MLB teams ready for Christmas shopping

Several teams, including the Blue Jays, made a splash before baseball's winter meetings kicked off in Florida on Monday. Toronto traded pitcher Shaun Marcum, and has been linked to Kansas City pitcher Zack Greinke.

Jays reportedly pursuing Royals' ace Greinke after agreeing to deal Marcum

See you later, Shaun Marcum. Good to know you, John Buck. Welcome aboard Carlos Villanueva and soon Brett Lawrie, and maybe Zack Greinke, too.

There are rumblings that the Marcum-Lawrie swap, announced at baseball's winter meetings in Florida on Monday, could be the precursor for a bigger deal by Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

Reports of the team's interest in Greinke — the Kansas City Royals' ace pitcher, who has two years and $27 million US left on his contract — surfaced a few weeks ago and intensified on Sunday with word out of Lake Buena Vista, Fla., that Greinke is willing "to go anywhere."

Toronto is one of 15 teams on the right-hander's no-trade list, according to, meaning Greinke couldn't be sent there without his permission. But the website added the Royals are intrigued by what Anthopoulos might offer.

The Toronto Sun reported Sunday that Greinke could be had for a package including top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek — the key player in the Roy Halladay trade a year ago — outfielder Travis Snider and a minor leaguer or two. Some scouts, according to, believe Lawrie is destined to be a corner outfielder, making Snider expendable.

Greinke, 27, was named the American League's top pitcher in 2009 after winning 16 games and posting a 2.16 earned-run average and 242 strikeouts for the offensively challenged Royals.

The Greinke-to-Toronto rumour is just one of many that will be hovering around the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort through Thursday's Rule 5 draft.

Seven major-league GMs made a splash leading into Monday's official kickoff to the meetings:

  • Boston's Theo Epstein acquired slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego for three prospects: Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes.
  • Chicago White Sox's Kenny Williams signed free-agent masher Adam Dunn to a four-year, $56-million pact.
  • New York Yankees' Brian Cashman re-signed veteran shortstop Derek Jeter (reportedly three years, $51 million) and closer Mariano Rivera (two years, $30 million).
  • Washington's Mike Rizzo opened the Nationals' pocketbook on the weekend and threw a seven-year, $126-million US deal at former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth.
  • Detroit's Dave Dombrowski added Victor Martinez, signing the catcher/first baseman/designated hitter to a four-year contract.
  • In a bit of a surprise, St. Louis's John Mozeliak signed first baseman/outfielder Lance Berkman away from the Yankees for one year and $8 million.
  • Florida's Michael Hill signed free-agent pitcher Javier Vazquez, who struggled in his second stint with the Yankees in 2010, posting a 5.32 ERA in 26 starts.

The action could be fast and furious this week after owners and players agreed to tighten up the schedule for winter movements.

Clubs were given five days after the World Series to negotiate with their free agents compared with 15 days in previous years. As well, the salary arbitration deadline was moved up from Dec. 1 to Nov. 23 and the arbitration acceptance deadline from Dec. 7 to Nov. 30. Also, the deadline for teams to tender contracts to those players under their control for 2011 was bumped from Dec. 12 to Dec. 2.

"The winter meetings will be a very productive time for everyone," a player agent told last week. "This year, a little more than years past … because everybody who's a free agent is going to be [available]."

Don't worry baseball fans, there are still several big-ticket players available that could add spice to this year's meetings.

  • Free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee is among the more notable, with many baseball observers calling it a two-horse race between the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. He won 12 games for the Rangers and Seattle, leading Texas to its first World Series, after striking out 185 and walking just 18 in 212 1/3 innings pitched during the regular season.
  • Carl Crawford is considered the jewel of the free-agent position players. He can beat teams in many ways at the plate after posting 30 doubles, 13 triples, 19 home runs and 47 stolen bases. Crawford, 29, also drove in a career-best 90 runs for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010.
  • And reports suggest the White Sox will re-sign first baseman Paul Konerko, who topped all free agents with 39 home runs last season, but Texas and Baltimore also are said to be in the mix.

Also expected to have their names bandied about this week and perhaps longer is free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, free-agent pitcher Carl Pavano, closer Rafael Soriano and fellow free agents Manny Ramirez (Toronto?), Jim Thome and Adam LaRoche.

On the trade front, outfielder Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks has heard his name floated for several weeks and at one time linked to the Blue Jays.

Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers has said he'll know by the end of the week if the 23-year-old slugger will be with the team to open the 2011 season. His asking price for Upton is said to be four top prospects.

Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder, Los Angeles Angels catcher Mike Napoli and Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett also could be on the move.

The Blue Jays' shopping list in Florida likely includes a first baseman, third baseman and relief pitchers, with closer Kevin Gregg and setup man Scott Downs expected to leave Toronto as free agents.

Recently, the team has been linked to Pena and relievers Jesse Crain of Toronto and Matt Guerrier, who were teammates in Minnesota this past season.