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By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published December 3, 2007
NASHVILLE - The stakeout in the vast lobbies of the massive Opryland hotel/resort/small village had already begun by Sunday afternoon.
Twins officials were seen walking through the hotel and, at least on this pass, the Yankees and Red Sox were jostling to walk right behind them. But that could change today as talks for ace left-hander Johan Santana are expected to wind to conclusion. (Or at least until they try to one-up each other one final time.)
And that could just be the start.
With a pool of free agents that is short on talent and high in price, baseball general managers are expected to seek to improve their teams the old-fashioned way: by making trades. And there may be some big deals - in addition to Santana - to be made.
"Most of the attractive guys, the guys that can impact a race, are available by trade," San Diego GM Kevin Towers said. "I sense a lot more trade discussions, and trade announcements, than free-agent signings."
With a trade pool that could include Miguel Cabrera, Dan Haren, Scott Rolen, Erik Bedard, Joe Nathan and Miguel Tejada, there could be a lot to talk about over the next four days.
"There are more conversations than I've experienced in a while on the trade front for obvious reasons," Giants GM Brian Sabean said. "I think everyone's excited in the industry. I don't see a lot of organizations getting bogged down by agent meetings."
As for Santana, reports are that the Yankees (OF Melky Cabrera, RHP Phil Hughes and another prospect) and Sox (SS Jed Lowrie, OF Jacoby Ellsbury or LHP Jon Lester, and another prospect) are formulating their final offers.
RAYS LEANING LEFT: Having added a closer (Troy Percival), a shortstop (Jason Bartlett) and a No.3 starter (Matt Garza), the Rays say they are aggressively seeking a left-handed hitter.
Now they have to decide exactly what they're looking for, such as whether it's more important he can play the outfield and back up at first base (Darin Erstad, Brad Wilkerson, Mark Sweeney), or third base and first (Mike Lamb, a comebacking Corey Koskie), or outfield and DH (Geoff Jenkins, Cliff Floyd), or DH and first (Tony Clark).
RAYS REPORT: Any interest the Rays had in free-agent C Michael Barrett may be diminished since he was offered arbitration by his previous team, meaning the Rays would have to give up a draft pick if they sign him. ... Reliever Trever Miller was also offered arbitration, but he is a Type B free agent so the Rays wouldn't give up anything. ... As expected, the Rays declined to offer arbitration to their two free agents, INF/OF Greg Norton and C Josh Paul. Either could be re-signed, though it's unlikely. ... Elijah Dukes did not play for his Licey team in the Dominican Republic in the two games after his Thursday ejection. ... The Rays host a holiday party today at Tropicana Field for 250 foster children from Hillsborough Kids Inc. and Safe Children's Coalition.
ALMOST FAMOUS: Longtime managers Dick Williams and Whitey Herzog are leading candidates for election to the Hall of Fame when results are announced today of voting by two new committees. Under a new format, committees comprised of Hall of Famers, current and former executives and veteran media members consider a group of managers and umpires (also including Gene Mauch and Doug Harvey) and a group of executives and pioneers (including players union founder Marvin Miller and former commissioner Bowie Kuhn).
MISCELLANY: 2B Kaz Matsui, who resurrected his career in Colorado, signed a three-year, $16.5-million deal with the Astros. ... The Rule 5 draft is Thursday and the Rays pick first.
[Last modified December 3, 2007, 01:22:14]