Baseball’s wheelers and dealers moving slowly

INDIANAPOLIS — In a town known for fast moves around the speedway, baseball’s wheelers and dealers were slowly mulling their options at the winter meetings.

INDIANAPOLIS — In a town known for fast moves around the speedway, baseball’s wheelers and dealers were slowly mulling their options at the winter meetings.

Roy Halladay, Curtis Granderson and Dan Uggla were some of the big names being dangled on the trade market as baseball’s annual swapfest opened Monday. Toronto appeared to be moving quite deliberately in talks involving Halladay, the much-coveted 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner.

“Nothing’s happened. If he comes to a team in our division, I would be interested. He’s really good,” Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

Detroit right-hander Edwin Jackson was another player who could be traded, but there were just two minor deals that actually were made in the first few hours of the four-day session.

Washington acquired right-handed reliever Brian Bruney from the New York Yankees for a player to be named and Texas obtained left-hander Clay Rapada from Detroit for a player to be named or cash.

At a hotel just a few miles from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, teams awaited the midnight deadline for free agents to accept arbitration offers from their former clubs. Of the 23 offered arbitration last week, only three accepted: Minnesota pitcher Carl Pavano, Atlanta reliever Rafael Soriano and Colorado reliever Rafael Betancourt.

Among other free agents, St. Louis and right-hander Brad Penny were close to a US$7.5-million, one-year contract, a deal that won’t be completed until after a physical, a person familiar with the talks said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet final.

Detroit agreed to a $1.55-million, one-year contract with shortstop Adam Everett. Also, the Yankees said left-hander Andy Pettitte’s representatives told them he wants to return for 2010. New York was prepared to make him an offer upward of $10 million, a baseball official familiar with the talks said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing.

“I’ve been told in the right circumstances he wants to pitch,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

Cashman also acknowledged he was interested in right-hander Jason Marquis. The GM said he travelled to Indianapolis on Sunday on “Air Levinson” — the private plane of the pitcher’s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson.

“Obviously, he’s very successful — pitched in tough markets,” Cashman said. “He’s a New Yorker, so he’s tough.”

Cashman, who received his budget only last Friday, also must decide what offers to make to left-fielder Johnny Damon and designated hitter Hideki Matsui, who like Pettitte became free agents. Matsui, the World Series MVP, wants to stay in the major leagues.

“I manage two Japanese players and it’s fun,” Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I love it because all of a sudden when you get fired from the United States, you might have a chance to manage in Japan. You never know.”

Jason Bay of Trail, B.C., and Matt Holliday, the top two free-agent hitters, appear to have slow-moving markets. Given the recession, many teams are reluctant to spend top dollar for stars.

“We are not in that bidding at all,” Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Even the Yankees appear to be trying to reduce their $200 million-plus payroll. Cashman said one of the reasons he traded Bruney was that he was eligible for arbitration after making $1.25 million last season.

Still, other teams are wary of the financial might of the World Series champions.

“They have a couple of things that make life difficult for us: They have a lot of money and they have smart people running what they are doing,” Francona said. “They are not going to go away. I hope they don’t get better. But they are there, so we have to deal with them.”

At a hotel just a few kilometres from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, teams also were waiting for the midnight Monday deadline to pass for about two dozen free agents to decide whether to accept arbitration offers from their former clubs.

Boston agreed to a small deal with right-hander Scott Atchison, who spent the last two seasons with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan’s Central League. Hanshin purchased the contract of outfielder Matt Murton from Colorado.

The New York Mets, coming off a dismal first season at Citi Field, have held numerous trade talks but weren’t close to any deals.

Also, former agent Dennis Gilbert was at the hotel. Now a Chicago White Sox executive, he is among the bidders trying to purchase control of the Texas Rangers from current owner Tom Hicks. Gilbert said he hopes to find out whether his bid succeeds by a Dec. 15 deadline that’s been set.

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