NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Brace yourselves, baseball fans, its time again for that annual frenzy known as the Winter Meetings, when for four days the sport formally gathers as an industry to discuss numerous topics while conducting a giant job fair/swap meet.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The personnel packaging, generally, is all that draws the publics attention an attention already whetted by early offseason trades and free-agent signings and now spiced by the non-tender decisions, which added more players to the available pool.
Might the Royals, for example, take a flier on Jair Jurrjens or Jeff Karstens, cut loose last Friday by Atlanta and Pittsburgh, in an ongoing effort to revamp one of the American Leagues worst rotations?
I know people dont like hearing this, general manager Dayton Moore said, but this thing goes in stages. Theres a period of time, yes, right now that were exploring trades and continuing to explore free agency.
Well continue to massage our rotation with every opportunity that we get from now until the end of 2013.
So, yes, those names, and others, figure to be discussed when Moore gathers his staff for meetings in his hotel suite over the next several days.
The Winter Meetings, officially, open Monday and run through Thursday at the vast Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, where guests receive a map at check-in as an aid to locating their rooms.
Officials from most clubs began arriving over the weekend to begin prowling the lobbies and walkways in search of counterparts from rival organizations to probe for trade possibilities.
Thats where most rumors start.
Scouts report back to their clubs at one of those many in-suite meetings. Often nothing more happens. (Usually nothing more happens.) But sometimes, it is the start to a deal.
Agents are here, too, to auction clients. These discussions are also tracked, when possible, by a media armada on stakeout. More rumors. A lot of false scents. But not always.
First of all, hes not coming back, but where he signs will affect the Royals and any other team looking for starting pitching because his deal will set the markets bar. (If Greinke is worth x, another pitcher can argue hes worth 60 percent of x.)
So what is x? Industry insiders are suggesting Greinkes deal if an anticipated bidding war unfolds could reach $25 million a year for six years $150 million!
The Dodgers, Rangers and Nationals are believed to be the top contenders three teams that show little reluctance to spend. The Angels want to retain Greinke but appear unwilling to empty their wallet and appear to be sifting through alternatives.
Other free-agent pitchers, such as Anibal Sánchez and Kyle Lohse, will likely wait to see how the market shakes out after Greinke signs. That also goes for teams willing to trade top-grade starters.
Free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton will probably set the market for impact power hitters much like Greinke does for starting pitchers. The unknown factor is how much his ongoing addiction battles will curtail his value.
The Rangers appear unwilling to go beyond three years to retain Hamilton. Thats telling for two reasons. One, they ought to know him better than anyone else. And two, they can reallocate that payroll in pursuit of Greinke or anyone else.
Even so, there are several clubs that appear willing to bet on Hamilton, including the Orioles, Mariners, Phillies and Brewers.
For sale: pitching
The Rays and Mariners could be among the busiest clubs over the next few days because they not only have pitching to trade but also a severe need to bolster their lineups.
Most attention will focus on Tampa Bay since it can dangle game-changing arms such as Cy Young Award winner David Price and workhorse James Shields along with contract-controllable Jeremy Hellickson.
Odds are, theyll trade only one of those guys and will demand a low-cost, high-impact hitter in return. (Yes, that could be the Royals, if they are willing to part with Wil Myers or Eric Hosmer).
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik says he wont trade former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez, which shifts the focus to projection prospects. The Mariners have several, including Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. They are less proven but more cost-controllable and wont be surrendered cheaply.
The uncharacteristic Yankees and Red Sox
The two mega-powers have been unnaturally quiet so far this off-season and, well, that just cant last.
The Yankees are prioritizing pitching and, to date, have retained Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda. Thats fine, but they need at least one more impact arm and many speculate theyll target Anibal Sánchez. They also need some bats.
The Red Sox overhauled their roster, and cleared a bundle of payroll, last season before the July 31 trade deadline. Their willingness to consider offers for Jon Lester is interesting because their rotation is already thin. Could they really be contemplating a true rebuilding cycle? Hard to believe.
AL Central champ Detroit reacted to its World Series flop by signing free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter to replace departing free-agent Delmon Young. The Tigers hope to retain Anibal Sánchez but have Drew Smyly ready as a replacement if, as expected Sánchez signs elsewhere.
Detroit needs to rebuild its bullpen but insists it isnt shopping for a closer. If that changes, the Royals figure to dangle bullpen parts (say, Aaron Crow) in hope of acquiring Rick Porcello.
Chicago is shopping right-hander Gavin Floyd, who is one year away from free agency, and is interested in Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. The two teams dont appear to be a match; Moustakas-for-Floyd as the basis for a deal is a non-starter.
Cleveland? Who knows what the Indians are doing? They show interest in some mid-level free agents, who could make a difference, but indications are they might unload Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez in what would be a housecleaning.
Minnesota is in overhaul mode, which it underscored last week in sending outfielder Denard Span to Washington for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. Club officials say theyre not trading Joe Mauer, however.