Contrary to what you may have been led to believe -- probably by lunatics like us -- there will be players getting traded at baseball's winter meetings who aren't named Garciaparra, Rodriguez and Ramirez.
On the rest of planet earth, there really are two dozen teams with holiday shopping lists that don't include strategies for how to trade one $20-million-a-year player for another. And all of those teams will be rolling into New Orleans this weekend with more on their minds than jazz and jambalaya.
So get ready for the annual December Junior Griffey trade rumor. And you're almost guaranteed to read the names of Larry Walker, Chan Ho Park and Mike Piazza in somebody's newspaper rumor collection in the next week.
But even if there's no chance for any of those guys to get traded, remember this:
We've just finished one of the quietest Novembers in hot-stove history. So it would be a bigger upset than Chaminade-Villanova if this didn't turn into one of the wildest, craziest winter meetings in years.
So we're about to look at 10 Players Who Could Get Traded At the Winter Meetings (OK, it'll actually be 17, counting tag teams). But first, we need to warn you: We're not even getting into the A-Rod-Manny-Nomar mess. That's a column unto itself. If not 10 columns unto themselves.
OK, now that that's out of the way, on with our show:
1. Troy Percival
Bet you didn't know that of all active pitchers who have worked as many innings as Percival, no one has allowed fewer hits per nine innings (5.87). But he's now 34 years old, coming off a season in which he missed time with a degenerative hip condition and talking about retirement after next season. So we keep hearing that when clubs have inquired about trading for him, the Angels haven't said no. They may not say yes, either. But they're looking for an outfield bat. They have Francisco Rodriguez and Brendan Donnelly in line to close if he's gone. And both the Twins and Red Sox seem almost certain to at least see what it would take to get him.
2. Jeff Weaver-Odalis Perez
As you may have heard, the Dodgers could use a thumper. No wait. Check that. The Dodgers could use about FOUR thumpers. And they've been actively trying to trade Perez to get one of those thumpers. But now, assuming the Kevin Brown-for-Jeff Weaver deal gets done, there is serious buzz that they'll turn around and move Weaver to either the Cardinals for J.D. Drew or the White Sox for one of their high-priced bats. Then again, if that deal doesn't go down, they may try again to move Brown. But he has $30 million coming the next two years. And it doesn't help his marketability that he's had everything but the bubonic plague over the last few years, missing time because of problems with his back, elbow, groin, neck, Achilles tendon, finger and abdominal muscles. So there's no indication that any team other than the Yankees would take him, even if he'd waive his no-trade to go.
3. Jacque Jones
Now that the Twins have moved Eric Milton's salary and struck out on bringing back Eddie Guardado, they don't have to trade Jones for financial reasons. But they might have to trade him for other reasons. Such as the fact that, if the season started tomorrow, their closer would be Joe Nathan. Not to mention the fact that they're trying to open a position for Michael Cuddyer and Michael Restovich. So expect Jones' name to come up almost as many times in the next week as A-Rod's. The Braves have been heavily rumored, but they're believed to prefer a right-handed bat. The Padres also have had interest. The Angels could be a fit. And the Red Sox could try to use him in some kind of three- or four-team extravaganza. Or the Twins could keep him and see what kind of free-agent pitching they can scarf up.
4. Magglio Ordonez-Paul Konerko-Carlos Lee-Frank Thomas
Bartolo Colon is now officially off to Orange County. So if the White Sox were spitting sparks trying to trade for starting pitching BEFORE losing Colon, they're installing that new turbo now. They could move Lee with their eyes shut. But they would prefer to move Ordonez's $14-million paycheck, Thomas' long and complicated contract and/or Konerko's $18.75 million over the next two years. They thought they might be able to send Thomas to L.A. in a three-way salary flush tied to the Brown-Weaver trade. But if they lose out on Weaver, they still have interest in Odalis Perez.
5. Freddy Garcia
Garcia couldn't be any more available this week if the Mariners painted his face on a billboard on Bourbon Street. Now that they've signed Guardado and Shigetoshi Hasegawa, they're set to move Rafael Soriano into the rotation. And that figures to mean bye-bye Freddy, one way or another. True, Garcia is only 27. And he has a higher career winning percentage (72-43, .626) than Bartolo Colon, Kevin Millwood or Curt Schilling. But he stands to make $8 million to $9 million in arbitration. He's coming off a 12-14 season in which he won only three of his last 17 starts. And clubs we've spoken to aren't sure about either his physical conditioning or his dedication to duty. Nevertheless, we're hearing the White Sox are thinking seriously about him. On the other hand, it's also possible the Mariners will nontender him if they can't trade him.
6. J.D. Drew
On any given picturesque swing of the bat, Drew can be everything Scott Boras once promised he would be, back when he was viewed as a once-in-a-lifetime talent. But five years into his career, Drew has never driven in 75 runs in a season, has topped 18 homers once, and has a lower career slugging percentage (.498) than Matt Stairs. He also has just about worn out Tony La Russa with his assortment of bumps and bruises that all seem to linger interminably. So with his free-agent year approaching and a $5-million arbitration payday apparently in the, uh, cards, it's time. By the end of these meetings, if he hasn't been dealt to the Dodgers for Jeff Weaver, you might hear his name linked with everyone but the Nippon Ham Fighters.
7. Kyle Farnsworth
Among National League relievers who faced 300 batters this season, only three held both right-handed and left-handed hitters to batting averages south of .200 -- Eric Gagne, Octavio Dotel and Farnsworth. We know you can't trade for two of those three. But rumors keep floating that the Cubs would talk about dealing Farnsworth, now that A) they've signed LaTroy Hawkins to be the big righthanded set-up force and B) he's arbitration-eligible. We know of at least one club that already has made a run at him and been told he wasn't available. But funny things happen when a thousand baseball people gather in one hotel and start brainstorming.
8. Jarrod Washburn-Ramon Ortiz-Aaron Sele
Unless the Angels are going to pioneer the seven-man rotation, the signings of Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar mean one of these three can turn in his halo. Sele's health (shoulder) and contract ($8.5 million) make him just about impossible to deal. But Ortiz, who has as many wins over the last two years (31) as Tim Hudson, and Washburn, who won 18 games in 2002, are definitely marketable. The Angels need an outfield bat. And they've at least stuck their foot in the Red Sox's door on Nomar Garciaparra. But as always, money is an issue. Ortiz is signed for $3.1 million. And Washburn is arbitration-eligible.
9. Scott Williamson-Byung-Hyun Kim
With Keith Foulke apparently returning to Oakland, the Red Sox may opt to hang onto one or both of these guys. But they've been dangling them heading into the meetings, and they'll undoubtedly continue listening. The Cardinals are believed to have interest in a Drew-for-Williamson swap that would turn Williamson back into a starter (and would also be the centerpiece of a three- or four-team deal in which the Red Sox peddled Drew for another closer or a second baseman). And while clubs are leery of Kim these days given his postseason meltdowns, it's also hard to envision him returning to Boston after his one-digit salute to his favorite Red Sox fans last October.
10. Paul Lo Duca
Only three active catchers have ever had back-to-back seasons of at least 150 hits and 30 doubles -- Mike Piazza, Pudge Rodriguez and Lo Duca. So no wonder an NL executive asked recently: "Why are the Dodgers trying to trade this guy?" The official answer is, they're trying to upgrade in other places -- and he's going to make $3.9 million next year. So they've talked to the A's, Marlins and Cubs in a quest to add another outfield bat. Given Lo Duca's age (31) and versatility, somebody will take a shot.