Here is the latest on some of the possible transactions at Major League Baseball's winter meetings in Dallas (as of 3 p.m. PT on Thursday).
Listed after each player in parentheses are the interested teams.
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Braden Looper, RP (Pirates, Rangers) – Having acquired Sean Casey to fill a need at first base, the Pirates have shifted their focus to adding an experienced arm to their bullpen. According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Bucs have strong interest in both Braden Looper and Roberto Hernandez. Pittsburgh may also make a run at Antonio Alfonseca, the Gazette reports.
After cutting ties with closer Jose Mesa, the Pirates are expected to slowly work lefty Mike Gonzalez into the role. Since his 2005 season was abbreviated by injury, management would like a veteran arm to help him ease into the ninth inning. Looper saved at least 28 games in each of the last three seasons and the 41-year-old Hernandez has 324 career saves.
Jacque Jones, CF (Royals, Mariners, Orioles, Pirates) – The Royals have offers out to six free agents and the list includes Jones, who received a two-year offer, according to the Kansas City Star.
The Pirates, Orioles and Mariners also are rumored to have interest in the outfielder, who hit a career-worst .249 with 23 homers and 73 RBIs for the Twins in 2005.
Kevin Millwood, SP (Cardinals, Mariners) – Agent Scott Boras is telling anyone who will listen that Millwood deserves not A.J. Burnett money, but better. In nine big league seasons, Millwood has won 17 games three times and he was American League ERA champ in 2005 with Cleveland. Burnett, who owns a 100-mph fastball but a sub-.500 career record, signed a five-year, $55 million deal with Toronto.
According to Thursday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals and Boras have been in talks about Millwood. The Dispatch quoted a source that said the negotiation "has legs." The Mariners have reportedly lost interest in Millwood, and have instead made Matt Morris their top pitching target.
Roger Clemens, SP (Rangers, Astros) – Texas is desperate for starting pitching. Clemens wants to stay in Texas. Match made in heaven, right? Sure, if you're Texas management. "We've always loved Roger," owner Tom Hicks told the Dallas Morning News. "We look forward to seeing if he decides to keep pitching."
Hicks says he is willing to increase payroll in special situations, and acquiring a future Hall of Famer the team has coveted for many years certainly qualifies.
Bill Mueller, 3B (Pirates, Twins, Giants and Dodgers) – The Dodgers are seeking a free agent third baseman, and Mueller tops their list, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Thursday. Mueller played for new Dodgers manager Grady Miller while in Boston, a connection that could give Los Angeles the upper hand.
The Pirates have made a two-year offer to Mueller, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported on Monday. Mueller, a veteran of 10 seasons, hit .295 with 10 homers and 62 RBIs for Boston in 2005.
J.T. Snow, 1B (Padres, Dodgers, Red Sox, Royals) – San Francisco officially cut ties with Snow Thursday when it signed free agent first baseman/outfielder Mark Sweeney. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, several teams are interested in Snow, a four-time Gold Glove award winner who has seen his offensive numbers decline steadily over the past few seasons. He hit a career-low four homers with just 40 RBIs in 117 games in 2005.
Nomar Garciaparra, SS (Yankees, Padres, Indians, Blue Jays) – The Indians have stepped up with an offer and the promise of a regular position, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported Thursday. Just which position is unclear, but the Tribe reportedly would not attach a utility tag to Garciaparra.
Johnny Damon, CF (Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers) – The Boston Herald reported Wednesday that the Red Sox were finalizing a four-year, $40 offer to the free agent center fielder. The offer falls short of Damon's expectations in both dollars and duration, making it unlikely that a deal will be struck without further negotiation.
The Herald reported earlier in the week that the Yankees would be willing to offer a three-year deal to Damon, who hit .316 in 2005, his fourth season in Boston. The Red Sox are said to be targeting Minnesota's Torii Hunter as a trade possibility if they can't strike a deal with Damon.
Matt Morris, SP (Rangers, Giants, Dodgers, Mariners, Nationals) – The Mariners and Morris' agent had what the two sides are calling a "touch-base" conversation Tuesday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Morris won 14 games in 2005 but was just 4-8 after the All-Star break. He may well turn out to be more affordable than Millwood, who is represented by Scott Boras and may be seeking A.J. Burnett-type money.
