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Monday, December 16
Updated: December 17, 10:43 AM ET
Winter meeting tidbits

By Jayson Stark

NASHVILLE -- The Giants' party was scheduled to leave the winter meetings and fly home Monday night.

Instead, they changed their flights, checked back into their rooms and were talking about potential deals involving Russ Ortiz.

Russ Ortiz
Starting Pitcher
San Francisco Giants
33 14-10 214.1 191 137 3.61

The most likely destination for Ortiz at the moment: the White Sox, for prospects.

The Giants are over budget. And Ortiz will make $4.2 million next year. Coincidentally, Edgardo Alfonzo just signed a deal in which his salary next year, counting his prorated signing bonus, happens to be $4 million.

Here are other rumors and nuggets still floating through Opryland on the final day of the winter meetings:

  • Officials for the Royals, Braves and Phillies said they were told Monday by Paul Byrd's agent, Bo McKinnis, that Byrd will decide Tuesday where he will sign -- and that those three teams are the finalists.

  • The Yankees and Rangers talked about a deal that would send Sterling Hitchcock to Texas for reliever Jay Powell, but the Rangers backed off.

  • The Devil Rays are pursuing Flash Gordon to be their closer. Friends say Gordon, who lives in Florida, is very interested.

  • The Cubs appear close to signing Troy O'Leary as a fourth outfielder.

  • Free-agent outfielder Doug Glanville appears to be down to a choice among the Rangers, Devil Rays and his old team, the Phillies.

  • The Astros, who had been a finalist for Mike Stanton, began pursuing left-hander Mark Guthrie on Monday after Stanton signed with the Mets.

  • Brewers manager Ned Yost said he planned to give Wes Helms -- obtained Monday in a trade with the Braves for lefty reliever Ray King -- a chance to win the Brewers' third-base job next spring. Helms will have to beat out Keith Ginter, whom the Brewers traded for last summer.

  • Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin said the Brewers' plan for shortstop Enrique Cruz, the first pick in Monday's Rule 5 draft of unprotected minor leaguers, is to keep him in the major leagues all year as a learn-on-the-job utility infielder. "The idea," Melvin said, "is to keep him in the big leagues, have a plan for the year, work on some developmental things, but also try to give him some at-bats (at short, third and second)."

  • The Phillies appear all but certain to nontender Travis Lee on Friday, which would make him a free agent. A number of baseball people have predicted Lee will sign with the Braves after he is nontendered. The Phillies still are attempting to trade Lee and second baseman Marlon Anderson before the nontender deadline.

  • Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he would call Fernando Vina, subject of numerous trade rumors in recent days, "to make sure he understands that while his name came up, there wasn't one mention of his name that ever started in St. Louis."

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that while the Yankees have "had discussions about money" with Japanese free agent Hideki Matsui, "I can't say that we've made an offer." It's normally the Yankees' practice to discuss parameters, rather than a specific offer, with all their free agents.

    Sunday's tidbits
    The Montreal Sweepstakes continue and Expos GM Omar Minaya said there is possibly a wild-card team entering the bidding for one of the Expos' prized possessions.

    Javier Vazquez
    Starting Pitcher
    Montreal Expos
    34 10-13 230.1 243 179 3.91

    Sources indicate that team could be the Red Sox, who are interested in pitcher Javier Vazquez. The Red Sox could jump to the top of the list if they are willing to take high-priced third baseman Fernando Tatis along with Vazquez for Shea Hillenbrand and possibly left-hander Casey Fossum or infielder Freddy Sanchez. Boston may also get a prospect from Montreal.

    Needing to cut $13 to $15 million off the payroll, Minaya would love to find a taker for Tatis ($6.5 million salary in 2003).

  • The Orioles are close to signing shortstop Deivi Cruz.

  • One rumor that floated around for awhile: A three-team deal involving the Expos, Marlins and Cubs. Florida would get Javier Vazquez, the Cubs would get Mike Lowell and the Expos would get Brad Penny. It was unclear who the Cubs would be giving up.

    There was also a four-team version of the trade involving Kansas City's Joe Randa.

  • Cleveland appeared close to signing Jason Bere.

    Saturday's tidbits
    On one of the deadest winter-meetings days in recent memory, rumors continued to fly:

  • The A's are still working on a slew of potential deals to obtain Erubiel Durazo. But all are being held up while the Diamondbacks try to use Durazo as the centerpiece of a deal to get Javier Vazquez from Montreal. But in the meantime, the A's have talked about several three- and four-team scenarios that eventually would send a starting pitcher to Arizona for Durazo. Among the pitchers Oakland general manager Billy Beane has pursued are Damian Moss (Braves), Elmer Dessens (Reds) and Russ Ortiz (Giants). Toronto (dealing either Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez) also would have been involved as a fourth team with the Braves and Reds.

