Plenty going on at baseball's winter meetings
By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Miguel Cabrera was the big name being bandied about Tuesday as baseball general managers waited to hear what the Florida Marlins would want for their young slugger.
On a day when GMs voted to recommend the limited use of instant replay, action started to percolate on players. Particularly third basemen.
Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams acknowledged he was listening to offers for Joe Crede. The New York Yankees, who lost Alex Rodriguez when he opted out of his contract and became a free agent, could get involved in talks for both Cabrera and Crede.
Cabrera, a four-time All-Star, made $7.4 million this year after winning in salary arbitration and is likely to make more than $10 million next year, more than the budget-conscious Marlins want to pay. Two years ago, Florida traded many of its top players and got several top prospects. Teams were waiting to find out which prospects the Marlins would want for Cabrera, their 24-year-old third baseman.
"We don't know yet. We'll probably know by tonight," said Hank Steinbrenner, son of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. "My sense is that it might be too much but we'll see. It's early."
Cabrera batted .320 with 34 homers and 119 RBIs, but he has put on weight, a cause of concern to the Marlins and teams that might want to acquire him.
Florida appears less eager to trade Dontrelle Willis, the 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner. He went 10-15 with a 5.17 ERA last season, diminishing his value. He made $6.5 million.
"Good players are always in need, that's for sure. I'm not talking specifically about Cabrera or Willis or Dan Uggla or (Hanley) Ramirez," Florida president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said, mentioning many top Marlins. "When you trade really good players, you want really good players in return. You want talent for talent."
Crede had back surgery, played in only 47 games and was supplanted by rookie Josh Fields.
"We have two third basemen. There's interest across the league in both of them," Williams said.
Right now, Yankees GM Brian Cashman's top third baseman is Wilson Betemit, and he is seeking an upgrade.
"Our profile typically would involve power, but it might not necessarily come from the available market," he said.
While the Yankees have top young pitchers such as Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, Cashman is reluctant to part with them.
"I think our farm system has taken the right steps forward. There's power in numbers," he said. "We'll soak up all the information down here and then we'll take it back to New York and kind of assess what the real potential market is for us."
While the Marlins explore the market for Cabrera, the Minnesota Twins want to hold onto pitcher Johan Santana, who is eligible for free agency after next season.
"We'll certainly talk. We're going to do the best we can to re-sign him," new GM Bill Smith said. "If we can't, then we'll move on. He's still one of the best pitchers in the game."
--GMs voted 25-5 to recommend instant replay be used to help umpires on boundary calls -- whether potential home runs are fair or foul, whether balls go over fences or hit the tops and bounce back, and whether fans interfere with possible homers. The next step is up to commissioner Bud Selig. Chief operating officer Bob DuPuy said he doubted the plan, which needs the approval of Selig, players and umps, could be put in place by next season.
--Plans were moving forward for a mid-March, two-game exhibition series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in Beijing. Baseball officials are still awaiting a commitment from the Red Sox that they are willing to play a season-opening, two-game series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo.
--Curt Schilling stayed with the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, finalizing an $8 million, one-year contract that allows him to earn $3 million in performance bonuses and $2 million for passing weight tests. That would match his $13 million salary this year.
--Cleveland exercised a $7.5 million option on pitcher Paul Byrd, whose admitted use of human growth hormone served as a backdrop to the end of Cleveland's season. The 36-year-old Byrd claims he took HGH for a medical condition and did so only under a doctor's supervision.
--DuPuy said the Marlins would accept a new ballpark at the Orange Bowl site under the right economic terms.
Schilling, who turns 41 on Nov. 14, was 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA and then went 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in the postseason, improving to -11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in his postseason career.
"We got exactly what we wanted, and then some," Schilling wrote on his Web site. "This is where we want our career to come to a close. This city, this team. This is where we want to retire, raise our kids, and walk away. We got it, all of it, and more."