San Francisco may be the front-runner. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday that Morris was close to a two-year deal with the Giants.
Carl Everett, OF (Mariners) – Everett won a World Series in 2005 in his second go-around with the White Sox. The club, however, declined to pick up its 2006 option on the outfielder/DH who hit .251 with 23 homers in the championship season. According to the Tacoma News-Tribune, the Mariners are very interested in the left-handed hitting slugger.
Frank Thomas, DH/1B (Athletics, Twins, Orioles, Blue Jays) – The White Sox on Wednesday cut ties with Thomas, who has 448 homers in 16 big league seasons, all with Chicago. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Thomas' representatives have met with Minnesota and Oakland at the winter meetings.
As for concerns about his health, Thomas says hogwash. "I'm ready to go," Thomas told the Chicago Tribune. "I didn't like the reports that said I was at risk." In his last injury-free season (2003), Thomas hit 42 homers and drove in 105 runs.
Jarrod Washburn, SP (Nationals) – Having tried but failed to land A.J. Burnett, the Nats have shifted their focus to other arms. According to Wednesday's Washington Times, the Nationals have extended offers to Washburn, Matt Morris, Kenny Rogers and Kevin Millwood.
Mike Piazza, C (Angels) – The Angels certainly have their sights set higher after losing out on Paul Konerko, but Piazza is a possibility as a fall-back acquisition, the New York Daily News reports. According to Daily News, Piazza's agent would not give details but did say he had been contacted by seven teams, four in the American League and three in the National League.
The Angels are rumored to be pursuing offers for several players – among them Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney and former Angels third baseman Troy Glaus, who is currently with Arizona. There are also reports that the Twins have shown interest in Piazza.
Reggie Sanders, RF (Royals, Cardinals, Twins, Braves, Blue Jays) – Sanders has played with seven teams since 1998, so it must be time to move on. After pursuing Brian Giles but losing out when the slugger re-upped with San Diego, the Royals have made Sanders their top free-agent target, the Kansas City Star reports. Sanders ranked third in all of baseball with 12 post-season RBIs in 2005.
Bengie Molina, C (Mets) – The Mets were hot after Molina, but the acquisition of Paul Lo Duca during the Florida firesale ended that speculation. According to the Los Angeles Times, Molina may stay with the Angels by accepting arbitration.
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B (Mets) – Grudzielanek is most likely headed to New York to compete with Kaz Matsui, according to a report in the Westchester News Journal. Grudzielanek recorded 155 hits and a career-best 59 RBIs for the Cardinals in 2005.
Octavio Dotel, RP (Rangers) – The Rangers have made an incentive-rich offer to free-agent closer Octavio Dotel, who has been sidelined since opting for reconstructive elbow surgery in June. Dotel, according to the report in the Dallas Morning News, would most likely be acquired to serve in a setup role for Texas.
Brad Ausmus, C (Diamondbacks, Astros, Padres) – Ausmus' agent confirmed contacts between his client and the Diamondbacks, according to the Arizona Republic. Ausmus hit .258 in 134 games last season, his fifth with the Astros. The 36-year-old is widely regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball.
Barry Zito, SP (Mets) – The Athletics are listening to offers for lefty Barry Zito, but they aren't initiating trade talks. According to the New York Times, several teams are interested in Zito, but Oakland officials are informing teams that the former 23-game winner will probably not be traded.
Craig Monroe, OF (Pirates) – The Pirates have contacted the Tigers to see what it would take to pry outfielder Craig Monroe from their roster. The 28-year-old hit .277 with 20 homers and a career-best 89 RBIs for Detroit in 2005. The Tigers are seeking an experienced pitcher in return according to the report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Joey Gathright, CF (Marlins) – The Marlins are buyers. OK, not really. But with Juan Pierre gone, they have a need in center field. Joey Gathright has plenty of speed, but no guaranteed spot in the Tampa Bay lineup. According to the Miami Herald, the Marlins and Devil Rays are in talks about a possible trade. Gathright hit .276 with 20 stolen bases in 76 games for Tampa in 2005.
David Wells, SP (Padres) – The Boston Globe reported Thursday that the Athletics, Giants and Dodgers had all lost interest in pursing a deal for Wells. Oakland had been rumored to be considering a Wells for reliever Justin Duchscherer deal. Wells would like to return home, so San Diego remains his most likely destination.
