DALLAS (AP) — Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes could find a landing spot for the future. Gil Hodges, Ron Santo and Minnie Minoso could lock up a legacy forever.
Baseball’s winter meetings open Monday, a four-day session that often turns into a fan’s delight. There’s always the promise of blockbuster trades and major free-agent signings — even if they don’t happen, the rumors and speculation keep things interesting.
Will the New York Yankees work out a swap for Cubs pitcher Matt Garza? Will some bullpen add A’s All-Star closer Andrew Bailey? Will C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle strike riches?
A couple of trades have already been made since Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. Huge deals, not yet.
“It may have something to do with the top free agents not having moved, Pujols and Fielder and Jose Reyes,” New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said a few days ago. “It may just be the tension — not the tension, but the dynamic between clubs and free agents. The free agents would like to think that a certain market exists. And the clubs, at this point, are holding out some hope that that market doesn’t exist.”
“But it can all change in three days in Dallas,” he said.
Surely, there are some general managers itching to get busy. Six teams have hired new GMs, and Houston will become the seventh.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland was among the early arrivals Sunday at the 1,606-room Anatole, a familiar baseball site. The hotel is hosting the meetings for the sixth time — inside its walls in 2000, more than a half-billion dollars was spent in a hurry as Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Mike Hampton each got nine-figure contracts.
Last year’s meetings got off to a rousing start when free-agent outfielder Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals reached a $126 million, seven-year deal. The agreement came on a Sunday, a day before the official opening. In fact, workmen were still assembling the podium when the Nationals and agent Scott Boras walked into the press room to make the announcement.
Also in town early this year were former Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten, and Chicago White Sox special assistant Dennis Gilbert, both part of groups lining up to bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Kasten is aligned with former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson and investor Mark Walter in a group called Guggenheim Baseball Management. Gilbert, a former agent, is aligned with former talk show host Larry King and Jason Reese of Imperial Capital.
There was some early action at the Anatole. Representatives from Major League Baseball and the umpires’ union met Sunday, and replay was a prominent subject. Baseball is still figuring out when and how to expand the system, with fair-or-foul calls and trapped balls likely to be reviewed next season. Also under discussion is how to pick umpires for extra wild-card playoff games that could occur as early as next year.
On Monday morning, history is at stake. The Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee will reveal whether it has elected any new members.
Hodges, Santo, Luis Tiant and Jim Kaat are on the 10-person Golden Era ballot covering 1947-72. The 16-member voting panel talked about the candidates Sunday and turned in the secret ballots. The announcement is set for 11 a.m. EST.
Minoso, Ken Boyer, Tony Oliva, Ron Santo, Charlie Finley and Buzzie Bavasi also are under consideration. It takes 75 percent for election, and those picked will be inducted into Cooperstown next July.
At next year’s meetings in Nashville, Tenn., retired managers Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox could gain election when the Expansion Era from 1973 on is considered.