  • Rumblings that Oakland would talk about a deal for Miguel Tejada also continue to circulate. The most popular rumor has Tejada going to Arizona for Durazo and Byung-Hyun Kim. Oakland would then sign Edgardo Alfonzo to play second base and play Mark Ellis at short, his original position.

  • Todd Zeile is close to a one-year, $1.5-million contract with the Yankees.

  • The Astros and Pirates have talked extensively about a trade that would send Daryle Ward to Pittsburgh for left-handed reliever Scott Sauerbeck. But despite reports that the deal was imminent, a source familiar with the negotiations described it as "not close."

  • The Padres were working on a significant trade Saturday for a second baseman. That's believed to be Todd Walker, who was just dealt to the Red Sox from Cincinnati. The Padres and Red Sox have talked about a large trade that would include Walker and Shea Hillenbrand going to San Diego, and Bubba Trammell and Sean Burroughs heading for Boston, with two prospects potentially involved. There also have been rumors of a three-way deal with the Cardinals that would land Fernando Vina in Boston and Brett Tomko in St. Louis.

  • An Orioles official "vehemently denied" a report they had offered Pudge Rodriguez a three-year, $32-million contract. The Orioles have made no offers to Rodriguez, but they do remain the favorite to sign him.

  • The Cubs and Red Sox are looking for set-up bullpen arms, and both are in on Rick White, Flash Gordon and Mark Guthrie.

  • More and more, it appears Greg Maddux will accept the Braves' arbitration offer this week, and agent Scott Boras then would seek the highest one-year contract ever for a pitcher. Rumors of Boras' filing price have ranged from $18 millions to $20 million.

  • Thursday is the deadline for free agents to accept or reject arbitration offers from their old team. And with the market dragging, Cliff Floyd's agent, Seth Levinson, is believed to have told the Red Sox on Saturday that Floyd is considering accepting arbitration to stay in Boston.

    Tidbits from Friday
    NASHVILLE -- Erubiel Durazo is going somewhere. Certainly this winter. Probably this weekend. So hot rumors of a huge Durazao deal were the highlight of an otherwise slow day as the winter meetings opened Friday.

    One big rumor had the Arizona first baseman winding up in Oakland as the result of a three-way deal involving the Giants. Arizona would get Giants starter Russ Ortiz. It was unclear late Friday night whom the Giants would get from Oakland.

    Another three-teamer could involve the Reds and Blue Jays. In that scenario, Oakland would get Durazo, Arizona would wind up with Reds pitcher Elmer Dessens. And Toronto would get Oakland prospects Jason Arnold and John Ford-Griffin.

    One final Durazo rumor was a potential monster deal in which Arizona would make a run at Miguel Tejada, offering Durazo and Byung-Hyun Kim. While the A's aren't looking to trade Tejada, an official of one club said the A's are willing to be "proactive," much as they were a year before Jason Giambi's free agency, because they know there's a realistic chance they can't re-sign Tejada. So they might at least listen to the right deal. They then could move Mark Ellis from second base to shortstop, his original position, and sign Edgardo Alfonzo to play second.

  • Clubs that have talked to the Yankees say Nick Johnson's name has come up repeatedly. The Yankees are making plans to fill Johnson's hole as a DH/backup first baseman with free agent Todd Zeile. It was believed Joe Torre, who once managed Zeile in St. Louis, phoned Zeile at home Friday to discuss how willing Zeile would be to be a part-time player in The Bronx.

  • The Padres are expected to announce the signing of Mark Loretta to a one-year contract in the neighborhood of $1 million Saturday. Loretta projects as their starting second baseman.

  • The Phillies continue to hunt for a starting pitcher. Their latest big free-agent target, Chuck Finley, has unofficially agreed to return to St. Louis. So according to an official of one club who had spoken with the Phillies, they made an inquiry about Twins pitcher Rick Reed on Friday -- and was told he wasn't available right now.

  • The Marlins and Red Sox have talked about variations on a deal that would center around a swap of Trot Nixon for Kevin Millar. It's possible that deal could be expanded to include the two third basemen, Mike Lowell and Shea Hillenbrand.

  • The Dodgers are prowling for one more middle-of-the-order bat. They don't appear interested in Jeff Kent. But general manager Dan Evans said Shawn Green's recent offer to move to first base allows him the flexibility of considering a first baseman, right fielder or left fielder. One possibility continues to be free agent Cliff Floyd.

  • Asked about a report by Sports Weekly's Bob Nightengale that Ken Griffey Jr. would now be amenable to playing for the Yankees, Yanks GM Brian Cashman said he "wouldn't close the door on anything -- but there has been absolutely no dialogue (with the Reds). Not me to them. Not them to me."

  • The Pirates are closing in on a one-year deal with free agent Matt Stairs.

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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