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Don't worry, movement soon to happen

Unless you count Todd Van Poppel as an impact player, free-agent movement has been negligible 10 days into the signing period. In most cases, teams are waiting to see what will develop with contraction before wading into the free-agent pool.

Now that the Twins and Expos are likely hanging around for another year and their players won't be available, expect more focus to develop in the coming days and weeks.

The winter meetings, where free-agent signings usually build to a frenzy, are just around the corner and trade talk is likely to surge, too.

Of course, some teams will be busier than others by virtue of their circumstances, needs and payrolls.

Here are five clubs to watch:

Toronto
A new broom usually sweeps clean, and recently installed general manager J.P. Ricciardi is ready to brandish his.

As he puts his front office team together, Ricciardi has been busy sounding out other GMs about their interest in his roster. Closer Billy Koch is available for the right package, and he could probably be talked into moving any one of his four outfielders (Shannon Stewart, Jose Cruz Jr., Vernon Wells, and Raul Mondesi) if his price is met.

There are some intriguing prospects in the pipeline, so swapping some expensive veterans is a distinct possibility. There's also some flexibility on the staff (Kelvim Escobar could slide into the closer's job if Koch is dealt), opening up additional possibilities.

The Jays haven't been to the postseason since they won their second straight championship in 1993, a stretch of seven seasons not counting the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Attendance has dipped and interest has waned. Talk about a mandate for change.

Ricciardi believes the Jays can be overhauled into a championship team in three years, but thinks they can be a factor in the AL East much sooner. It should be fascinating to watch.

Boston
As always, the Red Sox will be fascinating. There are holes aplenty (second base, starting pitching, leadoff hitter, center fielder, bullpen depth, another run producer) but the sale of the club hangs over everything.

With binding bids due on Thursday, the Red Sox find themselves in suspended animation, needing to make moves, but unsure of what they're able to do. CEO John Harrington said earlier this month that the team must proceed with "business as usual," but that hasn't been the approach so far. Though embattled GM Dan Duquette has put out the requisite feelers to many free agents (Steve Karsay, Terry Adams, Moises Alou, Bret Boone), there haven't been any specific offers.

Even Hideo Nomo's agent, Don Nomura, seems puzzled the Sox have had exactly one communication with him since the end of the season.

Things may get clarified in the coming days. A potential owner could have some input in the offseason direction of the club (there's precedent; see Peter Magowan, 1992) and some of the uncertainty could be cleared up.

Either way, the Sox project a payroll just under last year's $110 million figure, so there's money to spend.

On the trade front, the Red Sox don't have much to offer -- unless Carl Everett whets yours whistle. The upper reaches of the minor-league system is barren, so the only prospects the Sox could move are a year at minimum away from contributing on the big-league level.

New York Yankees
Losing the World Series in the ninth inning of the seventh game would be a mostly positive season for 29 other teams; then, there's the Yankees, for whom such a finish is tantamount to missing the postseason altogether.

Failing to win it all for the first time in four seasons would be incentive enough for owner George Steinbrenner to make changes. But add to the fact that three Yankees have retired since the end of the Series (Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius, and Luis Sojo) and a fourth has been told he won't be returning (Tino Martinez), and you start to comprehend how significant the turnouver will be in the Bronx.

The first piece in offseason puzzle, of course, is Jason Giambi, whom the Yankees privately seem confident about landing in the next few days, having put on their full-court press.

But there are other needs, too. Fearful of Orlando Hernandez's age, durability and arbitration-eligible status, the Yanks are casting about for another starter, with the focus on John Smoltz and Hideo Nomo.

Third base could be a patchwork for the first few months until Drew Henson is ready, but even still, there are two outfield spots to fill. Florida's Cliff Floyd is a trade target, and Roger Cedeno is one idea to fill the left field-leadoff-speed slot.

Then there's the bullpen, which buckled at times last season and necessitated a couple of in-season acquisitions. Steve Karsay, a native New Yorker, heads this list.

New York Mets

If the Yankees are hungry, then the Mets are starving. They went from the 2000 World Series to out of the playoffs entirely last year and they have money to spend.

The Mets have a lot of needs, but the most obvious is a productive bat. As such, they're involved -- to varying degrees -- on a number of free agent run producers, led by Juan Gonzalez and Moises Alou.

They've also talked about a deal involving Milwaukee outfielder Jeromy Burnitz (for Glendon Rusch and Matt Lawton?). Despite the presence of sometimes overpowering closer Armando Benitez, they've also indicated an interest in former Met Jason Isringhausen. Signing Isringhausen would free them to deal Benitez to fill another hole.

Aging Robin Ventura could be had, and so might Kevin Appier, who despite pitching well, has a burdensome contract ($33.5 million over the next three seasons).

St. Louis

Another playoff team willing and able to make moves to improve.

The retirement of Mark McGwire opens up a hole at first, but there's not much on the free-agent market to fill it beyond Giambi, who, despite the pleadings of former manager Tony La Russa and McGwire himself, seems ticketed for the Yankees. Dmitri Young, being shopped by the Reds, is a possibility. Would they have interest in Tino Martinez for a couple of years?

A suspect relief corps has the Cards involved with Jeff Shaw, whom the Dodgers walked away from with an option year remaining. Isringhausen is another option here, as is signing Smoltz and keeping him in the closer's role he handled so well for Atlanta in the second half of last season.

The Cardinals are one of many teams to keep an eye on Scott Rolen's situation in Philadelphia.

One benefit the Cards enjoy is a collection of young (read: inexpensive) arms which could fetch them plenty in trade talks.

Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.