Brad Wilkerson, OF (Blue Jays) – Having failed to swing a deal with the Nationals, the Blue Jays are now in talks with Texas with the goal of landing Wilkerson, who was dealt in the Alfonso Soriano trade. According to the Toronto Star, a Wilkerson deal could involve Orlando Hudson, who would fill the void at second base left by the departure of Soriano.
Kazuo Matsui, 2b (Devil Rays) – It's no secret that the Mets have been disappointed with Matsui, who enters the final year of a three-year, $20.1 million deal in 2006. He hit just .255 with a .300 on-base percentage in 2005 and was regularly booed by Mets fans. According to the New York Post, New York has been in talks with Tampa Bay about a possible deal.
Huge obstacles exist, however. Matsui would have to waive a no-trade clause to accept the deal, and the Mets would have to swallow a good chunk of his salary to unload him.
Kevin Mench, OF (Dodgers) – Communication lines are already open, as the Dodgers and Rangers were reportedly engaged in talks about second baseman Alfonso Soriano. Mench has averaged 25 homers and 72 RBIs over the past two seasons for the Rangers. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the Rangers are asking for pitching prospect Jonathan Broxton in return.
Milton Bradley, CF (Pirates, Cubs) – Pittsburgh remains a possible destination for the Dodgers outfielder as the Pirates have actually received permission from ownership to spend (modestly) at the winter meetings. The Miami Herald, however, reported Wednesday that Bradley met with Cubs manager Dusty Baker Tuesday to discuss a possible deal.
Bradley's checkered past includes injuries and suspensions. For all the headlines, he has never topped 20 homers or 75 RBIs in a single season.
Bobby Abreu, RF (Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers) – The Phillies and Dodgers were expected to meet for a third straight day Wednesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The rumor has Abreu and possibly veteran David Bell headed west in exchange for pitchers Derek Lowe and Brad Penny. Many obstacles exist, the Inquirer reports, including the fact that the Phillies are not convinced they can receive equal value for Abreu, who has at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in seven straight seasons.
Kris Benson, SP (Orioles, Royals) – Is Kansas City ready for Anna Benson? According to Wednesday's Kansas City Star, the Royals are offering up relievers Mike MacDougal and/or Jeremy Affeldt as bait, possibly to bolster their starting rotation. The Star characterizes the Royals as "leading contenders" for Benson, who is 57-61 in six Major League seasons, all in the National League.
Benson, who won 10 games with the Mets in 2005, had previously been linked to Baltimore in a deal involving former closer Jorge Julio.
Mike Sweeney, 1B (Angels) – It appears the Angels won't rest until they acquire a bat to protect Vlad Guerrero in the lineup. Manny Ramirez rumors are still circulating, and the L.A. Times reported Wednesday that Kansas City has offered Sweeney, reportedly in exchange for Casey Kotchman and minor leaguer Brandon Wood.
Wood, a prized shortstop prospect, had 14 homers in 29 Arizona Fall League games. He is a top 100 prospect according to Baseball America. Los Angeles, the Times reports, apparently balked at the notion of shipping a top prospect for an aging slugger with a history of back problems.
Manny Ramirez, LF (Phillies, Mets, Angels) – Boston would also love to land Brandon Wood, particularly if Edgar Renteria is shipped out of town as rumored. According to the L.A. Times, Boston's initial request included Wood and pitcher Ervin Santana in exchange for Ramirez.
Adam Dunn, LF (Orioles) – Solo home run specialist Adam Dunn reportedly is available, and the Orioles have been involved in talks. According to the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles and Reds have been discussing a deal that could result in a Dunn for LHP Erik Bedard swap.
Matt Clement, SP (Phillies, Brewers, Mariners) – Clement was just 3-4 in 14 post-All-Star starts in 2005, his first with Boston. The Red Sox are reportedly interested in dealing the 31-year-old right-hander.
Austin Kearns, RF (Cubs) – The Reds tried to unload Kearns on the Cubs earlier this year. According to the Dayton Daily News, the talks go on. Cincinnati will reportedly accept prospects for Kearns, who hit .240 with 18 homers in 2005, a season that was interrupted by a demotion to Triple-A Louisville.
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