By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez is prepared to meet and greet.
Agent Scott Boras used this week's general managers' meetings to give teams his sales pitch for A-Rod and was pleased with how it went.
"With regard to Alex, we got some very clear direction from clubs as to where their interest is," Boras said Thursday after the four-day session ended.
Given that Rodriguez terminated a record $252 million, 10-year contract to seek even greater riches, this won't be a deal signed off on at the GM level.
"I fully expect that with this type of player, that the owner will want to sit down and talk with him," Boras said.
When the New York Yankees asked for a meeting before Rodriguez opted out, Boras told them they'd have to make a $350 million offer just to speak with Rodriguez.
The Los Angeles Angels said they're interested in A-Rod, who appears likely to win his third AL MVP award this month. Other possible suitors, such as the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, are taking a more wait-and-see approach with their public comments.
There was only one trade at the meetings: The Philadelphia Phillies acquired closer Brad Lidge and infielder Eric Bruntlett from Houston on Wednesday night for outfielder Michael Bourn, pitcher Geoff Geary and minor league third baseman Mike Costanzo.
But other deals are percolating at various levels. Florida dangled All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who interests the Yankees and perhaps the Angels and Dodgers.
Several teams would want two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, but the Minnesota Twins say he's not available and they're trying to work out an extension before he can become a free agent after the 2008 season.
"I don't think people are waiting for something to happen. You can't wait around too long in this marketplace," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.
Before leaving town, GMs decided base coaches will wear some sort of head protection next season, a move that came four months after Mike Coolbaugh was killed by a line drive while coaching first base in a Double-A game.
"There was a sentiment that as a concept this was a good idea," said Joe Garagiola Jr., senior vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner's office.
GMs will decide on the exact form of protection when they meet next month at the winter meetings.
"We're going to come back in Nashville with some options: liners, hard caps, helmets without flaps, helmets with flaps," Garagiola said.
New Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa understands the decision.
"They're just trying to take safety measures," Bowa said. "I prefer to wear an insert. With an ear flap, I would definitely think it would be a hindrance, it would get in the way."
The more interesting action at these meetings occurs in the lobbies, lounges, hallways and suites, where GMs talk with each other and agents.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman, needing to replace Rodriguez at third, has interest in Cabrera and Joe Crede of the Chicago White Sox. But with the start of spring training more than three months away, he doesn't expect to fill the spot soon. Cashman said the meetings had a "predictable feel."
"Sometimes it will take more time for us to be willing to do certain things that we're unwilling to do, or vice versa, to match up with somebody else and kind of get them interested in other aspects from their initial offer," he said.
Cashman received repeated inquiries about young pitchers Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, all of whom could be in the Yankees' rotation next year. Cashman called pitching "the keys to the kingdom" -- and it wasn't a reference to nearby Disney World.
"I understand why people are asking. I'd ask," he said. "For the most part, we're going to try to stay the course and build around our young pitching as we move forward. But talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words, so let's see where I'm standing come February."
Assessing the one trade made by division rival Philadelphia, Minaya thought the deal "makes them a better team already." He said the Mets could have gotten involved in trying to acquire Lidge but "the price for us at the time was a little bit too rich."
He did have one desire for the marketplace.
"I'd like to see a lot of guys, free agents, go to the American League, if possible," he said. "Forget the Phillies -- the more guys that go to the American League, the better."
The percentage of correct ball/strike calls was 95.38 percent, up from 94.91 percent last year, in the 11 ballparks monitored by baseball's computer system, according to Mike Port, baseball's vice president of umpiring. It was the seventh straight season the percentage increased. ... Boston GM Theo Epstein said no decision has been made on whether the Red Sox will open the season in Tokyo against Oakland on March 22-23. "I'm not waiting on pins and needles," A's GM Billy Beane said. "It's something that for Oakland would be a lot of fun. It would be a great experience. I think some of our players would enjoy it." Approval from Boston and its players appears to be the holdup. "That's what it sounds like," Beane said. "The Red Sox just got done with the World Series. They've got a lot on their plate." ... The Cubs' Jim Hendry and Toronto's J.P. Riccardi are co-chairs on next year's meetings, which probably will be in Arizona, according to Garagiola.