Winter meetings, American style

Looks like Yankee money doesn't spend like it used to.

CC Sabathia has been sitting on about $140 million for more than three weeks, or since the early hours of full-blown free agency.

So, still waiting for the first big name to fall, the winter meetings open Monday in Las Vegas with a lot in the air but nothing on the bottom line.

Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, Francisco Rodriguez, they're all out there. Here's a look at the American League as teams begin to arrive at the Bellagio hotel. The National League follows Sunday.



Tampa Bay Rays

What's new: Success. Hope. Expectations?

What's old: They still can't spend with anyone in the division. For the first time, it might not be a detriment.

Winter meetings: You know who would be perfect for them? Ramirez. Not gonna happen. It took them a decade to get here and management believes one bad (or unlucky) signing would send them back to the "Devil" days. They're hunting a DH-outfielder type. Think … our old friend Rocco Baldelli.

Boston Red Sox

What's new: Bullpen depth. They got Ramon Ramirez for Coco Crisp and Junichi Tazawa for a few million dollars. Tazawa could be a year or more away.

What's old: They did pick up the '09 option on Tim Wakefield. He's kind of old. The Red Sox recognize there are declining – if still viable – parts at third base, DH and, potentially, catcher.

Winter meetings: They're in hard on Teixeira and, it would appear, on some second-tier starting pitching (Derek Lowe or A.J. Burnett, say). They need to settle their catching, whether that is Jason Varitek or – big exhale, Nation – his replacement.

New York Yankees

What's new: Hal Steinbrenner is in charge, Sergio Mitre is on the pitching staff, Nick Swisher is a utilityman and GM Brian Cashman – on a new contract – is introducing himself to Scott Boras clients. Oh, and they have that new ballpark to fill.

What's old: Patience. They tried that for a year and Hank Steinbrenner did a lot of screaming. Nobody enjoyed that.

Winter meetings: It's all about Sabathia. And, if not him, Teixeira. They say they won't do both, but these are the Yankees and one never knows. They're in on Lowe and Burnett, as well. Then perhaps Ramirez as a fallback bat.

Toronto Blue Jays

What's new: GM J.P. Ricciardi recently backed out of the Burnett market, four years a little touchy, five years ridiculous for a pitcher who generally doesn't stay healthy. And nobody knows that better than the Blue Jays.

What's old: Best dueling transactions of the winter: Oct. 20: Baltimore – Released LHP Adam Loewen. Oct. 24: Toronto – Signed 1B/OF Adam Loewen.

Winter meetings: Rumors could resurface about Roy Halladay, whose back-loaded extension will bring him $30 million over the next two seasons. There'd be plenty of interest, of course. With Burnett gone, Ricciardi needs to fill out his rotation: Free agents Brad Penny, Paul Byrd, Randy Johnson, Oliver Perez, Pedro Martinez, Ben Sheets are all in play.

Baltimore Orioles

What's new: Not much, unless you're stirred by the signings of right-hander Brad Hennessey and infielder Donnie Murphy. Wayne Krivsky, the erstwhile Reds GM, was hired as a special assistant to Andy MacPhail. So, there's that.

What's old: Second baseman Brian Roberts is again a popular trade topic for teams short a middle infielder. He'll be a free agent next winter. The Cubs always seem to be interested, so might as well count them in again.

Winter meetings: They're trying to convince Teixeira to come home again. Teixeira, that old softy, only asks they offer the most money. They're also trying to fill their usual holes in the starting rotation – Burnett, Lowe, etc. – and a year after trading Miguel Tejada, need a shortstop. They're thinking Orlando Cabrera or, cheaper, Cesar Izturis. They also could be the third team in on a Jake Peavy deal, a transaction that could net them Cubs outfielder Felix Pie.


Chicago White Sox

What's new: More than a few scouts were dismayed to see 19-year-old Cuban Dayan Viciedo out of shape at his Dominican workout last month, but they agreed he could hit, and the White Sox made him rich. It seems a longshot, but there's some talk he could play third base or shortstop for the White Sox this season, or they could turn him into an outfielder.

What's old: A rival GM revealed weeks ago the White Sox were shopping every decent-sized contract they had (and maybe he wasn't exaggerating that much), and so far Kenny Williams has traded away Nick Swisher and Javier Vazquez, or almost $17 million off 2009 alone.

Winter meetings: And Jermaine Dye would make it about $28 million. He is being shopped and there would be plenty of interest. In fact, he'd make a lot of sense for the Mets.

Minnesota Twins

What's new: They're talking as though Delmon Young is the superfluous guy in the outfield, after Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span and Carlos Gomez. They're also flush with young starting pitching.

