Ten GMs to keep a watchful eye on

A major-league general manager's work is never done. There's salary arbitration, free agency, the winter meetings, organizational meetings and budgets to be set.

But for most, the next week will be the most hectic time of all. Between now and next Thursday's trade deadline, there will be more talk and back-and-forth bantering than during any other week in the calendar year.

Just how much comes to fruition remains to be seen. Nonetheless, these 10 executives will be the ones to watch most closely:

Kenny Williams, White Sox
Every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.

A hot stretch by one of baseball's most enigmatic bunch has the White Sox back at .500 and in play in the AL Central. What's more, the prospect of a weekend series with Tampa Bay probably means the White Sox are going to hang around just long enough to keep them out of "sell'' mode by the middle of the next week.

Without question, the White Sox are one of the most fascinating entries in the trading sweepstakes. Were they to go into another dip and fall further behind Kansas City and Minnesota, Williams could instantly become baseball's busiest GM. He could move starters (Bartolo Colon, Esteban Loaiza), relievers (Billy Koch, Tom Gordon), DH/first baseman (Paul Konerko), to say nothing of the two veterans acquired earlier this month for a stretch-drive push (Roberto Alomar, Carl Everett).

It's unlikely that owner Jerry Reinsdorf would authorize further acquisitions in the event the White Sox remain hot. But with this bunch, there's no telling.

Brian Cashman, Yankees
Thanks to his boss, Cashman is never far from being right in the middle of the action.

The Yankees countered Boston's acquisition of Scott Sauerbeck on Tuesday by purchasing Jesse Orosco from San Diego, but few believe the Yanks are through. There's talk of getting another bat, and if additional left-handed help is out there, they could stand an upgrade at third base.

Cashman is a shrewd dealer, and has often specialized in playing defense at the deadline -- i.e., maneuvering to keep a rival from filling a need. This season, however, with the Yankees seemingly more vulnerable than any other time in the Joe Torre era, Cashman could be forced into being more aggressive.

One way or another, Cashman will be busy. And should the Yankees lose ground to the Red Sox this weekend, the Yankees' GM will have to shift to Defcon 5.

Walt Jocketty, Cardinals
The news Tuesday wasn't good for the already pitching-deficient Cards -- ace Matt Morris will be gone for at least three weeks, and as many as six -- thanks to a fractured right index finger.

For a team which had been looking for mound reinforcements, that news only upped the ante.

Jocketty remains on a tight budget, making any significant deals seem doubly difficult. The Cards had already gotten themselves out of the chase for Chuck Finley last month because of financial considerations.

In theory, the Cards could get a trading partner to swallow someone's remaining salary. But their thin prospect collection makes that tougher to achieve. But it sure would seem a waste to let all that hitting in the St. Louis lineup go to waste.

Billy Beane, A's
In the recent past, Beane has been the master of the deadline deal, obtaining, to name a few, Jason Isringhausen, Ray Durham, Ricardo Rincon and Jermaine Dye.

This summer, he's been concentrating on landing an outfielder and may be trying to work another of his patented three-team swaps.

There's been the suggestion by some that other GMs will be reluctant to deal with Beane because of his criticism of some colleagues in the book Moneyball.

Beane believes otherwise.

"I think general managers are more interested in improving their teams,'' he said. "And besides, I've traded away a lot of talent in the last few years.''

Omar Minaya, Expos
For the second year in a row, the general manager of a team stuck in limbo faces a dilemma. His Expos are on the fringe of the wild-card race, but he needs clearance from his overseers at MLB before he can make any moves.

Minaya tried to land Juan Gonzalez earlier this month and continues to search for additional sock in the lineup. The trick is, he can't take on additional payroll.

Aside from the present playoff race, there's the future to think about. If the Expos are locked into doing nothing, do they start to shed expensive arbitration-eligible types such as Javier Vazquez? And what about free-agent-to-be Vladimir Guerrero?

As always, the Expos will be fascinating to watch.

John Hart, Rangers
Surely, this isn't what Hart had in mind when he took the job in Texas. But for the second straight year, he finds himself in sell-off mode in the final week of July.

Hart would love to rid himself of Juan Gonzalez, but the slugger's no-trade clause and balky calf (of which the Rangers are highly suspicious) are in the way.

Rafael Palmeiro might be had in the right deal, and Hart would love to dump some of his overpriced but underachieving pitchers.

Larry Beinfest, Marlins
The Marlins are still another team right on the cusp of contention, but it wouldn't take much to push them over the edge in the other direction. The NL wild-card sweeptakes look a little crowded for their liking.

Team owner Jeffrey Loria has promised the Marlins fan base -- such as it is -- the team is committed to staying in south Florida and winning. But it's going to be very tempting for Beinfest to package in-demand commodities like Mike Lowell and Brad Penny.

The arrival of Ugueth Urbina last week seemed to send a signal the Marlins were in the race for keeps. But things can change quickly.

J.P. Ricciardi, Blue Jays
Ricciardi already struck a week ago when he shipped Shannon Stewart to Minnesota. He's eager to deal some more, and has two starters (Cory Lidle, Kelvim Escobar) to move.

The Blue Jays are under budget, so Ricciardi could be persuaded to eat the majority of money owed to his pitchers if the package of prospects offered in return intrigued him enough. Lidle is more readily available, though he hasn't pitched well for the last six weeks, diminshing his value.

The Jays would like to re-sign Escobar, so he won't come cheaply.

Theo Epstein, Red Sox
After landing Scott Sauerbeck on Tuesday to fill the lefty specialist role in the bullpen, the Red Sox were ecstatic. Privately, they believe that could be their last deal -- at least until waivers go into effect in August.

The Sox would like another starter, but little of what's on the market interests them. They view the likes of Lidle and Jeff Suppan as lateral moves, and unless they could upgrade the rotation with someone good enough to warrant a playoff start (Bartolo Colon, Javier Vazquez), they might stick with the starters they have.

Then again, Epstein has been remarkably aggressive in his brief tenure. A year ago, as the assistant GM, he engineered a deal for Alan Embree in early June, a full six weeks before other teams moved to get pitching. This year, he got the best pitcher on the market (Byung-Hyun Kim) early, too.

Allard Baird, Royals
Baird thought he would be dumping talent. Instead, his Royals continue to be the surprise of baseball, putting K.C. in buying mode.

The Royals have been trying to get pitching, but haven't been able to land anything yet. Baird would love to bolster either his rotation or his bullpen, or both, but won't part with his own pitching prospects for a short-term gain.

All talk of moving Carlos Beltran has cooled for now.

Sean McAdam of the Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.