Baseball's winter meetings, which begin tomorrow in Las Vegas, will be like a trip to Alice's Restaurant.
You can get anything you want.
Big bats? Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira lead a free-agent class that also includes Raul Ibanez, Milton Bradley, Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi and Adam Dunn.
Big arms? They don't get much bigger than CC Sabathia. A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets and Randy Johnson are also free agents, and Jake Peavy is available in a trade.
Closers? Both the all-time saves leader (Trevor Hoffman) and the single-season record holder (Francisco Rodriguez) are free agents.
So far, it has been a remarkably quiet off-season in the transactions column, at least in regard to big names.
The Chicago Cubs re-signed potential free-agent pitcher Ryan Dempster. The Colorado Rockies traded outfielder Matt Holliday to the Oakland Athletics, and the Boston Red Sox signed MVP second baseman Dustin Pedroia to a $40.5 million contract extension.
Other than that, the wheeling-and-dealing has lacked sizzle.
That could change this week when baseball executives and player agents invade the Bellagio hotel for the annual dance over dollars.
One or two signings could break the logjam and set off a flurry of activity.
There will be several high-profile characters and subplots at these meetings. They include Sabathia, the New York Yankees, agent Scott Boras and the national economy.
Sabathia, 28, is the prize of the starting pitching market after putting together an awesome salary drive with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008. He was 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts after joining the club from Cleveland in a July trade. The Brewers and Yankees have made bids for Sabathia, but he may be interested in pitching for a West Coast team, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants could all be in the hunt for his services.
After seeing their string of 13 straight postseason berths end with a third-place finish in 2008, the Yankees will be big players at these meetings. General manager Brian Cashman has vowed to add multiple starting pitchers to his team, and he is angling for the biggest names out there. The Yankees have already offered Sabathia a six-year deal worth $140 million. They also have Lowe, who could get more than $15 million per season, in their sights.
Boras, the game's most visible and high-powered agent, is always a big player at the meetings. At Nashville in 1998, he scored the game's first $100 million contract for pitcher Kevin Brown. Two years later, in Dallas, he landed Alex Rodriguez a $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers.
Boras and his band of lieutenants will be busy this week. They represent a slew of free agents, including Ramirez and Teixeira, the top two hitters on the market, pitchers Lowe and Oliver Perez, and catchers Jason Varitek and Ivan Rodriguez.
These meetings come after Major League Baseball racked up record revenues of $6.6 billion during the 2008 season. While many of the game's top spending teams will continue to shell out money, others could operate cautiously because of the struggling economy. The Toronto Blue Jays have already laid off some office workers. Concerns over the economy could have an effect on the salaries of second-tier free agents.
Two baseball insiders, a front-office executive and a player agent, both of whom asked not to be named, said they believe the economy has played a role in the slow moving off-season.
"I think there will be some action at these meetings," the executive said. "You'll see some agents start panicking and striking some deals."
"At first, I didn't think the economy would be a big factor, but now I'm not so sure," the agent said. "Guys like CC and Teixeira will get their money. After that, who knows."
On the local front, the World Series champion Phillies will continue to work on several areas, including adding a starting pitcher and finding an outfielder to pick up all or some of the at-bats that free agent Burrell will leave behind. (Though the Phils have not officially closed the door on Burrell, his return is unlikely.)
The Phils remain interested in free agent Ibanez, but signing him would cost the team its first-round draft pick, not to mention a salary possibly in the neighborhood of $10 million to $12 million per season. Ibanez is receiving plenty of interest and the NL East rival New York Mets remain a strong possibility to land him, as well as free agent closer Rodriguez, who had a record 62 saves for the Angels in 2008.
If the Phillies look for more of a platoon outfielder, they could turn to free agent Juan Rivera. Team officials have met with Rocco Baldelli, a longtime organization favorite. However, it is unlikely the Phils would sign Baldelli because of concerns about his health.
On the pitching side, the Phils continue to try re-sign Jamie Moyer and have had discussions with Lowe. Also this week, the Phils will look to bolster the NL's best bullpen, and it's possible the team could finalize a contract extension for manager Charlie Manuel.
The meetings will begin tomorrow with the announcement of the results of this year's Hall of Fame veterans committee voting. Former Phillie Dick Allen and Marcus Hook native Mickey Vernon are among the 20 former players in the balloting.