Ramirez-for-Jordan trade could happen
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
Memorial Day is a signature day in baseball, when many teams remember the promises they made in March and start thinking about the next life, which in this case is 2001. That entails decisions, reading what the haves need, to what the free agents can command, to what line the have-nots can tip-toe between the present and the future.
If you're the Mets, you've rolled it all on 2000 as you've got Mike Hampton, Derek Bell, Rick Reed and Turk Wendell, who are all free agents at the end of the season. And you just don't worry about that because your whole focus is on winning this year.
|Mike Mussina could be an ex-Oriole before the end of July.|
If you're the Blue Jays, you have to worry about attracting people back to SkyDome, and can't worry about Alex Gonzalez walking after the season, no matter how much someone else believes -- as many do -- that Gonzalez is going to be one of those Steve Finley-types who becomes a far better player in his 30s than in his 20s.
If you're the Dodgers and know Darren Dreifort is going out on the market, you're going to let him play it out even if he might end up the No. 3 free agent starter after Mike Mussina and Hampton.
And the Braves obviously aren't going to trade Andres Galarraga while the Rangers won't deal John Wetteland.
But there are some major free agent dilemmas that clubs will have to confront over the next few weeks:
Mike Mussina, Baltimore. A year ago, the O's could have signed Mussina at a discount. Now they'll have to pay a premium for him to stay because of the disorganized ownership and the overall aging of the team. But Peter Angelos treasures his fans, and trading Mussina would send a horrid message. As would be the case if the O's traded Mike Bordick, although Arizona would pay a high price for him (prize RHP prospect John Patterson, who had Tommy John surgery, is being mentioned). Scott Erickson has big value, but he becomes a 10/5 man on July 5. Brady Anderson's agents say he'll accept a trade, but that's tough. The Yanks want B.J. Surhoff, but Angelos says he won't trade Surhoff unless it's the right place.
Alex Rodriguez, Seattle. Unless the M's fall apart, and that likely won't happen, they have to run this thing out. They have a great chance to win as they get Jamie Moyer and Freddy Garcia back from injury, because they still score runs (No. 2 in the AL in runs per game with 6.14 through Wednesday) and for the first time in memory play defense so well that they are right at the top of the league in fewest errors and unearned runs allowed. Rickey Henderson has changed this offense in front of A-Rod, John Olerud and Edgar Martinez, and if they win, no matter what Arizona or the Mets offer Rodriguez, Seattle can match. The M's have to play it out unless they are decimated by injuries and fall back in the division.
Manny Ramirez, Cleveland. GM John Hart admits he almost traded Ramirez to Montreal for Rondell White and Ugueth Urbina at the end of spring training. Now there are rumors that he might trade Ramirez to Atlanta for Brian Jordan and a prospect (pitcher Luis Rivera?). The Indians are not going to sign Ramirez for $17 million per season, and Jordan is signed through 2003. That would save the Braves $4 million for this year -- which the Tribe would split -- and free them up big-time cash at the end of the season to sign free agent Chipper Jones. It also might free up money to trade for a pitcher in July, because the Indains think they need one more guy even though their offense and depth is the best it's ever been.
Juan Gonzalez, Detroit. Two clubs called this week, and Tigers GM Randy Smith told each he wanted to wait to see what happens and whether or not the warmer weather might make Comerica Park more attractive. But a month from now, as the Tigers try to make future moves, things may be diffefent.
Robb Nen, San Francisco. He will be a July 31 trade deadline deal if the Giants don't get back into the race, although the Giants think they can keep him. Ellis Burks is available, and the Giants think he'll be fine in the AL if he DHs and doesn't have to run and play defense on a daily basis.
Brad Radke, Andy Ashby, Ismael Valdes, Hideo Nomo. Well, it's certainly a seller's market.
News and notes
The mid-May struggles of the Yankees and Red Sox -- who are both without their shortstops, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra -- allowed the Blue Jays to get back into the race. If Vernon Wells starts to hit at Triple-A Syracuse the Jays will entertain trade talks for Shannon Stewart, a premier leadoff hitter, at least in theory.
With Bryce Florie and Hipolito Pichardo coming back, the Red Sox discussed sending Tim Wakefield to Colorado in a deal involving reliever Rick Croushore.
The Commissioner's office not only has gone after the Cubs for their security lapses, but has appropriately come down on the Dodgers for going into the stands. If the Dodgers would stop pretending that they are something above the game, they wouldn't have some of their problems. But whining about the illegal signing of Cuban and Dominican players didn't help, and then they spit in the face of the Commisioner's office by refusing to send anyone to the seminar on free agent draft signings. Gee, they were so skilled in signing Kevin Brown and Shawn Green, it's hard to believe the Dodgers need to listen to anyone.
