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He has managed his team to division titles, a wild-card birth and a pennant in 10 seasons.
But the lingering question of the offseason managerial sweepstakes is whether Dusty Baker will return to the Giants in 2003 after taking them to their first World Series since 1989 this season.
His two-year, $5.5-million contract expires Thursday.
"We're only going to pay so much," said general manager Brian Sabean, who last week agreed to a multiyear contract to remain with the Giants. "The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is not going to be here. That is something I am 100 percent sure of. Then it comes down to defining reasonable, and within that, length (of contract)."
Baker said he would like a competitive offer, but it doesn't have to equal Joe Torre's $6-million a year deal with the Yankees. Should the Giants fail to make a suitable offer, Baker could become the favorite to fill the Mariners or Cubs vacancies.
And it is not unprecedented for a manager to lead a team to the World Series and be managing for another organization on opening day of the next season.
Johnny Keane did it in 1964, when he resigned after the Cardinals beat the Yankees in the World Series to take over as New York's manager.
"Sometimes you need a situation to recreate yourself," Baker said. "I'm preparing for anything. The decision has to be made here soon. I don't want any more hurt and pain than there is. But I'm not preparing for any particular thing."
FREE MARKET: Many general managers were hesitant to deal players in late July because of the uncertain labor situation, but also because of the impending glut of free agents this offseason.
More than 140 of 177 eligible players had filed for free agency as of Friday. Some could command big price tags and have significant impact next season: Atlanta pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, Red Sox outfielder Cliff Floyd, Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, Indians first baseman Jim Thome, Giants second baseman Jeff Kent and Cardinals pitcher Woody Williams.
One wild card is three-time Japanese League MVP Hideki Matsui, whom the Yankees scouted during the regular season and who Friday declared his intent to play in America next season after nine in Japan.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS: It remains to be seen whether new Rays manager Lou Piniella can duplicate the results he had in Seattle after taking over that club in 1993.
The secret to turning a 98-loss team into a 116-game winner in 2001, his assistants maintain, was equal parts hard work by coaches and the willingness of talented young players to buy into a system.
"It was a lot of teaching," said Matt Sinatro, an assistant on Piniella's staff in Seattle the past eight seasons and a candidate to join him in Tampa Bay. "But it was a lot of fun as a coach to watch players develop and have a winning attitude. "No doubt about it, that was Lou's doing and the staff's doing. It was exciting to start the whole process."
RAYS RE-UP: After failing to find a suitable advanced Class A affiliate closer to home, the Rays have agreed to continue their relationship with the Bakersfield Blaze for the next two seasons.
ODDS AND ENDS: There are 10 former major-league catchers turned managers after the hirings of Ned Yost (Brewers) and Eric Wedge (Indians). The past two World Series have been won by teams managed by former catchers (the Diamondbacks' Bob Brenly and the Angels' Mike Scioscia). ... Expos manager Frank Robinson plans to return next season, but not if Montreal plays in a variety of cities. ... Twins owner Carl Pohlad, who offered the franchise for contraction last season, is so excited about the club's success that he may allow the payroll to rise to $53-million. That would allow for just about everybody from the 2002 team that lost in the AL Championship Series to return.
THE LAST WORD: Yost's name did not appear on Brewers general manager Doug Melvin's initial list of 15 candidates to become Milwaukee's next manager. But the longtime Braves assistant and former Brewers catcher won the job.
What helped his cause?
"I had a chance to have a couple of drinks with (Braves general manager) John Schuerholz," Melvin said. "John raved about Ned. He assured me that Ned was the right choice for the Milwaukee Brewers. So, I let John have three more drinks and I asked him again. And, I got the same answer."
AROUND THE MAJORS: Newsday reported Saturday that the Yankees and Rockies have held talks regarding a trade for left-hander Mike Hampton, a Crystal River native. Hampton, 30, is 21-28 with a 5.75 ERA in two seasons with Colorado. ... Mets owner Fred Wilpon has threatened to terminate the rest of Mo Vaughn's contract if the first baseman doesn't get in shape this offseason, the Star-Ledger of Newark reported. Vaughn, who has two years and $32-million left on his contract, is listed at 275 pounds in the media guide. ... Mariners general manager Pat Gillick met with Triple-A Tacoma manager Dan Rohn and former Rockies and Tigers manager Buddy Bell in his search for a replacement for Piniella. The two bring the number of people interviewed to 10. A hire is not expected to be made until after the GM meetings end Nov. 14. ... The Brewers hired three coaches for Yost's staff, including bringing back Bill Castro in the bullpen. Butch Wynegar was hired as batting coach, and Mike Maddux was named pitching coach. ... The Indians signed free-agent right-hander Jose Santiago.
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.