The Cubs were in on the Jake Peavy trade talks, and last week they were reported to have interest in Randy Johnson. This week, though, it seems more likely that they'll re-sign Ryan Dempster, their own free-agent pitcher.
There has been some progress in the Dempster talks, according to sources, to the point where some believe a deal could be coming soon.
Dempster went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA for the Cubs in 2008, and the thinking all along was that he wanted to stay in Chicago. Negotiations hit a little bit of a snag last week, leading the Cubs to explore other options, but now they once again seem focused on keeping him.
Even if they get Dempster signed, the Cubs won't be done for the winter. They still need a left-handed hitting outfielder.
While manager Lou Piniella has said he'd like to get a right fielder, and then use Kosuke Fukudome in a center-field platoon with Reed Johnson, others in the Cubs organization would rather keep Fukudome in right and acquire another left-handed hitter who could be matched up with Johnson in center field.
The Marlins have already traded four of their arbitration-eligible players, and some rival teams believe that Hermida will be the next to go. In addition to the Cubs, the Rays are a team said to have interest.
Florida nearly dealt Hermida away in July, when he was part of the three-way trade that would have sent Manny Ramirez to the Marlins. That deal fell apart, and so did Hermida, who hit .192 in August and hit just two home runs in the final two months of the season.
"Up to this point, he's an underperformer," said one scout who sees the Marlins often. "That's why they're willing to move him. It seems like he'd rather hit singles than home runs, and that's not good for a corner outfielder."
The Dodgers offered Ramirez $45 million over two years, which works out to $22.5 million a season. Now that they've withdrawn that offer, why couldn't they simply offer CC Sabathia $22.5 million a year, which would work out to $135 million over six years?
Sure, the Yankees have offered even more than that, a reported $140 million, but the Dodgers could satisfy Sabathia's preference to play close to home and stay in the National League.
One potential problem with that scenario: The Dodgers have a ton of talented young players (Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton, Andre Ethier, James Loney) who will be due large raises in the coming years. So the Dodgers might be hesitant to tie up so much money for so many years to come.
The Dodgers seem content to let the Ramirez and Sabathia situations play out while they take care of their other winter business, including trying to re-sign shortstop Rafael Furcal and third baseman Casey Blake. Dodgers manager Joe Torre is said to be especially fond of Blake, and he has told people that the Dodgers turnaround began not when they traded for Ramirez, but several days earlier when they acquired Blake from the Indians.
What about the Angels, who had Sabathia on their radar even before they traded for Mark Teixeira in July?
Well, according to sources, owner Arte Moreno has told his baseball people that signing Teixeira is the top priority, ahead of Sabathia.
"He told them to make sure they get Teixeira signed," said one executive who has spoken with the Angels. "He said start with him, and then move on from that."
There has been some debate on how interested the Yankees have been in Peavy, but the Padres did have two scouts watching Phil Hughes' start last Friday in the Arizona Fall League. Hughes has been impressive in Arizona, to the point where one (non-Padres) scout suggested Monday that he'll be ready to help the Yankees in 2009.
The problem for the Yankees is that a Peavy trade would require both prospects and money, because agent Barry Axelrod would require them to redo Peavy's contract as a condition of waiving his no-trade clause. The Yankees weren't willing to make a prospects-and-money deal for Johan Santana last winter (when there were fewer free-agent options available), so it's hard to imagine why they would be anxious to do one now.