What's old: You know what the Twins would love to do? Stick a big ol' right-handed bat between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Maybe that's Cuddyer again. They hope so.

Winter meetings: They'll listen on Young, whose power has been slow to come and therefore, at this moment, probably wouldn't bring the likes of Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. They balked at three years on Casey Blake for third base, so maybe they go after a shortstop.

Cleveland Indians

What's new: Good news, it's almost 2009. Since the middle of the decade, they've been a lot better in the odd years than even ones.

What's old: Considering the Indians still owe him more than $50 million, Travis Hafner needs to heal and hit in a hurry. Oh, and life without Sabathia has really begun.

Winter meetings: If it's December, the Indians must be in the market for a closer. There are plenty to go around. Old friend Trevor Hoffman is available, or they could take a flier on Jason Isringhausen. They'd seem unlikely suitors for Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes, but could work a trade for Huston Street or, if he comes free, J.J. Putz. It sounds like they might be ready to move Jhonny Peralta to third, meaning Cabrera is an option at shortstop.

Kansas City Royals

What's new: For the first time in five years, the Royals go to the winter meetings as something other than a last-place team. There's that. And it looks like the payroll is going to increase. And the ballpark is renovated. Coco Crisp is playing center field and Mike Jacobs is playing first base. So, maybe, a little momentum.

What's old: Twelfth in the league in runs, 10th in ERA, and, seriously, those young guys aren't all that young anymore.

Winter meetings: They could get a shortstop and move Mike Aviles to second base. They've at least considered Cabrera, so it's not a fresh idea to GM Dayton Moore. The Cubs are looking for an outfielder and Mark Teahen could be that guy.

Detroit Tigers

What's new: It was about this time last year when the Tigers were awarded the AL Central after acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Funny how that worked out. They'll try it again with Rick Knapp as their pitching coach, see how that goes.

What's old: All that went wrong with the Tigers' pitching staff will have to go right, and it's probably time to figure out what's up with Willis, since he's got $22 million left on that contract.

Winter meetings: They're trolling for a shortstop. Maybe they're the mystery team in on Rafael Furcal. Maybe they'll pull off that trade for Jack Wilson. Jim Leyland also could use a closer (there are plenty to be had) and a catcher. They've talked to the Rangers about Gerald Laird.


Los Angeles Angels

What's new: Angst. The Angels need the Yankees to get good again, if only to have someone to beat in October. They've now got as many postseason series wins as the Dodgers since 2002.

What's old: The Angels must decide how much is left in Vladimir Guerrero, then either extend his contract or plan for his departure. He's got a year left on his contract, maybe that long on those knees.

Winter meetings: Teixeira is their first priority. If the bottom drops out on K-Rod, they'd gladly have him back. Sabathia might eventually come into view, but not until they're sure Teixeira isn't coming.

Texas Rangers

What's new: They're going to try Mike Maddux as pitching coach, and they're going to try Nolan Ryan's condition regimen. After that, they're going to try to get better pitchers.

What's old: The Rangers were offense rich and pitching poor again. In fact, they led the AL in runs – scored and allowed – meaning they're pushing the same rock up the same, uh, mound.

Winter meetings: It's about – surprise – pitching. For the moment, they appear to be browsing the slightly-irregular rack: Freddy Garcia, Penny, Johnson, etc.

Oakland A's

What's new: Matt Holliday. In a borderline shocking move, the rebuilding A's acquired Holliday for, at best, one season and, at worst, four months. It's not the kind of thing we've come to expect from GM Billy Beane, which is maybe why he did it.

What's old: Third baseman Eric Chavez hasn't played a full season since 2005. Now it's the shoulder, and he's supposed to be on the field in April. The A's have heard it before. He'll be paid $23 million over the next two seasons.

Winter meetings: If Furcal doesn't work out, the A's still are angling for a shortstop. After waiting for Bobby Crosby to get and stay healthy, he did, and didn't produce. There's still room somewhere for a bigger bat – Jason Giambi isn't completely out of the question – and there's talk about Johnson joining the rotation.

Seattle Mariners

What's new: GM Jack Zduriencik, manager Don Wakamatsu, the coaching staff. The direction? The attitude? The gentlemen's club down the block from Safeco Field? And Russell Branyan.

What's old: Ken Griffey Jr. He's out of work and Mariners' fans are out of patience. What a delightful way for Griffey to advance on Willie Mays and conclude a Hall of Fame career, with a little right field and a lot of DH.

Winter meetings: Opposing GMs are calling about third baseman Adrian Beltre (who is recovering from offseason surgery) and Putz. Maybe they'll see what they can get for Erik Bedard. They have a long road back.