The First Friday in November

If the first four days of the off-season are any indication this could be a very busy winter for Major League Baseball. The GM meetings start on Monday in Orlando and that little get together will generate talk between teams and more movement. But most importantly those meetings will set the stage for the Winter Meetings that begin a month from tomorrow in Nashville.

Cliff Floyd and Steve Trachsel filed for free agency on Thursday. The Cubs have exclusive rights to negotiate new contracts with their four free agents until November 12th. Here is more from the rumor mill and the latest from around the league…. The Cubs….

Dusty Baker told the Cincinnati media he did not speak with either Mark Prior or Kerry Wood about baseball. Baker said he spoke with Prior concerning his house in San Diego and “exchanged e-mails” with Wood. Baker went on to say “about 40 players” have gotten in touch to congratulate him for landing the job with the Reds but not about playing for him.

Ron Santo, Pat Hughes and Steve Stone are “among the nominees” for this year’s Ford Fick Award.

Barry Rozner said the Cubs payroll with be around $115 million dollars in 2008, a 15% jump according to Rozner.

Curt Schilling said the Cubs are one of 12 teams he is interested in signing with this off-season but Doug Melvin of the Brewers said on Thursday he is “willing to talk to Schilling” about pitching in Milwaukee next year.

After the 2006 season the debate was, should the Cubs hire Joe Girardi or Lou Piniella. Greg Couch thinks Piniella was the “right choice for the Cubs” a year later.

More on Cliff Floyd and Steve Trachsel…. Floyd said toward the end of the season he was contemplating retirement but would like to return to Chicago if decided to return. Floyd then mentioned last week he would like to finish his career with the Marlins….regardless, his days in blue pinstripes appear to be over. Floyd is no longer the player he once was and the Cubs need a left-handed power hitter that can hit southpaws and provide good defense in right field, Floyd does not fill either one of those needs.

The Cubs traded away two of their better prospects to acquire Steve Trachsel at the trading deadline. Trachsel did not perform down the stretch and it appears Trachsel’s days with the Cubs could be over.

A-Rod….

Alex Rodriguez received his first offer of the off-season….from the Toledo Mud Hens.

One of the many teams being tied with A-Rod so far this off-season is the San Francisco Giants, but Giants’ GM Brian Sabean said signing Rodriguez to play by the bay would be “a reach.

Jayson Stark reported on ESPN on Thursday night that Scott Boras is looking for a 12-year contract for A-Rod worth $30 million a year….that is a $360 million dollar contract.

Around the League….

128 players have filed for free agency.

Mike Cameron was suspended for the first 25 games of the 2008 season on Wednesday for failing his second test of a banned stimulant. Many speculated on Thursday the failed test and suspension will end up costing Cameron around $2 million dollars on the open market….Cameron is a free-agent. A third failed test would cost Cameron 80 games.

The Mets picked up Moises Alou’s $7.5 million dollar option for 2008 on Wednesday. The former Cub played just 87 games for Willie Randolph last season. The Mets also signed Damion Easley to a 1-year deal worth $950,000.

Speaking of options, the Reds picked up Adam Dunn’s $13 million dollar option for 2008 as well as the option on Scott Hatteberg. The Reds will pay the first baseman $1.85 million next season. Javier Valentin’s option was also exercised for $1.35 million but the Reds declined the $3.5 million dollar option on Eddie Guardado making him a free agent….the Reds are hoping to bring him back at a reduced rate. Dunn’s contract for 2008 makes him the highest priced player in Cincinnati.

Former Cubs’ manager Lee Elia has been hired by the Mariners to be an on-field consultant.

The Orioles ended their relations with the Bensons on Thursday. Kris Benson’s $7.5 million dollar option was declined….the buyout will pay Benson $500,000.

Cub killer, Rob Mackowiak’s $3.25 million dollar option for 2008 was declined by the Padres on Thursday.

According to Peter Gammons (sorry, subscription required) Miguel Cabrera is on the trading block. A report on ESPN.com stated Gammons was told by “industry sources” that Cabrera is on the market and the Marlins are willing to talk. Rumors have been flying the Yankees are interested in Cabrera to replace the departing Alex Rodriguez.

Torri Hunter might be heading to Chicago but not to the North Side, to the South Side. According to a report in the Sun-Times, Kenny Williams will meet with Hunter next week and apparently Hunter is at the “top” of Williams’ off-season wish list.

With A-Rod leaving the Bronx there is a big hole in the Yankees infield. According to a report in the New York Daily News, the Yankees and the White Sox have “had preliminary discussions” about a deal that would send Joe Crede to New York.

John Farrell was rumored to be the front-runner to manage the Pirates next season but according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Farrell will stay in Boston as the Red Sox pitching coach.

Well, that’s the latest from the Hot Stove….and I’m sticking to it!!