The 15-day free-agent filing period still is in effect, so Major League Baseball's general managers are devoting their annual meetings to trade talks, surveying the landscape, and fraternal bonding in the shadow of Disney World.
Once the 30 clubs gather for the winter meetings in December in Nashville and the wraps are off the checkbooks, that's when life will officially get goofy.
In the meantime, we're trying to get a grip on where the hot stove season is headed. So we surveyed 15 general managers, assistants and other assorted personnel at the Hyatt Grand Cypress for their thoughts on the following five questions. Here are the results:
1. Where do you expect Alex Rodriguez to be playing next year?
Responses: Los Angeles Angels, 7½; New York Mets, 3; Los Angeles Dodgers, 2½; Baltimore Orioles, 1; Florida Marlins, 1.
Contract estimates ranged from a low of five years and $150 million to a high of 10 years and $300 million.
You never know when agent Scott Boras will be able to pull a $350 million rabbit out of his hat. As an American League assistant GM observed, "With Scott, what's most obvious isn't always the right answer."
Farewell, New York? A-Rod averaged 43 homers and 128 RBIs in four seasons while wearing pinstripes. No one, for example, would have identified the San Francisco Giants as a prime suitor for Barry Zito or the Seattle Mariners as the team that was going to shell out $64 million for Adrian Beltre. With Boras, there's always the potential for a wild-card contender, a dark horse or the inevitable "mystery team" to enter the equation.
But right now, all signs point toward the West Coast.
While the Angels generally have low-keyed their interest level in Rodriguez, they're the logical front-runner. The owner, Arte Moreno, is intensely competitive and hungry for a title, and the Angels need a power hitter to take some strain off Vladimir Guerrero. The Los Angeles market would be a boon to A-Rod's off-field endorsement opportunities. And Boras, who has season tickets to both the Angels and the Dodgers, could have a field day playing one club against the other.
For all the Mets speculation making the rounds, GM Omar Minaya has enough on his plate trying to find pitching and fill holes at second base and catcher without adding a full-fledged A-Rod pursuit to his agenda. Do the Mets really want to have to trade Carlos Delgado to make room for David Wright at first base -- or even shift Wright to second -- to accommodate Rodriguez?
The Orioles are a major long shot but worth filing under "intriguing." A-Rod grew up idolizing Cal Ripken Jr. The Peter Angelos-Boras dynamic took a step forward when the O's signed Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters in the June draft. And if Rodriguez goes to Baltimore, that could pave the way for local boy Mark Teixeira to sign with the Orioles as a free agent next winter. Of course, a $25 million investment in A-Rod seems excessive for the Orioles. But it's not quite so outrageous when you consider they're committed to more than $27 million for Melvin Mora, Jay Gibbons, Aubrey Huff and Jay Payton next season.
Interestingly enough, no one that we surveyed mentioned the Boston Red Sox, the Detroit Tigers or Seattle as the prime A-Rod destination. But it's a long winter, and rest assured, those clubs will be coming to an Internet rumor mill near you shortly.
2. Where do you expect Barry Bonds to be in 2008?