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Un Poquito de beisbol con Sabor Bilingue

Raquel Julich

Special to La Prensa

The Hot Stove Report - Major League Baseball - The Free Agents

Free Agency arrived Friday, November 11th, the first day Free Agents could discuss terms and sign with new teams.  December 19th, last day for Free Agents who are offered salary arbitration to accept or reject the offers. December 20th, last day for teams to offer 2006 contracts to unsigned players.

This winter, it will be harder for clubs to find a “quick fix” in the Free Agent Market as the list of 278 is one of the smallest number of Free Agents in recent years.

A total of eighty Latino players filed for Free Agency: 5 starting pitchers, 20 relief pitchers, 8 catchers, 6 first basemen, 10 second basemen, 5 third basemen, 8 shortstops, 15 outfielders and 2 (DH) Designated Hitters.1

The Top 10 list of Free Agents include 2 Latino players; L.A. Anaheim catcher-Bengie Molina and Atlanta shortstop- Rafael Furcal, who is seeking an annual $9M – 4 year deal.  Also on the Top 10 list, pitchers A.J. Burnett asking $6M per season, Billy Wagner-30M over 3 years,  Kevin Millwood expecting $7M per season, B.J. Ryan, Trevor Hoffman, outfielders Johnny Damon, Brian Giles and 1st baseman Paul Konerko who is seeking $52M over 4 years.

After the release of the Free Agents list, a few players who aren’t eligible found themselves in the headlines and perhaps on the move as well.

Javier Vázquez-starting pitcher for Arizona is requesting a trade for personal reasons.  The Spanish New York Media favors his returning to “la gran manzana,” The Bronx.  The New York/Arizona trade for Randy Johnson did not turn out to be such a good thing for either teams.

The flamboyant Manny Ramírez has asked to be traded on an almost yearly basis since joining the Red Sox in the 2001 season.  In Boston, he has found fan admiration and success in the clean-up spot with the “Big Papi” of Fenway Park and the rumor now is that where Ramirez goes so will David Ortiz. 

Another trade speculation is that outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki is unhappy after five successful seasons playing for Seattle, and still no World Series ring.  Fantasy baseball fanatics would have the two Japanese super-stars Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui teammates in the Yankee Stadium outfield.  Take it from me; the Yankees Press Box would not be able to hold the Japanese media, let alone English and Spanish.

On the list is a real Free Agent “find,” puertorriqueno, centerfielder Bernie Williams.  After 14 seasons establishing new records for the Yankees, at 37 years of age, the time has come for Williams to “reinvent” his career.  Will he remain with the Yankees as a DH; will home grown pinstripe Williams sign with another team or will the classical guitar, musically talented “youngster” find another “playing field”?  The 2003 release of his jazz album “The Journey Within” is a huge success.  Mrs. Waleska Williams is a talented chef.  Amigos y amigas, solamente una idea.  The couple has tons of money and I think a “jazzy café” could be a good business venture.

On a more serious note - Relief pitcher, Ugueth Urbina who was traded by Detroit to the Philadelphia Phillies during the middle of last season, last week was arrested in his native Venezuela and charged with attempted murder.  While his name appears on the Free Agent list, Urbina faces a bigger challenge off the field of baseball – his freedom.  This is the second violent incident in the Urbina family, during September 2004; his mother was kidnapped by drug traffickers and held for a $6M ransom.  She was rescued five months later.  Urbina has said that the case, once again, comes down to people trying to take advantage of him.

The Cleveland Indians: After winning 93 games last season, General Manager Mark Shapiro said “we need to sign back or replace our Free Agents.”  Shapiro has a total of six that he needs to re-sign.  Pitchers Kevin Millwood, Bob Wickman, Scott Elarton and Bob Howry and José Hernández.  The Indians need a “big bat” and yes, they would welcome back the inexpensive Free Agent - Juan González, providing he were healthy.

Other players who could return to the “Jake” include former Indian, outfielder Brian Giles.  And, how about Manny Ramírez?  He made his Major League debut in Cleveland 1993-2000.  He recently said he would consider Cleveland if Boston would trade him.  Signing Ramírez would be like playing the Ohio Lottery.  The question is do the Indians want to play and do they have the dollar to pay?  Ramírez wants $20-million-a-year.

What’s up in Detroit?  This season, Free Agents are not on the menu of the Tigers as the Toledo Mud Hens are in good position on the Tigers’ development ladder.   Pitching.  Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya or Roman Colón who can pitch as a starter or reliever.   It will be open competition for the rotation spots during Spring Training.  Catcher.  Ivan “Pudge” Rodríguez began his career with Texas as one of the youngest catchers to start in the Major Leagues.  The 34-year-old veteran will be catching in his 16th season.  After the stress filled, emotional, breakup of his 15 year marriage, and the frustration of the Tigers team falling way below expectations, the 2005 season was not a good one for Pudge.  We were glad to see during World Series as he received a well deserved honor—he was voted by the fans into the “Latino Legends Team.”  It’s expected that he will return for the 2006 season a stronger player and a better teammate.  Having the veteran Jim Leyland as Manager is Detroit is a plus for Rodríguez and the Detroit Tigers.

