Rounding Third: Baseball world set to converge on San Diego

Philadelphia, PA ( – Get ready for a ton of baseball rumors,
wild trade scenarios and free agent signings, because the giant schmoozefest
known as Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings gets underway next week at
the Hilton San Diego Bayfront in San Diego, California.

Unlike the sleepy meetings a year ago, this latest edition of the get together
figures to be action packed as most of the major A-list free agents are still
on the market.

Of course, the biggest fish out there is left-hander Jon Lester, who will
likely have at least four teams to choose from this week. The Boston Red Sox,
Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers have all apparently
made offers and are just waiting.

There was a belief that Lester would sign somewhere before the start of the
meetings, but is now seems as if he is going to milk it and drive his price
even higher.

And who knows, maybe the omnipresent “mystery” team will jump into the fray.

Boston always seemed like a longshot to get him back. The thought all along
was that he would wind up in Chicago with former general manager Theo Epstein,
but let’s face it, if the Dodgers want him, they are going to get him.

And if that does play out that could make things real interesting. For one,
everyone who missed out on Lester will go hard after righties Max Scherzer and
James Shields, and two, the Dodgers will likely make Zack Greinke available in
that scenario.

Remember, Greinke can opt out of his contract after this season. If the
Dodgers were to land Lester, Greinke is as good as gone. Heck, even if the
Dodgers don’t get Lester there is a solid chance Greinke goes on the market.

This much is certain, though, Andrew Friedman, who left Tampa Bay to run the
Dodgers’ baseball operations, will be a busy man next week. Between the Lester
stuff, a potential Greinke deal and trying to rid himself of one of his
outfielders, Friedman won’t have a lot of time to enjoy the beautiful San
Diego weather.

But then again, he lives in Los Angeles, so that’s probably not a big deal.

Friedman may have the most attractive bat out there in Matt Kemp. Baltimore
has already had talks with the Dodgers and there figures to be others in the
mix, like Seattle. It’s no secret that the Mariners, who just signed Nelson
Cruz earlier in the week, would love to add another bat and they have the
young pitching to get a deal done.

Kemp is so much more attractive to teams in a deal than say Justin Upton or
Yoenis Cespedes because he still has five years remaining on his deal. Yes,
he’s also owed $107 million, but Upton and Cespedes can both become free
agents after the 2015 campaign.

One team to keep an eye on this week is the San Diego Padres. The Padres were
willing to go close to $100 million for Pablo Sandoval, so they are willing to
spend some money and are looking for a big bat.

The reliever market appears quiet at the moment. Lefty setup man Andrew Miller
seems to getting the most attention and could have a deal in place by the end
of the weekend. It looks as if the New York Yankees would rather give him four
years than their own free agent David Robertson, who has been linked to

In a sign of the times, 28 years ago today the Philadelphia Phillies made Pete
Rose the highest paid player in baseball, signing him to a deal that paid him
just over $900,000 for the 1979 season.

Keep that in mind this week when you hear that third baseman Chase Headley has
just inked a deal that guarantees him close to $17 million a year.

But, remember this, when it comes to the Winter Meetings believe nothing.
There are going to be a-million-and-one rumors over the next week, and chances
are none of them will come true.