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Winter meetings begin

The baseball winter meetings are starting with a look back. :

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The baseball winter meetings are starting with a look back.

Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox were among the candidates considered yesterday by the Hall of Fame's expansion-era committee. The trio of retired managers was joined on the 12-man ballot by a pair of much-debated figures who died in recent years:

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and pioneering players' union head Marvin Miller.

Among the nine managers with three or more World Series titles, Torre and La Russa are the only ones not in Cooperstown. The vote announcement is scheduled for this morning at the meetings site near Orlando.

"He's going to go to the Hall of Fame," La Russa's former closer in Oakland, Dennis Eckersley, predicted last year.

Torre and Cox retired as managers after the 2010 season and La Russa after leading St. Louis to the 2011 championship. Torre won four World Series titles with the Yankees, La Russa three with Oakland and the Cardinals, and Cox one with Atlanta. La Russa is third among managers with 2,728 wins; Cox had 2,504 and Torre 2,326.

On the ballot for the sixth time, Miller received 11 of 16 votes when the expansion-era committee last met 3 years ago, one shy of the required 75 percent. Steinbrenner made his ballot debut in 2010 and received fewer than eight votes, the Hall said, without specifying.

By the time the vote is announced, the lobby in the Dolphin hotel near Walt Disney World should be filled with agents and team officials arriving for the 4-day session.

When the meetings were held here 3 years ago, the ballroom where deals are announced wasn't even set up when agent Scott Boras and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo walked in to discuss a just-completed, $126 million, 7-year contract for outfielder Jayson Werth.

The eve this year wasn't as dramatic. But 42 of 168 major leaguers who became free agents after the World Series already had agreements heading into the meetings, with at least seven more deals in the process of being finalized.

Since Boston finished off St. Louis for its third title in 10 seasons, Prince Fielder, Ian Kinsler, Doug Fister, David Freese and Heath Bell have been traded in a busy swaps market.

"It's not the best free-agent market," Texas general manager Jon Daniels said, "and so I think that teams realize they weren't going to be able to fill all of their needs, or wouldn't necessarily want to fill all of their needs on the open market, and that led to a lot more accelerated trade conversation, and we're seeing that play out."

Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Joe Nathan, Jhonny Peralta, Tim Hudson and Curtis Granderson are some of the top free agents who have already changed teams.

"We're disappointed. He's been a great player, a great Yankee," New York general manager Brian Cashman said of Cano during an event in Stamford, Conn. "I know they're dotting I's and crossing T's in Seattle, but they're getting a great player."

Outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz are among the free agents still available, joined by designated hitter Kendrys Morales, shortstop Stephen Drew and pitchers Bronson Arroyo, Bartolo Colon, Matt Garza, Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, Fernando Rodney and Ervin Santana.

"It's a bit like an art auction," Oakland general manager Billy Beane said. "You go into any free-agent period with a rational view of how you see things and also remember you're part of a dynamic market. It's still a very busy time for us. We're certainly not bored, that's for sure. This is a time the industry is very active, you want to make sure you're a part of what's going on so you don't miss anything."

Cano has the largest package, a yet-to-be-finalized deal with Seattle said to be worth $240 million over 10 years for the All-Star second baseman.