. Drew's could be four years for $56 million.

That's the money we're hearing," said one National League general manager concerning Drew, a Scott Boras client. "It's getting a little crazy. I don't know if people will pay it, but he's a guy a few teams are eyeing and in the end, they'll probably come close to that." More


The Kansas City Royals are looking for two starting pitchers for 2007 and beyond, but they know they have to be patient.

"In this free-agent market," Royals GM Dayton Moore said, "my sense is that until the big boys sign, nobody signs."

The Royals are not going to land any of the big boys, such as a Barry Zito. They're going after the next tier, names like Gil Meche and Miguel Batista.

They also have interest in retaining lefty Mark Redman, chosen as their pitcher of the year after going 11-10 with a 5.71 ERA. More


Contrary to a report out of Boston, Houston Astros GM Tim Purpura says he has not talked with the Boston Red Sox about moving the key members of the back end of his bullpen – Chad Qualls, Brad Lidge and Dan Wheeler.

"We're trying to strengthen the areas we feel vulnerable, and that's not one of them," Purpura said. "We feel good about Qualls, Wheeler, Lidge and Trever Miller. Those are four strong guys in our bullpen."

Purpura did have conversations Wednesday with representatives for the Astros' top two free agent targets – sluggers Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee. More


Philadelphia Phillies' GM Pat Gillick said last night at the annual GM meetings that the Phillies are "absolutely" close to finalizing an agreement with free-agent infielder Wes Helms.

Helms hit .329 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 240 at-bats for the Florida Marlins last season.

The deal could be finalized as soon as today. Industry sources said Helms, 30, will be guaranteed approximately $5.5 million for 2 years with an option that could raise the total value of the package to more than $8 million. More


The Rocky Mountain News is reporting that the Minnesota Twins are interested in Colorado right-hander Jason Jennings.

Jennings, 28, was 9-13 with a 3.78 ERA for the Rockies this season. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan could not be reached for comment.

The Rockies picked up Jennings' $5.5 million option for 2007, and initial attempts to extend his deal have been unsuccessful. Colorado might move Jennings before he leaves as a free agent after next season. More


Despite losing out to the Boston Red Sox on the Daisuke Matsuzaka bidding, the New York Yankees are not likely to respond with a high-priced signing.

The Yanks, focused on lowering their payroll, will look instead to middle-level free agents, and trades. One name discussed internally is Florida Marlins' pitcher Dontrelle Willis but they are a long shot.

The team is expected to let others spend the most on Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito, while taking a look at pitchers such as Miguel Batista, Adam Eaton, Woody Williams and Randy Wolf. More


Wednesday, November 15

4:45 p.m. ET

The Texas Rangers may have eyes for a pair of free agents previously employed by the division rival Oakland Athletics.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers are pursuing A's lefty Barry Zito and rejuvenated slugger Frank Thomas. Both players have already contacted new Texas manager Ron Washington, their former third-base coach in Oakland, to offer their congratulations.

Oakland long ago conceded the loss of Zito, but the A's are expected to negotiate with Thomas, who hit 39 homers in 2006. More


The San Francisco Giants' outfield could get a lot younger if the club is successful in signing speedy center fielder Juan Pierre.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Pierre, 29, is one of several center fielders the team is targeting. Pierre stole 58 bases with the Cubs in 2006.

The Giants have also reportedly expressed interest in Dave Roberts, Jay Payton and Gary Matthews Jr. More


Mark Mulder is a perfect candidate for an incentive-rich deal. He's coming off a terrible season (6-7, 7.14 ERA) and elbow surgery, so teams may be less willing to offer huge up-front dollars. But the Arizona Diamondbacks are shying away from incentive contracts. So if they want Mulder – and the club confirms talks with the five-time 15-game winner – they will have to offer up more base cash than most teams.

The Diamondbacks are also pursuing another lefty with a history of arm trouble, Randy Wolf. More


The Baltimore Orioles have already extended at least three offers to pitchers they hope than bolster the club's bullpen.

They presented Blue Jays right-handed setup man Justin Speier with an offer and did the same with Detroit Tigers left-hander Jamie Walker and San Francisco Giants left-hander Mike Stanton, sources told the Baltimore Sun. More


Playing center field at Dolphin Stadium can be tricky. So can finding an arm, glove and bat for that position on a tight budget. That's the challenge facing the Florida Marlins this offseason. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Tampa Bay outfielder Rocco Baldelli tops the team's wish list. The Devils Rays are expected to demand a pair of major-league ready starting pitchers in return for Baldelli, who is potentially signed through 2011. More


3:00 p.m. ET

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays might be about to land the negotiating rights to Yakult Swallows' third baseman Akinori Iwamura. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Tuesday night that the Rays had won the bidding, but the team would not confirm.

The highest bid is expected to be revealed no later than Thursday, after which the winning team will have 30 days to negotiate a contract.

