- Tim Kurkjian, MLB reporter
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Free agency has limited the number of trades at recent winter meetings. Why trade for a player when you can sign one? Still, several teams will go to these winter meetings with chips to trade, including the Red Sox's Manny Ramirez, the Braves' Marcus Giles and, perhaps for sometime later in 2007, the Blue Jays' Vernon Wells.
Here are four teams that will go to Orlando with pieces to move. But despite not being mentioned below, it doesn't mean A's general manager Billy Beane won't do something creative, the Orioles won't continue their aggressive offseason, and the Rangers and Red Sox won't make some moves.
Los Angeles Dodgers
They have seven major league starting pitchers: Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Hong-Chih Kuo, Randy Wolf, Brett Tomko, Chad Billingsley and Mark Hendrickson. One of them could be used as part of a deal. More important, the Dodgers have lots of young talent to move, making them perhaps the team best equipped to make a trade for Ramirez.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has been very bold in making moves the last year, but there will be a reluctance in dealing their best young prospects, including, among others, outfielder Matt Kemp, first baseman James Loney and third baseman Andy LaRoche. Kemp is a fabulous athlete who showed signs in 2006 of being a star someday. Loney, one Dodger says, is the best defensive first baseman in the National League. He can also play a corner outfield position, and he's going to hit as soon as he gets a chance to play on an everyday basis.
How often is Colletti asked about his young players?
"Every day,'' he said.
The Dodgers, having lost J.D. Drew to free agency, are short on power in the corner outfield spots. To get Ramirez, or another productive corner bat, they're going to have to trade at least one of their best kids. The player development department might have a lot of input on that very difficult decision. What the Dodgers decide to do will have a lot to do with the action at the meetings.
Chicago White Sox
They have six major league starting pitchers: Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez, Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy. Chances are, one of them will be traded to make room for McCarthy, with Garcia being the most likely. The Mariners appear to have some interest in bringing him back to Seattle, and it has been reported that the Angels have turned down a deal that would send pitcher Ervin Santana and third baseman/outfielder Chone Figgins to the White Sox for Garcia and third baseman Joe Crede.
Crede has developed into a very good player, especially defensively, but the White Sox also have Josh Fields, who can really hit and is ready to play third base. But they just might keep Crede because Fields might be capable of playing left field. Either way, GM Kenny Williams is very smart and very aggressive. After the way his team finished last season, missing the playoffs, he's going to do whatever it takes to get the White Sox back to October. As one of the few teams with a pitcher to deal, look for the White Sox to make a trade.
Los Angeles Angels
They have a great deal to offer, but GM Bill Stoneman has been mostly unwilling to trade his best young players. Several teams covet Santana, but he likely isn't going anywhere unless he can bring back someone such as Miguel Tejada, or perhaps Crede. Several teams covet reliever Scot Shields, but the Angels won't trade Shields and Santana.
They won't trade second baseman Howie Kendrick, who proved during the second half of last season that he has a chance to be a terrific major leaguer. And they probably won't trade minor league shortstop Brandon Wood, who has great power and is very good defensively. Erick Aybar, another shortstop, has drawn interest, but he also has a chance to be a very good player. The Angels will, it appears, trade Figgins, but to get a big hitter at third or first base, Figgins likely would have to be coupled with Santana or a top prospect.
New York Mets
The Mets have one big piece, outfielder Lastings Milledge. Even with free agent Tom Glavine on board for 2007, the Mets still need starting pitching. Free agent Barry Zito seems to be a logical fit, but if his price tag is too high, maybe, says one GM, "they'll package Milledge and [reliever Aaron] Heilman for a front-line starter. [GM Omar Minaya] is very aggressive. He's going to have to find some pitching.''
Milledge has tremendous ability. If the Mets don't sign Zito, maybe they will make another run at the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis. Florida is looking for a center fielder. "I think the Marlins are going to do something,'' one GM said. "Just a feeling.''
Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Free agency has limited the number of trades at recent winter meetings, but four teams have plenty of chips to play this year.