Winter dealings

Flush in fresh revenue and occupied bleacher seats, somewhat leery of George Mitchell's view of such a prosperous time in its history, and exceedingly short in pitching and patience, baseball gathers Sunday night in Nashville, Tenn., which apparently is as good a place as any to shop your two-time Cy Young Award-winning lefty.

If there ever was an opening to cop to one's small-to-mid-market limitations, baseball's winter of 2007-08 and the rolling lobbies of the Opryland hotel would qualify as the time and the place.

Barely a month after Josh Beckett confirmed that a standup, shutdown ace could carry most of a team from the beginning of October to the end, the Minnesota Twins introduce to the trade market Beckett's left-handed complement.

Johan Santana, everyone.

"You want to be able to line up against Josh Beckett," one American League personnel man said Wednesday afternoon, "and think you have a chance to win the game."

Short of pitching with Beckett and the Boston Red Sox, there's the option of offensive resistance.

Miguel Cabrera, everyone. Come and get him.

Or, perhaps, winning Games 2 and 3.

Say, with Dan Haren and Joe Blanton. Or Erik Bedard and a revived Dontrelle Willis.

With these winter meetings (typically an all-talk, no-walk affair) comes a climate for change, and therefore exchange.

For one, the single sure-thing, change-your-franchise-forever free agent – Alex Rodriguez – is steady with the New York Yankees again. Next year's free-agent group – Santana, Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia, assuming they get that far – is likely to be as ordinary as this one.

For another, the big-market clubs are in. Santana's availability has drawn in the Yankees, Red Sox, New York Mets, and both Los Angeles clubs, at least. And each of those franchises possesses the major league-ready talent to move now. It is this environment – teams rich in revenue, prospects and demanding fan bases – that appears to have persuaded the Oakland Athletics to at least consider offers for Haren and Blanton; likewise, the Baltimore Orioles for Bedard, the Milwaukee Brewers for Ben Sheets and the Toronto Blue Jays for A.J. Burnett.

In fact, by early next week, the market for Haren and Blanton could be more robust than that for Santana. It was the Twins who, upon learning of the Marlins' demands in return for Cabrera, called the Angels and, in effect, said they'd happily take a similar return – Howie Kendrick, Nick Adenhart, Brandon Wood and Jeff Mathis or a second pitcher – for Santana. Except the Angels already had dismissed the Marlins' request as excessive, as they would the Twins', driving them to Torii Hunter not long after trading Orlando Cabrera for mid-rotation starter Jon Garland.

Now, Billy Beane wouldn't ask much less for Haren and/or Blanton. But they'd be a lot easier on the payroll and they're both under control for three more seasons. By all indications, Beane is reasonably satisfied with his club, even as the Angels toughen and the Seattle Mariners mature in his own division, assuming everybody – notably Eric Chavez and Rich Harden – gets healthy. Yet, three ready prospects for a pitcher, or six or seven for two, and Beane would happily adjust his direction.

The same for, say, J.P Ricciardi in Toronto, who wouldn't mind taking a run at the Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East with what he's got, but also wouldn't turn away interest in Burnett or, perhaps, Troy Glaus.

"Unless something really jumps out at us, I don't see us doing much," Ricciardi said Wednesday. "But I do see a lot of trades coming, I really do. We'll be good listeners."

In the spirit of that, we offer the players most likely to be traded – or batted around – in Nashville:

Johan Santana, LHP, Twins.

2007: 15-13, 3.33 ERA.

Contract: $13.25 million in '08. Free agent after '08.

Makes sense: Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, Angels.

Upside: Not yet 29 years old. Has thrown 219-plus innings four consecutive seasons, with more strikeouts than innings pitched. Hasn't the big postseason reputation, but in last three playoff starts has allowed three earned runs in 20 innings.

Downside: Can walk after '08, has a no-trade clause, and could demand $20 million a season over six years.

What it would take: A three- or four-player package likely would require a pitcher or two, then, having lost free agent Torii Hunter to the Angels, an outfielder. The Yankees are believed to have offered Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy and center fielder Melky Cabrera, but not Joba Chamberlain. Likewise, the Red Sox have held back Jacoby Ellsbury.