Iwamura has won five Gold Gloves in the Japanese league. His numbers on offense – 106 home runs and 282 RBIs over the past three seasons – more than likely would translate to 20-25 homers and 70-80 RBIs in the majors. More


A number of teams have inquired about San Francisco Giants' free agent Barry Bonds, according to his agent, Jeff Borris.

"There are teams that don't characteristically sign free-agent players such as Barry that called and said they were interested," Borris said. "I was a little surprised. But how could you blame them? Barry has a chance to break the home run record in their ballpark."

Meanwhile, Borris met last week in Los Angeles with Giants executive vice president Larry Baer, and a one-year contract was discussed. Future talks are planned. More


Contrary to another report, the Philadelphia Phillies have not made an official offer to free-agent slugger Alfonso Soriano, a source close to the situation confirmed, although one could come as early as Wednesday.

The one snag may be that Soriano is looking for a multiyear contract that could be worth substantially more than $100 million, which the Phils might not be willing to pay.

Other teams interested in Soriano include the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Houston Astros. More


One of the final three candidates – Oakland A's bench coach Bob Geren, ESPN analyst Orel Hershiser or Colorado Rockies bench coach Jamie Quirk – will be hired most likely by the end of the week, according to GM Billy Beane.

Although the speculation is that Geren, who he has known for more than 20 years, is the front-runner, Beane insisted he hasn't made up his mind and isn't leaning one direction.

"In this case, at least publicly, people have been a little unfair,'' Beane said. "Quite frankly, I have a lot of good friends. Believe me, most of them I wouldn't let manage my team. The fact of the matter is, Bob originally came here because he's good at what he does." More


The Colorado Rockies will soon need to make a decision about right-handed pitcher Jason Jennings.

The Rockies have begun talks with Jennings' agent about a multiyear contract extension but if one can't be reached, the team will have to decide whether to get one more year out of him before he becomes a free agent, or deal him. Other teams are interested in him, as well.

"Casey (Close, Jennings' agent) and I are engaged in discussions about keeping Jason here," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "What it really comes down to is if we get that done … The preference is to sign him and keep him, but that may not happen and we have to protect our assets." More


Sources say the Seattle Mariners will not bid for the rights to negotiate with Hanshin Tigers left-hander Kei Igawa when he is posted by his club in coming days.

Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, who recently balked at bidding for Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, has let it be known he has no interest in Igawa.

That means more typical free-agent pitchers, including Japanese-born major-leaguer Tomo Ohka, will be the ones GM Bill Bavasi pursues. More

Tuesday, November 14

5:00 p.m. ET

The Chicago Cubs still have money to spend, even after giving third baseman Aramis Ramirez a five-year, $73 million deal. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, general manager Jim Hendry's top priority now is making a serious run at free agent Alfonso Soriano. The 31-year-old is expected to command a salary of at least $15 million per season.

Hendry has promised incoming manager Lou Piniella an increased payroll. Sources say the Cubs could spend upwards of $115 million building their roster for 2007.

The Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and New York Mets are all expected to compete for Soriano's services. More


11:00 a.m. ET

After losing out on their bid to negotiate with Japanese star Diasuke Matsuzaka, the New York Mets will check in with agent Scott Boras about another pitcher guaranteed to receive plenty of attention – Oakland lefthander Barry Zito. Mets GM Omar Minaya could meet with Boras at this week's GM meetings, Newsday is reporting.

The team's pitching coach, Rick Peterson, first worked with Zito when the lefthander was 18. Peterson also served as Zito's pitching coach with the Athletics from 2000 through 2003.

The Mets also have held internal discussions about the possibility of going after free agent pitchers Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf. More


The word is that Florida Marlins' left-hander Dontrelle Willis will not be traded. Not yet, anyway. A National League GM told the Palm Beach PostMonday the Marlins are informing teams that Willis is not available.

At the same time, the GM noted, the Marlins told teams last year that Carlos Delgado was not going to be traded. On the last day of the meetings, the Marlins reversed course.

The Marlins will try to move pitchers such as Sergio Mitre, Jason Vargas or Yusmeiro Petit. Younger prospects such as Chris Volstad of Palm Beach Gardens are considered off limits. More


Since 1948, a full ten years before they left Brooklyn, spring training for the Los Angeles Dodgers has been based in Vero Beach, Florida. Well, that might be changing very soon, according to the Arizona Republic.

The Dodgers are negotiating a deal with the city of Glendale, Arizona to move their spring training operations to a new publicly financed stadium that could be shared with the Chicago White Sox. The team would not discuss its plans publicly other than to confirm talks with Glendale over a memorandum of understanding to move to a new stadium.

