MLB MEETINGS WILL SPUR SIGNINGS AND TRADES

The Baseball Winter Meetings start Sunday in San Diego, California, at the Hilton Bayfront across from the San Diego Padres Petco Field. The meetings, which run from Sunday through Thursday, appropriately kick off the first full day with a seven hour seminar entitled the ‘ Business of Baseball ‘ workshop.

This is an appropriate way to kick off this week during which the main business that will interest the fans and impact the game most will be the signing and trading of players. As of this writing, there are a number of big name Free Agents still out there for the taking, among them several front line starting pitchers including, John Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields. There are literally dozens of other starters out there, including Ervin Santana, Jake Peavy, Mark Mulder and Hiroki Kuroda.

Lester is expected to make a decision by the weekend as to where he will sign, with the Cubs and Red Sox being the front runners although a rumor surfaced today that there might be another surprise team bidding. The Cubs are at least a year, maybe two, away from contending in the NL Central and that may be a reason for Lester to opt to return to Boston where the potential exists for a pennant run this year. Once Lester makes his decision, the other top level starters should go quickly as teams begin to worry about not getting the pitching they need and a price range is established.

While premiere starting pitchers have been slow to move, the position players, particularly those with big bats have been flying off the racks. Boston picked up Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, Nelson Cruz, after a career year in Baltimore, where he hit .271, led the league with 40 homers and had 108 RBI’s, signed with Seattle, Torii Hunter just signed to return to his roots in Minneapolis, Victor Martinez signed a big contract to return to Detroit and even Billy Butler, who had a so so year with Kansas City, hitting .261 with just 9 homers and 66 RBI’s, signed a three year, $30. million contract with Oakland.

There are still some good hitting position players out there including two of my favorites who could still be resigned by their clubs. Nick Markakis, the Orioles lead off hitter/right fielder who still might reach agreement with the O’s and go back where he belongs. Melky Cabrera, who hit .301 and had 16 homers and 73 RBI’s with Toronto, might also be going back to Toronto now that they have decided not to bring outfielders John Mayberry, Jr. and Andy Dirks back. The Jays recently signed catcher Russell Martin and traded for All Star third baseman Josh Donaldson which will make them stronger and more attractive to Cabrera.

Chase Headley the third baseman who hit 13 homers and had 49 RBI’s between San Diego and the Yankees last year is still on the market and it appears that the Yankees may have made a decision to use Martin Prado at third and not be interested in bringing Headley back as they were expected to do. Among the many other position players out there are some proven, experienced players such as left fielder Delmon Young, center fielder Colby Rasmus and DH Kendrys Morales.

There are also a load of relief pitchers available, the most talked about being Andrew Miller, the big, talented but somewhat inconsistent left hander from Baltimore by way of Boston, who will command a lot of money.

Among the Closers still available are David Robertson, from the Yankees, Raphael Soriano, from the Nats, Francisco Rodriguez from the Brewers, Jim Johnson from the Tigers and Corey Janssen from the Blue Jays.

There will be plenty of negotiations and maneuvering next week during the winter meetings as everybody tries to position themselves for 2015.

So far, this Hot Stove League season, the Yankees and Dodgers, the biggest of the big spenders, have been relatively quiet. Watch for them both to make big moves during the meetings.

12/3/14 3:00 P.M.  THE BRAVES JUST SIGNED CLOSER JIM JOHNSON TO A ONE YEAR CONTRACT.

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