Winter meetings, with a National bent

LAS VEGAS – The National League is regularly beaten down this time of year, when the Miguel-Cabrera-to-the-Tigers headlines typically outnumber the Johan-Santana-to-the-Mets splashes.

Same story this winter. The cash and the willingness to spend it leans again to the American League, from where the CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira suitors tend to hail, and where the smart money puts Manny Ramirez.

Yet, the NL-ers have won two of the past three World Series, for whatever that's worth.

Here's a look at the NL side of things, pool-side at the Bellagio.



Philadelphia Phillies

What's new: Chase Utley had hip surgery last month and could miss a month or more of the Phillies' championship defense. They traded for John Mayberry, a big man who just might be built for that little ballpark. He could see some time in left field.

What's old: Pat Burrell, the former left fielder, won't be back. Otherwise, there might be little turnover here.

Winter meetings: New GM Ruben Amaro has made starting pitching a priority. He's negotiating with Jamie Moyer and is in on Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett.

New York Mets

What's new: Pretty quiet across the Triboro Bridge, where you'd think they'd be throwing themselves at relief pitchers by now.

What's old: Billy Wagner's elbow hasn't gotten any better and neither have the memories of that bullpen down the stretch.

Winter meetings: They're courting second-tier starters (rotation sure things: Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine) and every potential closer. In fact, they've considered turning some closers into setup men and paying them like closers. They'll also be shopping relievers Aaron Heilman and Scott Schoeneweis, and second baseman Luis Castillo.

Florida Marlins

What's new: With arbitration years coming, the Marlins moved out Scott Olson and Josh Willingham to the Nationals and Mike Jacobs to the Royals. Also, closer Kevin Gregg was traded to the Cubs.

What's old: Martyrdom. Oh, and legal challenges have delayed the new ballpark another year. See you in 2012.

Winter meetings: The Marlins would love to see Andrew Miller take a place in the starting rotation and keep it. But, they're still looking starting pitching. Carl Pavano has been mentioned. There's been speculation power-hitting second baseman Dan Uggla (about to get expensive) could be moved, particularly with the acquisition of Emilio Bonifacio from the Nationals.

Atlanta Braves

What's new: The Braves have been aggressive on the starting pitching front, first pursuing Jake Peavy before wearying of the Padres' demands, then acquiring Javier Vazquez from the White Sox. They've also made a competitive offer to Burnett.

What's old: Or, certainly, getting old: That's three consecutive playoff-less seasons for the Braves, who set the standard from 1991 to 2005. Looks like they won't start the season with John Smoltz, Tom Glavine or Tim Hudson, which explains the pitching emphasis.

Winter meetings: They're bidding against a lot of clubs for Burnett, but reports have them offering four years plus a vesting option for a pitcher who has trouble staying healthy. You'd imagine, after those years with Mike Hampton, they'd stay away from that sort of injury potential.

Washington Nationals

What's new: GM Jim Bowden maneuvered to acquire Olson and Willingham, providing depth in the starting rotation and the outfield.

What's old: While no one was looking, they lost 102 games. The franchise in the nation's capital (and in a new ballpark) has a ways to go to look competitive.

Winter meetings: The Nats made a lot of noise about being players for Teixeira, though it's unclear if an actual offer has followed. More likely, they'll go for the likes of Adam Dunn and see if anyone is interested in their glut of outfielders.


Chicago Cubs

What's new: Kerry Wood is gone; Kevin Gregg is in. In other news, a new owner could be in place by spring training.

What's old: Well, the Cubs are certainly glad that's over with. Here's to the start of a whole new century.

Winter meetings: They're still trying to work out the details of a Jake Peavy trade and add a left-handed-hitting outfielder such as Raul Ibanez. They also could move some players around and get in on shortstop Rafael Furcal or outfielder Manny Ramirez. Also, Brian Roberts could be available again, and GM Jim Hendry likes him.

Milwaukee Brewers

What's new: Manager Ken Macha, whose tenure presumably runs longer than Dale Sveum's. Jorge Julio, who will not be an adequate replacement for Salomon Torres.

What's old: That $100 million offer for Sabathia. If the Yankees are Sabathia's fall-back, what does that make the Brewers?

Winter meetings: GM Doug Melvin walks into the Bellagio having to replace Ben Sheets and, he has to assume, Sabathia. Helping some, Yovani Gallardo is healthy again. The back end of the bullpen needs work, too. And the offense was one-dimensional, leading to speculation Prince Fielder could be had. Mike Cameron will be a popular name as well.

Houston Astros

What's new: The last Houston saw Mike Hampton, he was 26 years old, he was winning 22 games and his body was relatively reliable. Eight years later, he returns on a gurney. For $2 million, it was worth the shot. Reliever LaTroy Hawkins also gets a one-year deal.

What's old: That's four years in a row Miguel Tejada's home runs have fallen, and he just had his lowest on-base percentage since his rookie season. He's in his mid-30s. The Astros would love to move him, but to whom? He's owed $13 million next season.

