A-Rod, Bonds, Jones -- Where Are They Going?

2005-07: Jones vs. Hunter Here's a look at what each has done with the bat over the past three seasons.

PLAYER AVG R HR RBI Andruw Jones .249 285 118 351 Torii Hunter .279 243 73 261 In a strange way, some people wonder whether Boras might try to parlay Alex Rodriguez's sudden appearance on the free-agent market into an opportunity for Jones.

"I think the tack Scott might take is to get few teams on the hook for A-Rod, then get two or three clubs who don't land Alex and bring in Andruw for 40 to 50 cents on the dollar, and say, 'I have a guy who's equally in his prime and has a chance to be a monumental impact player for you,' " an AL official said.

Yes, we're talking about the old "backdoor alternative" ploy.

As for Hunter, he has a .324 career on-base percentage, and he's crashed into enough walls and logged enough outfield miles at the Metrodome that the wear and tear have taken a toll. But the general managers see him as more reliable, a better leader and more of a team player than Jones. Trust us: Those attributes are worth something.

"The difference in defense is probably negligible these days," an NL general manager said. "But offensively, I think Torii is a better player. I'm not sure either guy is what we consider a 'professional hitter,' but Torii has a better chance to hit good pitching."

4. What will the Minnesota Twins do with Johan Santana? Will they sign Santana to a long-term contract this winter, trade him this winter or keep him in 2008 (and possibly trade him in July)?

Responses: Fourteen respondents think Santana will be with Minnesota on Opening Day. One predicted he will be traded during the offseason.

Bill Smith has a difficult job of replacing the universally admired Terry Ryan as general manager. There's a decent chance the Twins are going to lose Hunter through free agency, and it would take monumental chutzpah for Smith's other headline move to be trading Santana a year in advance of free agency, with a new stadium on the way in Minneapolis.

Johan Santana has recorded at least 15 wins and 235 strikeouts in each of the last four seasons. Standing pat doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Francisco Liriano is right on schedule in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and a rotation of Santana, Liriano and three pitchers from the Scott Baker-Matt Garza-Boof Bonser-Kevin Slowey-Glen Perkins contingent would make the Twins a potential AL Central force in 2008.

"We're going to try and re-sign him," Smith said Tuesday when asked about Santana. "If we can't, he's still one of the best, if not the best pitcher in the game."

After Carlos Zambrano agreed to a $91.5 million deal in August just before hitting the open market, the folks at the players' union would love to see Santana go the distance and send starting pitchers' salaries into the stratosphere. If Barry Zito's seven-year, $126 million deal set the standard, it's hard to imagine what Santana might fetch once he's available to 29 other clubs.

Most observers think Smith might as well wait until July to assess his options, because teams still will be lining up to make a run at Santana if he's out there at the nonwaiver trade deadline.

"Zito was riding a little off reputation, and there were some clubs that just weren't in on him," an AL executive said. "There isn't a team in baseball that wouldn't be in on Santana if it had the opportunity. There's a big difference."

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