The Dodgers will "explore all options," said Camille Johnston, senior vice president of communications. More


Right-hander Tomo Ohka is not one of the big-name pitchers available this fall, but he is attracting interest from the Seattle Mariners. The two sides have talked twice in recent weeks, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Ohka (48-58) might be the fourth starter behind Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn and another pitcher the Mariners would pick up in the off season. The plan is to sign one of the top pitchers on the market, perhaps Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito.

The Mariners will want to be sure Ohka is completely healthy. He spent 77 days on the disabled list last season. More


The list of candidates to become the new Oakland Athletics manager is down to three: A's bench coach Bob Geren, ESPN analyst Orel Hershiser, and Colorado bench coach Jamie Quirk.

Trey Hillman was eliminated from consideration on Monday.

Hillman, who managed the Nappon Ham Fighters in Japan the last four years, had a Wednesday deadline to give his employer an answer on whether he was remaining in Japan or returning to the United States.

The A's are not commenting on any part of the interview process until a manager is named. More


Monday, November 13

12:18 p.m. ET

The Seattle Mariners have all kinds of holes to fill in their starting rotation, but club officals say they will not join the bidding for Japanese starter Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Seibu Lions.

"The decision has been made," general manager Bill Bavasi told the Seattle Times. "We will not be participating in the bidding process."

While officials did not comment on the reason, money is expected to be tight and the team hopes to reach a long-term deal with outfielder Ichiro over the next year. More


The Tampa Bay Devil Rays aren't about to bystanders in this year's free-agent market.

The Rays are looking into signing former All-Star hurler Mark Mulder, and were, according to the Tampa Tribune, one of several teams placing a bid with the Japanese League Yakult Swallows to try to secure the negotiating rights on 27-year-old third baseman Akinori Iwamura.

If Mulder is healthy, he would give Tampa Bay the veteran starter it deeply needs. The Rays must also upgrade their infield defense and bullpen.

Players they might be able to afford include: Angels' second baseman Adam Kennedy, Rangers' starter Adam Eaton, Cardinals' starters Jeff Weaver and Jason Marquis, Marlins' third baseman Wes Helms and Brewers' reliever Dan Kolb. More


The Philadelphia Phillies are expected to offer free-agent slugger Alfonso Soriano as much as $15 million a season for as many as six years.

With the Phils losing out on their backup possibilities, Gary Sheffield and Aramis Ramirez, Soriano may be their only chance for a big right-handed bat to protect lefty Ryan Howard.

The Phillies also need late-inning bullpen help for closer Tom Gordon, and a fifth starter. They have expressed interest in relievers Joe Borowski and David Weathers, and starters Miguel Batista and Jeff Suppan.

Another possibility to round out the rotation is holdover lefty Randy Wolf, but Wolf is coming off Tommy John surgery and may be pursued by other teams. More


One of the most intriguing stories at this week's GM meetings centers around Florida Marlins' pitcher Dontrelle Willis: Will he be traded?

Willis, who is expected to make at least $6 million in his second year of arbitration, could be dealt for a centerfielder or bullpen help, which the Marlins sorely need. In 2006, five center fielders combined to hit .228, while the bullpen tied the Braves for most blown saves with 26.

"To get a premium center fielder, they'll have to ante up and cash in that chip,'' one American League official told the Palm Beach Post, referring to Willis. More


After unloading two high-priced players, Gary Sheffield and Jaret Wright, who did not fit their plans for 2007, the New York Yankees are ready to do what they do so often – spend money.

"The last 16 hours, we saved $16 million in payroll and we added four young arms to our system," GM Brian Cashman told Newsday Sunday.

The Yanks, who are expected to sign Mike Mussina this week for two more years, will certainly be looking for pitching. They have made inquiries about Ted Lilly and Miguel Batista, and are interested in free agents Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Gil Meche. More


For the first time in years, the Houston Astros appear primed to spend big bucks in the free agent market. With improving the worst offense in the National League as the highest priority, they plan to pursue Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, and Gary Matthews Jr, according to the Houston Chronicle.

With the uncertainty surrounding Andy Pettitte, who might retire, the Astros are also interested in pitchers Jeff Suppan, Woody Williams and Kip Wells.

Astros' GM Tim Purpura expects a 2007 payroll in the upper $80 million or low $90 milllion range. More


After missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990, the Atlanta Braves aren't about to miss out on making deals. GM John Schuerholz told the Atlanta Journal-Constituation that the team might be involved in one or two at this week's GM meetings in Florida.

Among those likely to go is second baseman Marcus Giles. He's due to make $5.5 million in 2007, the last year of his contract. The Braves are also loaded in middle-infield prospects.

A big priority is finding pitchers. The Braves were known for pitching during their glory years. They are very interested in San Diego reliever Scott Linebrink. More


The Chicago White Sox are at least willing to listen to offers for starting pitchers Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez and Mark Buehrle. According to the Chicago Tribune, general manager Ken Williams may deal one of the three to free up cash to pursue a leadoff hitter. More

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