Winter meetings: The Astros need starting pitching and speculation has them shopping closer Jose Valverde for it.

St. Louis Cardinals

What's new: Rather than wade into the free-agent market, GM John Mozeliak traded for shortstop Khalil Greene, a guy scouts used to like and now don't know what to think of. Mozeliak can decide for himself; Greene is owed $6.5 million this season. Veteran lefty Trever Miller was added to the bullpen.

What's old: They've had some trouble keeping the starting rotation upright, though the most recent news on Chris Carpenter's elbow was positive.

Winter meetings: They – along with every other team roaming The Strip – will root around for starting pitching. Tony La Russa would like a closer to cover Chris Perez's growing pains. Huston Street could land here.

Cincinnati Reds

What's new: GM Walt Jocketty enters his first winter meetings representing the Reds with plenty of work to do, but with the organization finally clear of the big Griffey and Dunn contracts.

What's old: Dusty Baker has expressed his affection for Kerry Wood. Jocketty's not too sure.

Winter meetings: Jocketty has set the priorities in the outfield (a big right-handed bat and a center fielder/leadoff-hitter type) and at catcher. The Reds have been linked to the White Sox regarding Jermaine Dye and are believed to have interest in Rockies center fielder Willie Taveras.

Pittsburgh Pirates

What's new: Jack Wilson. The Pirates would love to get out from under the final $8 million of that contract, but it's not coming easy. The Tigers have some curiosity, the Dodgers wouldn't mind having him if he came very cheap, but otherwise the interest is thin.

What's old: You know how long it's been since the Pirates' last winning team? Tim Wakefield was a rookie on it.

Winter meetings: They'll continue to see what they can get for Wilson, Adam LaRoche and maybe Nate McLouth, hoping to build for another day.


Los Angeles Dodgers

What's new: They went to the NLCS, but it won't be quite that team going to 2009. Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, Derek Lowe, Jeff Kent, Joe Beimel, Nomar Garciaparra among others, are possibly/likely gone.

What's old: President Jamie McCourt sent a shudder through town when she suggested Dodgers fans should choose between sandlot fields and Manny. The response: Both (and a tax write-off).

Winter meetings: Turns out, the Dodgers may have played the Furcal situation just right. They'd probably offer a similar contract to the one that just expired – three years, $39 million – and Furcal might be in the mood to take it. They're waiting on Manny and while not aggressively in on Sabathia, they're not necessarily out either.

Arizona Diamondbacks

What's new: After being one of the big movers last winter – Dan Haren in, Carlos Quentin out – the Diamondbacks seem more inclined to sit this one out.

What's old: If Randy Johnson is going to chase 300 wins wearing Sedona red, he'll do it at a major discount. Sources put the Dbacks' one-year offer to Unit at $2.5 million.

Winter meetings: Don't be surprised if Eric Byrnes' name is batted around in the Bellagio lobby. He's carrying a big contract, is coming off an injury, and the Dbacks are in cutback mode. Also, catcher Miguel Montero and first baseman Chad Tracy are available.

Colorado Rockies

What's new: The industry-wide opinion was that GM Dan O'Dowd should have been able to do better for Matt Holliday than Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street and Greg Smith. The key here is Gonzalez, whose live bat and body could make him a star in altitude.

What's old: O'Dowd doesn't want to stop at Holliday. Third baseman Garrett Atkins and center fielder Willy Taveras could bring valuable young players.

Winter meetings: They aren't expecting a lot of action on Atkins – the asking price, according to opposing general managers, is very steep – so the Rockies will content themselves to reworking their bullpen.

San Francisco Giants

What's new: The signing of shortstop Edgar Renteria, who appears to be in decline, only makes sense if Brian Sabean has other, grander plans in mind. After all, they've tried old, and it hasn't worked. In fact, it's been embarrassing.

What's old: They're still shopping a young arm or two. Jonathan Sanchez has a live arm and the inconsistency to match, but could bring a nice hitter. They've talked to the Marlins about a trade that would bring them Jorge Cantu and more.

Winter meetings: What the Giants need is Barry II, only without the arrogance and federal indictment. Rather than concern themselves with Sabathia (seriously, they need to wean themselves from $100-million pitchers' contracts), they should sign Manny, steal him out of the Dodgers' offense and put people in their ballpark.

San Diego Padres

What's new: John Moores' divorce, Khalil Greene's and Trevor Hoffman's forwarding addresses and Jake Peavy's future. It's time for a youth movement in San Diego, so the Padres – division winners in '05 and '06 and eliminated on the final day of '07 – won't be heard from in a while.

What's old: If they succeed in trading Peavy, their only established starter would be Chris Young. At some point, right fielder Brian Giles will hit the market as well, perhaps as early as June.

Winter meetings: Mostly it'll be about Peavy, finding a third party who'll enhance the Cubs' offer, and getting some young pitchers for Bud Black to develop. Everybody loves reliever Heath Bell, so Kevin Towers will get a lot of play on him.