This week's rumor on who will be the first pick in the draft centers around Pepperdine catcher Dane Sardinha, called by one respected club evaluator "the best college catch-and-throw receiver since Charles Johnson." The whole draft is so volatile that the Royals are going to take a serious look at Warwick, R.I. high school outfielder Rocco Baldelli for the fourth pick in the entire draft since he is the premier athlete in the draft, but he could fall to Boston at the end of the round, as Bosoxers dream will happen.
A year ago, Northeastern left-hander Greg Montalbano was a big question, coming off a three-year battle with testicular cancer. The Red Sox took him in the fifth round, but refused to offer average fifth-round money ($150,000), so Montalbano didn't sign and went on to have a great summer in the Cape Cod League where he was voted the league's top left-handed pitcher and just concluded a big senior season at Northeastern. Boston has until midnight on Sunday to sign Montalbano before he goes back into the draft. He might go as early as the third round this year and could sign without all the rancor that accompanies every Boston negotiation.
Chuck Knoblauch's continued problems and threat to retire -- which he suggested after Wednesday's game -- raises another issue for the Yankees. Do they try to make Alfonso Soriano into a second baseman right now in a pennant race, or do they deal Soriano to Oakland for Matt Stairs and second baseman Frank Menechino? If you check Menechino's numbers, they're as good as those of the Angels' Adam Kennedy. Right now, all the Yankees will offer for Stairs is minor-league pitcher Jake Westbrook, and that alone just won't get it done.
The Red Sox have former pitcher Bob Tewksbury working with three of their best minor-league pitchers, Sun-Woo Kim, Jason Sekany and Paxton Crawford. "I talked to them, because I've been through what they're going through," says Tewksbury, one of the game's best minds. "They can talk to me about things they'd never discuss with coaches or their manager. Hopefully, it will help them."
Crawford is off to an outstanding start for Double-A Trenton and is throwing 90-92 mph with a good changeup and has made himself a legitimate prospect. Tewksbury is effectively doing what Harvey Dorfman used to do for clubs with whom he worked. Dorfman's books, "The Mental Game of Baseball" and "The Mental ABCs of Pitching" are selling off the racks, mainly because some agents and certain teams buy them in such quantity.
If Angels third baseman Troy Glaus isn't punched out on your All-Star ballot, you should be ashamed.
One of the things the Braves have found out about Quilvio Veras is that he hits good pitchers. He is 28-for-57 lifetime against Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson and Mike Hampton.
When Toronto's Chris Carpenter went to the Manchester, N.H. baseball dinner last winter, he was signing autographs next to George W. Bush when agent Jack Sands pulled a baseball out of his pocket and handed it to Carpenter. "Pudge wanted you to have this," said Sands. It was signed, "Carlton Fisk, Hall of Fame." Carpenter was Fisk's neighbor in Raymond, N.H. before Fisk moved to Chicago in 1981.
If you're wondering what's going on with Carlos Beltran after his exceptional rookie season and spring training, it's not unusual. Last season, his bat seemed to stay in the hitting zone for seconds. Now, it's whipping through, as he's jumping at pitches trying to put 50 points back on his average with each at-bat. Adversity is something new for Beltran. Don't worry, however, he'll still hit like crazy once he gets out of this funk.
The Royals are starting to see Ricky Bottalico use his curveball and pitch rather than simply just being power crazy. "The stuff is still there," says one Royals official. "He's just not a pure power pitcher".
Watch out for the Rangers as Ruben Mateo and Mike Lamb take off. And when David Segui leaves at the end of the year as a free agent, 22-year-old 1B Carlos Pena -- another smooth defender -- may be ready. Pena is near the top of the Texas League in several offensive categories, and has learned patience at the plate -- he went into last weekend with as many walks as strikeouts.
The Blue Jays have tried to work within their financial structure and sign up their best young players, but one wonders if they regret re-signing Homer Bush, as Brent Abernathy is hitting .341 at Triple-A Syracuse and looks to be a top-notch player.
John Rocker continues to pay the price for being John Rocker. When the Braves played in Los Angeles, it was reported that he had a beef with a security guard. "What happened was that Rocker was signing autographs for some kids and the guard pushed the kids away," says a Braves coach. "That was Rocker's beef. But the kids never got reported."
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