Cincinnati Reds.  General Manager Dan O’Brien doesn’t expect participation in the Hot Stove season to be “all that hot at all”, after adding $17M to payroll last season and not getting winning results.  The greatest need in Cincinnati is pitching and O’Brien has decided to venture other routes.  O’Brien will spend the winter months working with 3 objectives: 1) checking the Minor League Free Agent pool, including the Far East and Winter Ball in Latin America, 2) arbitration with 9 of the Reds players and 3) considering trade options involving position players.  Other teams have approached O’Brien about trades involving his four outfielders Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Willy Mo Pena, including catchers Jason LaRue and Javier Valentine.  Ken Griffey, Jr. anyone?   The Reds plans are to keep the left side of the Great American Ballpark infield intact with 3rd baseman Edwin Encarnacion and shortstop Felipe Lopez.

Other “veteranos” on the Free Agent list: Atlanta 2B Julio Franco, at 47 years of age, he is the oldest active player in Major League Baseball.  Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa with Baltimore, it would take to much space to cover their problems in this report.  Nomar Garciaparra, with the Cubs and without a Boston World Series ring.  Juan Gonzalez “IGOR!”  Frank Thomas earned a Chicago White Sox World Series ring just by hanging in there.  Mike Piazza, happy go lucky ready to return to the Dodgers.  Benito Santiago, el maestro de los catchers.   Roberto Alomar, retired, what is he doing on the Free Agent list?  Sandy Alomar, Jr. is on the list too, and so is Carlos Baerga.

The following is the complete list:    

TEAMS                                    FREE AGENTS

L.A. Angels Anaheim                 Bengie Molina-catcher

Atlanta Braves                           Julio Franco-1B, Rafael Furcal-SS,

                                                Raul Mondesi-OF, Eddie Perez-catcher

Baltimore Orioles                       Bernie Castro-2B, Chris Gomez-SS

                                                Eli Marrero-OF, Rafael Palmeiro-1B

                                                Sammy Sosa-OF

Chicago Cubs                            Nomar Garciaparra-SS, Neifi Perez-SS

Cincinnati Reds                         Jacob Cruz-OF, D’Angelo Jimenez-2B,

                                                Luis López-3B

Cleveland Indians                       Ronnie Belliard-2B, Juan Gonzalez-OF,

                                                Jose Hernandez-1B

Chicago White Sox                    Raul Casanova-catcher

Detroit Tigers                             Placido Polanco-2B, Fernando Vina-2B

Florida Marlins                          Antonio Alfonseca-relief pitcher,

                                                Juan Encarnacion-OF, Alex Gonzalez-SS,

                                                Ismael Valdez-starting pitcher

Houston Astros                         Carlos Hernández-relief pitcher,

                                                Orlando Palmeiro-OF, Jose Vizcaino-2B

Kansas City Royals                   José Lima-starting pitcher

LA. Dodgers                              Giovanni Carrara-relief pitcher, Jose Cruz-OF,

                                                Olmedo Saenz-1B, José Valentin-3B

Milwaukee Brewers                    Carlos Lee-OF, Julio Santana-relief pitcher

New York Mets                          Miguel Cairo-2B, Felix Heredia-relief pitcher,

                                                Roberto Hernandez-relief pitcher,

                                                Jose Offerman-1B, Benito Santiago-catcher

New York Yankees                    Tino Martínez-1B, Ramiro Mendoza-relief pitcher,

                                                Felix Rodríguez-relief pitcher, Rey Sanchez-SS,

                                                Rubén Sierra-DH, Bernie Williams-OF

Oakland Athletics                      Alberto Castillo-catcher, Erubiel Durazo-DH,

                                                Octavio Dotel-relief pitcher,

                                                Ricardo Rincon-relief pitcher

Philadelphia Phillies                   Ramon Martínez-SS, Ugueth Urbina-relief pitcher

Pittsburgh Pirates                      José Mesa-relief pitcher

San Diego Padres                      Manny Alexander-2B, Ramon Hernandez-catcher,

                                                Pedro Astacio-starting pitcher,

                                                Dennys Reyes-relief pitcher,

                                                Rudy Seanez- relief pitcher

Seattle Mariners                        Eddie Guardado-relief pitcher

San Francisco Giants                 Moises Alou-OF

St. Louis Cardinals                     Roger Cedeno-OF, Einar Díaz-catcher,

                                                Abraham Nuñez-3B, Al Reyes-relief pitcher

                                                Julian Tavarez-relief pitcher

Tampa Bay Devil Rays               Roberto Alomar-2B, Danys Baez-relief pitcher,

                                                Alex Gonzalez-3B, Julio Lugo-SS,

                                                Eduardo Pérez-1B

Texas Rangers                          Sandy Alomar, Jr.-catcher, Richard Hidalgo-OF

Washington Nationals                Tony Armas-starting pitcher, Carlos Baerga-3B

                                                Hector Carasco-relief pitcher, Wil Cordero-OF

                                                Deivi Cruz-2B, Esteban Loaiza-starting pitcher,

                                                Antonio Osuna-relief pitcher, Jose Guillen-OF


Amigos y Amigas de La Prensa, until we meet again, I’ll keep track.





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