Favorite: Yankees.

Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Marlins.

2007: .320 BA, .966 ops, 34 home runs, 119 RBIs.

Contract: Arbitration eligible. Free agent after '09.

Makes sense: Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Phillies.

Upside: He'll be 24 on opening day. Great power – a young Manny Ramirez.

Downside: Defensively, he's snacking his way to first base.

What it would take: The Marlins so far are asking for three or four impact players, either in the everyday lineup or the rotation. The Dodgers and Angels have cooled on Cabrera recently, believing the price to be too high.

Favorite: Dodgers.

Dan Haren, RHP, A's.

2007: 15-9, 3.07 ERA.

Contract: Owed $9.5 million over next two seasons, $6.75 club option in 2010

Makes sense: Diamondbacks, Mariners, Mets, Rangers, Nationals, Yankees.

Upside: 27 years old, three consecutive seasons of 34 starts, throws strikes.

Downside: Billy Beane will be asking a lot.

What it would take: The A's are light in the outfield and trading Haren – or Blanton – would make them light in the rotation as well, but Beane is more apt to take the best possible deal, regardless of position.

Favorite: Mets.

Coco Crisp, CF, Red Sox.

2007: .268 BA, .330 OBP, 28 steals.

Contract: Owed $10.5 million over next two seasons, $8 million option in '10.

Makes sense: Twins, White Sox, Rangers, Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Pirates, Padres.

Upside: A good center fielder. Red Sox need to clear way for Jacoby Ellsbury.

Downside: Average and on-base percentage have slipped in past two seasons.

What it would take: The Red Sox are asking for a good mid-level prospect and bullpen help, while suitors are hoping for 60 cents on the dollar.

Favorite: Rangers.

Dontrelle Willis, LHP, Marlins.

2007: 10-15, 5.17 ERA.

Contract: Arbitration eligible.

Makes sense: Mets, Rangers, Cardinals, Reds, Astros, Mariners.

Upside: 25 years old. Gamer. Still has good stuff. Hard to forget the pitcher he was just two years ago.

Downside: ERA has risen by more than a run in each of the past two seasons. Walks also are up.

What it would take: Obviously, not the same as it would have even a year ago. But, because of his age, durability and potential, still not cheap.

Favorite: Mets.

Miguel Tejada, SS, Orioles.

2007: .296 BA, .799 OPS, 18 home runs, 81 RBIs.

Contract: $26 million over next two seasons.

Makes sense: Angels, Phillies, Giants, Dodgers.

Upside: At 31, still a run producer.

Downside: Not the MVP caliber player he once was, or is being paid to be. Has slowed down at shortstop.

What it would take: The Orioles believe there will be a market for Tejada as a third baseman once Cabrera clears, or when teams start losing hope for Cabrera. There have been no significant offers yet, and it is likely the Orioles would have to eat a decent portion of that contract.

Favorite: Angels.

Erik Bedard, LHP, Orioles.

2007: 13-5, 3.16 ERA.

Contract: Arbitration eligible. Free agent after '09.

Makes sense: Dodgers, Mariners, Rangers, Mets, Devil Rays, Reds, Astros, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Padres.

Upside: Left-handed power pitcher who struck out 221 in 182 innings last season.

Downside: Has only once made more than 28 starts, and never has thrown 200 innings.

What it would take: Bedard is dominant when healthy, should be able to pitch in any ballpark and has two seasons left before free agency. His injury history might scare off some teams, but the Orioles ought to be able to fill outfield and rotation holes.

Favorite: Diamondbacks.

Joe Blanton, RHP, A's.

2007: 14-10, 3.95 ERA.

Contract: Arbitration eligible.

Makes sense: Mets, Dodgers, Reds, Yankees, Royals, Mariners, Rangers.

Upside: Workhorse whose walks have declined each of the past two seasons.

Downside: See Haren, Dan.

What it would take: See Haren, Dan.

Favorite: Mets.