Moves expected after winter meetings

Posted: Tuesday, December 17, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Baseball executives started heading home Monday from the quiet winter meetings, expecting a flurry of moves later in the week.

Just five significant trades took place during the four-day session, and the only major league free agents agreeing to deals were Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Stanton, Mark Loretta, Deivi Cruz, Matt Stairs, Todd Zeile and Cris Carpenter.

General managers met Monday and adopted a recommendation on a minimum age for bat boys, saying it will be 14 or 16, depending on legal advice.

''The commissioner will make that ruling,'' said Sandy Alderson, the executive vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner's office.

The bat-boy flap started during the World Series, when Dusty Baker's 3-year-old son, Darren, almost got run over when he tried to fetch a bat.

While Baker left San Francisco to become the Chicago Cubs' manager, the Giants still have several young bat boys who are the sons of players, and Baker hoped to have his son be a bat boy for the Cubs.

''It will be 4 for us, 16 for everybody else,'' Cubs general manager Jim Hendry joked before turning serious. ''Whatever it is, it will affect us.''

GMs did not discuss commissioner Bud Selig's idea to have the league winning the All-Star game get home-field advantage for the World Series. Selig may bring it up when owners meet on Jan. 15-16 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

After days of wandering around the sprawling Opryland Hotel, GMs and agents were happy to leave a place where restaurants closed at 10 p.m. and they worked past midnight. The sheer size of the 2,881-room hotel made it difficult to schedule meetings.

''I wandered for 15 minutes to get to a room that I found out that if I had made a right, instead of a left, was eight doors down,'' agent Scott Boras said.

The seven free-agent signings, for about $40 million, were one more than last year in Boston. In comparison, teams committed $739.2 million to 25 players in Dallas in 2000.

Zeile agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Yankees, contingent on him passing a physical.

While few deals were made, the framework for some was put in place. The agent for catcher Ivan Rodriguez held discussions with Baltimore and the Cubs, Roger Clemens' agents had more talks with the New York Yankees, and Boras left open the possibility that Greg Maddux might accept salary arbitration with Atlanta by Thursday's deadline.

''It's going to be a busy Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,'' agent Jeff Boris said.

Many teams and agents said Montreal's trade talks clogged the marketplace, with clubs wondering whether they had a chance to obtain pitchers Bartolo Colon or Javier Vazquez.

''I would have liked to get a deal done,'' Expos GM Omar Minaya said. ''I listened to offers, and it was obvious teams were interested in my players. Ideally, it would have gotten done. But it's fine that it didn't.''

Stanton, a stalwart in the Yankees' bullpen for six years, stayed in New York by agreeing to a $9 million, three-year contract from the Mets. He will make yearly salaries of $2 million, $3 million and $4 million.

''This is where I wanted to be,'' Stanton said. ''I'm happy we got it done.''

Stanton went 7-1 with a 3.00 ERA and six saves in 79 games and became an All-Star for the first time.

This was the second move made by the Mets at the winter meetings. On Sunday, they traded problematic shortstop Rey Ordonez to Tampa Bay for infielders Russ Johnson and Josh Pressley.

In other moves Monday, San Diego signed Loretta to a $1.25 million, one-year deal, and Atlanta traded infielder Wes Helms and lefty John Foster to Milwaukee for left-hander Ray King.

The Expos still are in talks about dealing Colon, a 20-game winner last season, to either Boston or the Yankees.

''It's a combination of how much money they want to give and the players,'' Minaya said. ''It's a long process, because you're talking to the general managers, but you have to get approval from the owners.''

In exchange for Colon, Minaya asked the Yankees for pitcher Orlando Hernandez, first baseman Nick Johnson, outfielder Juan Rivera, another prospect and money to pay Hernandez's salary, a baseball official said on the condition of anonymity.

''I have not made an offer at this point,'' Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. ''They have made an offer without flexibility. We'll keep talking.''

Minaya asked Boston for pitcher Casey Fossum, third baseman Shea Hillenbrand and another player, according to a second baseball official.

''The deals that make sense for him in terms of players and salary do not make sense for us,'' Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said.

If the Yankees obtain Colon, they would cut off negotiations with Clemens.

The six-time Cy Young Award winner, who is 40, is seven wins shy of 300 and wants to stay with New York.

Clemens' agent, Randy Hendricks, said the two sides are only 10 percent apart on a deal, but Cashman wouldn't characterize the talks.

''We've had good discussions,'' Cashman said. ''He's educated us and we've educated them on what's important to both sides.''

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