Think the Yankees' Winter of Spending Dangerously has scared the rest of the AL East? Sorry. Think again. Looks as though the rest of the division wants to play out the season no matter how many free agents the Yankees sign. FROM RAYS GM ANDREW FRIEDMAN: "I think we demonstrated last year that payrolls don't decide the standings. It certainly makes things more challenging. They're very well-run, and I don't think they're done yet. So we certainly have our work cut out for us. But it doesn't do any good to focus on what they're doing. Our focus remains on constructing a roster that can win another American League championship." ESPN.COM: "You enjoy saying that, don't you?" FRIEDMAN: "I do." FROM RED SOX GM THEO EPSTEIN: "We're focused on what we're doing. But yeah, we pay attention. We hope they sign bad players for a lot of money, as opposed to good players for short money. But the reality is, they're going to do a great job. When it's the Yankees, we don't pay that much attention because we assume we're going to look around the diamond and see great players. I know they're going to have seven good starting pitchers and nine really good hitters. That's just the way it's going to be. They're going to be fantastic. They'll probably project on paper to win 100 games." ESPN.COM: "So does that mean you have to build a team that projects to win 101?" EPSTEIN: "Nope. We try to build a team that we project to win 95 games, year in and year out. We've done that five out of six years, and it's been good enough to get us in. Yeah, it would be nice to win 100 or project to win 100. But we don't think we can do that -- build a team that projects to win 100 games -- without sacrificing elements of our future and our foundation that are important. So we try to get to 95 on paper and be really happy about that. And then the season happens, and all bets are wiped out." ESPN.COM: "How good is the American League East right now?" EPSTEIN: "Incredibly competitive division. It's a gantlet. And it's getting more and more competitive every year. I don't know what that means, other than the team that gets out of our division tends to get really prepared for the postseason. And really tired."
What's the next big date on the baseball calendar? That would be Friday, which is Tender Day. By midnight, teams have to tender contracts to all their arbitration-eligible players, or those players become free agents. I spent the week surveying a number of teams and agents on which players could become non-tender free agents. It wouldn't be a shock if we wound up with a dozen or more. Here's an educated, totally unscientific guess. Money-back guarantee not included if I'm wrong. PITCHERS Daniel Cabrera Chad Gaudin Jimmy Gobble Brandon Backe Takashi Saito Tyler Yates Wil Ledezma HITTERS Marcus Thames Gabe Gross John Buck Jose Bautista Chris Burke Willy Taveras Jonny Gomes
The Phillies stepped up their efforts to sign Raul Ibanez on Thursday, according to one baseball man who had spoken with them. Ibanez has been sending signals through friends that the Phillies are his top choice. And two high-ranking Phillies officials -- outgoing GM Pat Gillick and assistant GM Benny Looper -- know Ibanez well from their days in Seattle. One source described talks between the club and Ibanez's agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, as "heating up" and said the sides have made progress.
The Dodgers have kicked around the idea of making a run at Trevor Hoffman. The Dodgers' 2007-08 closer, Takashi Saito, is a good bet to get non-tendered Friday. And although Jonathan Broxton looms as their prospective closer, sources who have spoken to the Dodgers' brass say they've considered adding someone like Hoffman if the price and terms are short enough.
• If the Braves lose out on A.J. Burnett, they won't be turning their attention to Derek Lowe. A source familiar with their thinking says they have "zero" interest in Lowe. The Braves do have interest in "a couple" of other free-agent starters, the source said. And one is known to be left-hander Randy Wolf. They also would turn back to the trade market if their free-agent options don't look promising. • Even as the Angels continue to pursue Mark Teixeira, it appears that Raul Ibanez has emerged as their No. 1 alternative if Teixeira signs elsewhere. There were indications that the Angels already have begun negotiating the parameters of a deal with Ibanez on a just-in-case basis. • Phillies manager Charlie Manuel suggested Thursday that he'd be in favor of bringing back left fielder Pat Burrell if the price and years turn out to be more modest than the club originally anticipated. "When I think of his good points versus his [negatives] speedwise," Manuel said, "the more I look at it and see what's out there I weigh all that and I think, 'Look, we won the World Series with him out there. So would I like him back? I don't see why not.'"
Despite rumblings that the Yankees would back off their pursuit of Derek Lowe if they can sign A.J. Burnett, the Yanks would remain interested in Lowe in any case, according to a baseball official familiar with the team's plans. The Yankees remain determined to add two starters from the group that includes Burnett, Lowe, Andy Pettitte and Ben Sheets. And while they would prefer that one of those starters be a pitcher they can sign for just a year or two (i.e., Pettitte or Sheets), they have not ruled out signing both Burnett and Lowe.
December, 11, 2008
By Buster Olney
The Yankees are feeling good about their position in the A.J. Burnett bidding. It is not likely that they will make an offer that is comparable to the $91.5 million deal signed by Carlos Zambrano in August 2007, as has been speculated, but the Yankees are confident that they will have the largest offer on the table -- five years and $80 million -- when the bidding is over. Whether Burnett takes less with the Braves or some other team is another question entirely. FoxSports.com is reporting that the Braves' offer to Burnett is for four years, not five.