Baseball's Winter Meetings should be an active time for both the Cubs and the White Sox as they look to take a few baby steps beyond the division titles they won in 2008.
The south siders, under the direction of the always-active Kenny Williams, will try to add young talent that is ready to be developed at the major league level. Williams' success over the last two years adding former #1 draft picks Gavin Floyd and John Danks to the rotation will be the team's blueprint as they look to add yet another young pitcher to the staff via the trade route. (Rumors of a deal for Cincinnati's Homer Bailey have surfaced over the last couple of weeks.)
The veteran inventory of the reigning AL Central Division champions will be dangled at the meetings in Las Vegas that are scheduled for December 8-11th. After moving 1B/OF Nick Swisher to the Yankees in a November trade for infielder Wilson Betemit and two young pitchers, Williams will listen to offers for starter Javier Vazquez and outfielder Jermaine Dye.
The New York Mets have stong interest in Vazquez, as well as closer Bobby Jenks. The White Sox do not want to move Jenks but will listen to offers for the 28-year old right-hander, whose salary will go from $400,000 to $5 million in 2009 (the team's #1 pitching prospect Aaron Poreda has a power arm and could be an option at closer in 2009).
The Mets' Fernando Martinez is the main focus of Sox's brass. Martinez is a four-tool player who only lacks plus-speed, but the Mets have refused all offers for the 20-year old centerfielder up until now. A multi-player deal between the two clubs is possible, and the White Sox would love to add Mets' right-hander Mike Pelfry to the equation.
Interest in Jermaine Dye has been out there since the general manager's meetings in early November. As first reported on ESPN 1000, the Phillies have shown interest in the 35 year-old outfileder since November, but Philadelphia is one of six teams included in Dye's original no-trade clause.
The Sox have had discussions with the Tampa Bay Rays regarding Dye's services as well. Tampa's dominantly left-handed lineup needs one more right-handed bat to balance it out. With lefty David Price ready to join the Tampa rotation, the Rays will trade one of their young starters for a power bat. Right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson is one player that has been discussed by the teams.
Dye's name also surfaced as the player going back to Cincinnati in the previously mentioned Homer Bailey trade rumour.
On the north side general manager Jim Hendry is hoping to get the go-ahead to add a bit more payroll for 2009. With new ownership on the way, the Cubs will hit between $140-150 million in player salaries next season. After re-signing Ryan Dempster to a four-year contract, Hendry is in waiting mode until the Winter Meetings, hoping to get the approval to trade for Jake Peavy and his $60 million contract.
Meanwhile, Hendry will continue to try to add a left-handed RBI bat to the middle of the order. Agents Seth and Sam Levinson represent two hitters that would fit Hendry's needs: switch-hitter Milton Bradley, who hit .321 for the Rangers last season, and Raul Ibanez, who drove in over 100 RBI each of his last three seasons in Seattle. Defense is a problem for both players. With Alfonso Soriano firmly in left field and a combination of Reed Johnson, Kosuke Fukudome and Felix Pie in center, the thought of Ibanez in right doesn't really fit -- Ibanez is more of a LF/DH. Bradley spent most of 2008 as the Rangers' DH so the Cubs are looking into Bradley's health before making him an offer.
The Royals and Cubs have had some talks about IF/OF Mark Teahen. The Royals are looking for young hitting and bullpen pitching in return, and have asked about Double-A IF/OF Jake Fox and veteran reliever Michael Wuertz.
News and notes:
With the names of the new inductees to be announced at the Winter Meetings on December 8th, it appears after many years of waiting that Cubs' broadcaster Ron Santo will finally be inducted to baseball's Hall of Fame. According to Hall of Fame sources, former Cub teammates and hall-of-famers Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams have been working the back rooms and pushing fellow members to vote for Santo, who fell just short when the Veteran's Committee voted two years ago. Friends of the late Gil Hodges have also been bending elbows in order to get the former Dodger first baseman and Mets manager his just due.
Both Santo and Hodges deserve entry into baseball's most elite club. Santo was a dominant third baseman for most of his fifteen years in the big leagues. The nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner hit 342 home runs with the Cubs and White Sox. Hodges was the best-fielding first baseman of his era and hit 370 home runs in a time when 25 or 30 long balls in a season was a big deal. Hodges also managed the 1969 World Champion New York Mets. Contributing to Hodges being overlooked is the fact that so many of his former Dodger teammates (Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider, Don Drysdale, Roy Campanella and Pee Wee Reese) are already in the Hall of Fame. The induction of both Santo and Hodges would only enhance the greatness of the Hall of Fame.
Bruce Levine is the host of 'Talkin' Baseball', heard Saturdays on ESPN 1000. Send comments, questions and feedback by clicking here.