Baseball officials streamed into the winter meetings hotel all day. Troy Glaus was done for $45 million before most arrived, Jeff Kent after arrivals. Here is some of the opening-hours buzz:
What no one can figure out is where the Diamondbacks, who have begged MLB to forgive their $80 million debt and owe $55 million in deferrals this season because they never funded the deferred contracts, are getting the cash. Russ Ortiz is getting done at close to $34 million for four years, as is Royce Clayton. And the solution White Sox GM Ken Williams figured out -- Javier Vazquez to Chicago, Paul Konerko and Jon Garland to Arizona, Randy Johnson to New York -- has apparently fallen apart, because Williams has yet to hear back.
The Dodgers' signing of Kent is a no-brainer, a chance for a childhood Dodgers fan to end his career in L.A. before moving on to Cooperstown. He can play second. He can play first against lefties, since Hee Seop Choi struggled at .167 from the right side. He can play third if Adrian Beltre leaves. And many would not be shocked if GM Paul DePodesta signed Corey Koskie and let Beltre walk, signed another starter and got into the Tim Hudson sweepstakes. Kent sincerely wants to win. "I loved it in Houston and thought we were going to win," he said. "But when I watched that celebration in Boston after the World Series, I thought about the fact that they wanted me so badly to play first base. They offered me more money and three years, but I wanted to go home to Texas. But I thought about it a lot when I saw how great that was."
Wednesday was the day after the arbitration offerings. It was one of the busiest days of Billy Beane's year, as clubs realized that Hudson -- who is 28 and fifth in the majors in wins, sixth in ERA and first in winning percentage in this century -- was a better deal at $6.75 million than some of the $7 million mid-rotation starters. Atlanta will be a major player in the Hudson sweepstakes, if John Schuerholz's need for a No. 1 starter allows him to trade Marcus Giles and prospects, like left-hander Dan Meyer. Baltimore is a major player, with Erik Bedard, Brian Roberts and others. But never discount the Dodgers, as DePodesta won't squabble about trading prospects for a proven ace like Hudson. So if he wants Hudson and will part with Edwin Jackson, then the rest -- like Antonio Perez -- can be worked out.
The Angels were thought to be major players for Carlos Beltran, but they were so close Thursday night on Steve Finley that a deal is expected to be announced Friday morning. "That is done," said one baseball official, who estimated the deal at between $16 million and $20 million. Houston will go a long way on Beltran, but the Yankees may too, to counter the Jason Giambi publicity. "Watch out for the Orioles," said one GM. The Angels are also the favorites for Orlando Cabrera, as the Cardinals are reportedly up to $36 million for four years on Edgar Renteria. Detroit has been that high, and Boston was in at four years, $8 million.
Carl Pavano's agent, Scott Shapiro, had Pavano decide his preferences Thursday, and Shapiro will begin to work out a deal. "It's up to Carl where he goes," says Shapiro. "Most of the offers were similar." The top is $10.5 million over four years, but that's just a start. The Mariners, Yankees and Red Sox made huge impressions on Pavano. If it were Boston, where Pedro Martinez is expected to complete his three year, $38 million deal soon, the question is whether ownership would pay for both Pavano and Martinez, at some $23 million annually. The $9 million for Jason Varitek will mean a cost-cutting shortstop -- Pokey Reese or Craig Counsell, as opposed to Julio Lugo or Kaz Matsui -- unless they are willing to go to $140 million. That, incidentally, would cost them $3.6 million in luxury tax.