DANA POINT, Calif. – The offseason pitching market still has a few weeks to mature, leaving most organizations in the same situation as the New York Mets, self-described by assistant GM Tony Bernazard thusly: "We need pitching. We don't know what the market's going to be. But we need pitching."
The American League teams are fresh to the list, broadening what had been a National League-only field. San Diego Padres GM Kevin Towers is asking for young pitching and lots of it, particularly from the Dodgers, with whom they share the NL West. So, assume Towers is going for two or three pitchers from a pool including Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton and James McDonald, or two of them and a young position player such as Matt Kemp.
"I've pretty much talked to everybody," Towers said. "Some discussions are more advanced than others."
He said he'll push ahead a few more conversations here, catch up with the Yankees and Angels, and eventually make the deal he hopes alters the course of a franchise crippled by a thin farm system and economic troubles.
"So," he said, "by the winter meetings we'll have a better idea of where we're at."
Amazingly, the Padres won consecutive division titles, missed another postseason by a play-in game from 2005-07, and now don't hold enough optimism to build around Peavy and his contract. They've been passed by, among others, the Dodgers, who so far are reticent to part with all that young talent, even for Peavy, even in a winter in which they could lose Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and, well, Greg Maddux.
"I think the Dodgers have a lot of good players," Towers said. "Do I want to see [Peavy] five or six times a year? No. But, gotta get better."
So far, the Maddux retirement leanings are the news of the meetings, which agent Scott Boras revealed Monday while waiting for his car to be brought around at the St. Regis Resort.
Sadly, the vehicle arrived just as he was asked if he believed Jason Varitek's 2008 season – .220 batting/.313 on-base/.359 slugging – was a statistical anomaly, an argument Boras was eager to support. He shouted something about career-long consistency as he drove out of sight.
Varitek, a free agent, will be 37 in April. He is perhaps the planet's best director of pitching staffs but doesn't hit much anymore, or at least didn't this year. Following the abysmal regular season, Varitek was three for 14 in the division series against the Angels and one for 20 in the AL Championship Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Boras generally doesn't move his clients quickly through free agency. While Varitek would prefer to extend his captaincy in Boston, there are potential alternatives out there, perhaps in Detroit, perhaps with the Dodgers.
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, one of the later arrivals here, said it's possible he'd have a good idea by Thursday, when these meetings wrap up, where things stand with Varitek. Because if not Varitek – and the hang-up almost certainly will be over the term of the contract – Epstein still is going to need a catcher.
"We'll see," Epstein said. "We're certainly not opposed to moving along more quickly. But, we'll see."
Notes: In recent offseasons, a Jeff Borris sighting meant Barry Bonds news, but not so much anymore. The union is promising a collusion hearing and the federal government has a perjury trial pending, so that's probably enough. Bonds is not retired, according to Borris, Bonds' agent. He'd take work. But, realistically, that's not coming. "I've got no comment on Barry until after the trial," Borris said. "Nothing's going to happen until then." … Orlando Hernandez, who turned 43 last month, is working out in Miami and has no thoughts of retiring. … Brian Fuentes will get a lot of play, primarily because he's viewed as the lower-cost alternative to Francisco Rodriguez. The Mets, Tigers, Indians, well, the list goes on. "I think New York would be a great place for him," agent Rick Thurman said. Mets GM Omar Minaya contacted Thurman on Sunday night. … The Padres offered Trevor Hoffman a one-year contract for significantly less than the $7.5 million he made last season. Hoffman did not dismiss the offer, but 10 days ago requested a meeting with John Moores, Sandy Alderson and Towers. The meeting hasn't happened yet. … Here's something you learn standing with the valets: The agents arrive in big Mercedes, the GM's arrive in bigger town cars, the scouts arrive in even bigger airport shuttle vans. … The Reds seek left-handed power hitting and a bullpen arm or two. … The A's also are looking for a bat, but perhaps are wearying of the Piazza-Thomas-Sweeney-Thomas-again ride and could go younger in a trade or free agency. … Brian Cashman, on whether his playoff-less October was a miserable one: "No. Ultimately, listen, we're trying to find a way to be the last-team standing. Whether we're out on Oct. 1 or Oct. 5, it doesn't make any difference. Would I have gotten any satisfaction making the playoffs and getting knocked out early? No." … The Mets' Bernazard said if they are unable to land Rodriguez or Fuentes for a ninth inning abandoned by Billy Wagner, he would not fear giving the closer duties to Bobby Parnell or Eddie Kunz: "If you can't sign one of those guys, what are you going to do, not play?" … Francisco Liriano, who spent the season in various stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery, has decided to pitch for the Dominican team in the WBC.
- Kevin Towers