Mets to build around core players
FIVE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING FREE AGENTS:
1. Rafael Furcal. If his shoulder checks out, the fact remains he put the Dodgers in position to make the playoffs by running his OPS over 1.000 until he got hurt on May 5.
2. Derek Lowe. He is 36, but in great shape, physically and mentally. He's averaged 210 innings the past six years, is a world-class athlete and can get the Yankees and Red Sox into a bidding war. He is a better pitcher than when he left Boston after winning the series clinchers of the ALDS, ALCS and World Series in 2004.
3. Raul Ibanez. His 338 RBIs the past three years are more than Ramirez (311), Teixeira (336) or Vladimir Guerrero; he is a leader, a tremendous person and a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat. It's nice that such a good person will get paid.
4. Adam Dunn. He is spending the winter at Athletes Performance Institute trying to get into the best shape of his career. The Diamondbacks liked him; they're just not willing to spend the money, but they felt his on-base percentage and power and enjoyment of the pennant race were really good. Dunn wants to play for a contender, so Washington may be out.
5. Milton Bradley. He'll be 31 in April, comes off leading the AL in OPS, and while he again had injuries that limited him to 414 at-bats, he is a big-time offensive force.
FIVE PLAYERS WE ARE WATCHING TO SEE IF THEY END UP ON THE TRADE MARKET:
- 1. We know Jake Peavy is out there, but after seeing Tommy Hanson in the Arizona Fall League, one scout says, "I can see why the Braves won't put him in the Peavy deal. It likely will still happen, but replacing Hanson with Yunel Escobar and Jordan Schafer included will be difficult."
2. Russell Martin. Some Dodger officials have spread the word that Martin will either be traded or moved to third base, with a Jason Varitek signing a possibility. Whether or not it actually happens will be interesting to see, but teams looking for catching, like the Red Sox, will do a headfirst dive to get in on Martin, who turns 26 in February. I've also heard that the Yankees are making a major push on Martin and Matt Kemp.
3. Prince Fielder. He's 25 and has averaged 37 homers the past three years.Robinson Cano. In 2007, Brian Cashman asked his staff about trading Cano and trading for Orlando Hudson, who has filed for free agency. Dealing Cano and signing Hudson could happen if Cashman is really in charge.
• Brad Penny was shut down after 94 2/3 innings and a 6.28 ERA, a year after going 16-4 with a 3.03 ERA. He knows he needs to get in better shape, and has begun working at the API in L.A. He could be an intriguing signing for some team come January.• If you're wondering about Jayson Werth's extraordinary athleticism, his mother, Kim, not only participated in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials (and lost out because of injuries), she still holds the Illinois state high school record in the women's 50-yard dash. OK, they don't run the 50-yard dash anymore, but it's still remarkable.